A Christmas Eve special from Peter Stone’s THE NEAL ADAMS CHRONICLES…


Neal Adams was one of the worst people to buy for at Christmas. Literally, he wanted nothing. He didn’t collect toys or any sort of collectibles. He bought himself everything he wanted. He didn’t search the internet for things he wanted or needed or had never seen. He didn’t want any clothes because he tended to wear the same clothes all the time. Jeans, sneakers and the famous “Blue Shirt”!

The only thing he ever wanted or loved were his cartoon ties, the ones with the characters or superheroes on them. Some of them were simply characters hidden in paisley shapes and some were subtly repeated logos. He liked the ones that you wouldn’t notice at first. (Like the one in that banner above.)

So, the family would search out the most unique ties for him, but if you couldn’t find a good one you were stuck. My daughter found him a Sasquatch tie one year. Sasquatch was hiding behind a fir tree, and he thought that was great. If you couldn’t find him a new one or a funny one, you had to buy him a real present. An Art of Jack Davis book. Drew Struzen: Oeuvre, a collection of Alphonse Mucha’s art, or an anthology of exceptional comic stories. Those were so hard to find and usually expensive. So, what could you buy the man who wants nothing for Christmas?

I found the answer. Neal Adams loved Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant. He had gotten hardcover editions of Prince Valiant from Fantagraphics. I remember him looking through those editions, studying how much information Hal Foster put into every single panel… the ships, the construction of buildings, the castles and so much more. He loved Hal Foster’s drawing ability and how much he knew about the world in general. So, wouldn’t he like the oversize Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant Fantagraphics Studio Edition? Every single Sunday strip by Hal Foster, mostly in black and white, scanned from the originals?

I thought he would absolutely love this. Was it expensive? Yes. Was it HUGE? Yes. I wanted to “win” Christmas. I wanted to be the one that he said gave him the best present. I remember getting that book in the mail and it was HUGE and HEAVY. I wrapped it carefully. It was immense.

After we, as a family ate Neal’s favorite meal which was filet mignon, we opened the presents. Neal was given my present. It was a large box and he kept asking what it was. I said you have to open it. He refused to open it until everyone else was done. Finally, he tore open the paper to reveal the book. I can’t say he looked amazed… because that would be a sign of weakness… but he didn’t say anything for a long time as he flipped through the pages. Of course, coffee and desserts were served soon enough so he had to put the book down.

He never said it was the best present of Christmas, but I knew he truly loved it. He was never quiet during Christmas. He told people what to do and how to do it. This time, he was quiet, lost in the genius of Hal Foster for a long time.

Neal Adams… for the first time that I remember… was silent. “The silent night of Neal Adams.” It was Christmas… the time of miracles.

Which brings me to The Silent Night of the Batman: a 1969 back-up story pencilled by Neal and inked by Dick Giordano, centering on Batman not having to fight crime for all of Christmas Eve. The Mike Friedrich story, from Batman #219, focuses on some of Neal’s strengths – people. A gang of kids steal a present, realize it’s a Batman toy and then return it. A man with a gun is going to shoot Batman, but it turns out the Batman is a blind man raising money. A beautiful young woman misses her husband who is in the war, is suddenly reunited with the love her life on Christmas Eve. All while Batman sings Christmas carols with the police. No calls for assistance come in that night.

All of this was well before Frank Miller wrote and drew The Dark Knight Returns. Or Alan Moore gave us The Killing Joke. Neal hadn’t even thought about drawing The Joker’s Five Way Revenge, which would come years later, in 1973. Batman was still a friend of the police. He wouldn’t fight the regular officers. He wouldn’t throw thermite into their midst. He was a kinder, friendlier Batman, possibly based on the TV show… or Mike Friedrich’s version of the show. No policeman was trying to arrest him or shoot him, but all of that might have been a product of the time period. So, when Neal, who took every job he was offered from DC Comics, drew it, he was drawing a Batman that didn’t need to be dark and mean. It was Christmas – the time of miracles.

Then, many, many, many years later, Neal was asked to do a new version of that old story, written by Paul Dini, in 2016’s Batman Annual #1. This time, however, Batman would team up with Harley Quinn and travel much of the same ground, with predictably madcap results.

Neal penciled and inked it himself, creating art that was far superior to the original. Dini and DC were making a concerted effort to turn Harley Quinn from the victim of Joker’s abuse into something of a hero. In fact, Harley wanted to see the Joker dead for all the terrible things he said and did to her. Allying herself with Batman (who didn’t quite yet believe she had turned over a new leaf), Harley actually does some very Christmassy stuff. She even gets the post Frank Miller/Jim Lee Batman to sing just a little bit. Of course, she tortures the Dark Knight Detective, but her twisted/warped/kind-of-insane heart is in the right place. The story is definitely entertaining, perhaps in part because Neal drew Harley like a zaftig supermodel.

In The Not So Silent Night of the Harley Quinn, Harley warms the grinchy hearts in all of us. I mean, she’s trying to do the right things, but she doesn’t have a lot of practice at it yet. One of my favorite moments is Harley calling the Dark Knight “Bat-Grinch.”

When Harley is trying to convince Batman to sing with her, he grimly growls that he doesn’t sing but Harley reminds him that he once spent the night singing Christmas Carols in a police station. A direct reference to the original story. It’s a very nice little Christmas tale, drawn exceptionally well and written by a comics and animation legend.

In the end, Neal had a few characteristics of a certain green animated character who lives on the top of a mountain and is planning on destroying Christmas for a bunch of Whos. But just like that animated character, there were definitely times when his heart grew three sizes larger. Neal loved working to create art that allowed him to support his family and business, so Christmas interfered with that. Especially with all that time off. He needed people to blow up his layouts, make sure he had enough comic paper, print out reference he needed or simply be there to talk to.

However, he loved watching kids open presents, feeding his family, gathering with all his kids, grandkids and even a great-grandson. He even enjoyed his in-laws, like me. Did we talk about work or comics or growing Earth theories or Sasquatch? You bet. But the kids had a great time and Christmas with the Adams family was truly a sight to behold. Do I miss that? Absolutely. Then he wanted us all back at work the next day.

Merry Christmas, Neal… wherever you are. As I always say, I hope he’s with Jack Kirby and his friends, drawing comics and drinking his coffee mixed with hot chocolate, or an occasional white Russian, eating Reese’s peanut butter cups and laughing.

“Jingle Bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg… oh, sorry. It just popped out.” — Harley Quinn


— Classic BATMAN-RA’S AL GHUL TREASURY EDITION to Be Released As a Facsimile Edition — IN FULL SIZE. Click here.

— NEAL ADAMS’ Classic DC ARTIST’S EDITION Gets Release Date. Click here.

Peter Stone is a writer and son-in-law of the late Neal Adams. Be sure to check out the family’s twice-weekly online Facebook auctions, as well as the NealAdamsStore.com, and their Burbank, California, comics shop Crusty Bunkers Comics and Toys.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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  1. Wonderful! I remember reading the original! Never saw the Harley Quinn sequel!

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    • I loved the story from Batman #219 when I bought it back in 1969. The Harley Quinn version was an excellent homage to the original! Funny too – I can see Margot Robbie playing in the live version!

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  2. Probably never considered buying it since it was part of DC’s Rebirth. Had they marketed with an Adam’s cover….

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  3. Great homage to the original 1969 story!

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  4. Merry Christmas to you all!

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  5. Your entire blog about this brought this 70 year young guy to tears of joy. Merry Christmas to all!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  6. Well done….Neal is always remembered in this way

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  7. I never quite understood the ending of The Silent Night of the Batman. Are Commissioner Gordon and the officers ghosts? Is Batman hallucinating? I’d love to hear any interpretations. Still, it’s a classic story and I read it every Christmas.

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