Neal Adams, legendary comic book creator, dies at 80

Neal Adams has died at age 80, according to a statement from his family, published through The Hollywood Reporter (opens in new tab). Adams died on April 28 of complications from sepsis, per the statement.

Adams began his career in comics after graduating from Manhattan’s School of Industrial Art. His earliest comic book work was a single panel for Archie’s superhero comic The Fly, which impressed editors and was taken from a sample page he turned in while seeking work.

After a brief stint with Archie, creating one-page humor stories for Archie’s Joke Book Magazine, Adams transitioned to newspaper comic strips, interning under cartoonist Howard Nostrand on his Bat Masterson comic strip. He eventually landed a job as the regular artist of the strip Ben Casey, which was based on a popular TV medical drama of the era.

Batman by Neal Adams

(Image credit: DC)

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After stints on several other comic strips, Adams eventually found his way to horror comics with Warren Publishing, before finally landing at DC where he first drew numerous war comics, as well as contributing to the celebrity-licensed comics The Adventures of Jerry Lewis and The Adventures of Bob Hope.

Then, in 1967, Adams took on art duties for Strange Adventures, specifically the stories of the character Deadman, Adams’ first breakout artistic hit. In 1969, he started working for Marvel Comics alongside DC, penciling Uncanny X-Men and creating new costumes for the team.

But also in 1969, Adams launched the gig that would come to define his career, drawing his first Batman story alongside writer Denny O’Neil, with the pair going on to create numerous Batman stories and characters that resonate to this day, including Ra’s al Ghul. Adams and O’Neil also moved Batman away from the campy silliness of his ’50s adventures and the subsequent Adam West-starring Batman TV show, revitalizing the hero and putting him back in the shadows as an urban vigilante.

From there, Adams and O’Neil also created the series Green Lantern/Green Arrow, which paired the two heroes up on a cross-country adventure that touched on relevant social and political topics including racism, drug use, and more.

After Batman and Green Lantern/Green Arrow, Adams’ reputation as one of the most popular and influential comic book artists of his generation (and eventually of all time) was set. The artist continued to work on numerous titles over the years, including regular returns to Batman, while also branching his work in the industry into creator advocacy.

Green Lantern #76

(Image credit: DC)

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In the ’70s, Adams attempted to unionize the comic industry. Those his efforts did not come to fruition, he was also instrumental in enacting numerous policies designed to benefit comic creators, especially artists, and protect them from some of the traditionally predatory practices of comic book publishers. This includes Adam’s efforts to finally get DC to credit and financially compensate Superman’s creators Joe Simon and Jerry Siegel, as well as his efforts to reform policies about returning artwork to creators. And In 1978, he helped found the Comic Creators Guild.

Alongside his own work, Adams also founded the company Continuity Associates, which provided education and industry in-roads to numerous young artists, eventually branching out into the short-lived Continuity Comics publishing line.

Adams was Jewish, a cultural identity that informed much of his work and advocacy. Alongside his regular comic work, Adams advocated for the return of artist Dina Babbitt’s paintings from the Auschwitz-Berkenau State Museum in Germany. A Holocaust survivor, Babbitt painted portraits of inmates at the Auschwitz-Berkenau concentration camp under durress, before emigrating to the US after the war and becoming an animator. Adams also created a motion comic series titled They Spoke Out: American Voices Against the Holocaust which tells the stories of Americans who stood out against Nazi Germany before that was a popular position in the US.

Over the course of his career, Adams was awarded numerous honors and accolades, notably being elected to the Alley Award Hall of Fame in 1969 for his work on Deadman, as well as multiple Goethe Awards and Inkpot Awards throughout the ’70s and ’80s. In 1998, Adams was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame, followed by an induction into the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1999. In 2019, he was inducted into the Inkwell Awards Joe Sinnott Hall of Fame.

Adams is survived by his wife Marion, and children Jason, Joel, and Josh, all of whom are artists.

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