The Expanding Ego Theory: Neal Adams at 77

« Now at this age, I look back and oh, Adams is probably one of the worst things that happened to the medium, when I look at it historically. » – Darwyn Cooke (2004)

On his 77th birthday, the legendary Neal Adams must surely look back on his storied career and radiantly beam (‘gloating’ is for lesser beings). Still, with all he’s accomplished (and with such brio!) in the fields of graphic storytelling, advertising, physics, the theatre and geology, who could find it in his heart to blame him? With so much to celebrate, let’s just stick to the highlights, shall we?

Why is the little dude threatening the giantess? Why, Neal, why? Well, I suppose that is some people’s idea of romance. This is Heart Throbs no. 120 (June-July, 1969), edited by Joe Orlando.
I don’t know if you’ve ever pulled yourself out of the water onto a dock, but that… is not the way to do it. One might argue that Triton is an Inhuman, and as such, gravity and anatomy are trifles unworthy of his kind. From Avengers no. 95 (Jan. 1972, Marvel), a chapter in the “Kree-Skrull War”, cobbled together by Roy Thomas from discarded Kirby plot effluvium and Jerome Bixby and Otto Klement’s Fantastic Voyage.
Ah, Neal Adams. He who brought naturalism and realism to comics. A panel from “The Powerless Power Ring!”, a Green Lantern backup strip from Flash no. 226 (March 1974, DC Comics.)
Neal’s influence can’t be overstated, and not only in the fields of comics and geology. Here’s US figure skater Jason Brown‘s poignant tribute to that very Green Lantern tale, presented to warm applause at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. As Neal is fond of saying to any cartoonist he encounters, « You are all my children! »*
A concert poster reproducing Our Neal’s gatefold art for Grand Funk‘s 1974 LP, All the Girls in the World Beware!!! (which incidentally features their finest original composition, imho, Bad Time) Despite the difficult assignment, Neal comes through with flailing biceps and chicken legs; thank goodness his caricature chops are equal to his grasp of earth sciences. Curiously, half the groupie throng seems to be cloned from a particularly manic Marsha Brady, and most of the rest from Carol Burnett.
They’re an American Band. From left to right: Don Brewer (he of the competent drum work), Mark Farner (he of the wild, shirtless lyrics), keyboardist Craig Frost (Homer didn’t rate him), and of course Mel Schacher (he of the bong-rattling bass.) One may wonder just who those guys in the poster are supposed to be.
Faceplant time, or The perils of drawing comics whilst grabbing lunch, getting a massage on 52nd, or simply resting on your laurels. How does this cover make any sense? Just picture the scene from another angle, or if someone tried to build a model of it. Archie’s Super Hero Comics Digest Magazine no. 2 (1979 edition.)
As legendary as his renditions of established characters are, it is with his own creations that Neal Adams’ true legendary status rests: fabled names, always spoken in hushed awe, such as Ms. Mystic, Samuree, Cyberad, Crazyman, Megalith, Valeria the She-Bat… and of course Skateman, Jason Brown’s childhood idol. Here’s his premiere (and dernière) issue, published in November 1983 by Pacific Comics.
And here’s a mock-up of the same cover. I’ll go to my grave wondering why they chose to run the cover sans this piquant, vernacular-rich dialogue, which would have shown once and for all that Neal the writer was every bit the equal of Neal, the artiste. Eat your heart out, Noël Coward!
Neal applies his Midas touch to another original creation: Crazyman! Double bag several copies of this number one, someday it’ll put your kids through college. It even comes with an embossed cover! By then, Adams was drawing donkey teeth on everyone, evidently his shorthand for “hilarious”. April 1992, Continuity Comics. You know, “The other superhero company”!

– RG

*as recounted by Yanick Paquette

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