Born June 6, 1941, in Governors Island, NY. Education: Attended School of Industrial Arts, New York, NY.
Cartoonist, writer, and animator. Archie Comics, artist, 1959; "Bat Masterson" comic-book series, background artwork, 1959; Johnstone and Cushing, New York, NY, member of creative staff, 1960-63; "Ben Casey" comic strip, writer and artist, 1964-67; Warren Publishing, New York, NY, artist for "Creepy" comic-book series, issues 14-16; DC Comics, New York, NY, artist and writer on comic-book series, including "Strange Adventures" and "The Brave and the Bold," 1967-68, "Detective Comics," "Deadman," "Green Lantern," "Green Arrow," "The Brave and the Bold," "Batman," 1970-71, "Dracula Lives," 1972, and "Superman vs. Muhammad Ali Treasury Edition," 1974; Marvel Comics, New York, NY, artist for "X-Men," 1969, "Thor," 1970, "The Avengers," 1971-72; and "Conan," 1974-76, 1980; founder of Continuity Associates and Continuity Comics, New York, NY, 1984; artist and writer for "Revengers," 1984; Now Comics, penciller and inker for "The Twilight Zone," 1991. Also designer of amusement park rides, including Terminator 2 at Universal Studios; founder of Continuity Studios (animation studio), New York, NY, 2000. Former president, Academy of Comic Book Arts.
Inducted into Academy of Comic Book Arts Shazam Hall of Fame; Fandom Alley Award, for Deadman, and Special Award for body of work, 1969; Academy of Comic Book Arts award for best penciller, 1971; Fandom Goethe Award; Harvey Award; inducted into Jack Kirby Hall of Fame, 1990; Lifetime Achievement award, 1999.
The Art of Neal Adams, S. Quartuccio, 1975.
The Neal Adams Portfolio, S. Quartuccio, 1978.
(With Denny O'Neil) Superman vs. Muhammad Ali Treasury Edition, DC Comics (New York, NY), 1978.
(With others) Batman: The Demon Awakes, Titan Books, 1989.
(With others) Batman: The Joker's Revenge, Titan Books, 1989.
(With Bob Haney) Batman: The Frightened City, Titan Books, 1990.
(With others) Batman: Red Water, Crimson Death, Titan Books, 1991.
(Illustrator) Harlan Ellison, Twilight Zone, Now Comics (Northbrook, IL) 1991.
Skateman, Pacific Comics, 1993.
X-Men Visionaries: Neal Adams, Marvel Comics (New York, NY), 1996.
(With Dennis O'Neil and Dick Giordano) Batman: Tales of the Demon, DC Comics (New York, NY), 1998.
(With Dennis O'Neil and Dick Giordano) Batman: In the Seventies, DC Comics (New York, NY), 1999.
(With Roy Thomas) The Avengers: Kree-Skrull War, Marvel Comics (New York, NY), 2000.
(With Dennis O'Neil) Green Lantern/Green Arrow Archives, 2 volumes, DC Comics (New York, NY), 2000.
Deadman Collection, DC Comics (New York, NY), 2001.
Neal Adams, The Sketch Book: Pointers from a Master Storyteller, Vanguard Productions (Somerset, NJ), 2003.
(With Dennis O'Neil) The Green Arrow/Green Lantern Collection, 2 volumes, DC Comics (New York, NY), 2004.
Batman Illustrated by Neal Adams, 3 volumes, DC Comics (New York, NY), 2003–2005.
Neal Adams Monsters, Vanguard Productions (Somerset, NJ), 2004.
(Illustrator) Roy Thomas, The Chronicles of Conan, Volume 6: The Curse of the Golden Skull and Other Stories, Dark Horse Comics (Milwaukie, OR), 2004.
(Illustrator) Michael Eury, The Justice League Companion, TwoMorrows Publishing, 2005.
Work in Progress
A Conversation between Two Guys in a Bar; or, A New Model of the Universe, a graphic novel about theoretical physics; Blood, a graphic novel.
Neal Adams has been lauded by some as a comic books legend in his own time. Entering the field in the 1960s, he worked on a handful of series titles, including "X-Men"and "Batman,"and revitalized those flagging characters with a style at once commercial and highly realistic. An outspoken advocate of the rights of comic book artists, he also famously helped Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster get pensions for having created the character of Superman. According to Michael Vance on the SciFi Dimensions Web site, Adams "has raised the standards of comic book art, the hackles of comic book publishers, and improved the lot of comics professionals in a career that spans more than four decades." Adams has been called everything from a visionary of comic art to a crank for his growing-Earth theory pf plate tectonics. He left mainstream comics at the height of his powers, and since the 1980s has operated his own studio, Continuity Associates, which publishes Continuity Comics, and has an advertising arm, Continuity Studios, which creates animated advertising. Yet it is for his groundbreaking work in what is known as the Silver Age of comics, on series ranging from "The Avengers"to "X-Men" to "Batman" that Adams is best known and remembered.
Knocking at the Doors
Adams was born in 1941 on Governors Island, a 172-acre island located a half-mile from the southern tip of Manhattan in New York harbor. Its name recalls the time when New York was a British colony and the colonial assembly reserved the island for the exclusive use of New York's royal governors, but by the time Adams was born it had become the headquarters of the U.S. First Army.
Adams grew up loving comics, but he was also deeply interested in science. College was out of reach for his family, as the father had left when Adams was thirteen years old. Instead, he enrolled in the School of Industrial Arts (now the School of Art and Design), a vocational high school in Manhattan. There he studied art and design and put together a portfolio to impress New York comic book publishers. After graduation, he approached the giant of the time, DC Comics, publishers of "Superman," but was turned down. The message Adams got was that the industry was now closed and there was no more room for aspiring artists.
Adams was disappointed but not defeated. He turned instead to background artwork for comics, working for the "Archie" series for a time and then for Howard Nostrand's "Bat Masterson" comic strip. The latter job lasted only three months, but Adams was beginning to learn the basics of the comics industry. Taken under the wing of veteran artist Elmer Wexler, he then found work with Johnstone and Cushing, working on advertising, storyboards, and comic-strip jobs. Here he learned how to work from Polaroids and use sophisticated inking techniques to create both top-level advertising and line art. Adams worked long hours on a variety of projects, all of which helped to develop his photo-realist style and attention to detail.
At age twenty-one, Adams got his first big break when he was contracted to do the art for a new strip that was a spin-off of the popular television doctor soap opera, Ben Casey. Written by Al Capp's brother, Jerry Caplin, the "Ben Casey" strip ran in syndication with Newspaper Enterprise Association. For over three years Adams drew the strip at nights after a full day of freelance work at Johnston and Cushing. With each strip he tried to go beyond the mundane and add at least one new element: an odd angle, a strange detail. He later credited his comic book style to the years of training on "Ben Casey," an experience that taught him storytelling skills as well as how to work under time constraints.
Into the World of Comics
Adams used his work on this daily strip as a resume to get illustrating work from Warren Publishing, doing artwork for the comic series "Creepy," in 1967. Later that same year he re-approached DC Comics, and because he now had experience, was hired. Some of his earliest DC work was on the "Strange Adventures" series, with its odd character, Deadman. Here Adams's training in illustration came to the fore. As a contributor to NinthArt.com noted, "This early work shows the strong graphic design sense that Adams brought to mainstream comics. Innovative layouts and realistic musculature made this a very different book to what was the norm at the time." Adams, almost single-handedly, began to drag comics out of their cartoon roots and liberated them from traditional layouts. At age twenty-six, Adams was already having an impact on the comics industry. Adams's early success led, in 1968, to his being assigned to do a nine-issue run of "The Brave and the Bold," a Batman spin-off in which other DC characters team up with Batman for adventures. Adams revamped Batman with a slightly different costume to delineate him from the campy figure he had become as a result of a popular television series. Adams managed to return an aura of the dark side to the character, making him appear more mysterious and dangerous. This alteration saved the "Batman" comics products and made Adams something of a superstar in the industry. Reviewing the collection Batman Illustrated by Neal Adams in Booklist, Gordon Flagg noted that in addition to "conjuring a noirish atmosphere . . . Adams goosed up the thrills with exciting, kinetic fight choreography."
Adams soon came to the attention of other publishers. Stan Lee of Marvel Comics offered him any book in the house, and characteristically Adams asked for the house's worst-selling title. Accordingly, he was assigned a series about a super-hero team that had been limping along in sales for six years and was about to be canceled. Thus began Adams's run on "X-Men." Despite an artistic turn around in that title, it ran just ten more issues before cancellation. Returning to DC Comics, Adams worked for a time on "Detective Comics" before teaming up with writer Dennis O'Neil on a comic-book series that many critics have cited as the pinnacle of his career to date. "Green Lantern/Green Arrow" features a rather odd duo of superheroes who set off to right wrongs in America. Flagg dubbed this book "another ambitious attempt to make comic books grow up." The book tackled thorny social problems such as racism and drug abuse and featured Adams's "splashy, dramatic artwork" which "proved magnetic," according to Steve Weiner, reviewing the two-volume compilation Green Lantern/Green Arrow in School Library Journal. Though Flagg found the series often "heavyhanded," he also described it as "well-meaning."
Leaves at Peak
During the early 1970s Adams worked on titles for both DC Comics and Marvel, including "Batman," "The Avengers," "Thor," and "Conan." He also became involved in a lengthy fight alongside Siegel and Shuster over the comic-book creators' rights to the Superman character. In 1978 Adams became an artist for the "Superman" comic-book series himself, doing the artwork for the compilation publication Superman vs. Muhammad Ali Treasury Edition, with "outstanding" artwork, according to the NinthArt.com reviewer.
Increasingly, however, Adams preferred to ease himself out of the hectic grind of mainstream comics, and by the 1980s his name was seldom featured in comic-book bylines. He formed his own design studio, Continuity Associates, dealing with more commercial matters such as advertising and the design of theme-park rides. He also founded Continuity Comics and did story and art for several of its publications. In 1991 Adams returned briefly to the mainstream, teaming up with Harlan Ellison for a special subseries collected as The Twilight Zone. In 2000, his Continuity Studios was founded, bringing animated commercials, or animatics, to companies.
If you enjoy the works of Neal Adams
If you enjoy the works of Neal Adams, you may also want to check out the following:
The illustrations of comic book artists Dick Giordano, Irv Novick, Rich Buckler, Tim Grindberg, and John Byrne.
In 2004 Adams published his first title in many years, the graphic novel Neal Adams Monsters, a team book featuring a nobleman vampire, a monster created by the whims of science, and a werewolf. Stand-ins for the classic monsters of horror films—Dracula, Frankenstein, and Werewolf—Adams's monsters have his trademark musculature and realism with layouts that still have a startling effect. Partly a love story, partly a paean to movie monsters, the book resembles, according to a reviewer for Publishers Weekly, "an expensively produced storyboard for a hoped-for movie project." However, Rick Mohr, reviewing the work for the Kansas City InfoZine, had kinder words. "If you love monsters, and who doesn't, then Neal Adams Monsters is the book for you. If you are a fan of graphic storytelling told by one of the best ever, then get Neal Adams Monsters. If you want to see what the marriage of artist and the highest level of quality production can produce, look no further than Neal Adams Monsters. "
The year 2004 also witnessed the publication of a bound volume containing Adams's classic "Green Lantern/Green Arrow" and "Batman" comic series, bringing the groundbreaking art of Neal Adams to new generations of comic-book and graphic novel fans.
Biographical and Critical Sources
Clute, John, and Peter Nicholls, editors, The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1993.
Horn, Maurice, editor, The World Encyclopedia of Comics, two volumes, Chelsea House (New York, NY), 1976.
Adweek (Western edition), September 25, 2000, David Lipin, "He Sure Can Carry a Toon," p. 6.
Booklist, September 15, 2004, Gordon Flagg, review of Batman Illustrated by Neal Adams and Green Lantern/Green Arrow Collection, p. 16.
Multichannel News, April 29, 2002, Jim Forkan, "Comic Book Day," p. 8.
Publishers Weekly, March 8, 2004, review of Neal Adams Monsters, p. 51.
School Library Journal, October, 2004, Steve Weiner, "It's Not Easy Being Green," p. 29.
Atlas Comics Web site, http://web2.chicagonet.net/%7Eatlas/best.htm/ (January 6, 2005), "The Top 100 Artists of American Comic Books."
ContinuityStudios Web site,http://www.nealadamsentertainment.com/ (December 30, 2004).
Lambiek.net,http://www.lambiek.net/ (December 30, 2004), "Neal Adams."
NinthArt.com,http://www.ninthart.com/ (March 3, 2003), "Neal Adams."
Rules of Attraction Web site,http://profmendez.tripod.com/ "The Boy Wonder: Neal Adams and Ben Casey."
SciFi.com,http://search.scifi.com/ (April 26, 2002), "Neal Adams Chat."
SciFi Dimensions.com,http://www.scifidimensions.com/ (May, 2001), Michael Vance, "Suspended Animation: Neal Adams."
TwoMorrows Publishing Web site,http://www.twomorrows.com/ (December 30, 2004), Arlen Schumer, "Comic Book Artist Magazine Special Edition: Neal Adams' Superman vs. Muhammad Ali. "*