BATMAN, WE ARE THE GREATEST: The Best Comic Book That Never Was

A NEAL ADAMS birthday commission has taken on a life of its own — PART 2…

Five years ago, for my 50th birthday, I commissioned a piece by Neal Adams that simultaneously paid tribute to one of the most famous panels from 1978’s Superman vs. Muhammad Ali treasury edition and, even more importantly, bridged the gap between fans of the lighter TV Batman and the darker comics Batman, which Neal himself helped reintroduce in the late 1960s in The Brave and the Bold.

I posted it here at 13th Dimension and while I’m not surprised people dug it — it’s a really groovy illo by comics’ greatest artist — I am startled by how it’s taken on a life of its own. The image pops up all the time on Facebook, for example, and after Adams’ death last week, it made the rounds again (including here at the site, naturally).

The beauty of the internet, though, is how creative people can be, and two of our fave folks — The Toyroom owner Anthony Durso and artistic superfan Walt Grogan — each have put their own spin on the image, with striking, colorful results: Walt did a mock Brave and the Bold cover and Anthony did a custom Mego two-pack box. And, as it happens, each had started work on their projects some time ago.

So I wanted to give both of them a spotlight to show off their work. You can click here for Anthony’s column.

To the Batcave!

By WALT GROGAN

When I heard the news that Neal Adams had died, I was devastated. I grew up reading comics in the 1960s and started seeing Neal’s artwork on the covers and interiors of both DC and Marvel. His style was unlike anything at the time and brought a sense of realism to the stories that had rarely been seen before. Neal was one of the rare breed of artists who made you want to see him draw every character so you could marvel at what he would bring to it.

I started reading the reminiscences of Neal on the Internet and I knew that my pal, Dan Greenfield, would have an obituary up on 13th Dimension. What I didn’t know — or didn’t remember — was that he had commissioned one of my favorite Batman pieces of original art: “Batman, WE Are The Greatest!” — a tribute to an awesome panel in the Superman vs. Muhammad Ali All-New Collectors’ Edition but reworked to feature Neal’s legendary portrayal of the Dark Knight shaking hands with Adam West’s Batman. I decided to surprise him with a colored version of his commission on Neal’s passing:

Over a year ago, I had started coloring it but I never got a good handle on it so I knew that it was time for a revisit. I started by darkening up the image and flatting it up with color. It was apparent that I had to distinguish both Batmen so I decided to keep Neal’s version of Batman in his traditional comic book blue and gray colors while adding a, hopefully, subtle amount of purple to West’s cape, cowl and tights in keeping with the TV show.

I really wanted to avoid changing any of Neal’s artwork but I did fill in a couple of minor ink strokes that he missed. I also made a major change to Adam West’s belt buckle. Neal had filled it in with black but it needed to look like the buckle on the TV show. I inverted the color so that it was still Neal’s artwork but appropriate for the buckle!

In his piece, Dan had included the image of Ali and Superman shaking hands, so I added the yellow halo around both Batmen and decided that I was going to color the piece to look like a panel ripped from a comic. But after some deliberation, I knew that the awesomeness of the piece demanded that it be on a cover!

With the Superman vs. Muhammad Ali treasury in mind, I originally sized my art board to be the DC tabloid size of the day and saw that it was just not going to work due to the size of the sketch. The Superman/Ali cover is iconic but has few trade dress elements and if I mimicked those, there would be a lot of dead space.

So, I turned to the cover of the first Superman vs. the Amazing Spider-Man treasury, which has a more compelling trade dress, but because the story was set up more as a battle than a team-up, I just couldn’t think of a compelling tagline.

Five artists — not including the colorist and letterer — worked on this cover, including Adams.

And then it hit me… why not do it as a special issue of The Brave and the Bold? I could make it either a Dollar Comic or a 100-Page Super Spectacular. So after finding a vector image of the Batman logo of the time as well as the 1966 Batman TV logo and the chunky Brave and Bold logo, I got to work on the trade dress. (Making a faux comic page or cover with appropriate trade dress is one of my favorite things to do.)

I then found an appropriate 100-Page Super Spectacular banner and started coloring it up. Getting back to the image of the Batmen, one of the first things I lost was the halo effect around the characters, opting instead for a solid light yellow. I grabbed the word balloon from the Ali/Superman piece and redid the text to read, “Batman, WE are the greatest!” Adam West had to say something, so I flipped the word balloon but it didn’t look right, so I flipped it back, moved the tail and gave Adam something appropriate to say.

I added a Comics Code Authority logo and a tagline and sent it off to Dan. In the meantime, I noticed a few stray pencil lines, one notably on Adam’s face, removed it and sent another copy to Dan. He noticed that the 1970s Batman comic book logo wasn’t quite right, so I went in search of one that wasn’t encumbered with extraneous elements and replaced it.

But something was still not quite right! The 100 Page Super-Spectaculars were mostly reprints! This cover had to say somewhere that it was “All New” material! So I added a corner box in the style of the 100-pagers, and sent the new final off to Dan!

Neal was one of those artists who changed the face of comics and in doing so created a legion of fans — some of whom went on to become artists themselves. Here’s to you Neal!

MORE

— “Batman, WE Are the Greatest!” Click here.

— BATMAN, WE ARE THE GREATEST: The World’s Coolest MEGO Custom Box. Click here.

A 10-year-old Walt Grogan fell in love with the original Captain Marvel thanks to essays written by Dick Lupoff and Don Thompson in the paperback edition of All in Color for a Dime, released in 1970 and bought for him by his father off a paperback spinner rack in a liquor store on the South Side of Chicago. Walt runs The Marvel Family Web Facebook page devoted to all incarnations of the Fawcett/DC Captain Marvel and blogs about Captain Marvel at shazamshistorama.com.

Author: Dan Greenfield

Share This Post On

3 Comments

  1. First of all, what a great idea for an Neal Adams commission! An image that you wouldn’t find in Adams archive, yet something every fan would love to have. And then to turn it into a 100 page Super Spectacular Brave and Bold is just icing on the Bat-cake! Beautiful!

    Post a Reply

Leave a Reply to Philip Gipson Cancel reply

%d bloggers like this: