Neal Adams, the acclaimed comic book creator who worked on titles like Batman, The X-Men and The Avengers, has passed away at 80.
The Hollywood Reporter broke the sad newswith Adams’ wife Marilyn confirming he died from complications due to sepsis.
Following an early career working in comic strips and advertising, Adams became a major name at Marvel and DC in the late 1960’s. Adams was notable for bringing a very different storytelling sensibility to comics, one that emphasized dynamic angles and detailed anatomy and facial expressions. Alongside contemporaries like Jim Aparo, Adams helped redefine the look of Batman, presenting a Dark Knight who was lean and lithe like a gymnast rather than the burly brawler of earlier Golden and Silver Age stories.
Adams is probably best known for his work on the monthly Detective Comics and Batman books, where he helped bring the franchise back to its darker roots following the cancellation of the 1966 TV series. Working frequently with writer Denny O’Neil, Adams introduced key new villains like Ra’s al Ghul, Talia al Ghul and Man-Bat and revamped existing villains like Joker and Two-Face. 1973’s Batman #251, titled “The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge,” is largely credited with transforming the Clown Prince of Crime from a comedic antagonist into Batman’s deadliest foe. IGN previously ranked Adams at #2 in the list of the ten greatest Batman artists.
Adams and O’Neil also collaborated on the hugely influential Green Lantern/Green Arrow, which paired the two philosophically opposed heroes on a series of adventures steeped in real-world politics and conflicts (very rare in superhero comics at the time). That was the series that featured Hal Jordan being lambasted for ignoring the plight of African Americans, as well as the shocking reveal that Green Arrow’s sidekick Speedy was addicted to heroin.
Adams’ resume also includes the seminal Avengers storyline “The Kree Skrull War,” the Deadman-focused Strange Adventures and the crossover special Superman vs. Muhammad Ali. He remained fairly prolific even in recent years, releasing books like Batman: Odyssey and The Coming of the Superman at DC and The First X-Men at Marvel.
In addition to his Marvel and DC work, Adams was an early voice in the battle for increased creator rights in comics. He helped spearhead an early comics union called the Comics Creators Guild and formed an artists studio called Coninuity Associates (which also led to the creation of an independent publisher called Continuity Comics). Adam’s what instrumental in leading public pressure against DC to give official credit and financial compensation to Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, especially as the release of 1978’s Superman: The Movie drew new attention to Siegel and Shuster’s dire financial straits.
Neal Adams DC Variant Covers
Adams certainly belongs on the Mount Rushmore of Batman creators, but his influence and impact on the industry extend far beyond Gotham City.
Jesse is a mild-mannered staff writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by following @jschedeen on Twitter.