Neal Adams, Legendary Batman Artist, Dies at 80
You may not know his name, but if you have ever enjoyed a Marvel or DC comic — or you’ve watched one of the many movies or TV shows based on them —odds are you have in some way enjoyed or benefitted from the work of artist Neal Adams. His distinctive style — dramatic, moody, and bold — helped revolutionize the look of comics in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and he had revered runs on titles like Batman and X-Men that are still revered to this day.
Sadly, Adams passed away on Thursday in New York City. He was 80 years old. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the cause of death was complications of sepsis.
Adams’ accomplishments include having a big hand in reshaping the way Batman was looked at in the wake of the campy 1960s television show. Adams and writer Denny O’Neil used their stories to return Batman to his roots as a detective in a world full of psychotic criminals and ominous shadows. Together, O’Neil and Adams also created Ra’s Al Ghul, the immortal terrorist who became one of Batman’s signature enemies, as well as his daughter Talia. Later, the characters served as the key antagonists in the first and third Christopher Nolan Batman films, where they were played by Liam Neeson and Marion Cotillard.
Near the end of the first run of X-Men comics in the late 1960s, Adams penciled another acclaimed and influential batch of stories. These issues, written by Roy Thomas, feature more of Adams’ dynamic page layouts and bold figures, along with some incredible covers like this one.
Back at DC, again with O’Neal, Adams helped turn Green Lantern from an also-ran title into one of the most important series of its era. Abandoning the cartoonish and supernatural bent of most previous Green Lantern stories, they refocused the book on contemporary social issues like race, class, and drugs that were widely ignored by comics of that era. Their run also introduced John Stewart, only the second African-American hero ever featured in DC Comics. He remains a major DC character to this day.
A staunch defender of creators’ rights, Adams also played an important role in helping Golden and Silver Age comic book writers and artists finally receive full credit for their work. Prior to his lobbying, the creators of Superman, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, were not even credited with inventing the character in the pages of DC Comics. (Today, any book that features Superman includes a mention of their names.)
In other words, Adams had an enormous impact on the comics industry, both on the page and behind the scenes. The books he illustrated and characters he created or modernized will be read and loved for generations to come.