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Sunday, May 01, 2022 

Neal Adams, RIP

Entertainment Weekly announced the veteran artist who co-revitalized Batman with the late Denny O'Neil has died at 80:
Neal Adams, the influential comic-book artist whose work revitalized characters like Batman and Green Arrow, has died. His son Josh Adams confirmed the news in a Facebook post. He was 80. [...]

The Adams/O'Neil team also took a politically engaged tone with their Green Lantern/Green Arrow comic, which sent Hal Jordan and Oliver Queen on a road trip across America. These two "hard-traveling heroes" encountered social problems of the day like racism, pollution, and drug addiction — the latter was memorably dramatized in a storyline that featured Green Arrow's sidekick Speedy becoming addicted to heroin. They also co-created John Stewart, the first Black Green Lantern and one of the first Black superheroes in DC period.

Adams didn't just tackle politics in his comics, though. He also worked for years to change the nature of the comic industry to benefit the workers who made the books. Although his efforts to organize a union of comic writers and artists were unsuccessful, his advocacy for Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster was. The reason that every Superman TV show, movie, comic, cartoon, or other content features an unmissable "created by Siegel and Shuster" credit is a result of Adams' work, as was the pension that the two creators received from DC through the end of their lives. Adams also convinced comic publishers like DC and Marvel to return original comic art to the artists, allowing them to autograph and/or auction their pieces for supplemental income.
A difference in O'Neil and Adams' approach to politics back then is that they weren't advocating extreme ideologies like LGBT lifestyles, which reached new heights of recent with Disney's Orwellian advocacy for abuse and indoctrination of children that's been costing them customers. And in contrast to this era, they, just like Stan Lee and Gil Kane shortly before in Spider-Man, tackled the serious issue of drug abuse, which is not being viewed the same way by today's political representatives. And that's surely the saddest thing about what's occurred since O'Neil/Adams and Lee/Kane produced their informative work: it hasn't availed in the long run.

And while Adams' advocacy for Siegel and Shuster is admirable, it's a shame Adams had to be such a knee-jerk leftist who wouldn't stand up for modern right-wingers, who're being almost entirely shunned in the modern industry. I'm sure he meant well when he wanted to form a union, but if the way Image is going today is any indication, that's why it's hardly worth it to favor such ideas now, when they've clearly spiraled out of control, going from advocacy for creator rights and proper wages to censoring the work of anybody whose politics don't coincide with theirs. It reminds me of the time when a propagandist attacked Adams for a petty issue of drawing Wonder Woman from the back, while making love to Superman. Let us be perfectly clear. The whole notion the sight of a woman's derriere is always the worst thing that could happen is absolutely ludicrous, and you can't just simply dictate to an artist what/how he can or cannot draw. The anti-sex propaganda of the past decade caused a lot of damage, and it's clear the people who led to it are still unrepentant. Nor is there any chance they're sorry if they caused Adams' career any harm as a result.

All that said, Adams was a very good artist with a style that was very impressive, and I'm proud to own some of his works in my collection today. He did contribute some good stuff in his time to the industry, and his defense of Siegel/Shuster was another plus for which he deserves credit. That's what Adams will be remembered in admiration for.

Update: here's a JTA article by Rafael Medoff telling how Adams campaigned for awareness of the Jewish Holocaust during WW2.

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Considering the man's status and role in the industry, this comment is damning with faint praise. it is too bad you can't step off your soapbox for a minute and show some respect for the guy's achievements.

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