To our illustrious Bam Smack Pow readers, have we got a treat for you today! We were recently granted a huge opportunity to interview the one and only legendary comics luminary: Neal Adams! Bam Smack Pow caught up with the writer and artist via phone while he was attending the Pensacola Comic Con in Florida. As Superman and Adams fans know, he has a new six-issue miniseries making its debut on February 24, 2016: Superman: The Coming of the Supermen.
With a huge jovial attitude and a tome of comics industry knowledge, Adams talked to Bam Smack Pow about his interpretation of Superman — what he loves about the character and how he’s truly creating a “super-man.” “Big muscles, handsome, smart … and very human” are the hallmarks of Adams’s Man of Steel. As we veered off into other topics, we discussed his thoughts on the upcoming Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and what it takes to make it in the comics industry.
So whether you’re a Superman fan, an Adams fan, an aspiring comic book creator, or just someone looking for a great conversation from an industry giant, this interview is a can’t miss! Ladies and gentleman, may I present to you … the one and only … Neal Adams …
Neal Adams: Hello there! Can you hear me clearly?
Bam Smack Pow: Loud and clear, Mr. Adams!
NA: How’s your day going?
BSP: It’s going awesome!
NA: Now that’s a word! What would we do without the word “awesome?”
BSP: Can’t speak for everyone, but I can say that my vocabulary would become very limited!
NA: [laughs] Most certainly!
BSP: So, how are you?
NA: I’m doing great. I’m here in Florida attending a convention, and it’s just going great!
BSP: Excellent! I’m sure all the fans are anxious and waiting to see this interview. So let’s get started.
NA: Sounds great to me!
BSP: In past interviews, you stated that Superman: Coming of the Supermen really brings Superman back to his roots — back to the old days of his initial creation when Siegel and Shuster were still writing and drawing him. What are the qualities, from that era, that you admired the most about the character of Superman.
NA: Superman, back then, was closer to a “super-man” than a god. He had limitations. He could fly, but definitely not into the sun. He’s a super-man, not a god. Comic books have always been inconsistent, so Superman has gained and lost powers through the years. My Superman has limits, but that still doesn’t take away from the fact that he’s the greatest comic book character of all time. Now, you may say Thor is the same. But Thor is just a man with a hammer. With that being said, you’re still not going to see Superman fly into the sun like how some comics have shown him to do. He’d turn into a matchstick! [laughs]
The other end of the spectrum is Batman. To me, he was never a “super”-hero. He is a man who trained himself to superhuman levels. With Superman and Batman, you had the alpha and the omega of comics. Every other character lies in between those two.
[laughs] You know, my Superman will feel it when Kalibak punches him in the face! From the point-of-view of physics, it shouldn’t be ridiculous.
Superman also has to be good looking. I want him to have big muscles. Remember when Superman made his first appearance in the 1978 Richard Donner / Christopher Reeve Superman and women swooned over him? That’s the Superman I’m going for. And to maintain those big muscles, he has to work out. So my Superman trains somewhere to maintain his physique. There’s also an older story I wrote where Superman has to fight Muhammad Ali. Well, Superman had to train for that. We actually showed Superman preparing for the fight.
Superman should be a romantic character. Above all else, I want to show his humanity.
BSP: Like me, you don’t just love Superman, you love his mythos, his universe … and even his villains. When working on a story, which of Superman’s villains were the most fun and interesting for you and why?
NA: I’m a big Jack Kirby fan. The man had the ability to see into the future. He created great villains that came out of left field. So I love anything coming from Kirby. I mean, this was a whole universe of characters. Then, later, people messed them up. What I’m trying to do is to not mess them up. These are great villains that deserve to be in movies, and I want to see them up there!
Another villain that I just love is Lex Luthor. Again, some people ruined the character. Luthor should never be the abused one. He’s always the one in control and one step ahead of everyone else. Now, don’t get me wrong, Luthor is still only slightly smarter than Superman. Only by a little. He may outsmart Superman at first, but Superman catches on really quickly.
For Superman: The Coming of the Supermen, I have Superman, Luthor, and Darkseid against each other … and then something happens. There’s something else there. I’m not going to tell you. I’ll let you find that out yourself. [laughs]
BSP: What’s your perspective on Superman’s evolution through the years? Were there incarnations of him that made you cringe? Other than Siegel and Shuster, were there incarnations that made you say, “That’s it, that artist or writer, hit the nail right on the head for Superman!”
NA: I never cringe at someone else’s work or criticize it. I may see something that I don’t like and I’ll just think, “Those are just experiments on the character.” When I write and draw Superman, that’s my way of expressing my point-of-view. Think of it like a beauty pageant, and I’m the judge. The judge would never look at a contestant and thumb her down. He’d say, “They’re all terrific!”
Now, again, for Superman: The Coming of the Supermen, I do fool you a bit. I may make you think that I’m doing one thing, but I’m doing another. There are lots of surprises. I’ll give you this tidbit: there’s something in there that makes you think, “This book is about a little boy and his dog.” By the end, you’ll understand that it’s something completely different. Again, I’m not going to spoil that for you.
BSP: And I appreciate that! What’s the point of reading a story if you know what’s going to happen!?
NA: [laughs] Exactly, you got it!
BSP: We obviously can’t talk about Superman without mentioning the DC Extended Universe and the upcoming Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. What are your thoughts on Zack Snyder’s interpretation of the Man of Steel?
NA: That’s a movie I really want to see! Personally, I’m excited because I think they fixed all the stuff they got wrong in the previous movie. Man of Steel got lots of stuff wrong about Superman. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has a real opportunity to fix that. I have my fingers crossed that they will get everything right this time. I’m confident that Warner Bros. will make it happen.
BSP: Let’s just be blunt here: You’re a living legend. In your many years in the industry, you’ve obviously hit many obstacles. However, with your hard work and talent, you revolutionized the comics industry and some of its most iconic characters. What advice and words of inspiration can you give young aspiring comic book creators who think that their creations may never see the light of day?
NA: I’ll be very honest with you. Many, many people will fail. However, we’re in a very interesting time in history, especially with the Internet. There are various opportunities for people. If there’s anything that’s a guarantee, it’s that you have to work your butt off! Don’t assume that if you just put your work out there, someone’s going to notice you. I’m not saying that it doesn’t happen, but it rarely does. You have to work your butt off. After a period of hard work and doing your job, you get some credentials. Then … you get lucky and get to work on some larger assignments. It’s a combination of hard work, time, persistence, and luck.
Superman: The Coming of the Supermen by Neal Adams will be released on Wednesday, February 24, 2016. Physical and digital copies will be available for purchase via comic book retailers, bookstores, online retailers, and wherever comics are sold. So pick up your copy today!
Also, don’t forget to come back to Bam Smack Pow on Thursday, February 24, 2016 when we’ll have our review of Superman: The Coming of the Supermen #1!
Neal Adams is one of the most successful, famous, and sought after comics visionaries. His work has spanned the “big two” in comics publishing — DC and Marvel — and various other entities. Starting his career off at Archie Comics, Adams’s talent was quickly noticed by staff. He soon began writing, penciling, inking, and lettering full and half-pages. He soon left Archie Comics and did a brief stint at Johnston and Cushing Agency which used comics art for the purposes of advertising.
In 1962, Adams moved onto the Newspaper Enterprise Association and landed the assignment to create the Ben Casey strip, a comic strip based on the popular medical-drama television series. The strip acted as a proving ground for Adams’s talent in tackling controversial issues (addiction, illegitimate pregnancy, and suicide) with his art style. After leaving NEA, due to the cancellation of Ben Casey on television which affected the strip, Adams sought commercial work.
Adams soon found himself returning to comics which itself was at the tail-end of the Silver Age. At DC Comics, there was an opening for war comics. Since Adams had an interest in that genre, he saw an opportunity to showcase his art. He soon made his DC debut as a penciler and inker. After paying his dues on various titles, Adams was assigned his first superhero covers — illustrating Action Comics #356 (November 1967) and Superman’s Girl Friend, Lois Lane #79 (November 1967).
His first full-length superhero story was Detective Comics #369 “The Elongated Man.” After that, he soon found himself drawing the Dark Knight himself — Batman. Adams’s true breakout came from working on the supernatural hero Deadman. This led to Adams’s receiving a special award from the Alley Award Hall of Fame “for the new perspective and dynamic vibrance he as brought to the field of comic art.” At this time, many took note of his high-octane realistic art style — which was new for comics published in that era.
Unlike other artists who avoided working for rival publishers for the fear of retaliation, Adams started freelancing for Marvel Comics in 1969. He penciled several issues of the X-Men and revived the character of Professor X. Paired with Tom Palmer, Adams would co-win the 1969 Alley Award for Best Pencil Artist and Best Inking Artist.
Still at DC, Adams would revitalize Batman — reestablishing his dark brooding nature. In Batman #232 (June 1971), Adams and Dennis O’Neil would introduce the world to one of Batman’s most famous and formidable adversaries — Ra’s al Ghul. The revitalization of characters didn’t just stop at Batman. Adams went on to update Green Arrow’s appearance which has now become a mainstay of the character — a costume that was more befitting of an archer and the iconic goatee and mustache. In Green Lantern #87 (December 1971 / January 1972), Adams and O’Neil would also introduce the world to one of the most fan-favorite and enduring Green Lanterns — John Stewart.
In 1972, Adams left DC to start his own company — Continuity Associates, which is known today as Continuity Studios. The company’s mission is to show that comic book-style art can be applied to other industries with success. During its inception, Continuity’s main focus was supplying storyboards and advertising art for the film industry. Today, the company has expanded its business to include offerings for animatics, 3D computer graphics, and conceptual design.
In the 1990s, Adams returned to DC and redesigned a new costume for the character of Robin. In 2005, he also returned to Marvel where he eventually worked on Young Avengers Special #1.
As a veteran of the comics industry, Adams has been particularly involved in empowering its artists. His efforts have resulted in the modern standard practice of publishers returning original work back to the artist, therefore, allowing their original owners to earn additional income from their sale. In 1987, he had artwork returned to him, Jack Kirby, and others from Marvel. Perhaps his most notable win in the arena was for Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster — when they were finally reimbursed for years of overdue credit from DC.
Among Adams’s numerous awards throughout his career, he was also inducted into the Eisner Award’s Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 1998, and The Harvey Awards’ Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1999.