EXCLUSIVE! A 13th Dimension special.
Neal Adams — who was born June 15, 1941 –– turns 75 today.
He’s my all-time favorite artist, simple as that. He remains incredibly energetic and prolific, with a deep love for the craft of comics.
Just check out this variant cover he did for Green Arrow #1 (beautifully inked by Kevin Nowlan), which coincidentally is out today. You can see the joy he had in drawing Ollie with his goatee (and without his hood).
And here’s this riff he did for the SpongeBob Comics Annual-Size Super-Giant Swimtacular #4 — also out today — in which Mermaid Man and the Green Harpoon team-up/argue like a couple of old emerald gladiators we know and love.
In February, we published a series of daily interviews with Neal about his DC Comics variant-covers project, in which he repencilled almost 30 of his most famous covers, recasting them with different characters. (For the full INDEX of stories, click here. There’s tons of great material in there, trust me.) I followed that up with a list of 13 Underrated Neal Adams Batman Covers (click here), which is pretty much what it sounds like.
Our standard way of celebrating birthdays around these parts is with a 13 COVERS salute. But after all that recently with Neal, how to make it fresh?
Then it hit me: What if Neal picked his own 13 COVERS? The covers he did that he liked the best?
Now, if you’ve ever talked to Neal or read any of his interviews, you know this to be true: He’s got a lot on his mind. So it made sense to break up his selections into three parts. So here’s PART 1.
Take it away, Neal…
By NEAL ADAMS
Understand, I do not have 13 of my favorite covers. I stupidly backed into this little pseudo-challenge of picking my 13 favorite covers only to discover that I have far, far more covers than I would consider my favorite covers. I’m afraid to say the number. It’s somewhere in the hundreds.
So what I’m going to do is give you some of my favorite covers until I get to the Number 13. At which time I will desist. And then let you throw your brick bats at me.
1. First on my list, and perhaps the most profound in its way, is the cover for Action #359 in which we find a little girl in a courtroom with a polka dot dress pointing up into the witness stand at Superman, who sits there in shock as the little girl says, “He’s the man who killed my daddy!” It may not be the greatest piece of art I’ve done, but I don’t think a comic-book reader of Superman would ever pass a cover like that by without buying it. It is just so damned intriguing. And one of my earliest Superman covers to boot. I wish, in fact, someone would commission me to do that cover over again in any form, because the drama of it appeals to me so much. And the image is so shocking that it makes you buy the book.
2. Second — these are not necessarily in order — is the cover for Detective Comics #404 with Batman and Enemy Ace in which Batman is leaping out of a biplane at Joe Kubert’s Enemy Ace. It does not thrill me because it’s the best cover I’ve ever done, it thrills me because it was for Joe Kubert’s character, Enemy Ace. As a comic-book artist, Joe Kubert is, and always will be, the very best, so to do that cover was such an honor that I can’t really explain to regular folks.
3. This comes under the category of never asking artists what his favorite cover is because first of all, he doesn’t have a favorite cover. Second, some of his favorite covers are the least popular covers that he’s done in his career. This one was done for DC Special #6. The cover was a real challenge, and I needn’t let it be a challenge because it was me who came up with the idea. The idea was to have a cowboy behind his dead horse at a watering hole being attacked by Indians. In the picture, the Indians are wheeling on their horses to look behind them to see a gigantic spaceship landing. This was originally a great idea. And then DC Comics decided they would put extra type and extra graphics on the cover that made the drawing smaller and smaller. And in the end, it was barely there. Yet the drawing, as done, was one of my favorite drawings for a cover. Do people remember it? No. Do I blame them? No. To be perfectly honest, I’m lucky the darn image got on the cover with all that type.
4. A little bit of Batman, and I do mean a little bit. This was one of my favorite stories, Batman vs. a werewolf story (Issue #255, with a story by Len Wein). An illustration of a werewolf leaping from the gridwork of a crane toward Batman, who is chained to the ground, helpless and soon to be werewolf fodder. I really enjoyed this cover because it set up the inside so that people wanted to know how Batman got out of this terrible situation which was, in fact, revealed in the story. Good cover, good concept, good storytelling, and then editorial added all kinds of extra stuff, including pictures to the cover and reduced the illustration to a thing of little consequence. Do I sign these covers at conventions? Gladly if people bring them to me to sign. But the illustration is simply too small to compete against the full illustration covers.
5. Another Batman cover, from Detective Comics #410. In this we’re on a watchtower in an abandoned church and the bad guy is holding the helpless Flippy out as if threatening to drop him. It’s not a great drawing, but your heart immediately goes to the boy, Flippy, who lives his life in a travelling freak show among other freaks who take care of and love each other. How could this worthless creature do such a thing to such a helpless child? And that’s the idea of the cover. I probably could have taken more time on the composition. Of course I could’ve taken more time, but it stands as one of my favorite covers because of the story. And because Denny O’Neill stepped outside of the box on this one story to give us a warmhearted, and very strange freak-show story. Incidentally, that little boy, Flippy, has gone on as an actor in the DCU. Tell me if you ever spot him.
Cover images and credits from the legendary Grand Comics Database.
NEXT in PART 2: More Batman and Superman — plus The House of Mystery! Click here.