Rest in peace, Paul Neary

The former editor-in-chief of Marvel UK and veteran artist passed away on Feb. 10 after a long illness.

Paul Neary, the former Marvel UK editor-in-chief and artist of Captain America, Excalibur, The Ultimates and more, has passed away at the age of 74. Neary died of a long illness on Feb. 10, as reported by his longtime colleague Alan Davis and shared by Paul Levitz.

“In a career of more than 50 years Paul earned international respect and recognition in numerous roles within the comic book industry,” Davis shared. “Paul could write, pencil, ink, colour, letter and edit. Skills he learned from studying the medium with an academic zeal.”

Neary was born in Bournemouth, England in 1949, and would attend college at Leeds University. According to Davis, Neary traveled to New York over his first summer at university to try and break into the comics industry.

“Comics were an enthusiastic hobby for Paul when he moved to Leeds University to study for a degree in Metallurgy, but in his first summer break Paul travelled to New York, bluffed his way into Jim Warren’s office, and secured his first professional work on Eerie magazine,” Davis said.

Neary’s work would regularly appear in Eerie, where he drew the “Hunter” series, which was about a half-breed warrior who fights for survival on a weird, irradiated alternate Earth.

After Warren folded, Neary went to work in the UK comics scene, drawing “Future Shocks” for 2000AD — their series of self-contained short stories — for various writers, including Alan Moore. He also worked on Hammer Comics movie adaptations (including Dracula and Moon Zero Two) and the Doctor Who magazine before landing a permanent gig at Marvel UK. Neary went to work for then editor-in-chief Dez Skinn, who wanted to do more than just reprint American comics and create some homegrown UK titles. One of those titles was a weekly Hulk comic, which Neary drew.

Skinn left the company in 1980, and Neary took over as editor-in-chief. Keeping with the idea of homegrown UK comics, Neary hired Alan Davis to revamp Captain Britain, which appeared in the UK’s Marvel Superheroes. Davis would go on to work with Alan Moore on the character, creating some of the line’s most memorable stories — and setting the stage for the “British invasion” that brought many UK creators to the United States.

Neary left his position as editor-in-chief because of what Davis referred to as “office politics,” and went to work for Marvel in the United States — getting about as American as you can get by drawing Captain America. Neary worked with J.M. DeMatteis on the title before Mark Gruenwald took over as writer, kicking off his epic run.

Neary drew about 40 issues of Captain America, and co-created many of the characters that came out of that era, including Super Patriot/U.S. Agent, Diamondback and many other members of the Serpent Society, Madcap, Battlestar, Flag-Smasher and Sin, the daughter of the Red Skull.

His time as a penciller at Marvel also included a short runs on Ka-Zar and the Thing, as well as the Nick Fury vs. SHIELD miniseries. (Interestingly, Neary would help introduce Nick Fury Jr. in the pages of Battle Scars much later in his career).

After his stint at Marvel, he began working with Davis at DC, where he inked Davis’ runs on Batman and the Outsiders and Detective Comics. The duo would also go on to work on Marvel’s Excalibur series, which brought Nightcrawler, Kitty Pryde and Rachel Summers to the UK to team up with Captain Britain and Meggan. Davis and Neary would win an Eisner award in 1989 for their work on the title.

In 1990, Neary returned to Marvel UK for a second round as editor-in-chief. While there, Neary brought in a slew of talent that included Bryan Hitch, Dan Abnett, Liam Sharp, Carlos Pacheco, Salvador Larroca and Gary Frank, and launched titles like Dark Angel, Motormouth, Death’s Head II and Knights of Pendragon.

“While the list of titles is impressive, Paul’s greatest achievement was the environment he established to help new creators learn and develop skills that would propel them onto success in the U.S. Comic market after Marvel UK fell victim to industry decline,” Davis said.

While Marvel UK rode the comics boom of the early 1990s, with many of these titles getting U.S. distribution, they hit the comics bust of the mid-1990s and closed up shop. Neary would return to inking, working not only with Davis but also with Bryan Hitch on two major comics of the post-bust era: The Authority and The Ultimates.

In addition to more sophisticated storytelling, both of these titles represented the “widescreen” or “cinematic” approach to comics art that became prevalent at the time. Hitch and Neary would go on to work on JLA and Fantastic Four as well.

“Those lucky enough to have known Paul will remember him as an intensely private man who had no interest in fame or public acclaim,” Davis said. “Paul loved the creative process and fostering that creativity in others. Always professional, enthusiastic and polite but just below the surface Paul’s anarchic sense of humour was poised to mock the mighty and expose the injustices of life. The greatest injustice being he went too soon.”

Many of Neary’s colleagues and friends posted their remembrances on social media:

J.M. DeMatteis:

Just heard the sad news that Paul Neary has passed away. Mainly known as an inker—especially when teamed with Alan Davis—Paul was also a top notch penciler. Although we never met, he took over the arto on my Captain America run after Mike Zeck left and did beautiful work—going on to pencil much of Mark Gruenwald’s epic Cap run.

Derf Backderf:

He’s been a superdude artist for much of his career, but I remember him as a young artist who broke in with Warren mags in the 1970s and did fantastic work. Also had a large bibliography with Brit sci-fi titles like Dr. Who & 2000 AD. His inkwork is gorgeous.

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