|NEAL ADAMS - PART TWO
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DF Interview: The life and legacy of legend Neal Adams (Part 2)
By Byron Brewer
On Wednesday, the great artist/writer Neal Adams reflected on the early years of his life in comics, and thus the history of this industry and the American comic book. DC rejections, Joe Simon rejections, agency and commercial art, finding a love of the comic book as a medium: the story defines Adams.
Now the artist hits the House of Ideas, and we learn some of the secrets of Marvel’s success and Adams’ own. And what of today, a true founder of the medium trying to make his way in the movie-driven, digital comic book world of the 21st century?
Neal Adams’ story continues …
Dynamic Forces: You and Roy Thomas had quite a team going on X-Men. Thomas said once you used to throw him “scripting challenges” in the art by adding to his thoughts!
Neal Adams: Please understand that all the work I did with Roy was done in what we call the Marvel Method. In the Marvel Method, the artist creates and draws the story, and hands it to the “writer” who then dialogues the story. To help the “writer” the artist would write notes along sides of the pages, and if there were something the dialoguer did not understand, he would call and ask about it. The Marvel Method was the only way I agreed to work with Marvel. This is how I worked with Roy Thomas, and in the case of the two part Thor story; this is also how I worked with Stan Lee. You must remember, in those days, Stan Lee and Roy Thomas were dialoguing 5 or 6 books a week. It was an extra burden if the artist didn’t have a story to present because then the dialoguer would have to do an extra job and provide the story. At 6 books a week to dialogue, that put tremendous pressure on the writer, either Stan or Roy. It also gave somebody like myself or Jim Steranko or Jack Kirby or whoever the opportunity to do exactly the stories we wanted to do, and have the writer fill in the words. At times this led to interesting situations. For example, I decided to bring back Professor X from the dead in my run on the series. Roy reminded me that he had taken the time to make sure that Professor X was deader than dead. He had made him sick. He had made him lose his powers, slowly, over the year. He got worse. He finally died. And then they buried him. So that it would be very difficult, Roy explained, for me to bring Professor X back to life. I told Roy that, in fact, that was not Professor X who died, but a character called The Changeling who had cancer and died in the place of Professor X. and that Professor X was alive all through this time, in order to complete a story that I had planned which, in the end, oddly enough, was dialogued by Denny O’Neill as Roy was taking a leave of absence at the time.
DF: I will never forget when you drew two issues of Mighty Thor for Marvel. To take over one of Kirby’s signature characters not long after his departure would have been nerve-racking for any other artist, I am sure. Yet the same hand that drew the insane Joker depicted the glories of Asgard quite well. Do you remember?
Neal Adams: I remember it like it was yesterday. In fact, it was my intention on those two books to do a “Marvel” story that would be hard to identify as a Neal Adams story as much as it would meld into the flow of Jack Kirby, John Buscema, and other artists who handled the character to be inked by Joe Sinnot who I considered to be the ultimate Marvel inker. That in fact I didn’t even want it to look like I had done it but that it was in effect a melding of styles into what I call “The Marvel Style.” And I can tell you it was a joy to be stealing from John Buscema, Jack Kirby, John Romita, and melding them all together into one “Marvel Style.”
DF: After returning from a 10-year sabbatical from comics in the 2000s, I was surprised that yours was one of the few names left from the days when I departed in the 1990s. During recent years, you returned to both Batman with a new miniseries in 2010 (Batman: Odyssey) and the X-Men with The First X-Men mini in 2012. Can you talk about that?
Neal Adams: Apparently, my sabbatical was longer than yours. Mine was more like 20 years. (I did do covers through the time period.) What would be a better project to return to than Batman?
And what would be a better thing to do than to initiate a new form, the true graphic novel. Or, to put it more properly, a comic “book.” That’s what Batman Odyssey is, a 325-page book.
Pundits and short-minded critics misinterpreted this series as a series of single comic books put together. For those of you who did misinterpret this, this is a novel. You have to read the end before you know what it is all about. That is the nature of a novel. It is not “I read the first book and I don’t understand what is going on.” As if one reads the first chapter of a Stephen King book and knows what the whole novel is going to be. We are in a new day, the day of the comic “book.” We are not deserting the comic book floppy. But we are evolving into comic “books” where we drop the dime and get full books worth of comics. Maybe tomorrow we buy the series of floppies. This is the wave of the future for comic books, and Batman Odyssey is one of the first, true comic “books.”
DF: You were quite the force for comic book creators’ rights in the 1970s, and now creator-owned comics are all the rage in the indies. Your thoughts, then and now?
Neal Adams: My thoughts are no different than they were then. It’s just that then, when I came into the industry, it was like coming into a civilization of jungle tribes people who knew nothing about the modern world where we respect art, we provide royalties, we print on better paper than what would be used for toilet paper, with better printing processes than Ben Franklin used, in a world that moves forward rather than backwards. If you leave human beings along too much, they tend to move backwards. Every once in a while, you have to kick them in the ass to make them move forward. And humans need to be kicked in the ass an awful lot. That will never end.
DF: Can you mention just a few of the vast array of non-comic book projects of which you are most proud?
Neal Adams: The animated Marvel “Gifted” motion comic that everyone who reads this should get a copy of and watch. I co-directed the series and my studio did the animation work of John Cassaday’s comic series. I produced Bucky O’Hare, an animated television series as well as a major toyline and good comic. I designed the Terminator T2 3D ride at Universal, now closed, unfortunately. Hey, hey, you missed it? Don’t worry, I recently designed some very cool rides and presentation pieces that I’m sure will be made for a theme park. The Spider-Man ride. The Wendy’s 3D comic, of which 36 million copies were distributed through Wendy’s which most readers are not aware of. The Nasonex Bee design and my studio did the CG commercials that featured Antonio Banderas as the voice, which I never said here, and it’s just a rumor.
DF: Mr. Adams, you do not find many folks of your generation still active in comics. Why is it your legacy continues even today?
Neal Adams: There are no people in my generation in comics because there are no people in my generation in my field. There are people of the same age, but they didn’t get into comics when I did. There is no one within 5 years my junior or 5 years my senior in comic books. It was a dead period of time. I don’t have contemporaries in this field. I have no one of which to exchange stories of “when I got into the business” because no one got in when I got in. It was a blank area of 10 years when only I existed. Spooky, huh?
I don’t think in terms of legacy. I’m doing my best work now. Batman Odyssey is the best thing I’ve ever done. This Superman and The New Gods I’m doing now will compete with it. And the next book will compete with that and so on and so on. You can land me anywhere in the creative world and I will kick everyone’s ass around me because I am just that damned punk. And I am just as competitive as any human being can possibly be. Because as far as I’m concerned, this is Day One!
Dynamic Forces would like to give its sincere thanks to the legendary Neal Adams for taking time out of his still-busy schedule to answer our questions in such a thorough, candid way. It was my honor to do this interview for this forum, one of which I am also very proud. – Byron Brewer
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