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Neal Adams - Comic Book Legend

Updated on December 17, 2015
Neal Adams
Neal Adams


As the 1960s drew to an end, sales of Batman comics were suffering, the campy TV show had been a big success however the show had run its course and the comic book that had mirrored the silly style of the TV show began to wane in popularity. Things were to change for the comic and the character of Batman with the arrival at DC of artist Neal Adams and writer Denny O'Neil.

Originally Batman had been a dark character, a creature of the night, the dark knight of legend, Adams and O'Neil took the Batman back to his roots.

Ben Casey drawn by Adams.
Ben Casey drawn by Adams.

Early Years

Born June 15th 1941 in New York, Adams studied at the School Of Industrial Art in Manhattan. After graduation Adams spent some time at Archie comics where he would work on Archies Joke Book Magazine. After leaving Archie Comics under what Adams would describe as " not the best circumstances " he turned his attention to commercial art and the advertising industry working in these industries for about a year. In 1962 Adams real career in comic books began in earnest, Adams got the job as artist on Newspaper syndicate strip " Ben Casey " which was based on a then popular television medical drama. Adams was to draw the " Ben Casey" strip for 3 and a half years and after acting as a ghost artist on various daily strips eventually ended up at DC Comics in 1967.

The cover to Batman # 227, Batman goes dark and brooding again.
The cover to Batman # 227, Batman goes dark and brooding again.

DC And The 1970s

Batman suddenly became worth reading again, by taking Batman back to his roots, Batman comics and thus Batman stories could be taken seriously by fans. This rejuvenation of the Batman mythos paved the way for the much darker and serious Batman that we know and love today. A direct line can be drawn from Adams and O'Neils Batman through to Christopher Nolans Batman trilogy of movies and some of the greatest graphic novels ever written, for example Alan Moores The Killing Joke and Frank Millers The Dark Knight Returns.

Eco terrorist Ra's Al Ghul makes his first appearance.
Eco terrorist Ra's Al Ghul makes his first appearance.

Ra's Al Ghul

Ra's Al Ghul is an eco terrorist character invented by Adams and O'Neil. Also known as the "Demons Head " Ra's Al Ghul is immortal and is around 600 years old, he gains his immortality from bathing in the " Lazarus Pits " a pool that contains rejuvenating chemicals that can restore the dead and dying to life. Ra's Al Ghul is classed as one of Batmans greatest villains and has appeared in two Batman movies, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight Rises both times played by Liam Neeson.

Green Lantern / Green Arrow

Contemporary to their work on Batman the Adams / O'Neil team overhauled the then failing Green Lantern comic, teaming Green Lantern with an ideologically different superhero in Green Arrow. Starting with issue # 76 the two superheroes toured the USA on a social commentary journey that looked at issues such as racism, overpopulation, drug addiction and pollution.

Green Lantern # 76 is classed as one of the most important comics of the 1970s, the comic helped usher in a time when comic books could now deal with more adult and complex issues such as drug use, GL 76 is also one of the three most valuable comics of this era.

Adams cover art for X-Men # 63
Adams cover art for X-Men # 63

Work At Marvel

Adams was one of the first artists to work at DC comics and Marvel at the same time. Adams worked on the failing X-Men title and although his work on the series won many plaudits he didn't manage to save the title which finished its initial run with issue # 66.


Adams has always been active politically within the comic book industry, he was the main mover in the modern practice of companies returning an artists work to them after it had been published, allowing the artist to earn residual income from sales at auction or to private collectors, after winning his battle in1987 artwork was returned to himself and other notable artists such as Jack Kirby. Alongside Jerry Robinson ( the artist who created The Joker ) Adams was instrumental in gaining long over due credit and some financial reward to Jerry Siegel and Joel Shuster the creators of Superman from DC Comics.

Adams Style

When You get used to seeing Adams work it becomes unmistakable to you, the list of comic book covers drawn by Adams is incredible, Adams has drawn covers featuring Batman, Superman, Superboy, the X-Men, his own creation Deadman and literally hundreds of others, check out the link below to see more of Neal Adams work.


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      Jayfort 4 years ago

      House Of Mystery # 189 IS an interesting cover!

      Years ago, I purchased some art books about Neal Adams and there was some awesome art I hadn't seen before inside. One of my favorite sequences showed a spacecraft crash on an alien world. The pilot (a blond gentleman) exits the craft and pulls a long cylinder from the damaged vehicle. Inside the cylinder is a tall, dark-haired man in a loincloth. Behind the man, a tall, four-armed green creature approaches the pilot and the dormant man. Suddenly, another dark-haired man lunges a sword through the alien creature. The pilot shakes the dark-haired mans hand in thanks. In that scene, we see Carson Napier (of Venus), John Carter (of Mars), and Tarzan (of the Apes)...Edgar Rice Burroughs three main heroes!

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      My brother was a Marvel fan and I a DC comics fan! we had stacks of them at home, we read them all the time. Eventually we sold them on to a guy in a rock group! lol! this was really interesting reading, nell

    • nuffsaidstan profile image

      nuffsaidstan 4 years ago

      Hi Jayfort, love that one too mate very well known cover and comic, my favorite has to be House Of Mystery # 189 the one with the rat, brilliant!

    • profile image

      Jayfort 4 years ago

      I was (and still am) a big fan of Neal Adams' work, particularly his DC Comics' covers during the late 60s and into the 70s. My favorite Neal Adams's cover is Superman (Vol. 1) #233, Kryptonite Nevermore!