A NEAL ADAMS birthday commission has taken on a life of its own — PART 1…
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 Walt’s column.
To the Batcave!
By ANTHONY DURSO
This year marks my 45th of “officially” being a comic book collector. Although I’d been reading “funny books” since probably 1971, coinciding with watching reruns of the Batman TV show, I didn’t start keeping/collecting them until some point in 1977. Fifth grade. It was also that year that I became acquainted with the name “Neal Adams.” I probably had seen his work before then but hadn’t made the connection yet. In fact, I’m pretty sure the first comic book I ever saw was at the checkout rack at a bodega type grocery store. That comic was Detective Comics #400, featuring the first appearance of Man-Bat, as drawn (and co-created) by Neal Adams.
By 1977, Adams was pretty much done with regular interior artwork, but his covers…oh, boy! They were the most dynamic compositions on the newsstand. Or in a friend’s collection; it often required a little extra finesse to get them to trade or sell you a comic with an “Adams” cover.
Of course, there were always the ones that got away. I always regretted not purchasing Secret Origins of the Super DC Heroes (1976), with its Adams dust jacket, when I originally saw it at Waldenbooks. Or any of the DC Super Calendars that featured Adams artwork three years running (1976-78). Or any of the numerous record jackets or booklets he did for Peter Pan and Power Records. I would study the selection at JM Fields or Grandway for what seemed like hours but I never pulled the trigger on them.
By the early ’80s, I discovered comic book shops. And once again, I was drawn to the covers by Neal Adams, like a moth to a flame. It didn’t matter really what was inside. I was sold on the cover alone. But to my surprise, there were often gems in those old Silver Age stories and Golden Age reprints that only needed a spiffy Neal Adams cover to bring them to my attention.
When the direct market really started to take off, DC Comics choose to do some reprint collections and wisely led with Neal Adams’ books, with Green Lantern/Green Arrow and Deadman. Marvel also got into the act as well, with Kree-Skrull War #1. I feverishly collected them all.
By this time, Neal Adams’ comic book output for the Big Two had waned as he did more in the world of commercial art and self-publishing. Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez became his heir apparent at DC for dynamic covers and the artwork for their licensed products, while my personal fandom started to venture toward John Byrne and George Perez.
I’d actually forgotten how much of a fan I was of Adams in my early days of collecting, until his recent death. Forty-five years seems like a lifetime ago. There weren’t any current runs of his at the time for me to look forward to on a monthly basis, so it was all cherry picking through long boxes or in the pile of comics that a neighbor kid brought over that you looked through for potential as you sat on your porch. But what a glorious time it was. Thanks Neal for helping me build my collection way back when.
And now, the box:
I’m constantly looking for artwork for various custom boxes and I must’ve been looking for something related to “Neal Adams Batman” when I came across the image of comic book Batman shaking hands with the Adam West Batman. I tucked it away and forgot about it. Then recently I saw it again when it was posted at 13th Dimension and discovered that Dan originally commissioned the piece from Neal himself.
I thought it would make a good image to use to box up some Mego-style Batman figures I had, especially since Neal had done quite a bit of Mego packaging artwork back in the ’70s. So I colored it and turned it into a double box 2-pack. Since Dan was the one who originally commissioned the art, and I know he collects Mego figures, I sent him one as well, figuring he’d get a kick out of it in a packaged form.
(Dan adds: I did!)
— “Batman, WE Are the Greatest!” Click here.
— BATMAN, WE ARE THE GREATEST: The Best Comic Book That Never Was. Click here.
Anthony Durso is a regular contributor to 13th Dimension. He owns Retropolis Tees and The Toyroom, which offers custom toy packages and Mego-scaled playsets. If you’re interested in his wares — I highly recommend them — contact firstname.lastname@example.org or you can message Anthony through his websites, as well as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.