Batman and Ra’s…
UPDATED 5/3/22: Bill Sienkiewicz turns 64 today. This piece first ran March 28, 2016, in connection with NEAL ADAMS MONTH. Adams died just last week, so this seemed like the perfect time to re-present this article. For more Adams coverage, click here. — Dan
February was NEAL ADAMS MONTH here at 13th Dimension, and we featured daily commentary by Adams on his variant-cover project for DC Comics. Each of his 27 variants is a twist on one of his famous covers from the past. He provided the pencils, and the inks and colors were handled by some of the biggest names in the business, like Frank Miller and Kevin Nowlan.
But comics being comics, sometimes issues are delayed, and so it was for JLA #8, which comes out 3/30. The variant cover is a takeoff on Batman #244 — and you can read what Adams said about it here.
One of the especially intriguing aspects of NEAL ADAMS MONTH, however, was hearing from the inkers, in this case, Bill Sienkiewicz, who in a poignant coincidence is the last collaborator to appear in our coverage. (To check out what about a dozen other guest stars, like Dave Gibbons and Walt Simonson had to say, click here.)
For Sienkiewicz, working on NEAL ADAMS MONTH is kind of full circle. Early in his career, decades ago, he caught heat because his style was so similar to Adams’. But as great artists do, he forged his own direction and became a comics legend in his own right — influencing artists as Adams influenced him.
Sienkiewicz worked on two NEAL ADAMS MONTH covers — both of which were absolutely stunning and among the very best of the 27 produced.
One of the originals, as it happens, is his favorite Adams cover.
“My favorite Neal cover (a near-impossible choice) is the one I was fortunate enough to ink as a variant tribute: Batman #244,” he said. “Batman lying shirtless on his back under the desert sun, Ra’s al Ghul standing triumphantly over his apparently lifeless body. The power, hyper-realistic execution, and sheer devastating poignancy of the cover, made it absolutely impossible to resist grabbing off the stands.
When asked how he melded his style with Adams’ when inking the covers, he joked:
“Having zero experience whatsoever with Neal’s style or influence, I opted to just wing the heck out of it. I hope Neal approves of my efforts.
“Seriously, though my style and Neal’s have grown and changed over the years, it was a special kind of joy to be able to revisit the stylings of my biggest influence, and greatest artistic inspiration in the medium growing up.
“This series of covers obviously proves I’m hardly alone in that feeling.”
For the full NEAL ADAMS MONTH INDEX of stories — including commentary by guest inkers like P. Craig Russell and Tom Palmer — click here.