Neal Adams on Maintaining His Vision, Embracing the Darkseid and Welcoming the Supermen

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When Paste sat down with Neal Adams at Wizard World in Chicago, he was in the middle of illustrating a massive commissioned artwork that recreated one of his trademark scenes: Batman and Ra’s al Ghul swordfighting in the desert. This artwork developed over the four-day event, every color and detail fulfilling Adams’ unique vision, which has made him, arguably, the greatest living comic book artist. Being there while Adams worked was extraordinary: it was like watching Transmetropolitan scribe Warren Ellis type or Batman sharpen batarangs.

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After talking with Adams for a half hour, his determined vision for comics and other media stood out. That honed outlook celebrates fellow innovative veterans like Jack Kirby, while deriding projects he sees as subpar (like the Zack Snyder-directed film, Man of Steel). Of note, Adams discussed the inspiration and approach to his upcoming six-issue Superman comic Coming of the Supermen, due out in February.

Adams teased elements of this story, saying it involves a trio of Supermen from New Krypton seeking the known and beloved Clark Kent Superman’s help. Villains will include Lex Luthor and Darkseid, the latter of whom spurred some lengthy praise about his creator.

“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Jack Kirby and his characters… I don’t know how a guy can come up with so many, and so unique, characters that everybody laughs at at first, and then they go, yeah, that’s a great idea,” Adams said. “Like Silver Surfer. You know, Silver Surfer, you kind of go, a guy on a surfboard, really? Flying through space? That is so trite and weird, and then you go…no. That’s a great idea. That’s really a great idea. Wow.”

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The Coming of The Supermen Interior Art by Neal Adams

Adams was especially disappointed in Warner Bros.’ use—or lack of use—of Darkseid and other Kirby characters in recent films: “I just think he’s so prolific and fantastic and I don’t understand why DC Comics hasn’t fed off his genius all these years. I mean, there’s a Superman movie out and the villain is Zod for the second time. Excuse me? And Superman doesn’t carry him off and take care of him properly—he kills him! The first time he took care of him. Are we going backward in time and doing it in a more crappy way? And excuse me, it’s Superman. Is that the only villain there is, Zod? What about Darkseid? What about Brainiac? I just don’t understand how the film guys don’t get it or don’t read the comic books. Or don’t know who Jack Kirby is. What’s the deal with that? It’s annoying, really.”

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The Coming of The Supermen Interior Art by Neal Adams

When asked if he had a favorite of his many projects—which include classics such as his X-Men run with Roy Thomas, his seminal Batman stories with Dennis O’Neil, Superman vs. Muhammad Ali and, without hesitation, Batman: Odyssey. While Odyssey has proven divisive among fans and critics, it’s undeniably another example of Adams blazing his own path, with art that’s some of the best of his career. Adams grabbed a copy and pointed with pride at a shocking two-page spread of Batman shooting a villain through the back: “It’s not just a nice piece of art. It’s an OK piece of art, but you come to that and you go, that can’t be. What the hell just happened?” It’s hard not to get caught up in the enthusiasm of Adams, who seems as ageless as Batman himself.

Adams has no current plans for another Batman story, but he’s got a lot of potential projects he’s ready to jump on. When asked if he thought of doing an Image Comic, he sarcastically replied “No! What do you think I sit around and do nothing all day? Throw spitballs?” He’d like to revive his Continuity Comics characters and get them into movies. He has ideas for Green Lantern and Deadman: “Nobody has told the story of Deadman. There’s things you don’t know about Deadman. Significant things.” On his potential Green Lantern story, Adams made a vow that applies well to all his ideas: “If they let me do it, I’m going to do it.”

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The Coming of The Supermen Interior Art by Neal Adams

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The Coming of The Supermen Interior Art by Neal Adams

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