Legendary comics creator Neal Adams — an artist, editor and advocate for creator rights — passed away Thursday in New York due to complications from sepsis, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Adams was 80 years old.
Over the course of his career, Adams brought his revolutionary art style, renderings, faces and figures to the pages of Batman, X-Men, Green Lantern/Green Arrow, Superman vs. Muhammad Ali, Avengers and countless others. His work with Denny O’Neil on Batman and later Green Lantern/Green Arrow in the 1970s helped push comics storytelling into a new era, where the emphasis on superhumans was as much on the “human” aspect as the “super.”
“There are few comic book artists whose work has echoed across the decades more than Neal Adams and it was a great shock to discover that this legend has passed away,” J.M. DeMatteis said on his blog. ” His work with the brilliant Denny O’Neil on Batman redefined the character and the same team exploded the superhero genre (and my sixteen-year-old mind) with the ‘all new, all now’ Green Lantern/Green Arrow series.”
At DC, Adams co-created several important characters in the Batman mythos, including Ra’s al Ghul, the League of Assassins and Man-Bat. He also co-created the dark archer Merlyn and Green Lantern John Stewart. For Marvel, he co-created Mockingbird and X-Men villain Sauron.
“Neal Adams was an amazing illustrator,” said DC Publisher and Chief Creative Officer Jim Lee in a statement. “He changed comics. I loved his take on Batman. It was lithe, acrobatic and dynamic. Neal’s work continues to inspire me. This is a huge loss for the entire industry.”
One of the most influential comic artists and personalities in the industry, Adams was known as much for his activities off the comics page, as he tried to form a union for creators in the late 1970s and advocated for companies to return original art to the artists, which helped create a secondary revenue stream for artists that has grown into its own industry today. He was a champion for creators like Jack Kirby in this regard, and also helped Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster get the credit they deserved for creating the iconic hero.
“It’s wild to think of a time when comic artists’ original pages were never returned to them,” writer Chip Zdarsky said in his Substack newsletter. “At companies like Marvel and DC, the pages sent in for production were treated as their property, with the artists having no ownership over the physical pieces. They were tossed in closets, in the garbage, cut up. Neal Adams championed the return of these pieces of art to the artists, providing a huge income stream to creators like Jack Kirby, the guy who created everything you love yet owned none of it.”
I feel like I should also mention his covers; he created numerous ones over the course of his career that still stand the test of time today, not only for superheroes but also for horror, western, science fiction and even humor titles at various publishers:
Outside of the big two, Adams worked for Pacific Comics in the early 1980s, creating Skate Man for the publisher and co-creating Ms. Mystic with Michael Netzer. Ms. Mystic migrated to Continuity Comics shortly after her creation, a company Adams founded to publish his own work. Netzer later sued Adams and his production company Continuity Graphics Associates, Inc., arguing that Adams had defrauded him and infringed his copyright of Ms. Mystic, among many other charges. The suit was dismissed in 1997. Continuity published comics for about a decade, including Armor, Samuree, Megalith, Crazyman and Bucky O’Hare, who also had his own animated series, toy line and video game.
Adams was inducted into the Will Eisner Hall of Fame in 1998, the Harvey Awards Hall of Fame in 1999 and The Joe Sinnott Hall of Fame in 2019.
“Neal Adams was both an unstoppable force and an immovable object,” Bill Sienkiewicz said on Facebook. “The world just lost an amazing artist, a brilliant storyteller, a wild creative force of nature, a man who forever changed the comics medium and the culture of entertainment. His impact was beyond seismic; it also changed the course of my very existence.”
Many creators shared their memories of Adams on social media following the new of his death: