KEITH POLLARD, NEAL ADAMS and the Project That Died on the Vine

A NEAL ADAMS CHRONICLES birthday tribute to the former Thor, Fantastic Four and Vigilante artist…


In the very late 1970s, the ’80s and into the mid-’90s, Keith Pollard — born 74 years ago on Jan. 20, 1950 — was one of my favorite artists. I discovered his Fantastic Four issues just before the classic #200. I read that double-size issue (which I bought for a mere 60 cents) so many times that it was dog-eared and torn.

There’s a great scene where Reed Richards makes his fist into a cube with spikes and smashes it into Dr. Doom’s face mask, bits of metal flying off to show just how much these two men hate each other. Pollard drew it with a tremendous intensity that seared right through my brain. I loved it!

Pollard breakdowns, Joe Sinnott finishes

His Reed Richards was muscled and powerful, not afraid to face one of the deadliest supervillains in the Marvel Universe – alone! Mr. Fantastic went toe to toe with Dr. Doom and defeated the metallic monster. Writer Marv Wolfman gave Pollard plenty of opportunities to draw action and adventure, as well as drama. The Fantastic Four were heroes — battling to save the world from evil forces.

Pollard’s art was unlike anything I had experienced before. Sure, it had elements of Jack Kirby, but it was possibly more commercial. His knowledge of anatomy and dynamic storytelling was amazing. More than that, from 1978 through 1981, he was drawing three books a month! The Amazing Spider-Man, Thor and Fantastic Four. That’s like entering an Iron Man competition (only without Iron Man). Every month, with only occasional fill-ins.

Roy Thomas wanted to do the “Ring of the Nibelung” in Thor because of his Norse origins and the brilliance of the opera. Pollard’s images of Siegfried and Brunhild and their tragic fate remain in my mind, as does the image of Thor, both hands on Mjolnir, smashing into a Celestial’s head. It’s as good as Reed Richards’ spiked-mallet hand cracking into Dr. Doom’s face plate.

Thomas left Thor with #297, leaving the writing chores to Mark Gruenwald and Ralph Macchio, who finished many of the storylines Roy had started. Thor #300 was the conclusion of those storylines, with an iconic cover by Pollard that my grandson has on a t-shirt.

At the same time, Pollard was drawing Spider-Man. In issues #194 and #195 we got to see the Black Cat for the first time. He gave us Amazing Spider-Man #200 where Spidey finds the burglar who had killed his Uncle Ben. He drew an amazing Spider-Man, that’s for damn sure. How he switched from Thor to the FF, to Spider-Man is beyond me. He worked so damn fast, going from book to book every week.

Amazing Spider-Man #194

In 1983 and 1984, Pollard worked on the launch of DC’s new Vigilante. It was great work. He drew the first three issues, then the fifth issue. Clean, clear storytelling. Not too much graphic violence, but he followed the concept of the character – a milder version of the bloodthirsty Punisher at Marvel. I remember (being a fan of The New Teen Titans by George Perez and Wolfman) loving this spin-off character.

In 1993, however, he seemed to be searching for a new challenge. So was Jim Shooter, who had been pushed out of Valiant Comics, a company he had helped form. Pollard was looking for work and Neal Adams thought he could offer him some. Neal had an idea for Megalith. Maybe Jim could help him out with some writing.

At that point, I was working with Neal on a daily basis to write and edit his comics so I was very involved with the creation process. Shooter, ex-head of Marvel Comics, came in one day and I remember sitting in the conference room with two icons of comics. They talked to each other with respect, but with power and ego on both sides.

Inks by Adams and Romeo Tanghal

They worked on a series called “Megalith – Rise of the God King.” Megalith would have a brief and torrid affair with the wife of a god that would turn into a big fight. Obviously. Neal and Jim were both pretty excited about this. When they talked about who should draw it, one of the big names that came up was Keith Pollard. Enter Kris Adams, Neal’s daughter and business manager (who happens to be my wife). She calls Keith and tells him that these two major comics figures would love for him to work on their project. He agrees.

Personally, I could not wait to see the pages. After Jim had left, Neal and I talked about the future of the series and what Jim could add to the adventure. Jim had so much going on in his life at the time, so he wasn’t just a freelance writer. He was a guy who was used to running BIG things. Lots of BIG things.

Then, the first half of the story came in from Keith. Oh, they were so sweet. Readable and wonderful. He captured Megalith as well as anyone ever had. Neal was thrilled and started inking the faces and figures immediately. He recognized that Keith understood who and what Megalith really was. He captured his likeness (and, most importantly, his hair). Neal told me he loved working on Keith’s pencils.

Inks by Adams and Romeo Tanghal

We sent the pages to Jim, but he wasn’t as happy. He was a writer at heart, so all the art had to convey all his story, and he felt it didn’t. Neal and Jim talked on the phone for a while and Jim relented.

Then a few weeks later, the second batch of pages came in. Pages 12 through 24. Oh… they were glorious. However, there was more copy to squeeze onto these pages than the previous section. Neal sent page copies to Jim and the reaction wasn’t great. He wanted Keith to re-pencil the back end, to get more of his verbiage in.

(As a side-note, Neal taught me that copy could be fit in almost any panel. Cheeks, foreheads, backs of heads, all sorts of places. As long as you didn’t cover an artist’s hard work, that’s fair game. It was old-school thinking about hand-lettering. It works, though. It’s becoming a lost art, but I treasure that Neal taught me that. I can cut copy if I have to, separate sentences, and bleed balloons into the next panel. It’s a skill that I really love.)

Neal got back on the phone with Jim, but this time Jim would not back down. He wanted ALL his copy and the pages HAD to be redrawn. Neal, respecting Jim’s past and reputation, backed down. He sent the back 12 pages to Keith with a carefully worded, hand-written note. Neal asked very nicely for Keith to redraw certain panels so that Jim could fit in his copy. Keith called later and said politely that he would not be redrawing those panels or pages and would no longer be working on this project.

I was devastated. Keith Pollard was one of my childhood heroes. He drew images that still live (rent free) in my head. I… could have fixed it. I believe I could have made it work, but it wasn’t my place.

The project died that day. Neal continued to want to do it, but there was no one who could come close to what Keith could do. Keith sold the pages that were sent back to him a couple of years ago, but I have no ill will. He stopped drawing comics in 1996. I have no idea what he’s doing now, but he is still one of my favorite artists. His Fantastic Four, Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD, Vigilante, Thor and Amazing Spider-Man are some of the best ever. I mean, Jack Kirby wins on FF and Thor, but not by too much. I have to admit, I’d love to see Keith draw Captain America for maybe… six issues?

Happy Birthday, Keith. I hope you are healthy and well. If you have a family, I hope they are all healthy and love permeates your life. I hope you still draw because you have a talent that so few have. Your FF is iconic. Your Thor cover is on t-shirts. You are one of the very best.


— Why NEAL ADAMS Was Such a Huge Fan of the Underrated RUDY NEBRES. Click here.

— To Neal Adams, STEVE RUDE Was the One Who Got Away. 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, and their Burbank, California, comics shop Crusty Bunkers Comics and Toys.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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  1. So Jim Shooter screwed this up, huh? Figures. The art was great, the dialogue and narration could have been fit in there one way or another, but Jim’s pride and ego got in the way. (Of course, Keith’s pride and ego got in the way, too, a bit, but given that he had worked for Jim previously I can see how he didn’t want to go through that kind of micromanagement again.) Neal Adams inking Keith Pollard’s pencils? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? That would have been Amazing. Fantastic. We really lost out on this one.

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    • It seems more of a misunderstanding in that Keith was working more Marvel method and Jim expected him to be working off a set script, DC style. I don’t think it fair to say a writer “screwed it up” by wanting what he wrote to be printed.

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      • Big Pollard fan. I love the Thor “Eye of Oden” saga ,still one of my favorites. Also enjoy his Fantastic Four from that time, FF 199 where Dooms “son” gets all of the FF’s powers was a cool issue. Loved his Vigilante and was bummed when we left it so soon. Glad you did a post on Mr Pollard and Happy birthday to him.

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      • Shooter was always a minromanager and a control freak. That’s why he was disliked so much when he ran Marvel. And as was noted in the piece, they could have made his dialogue and narration work with the panels they had, but he was too inflexible to allow for that. Pollard had worked under Shooter for Marvel, and I’m sure he got flashbacks and just didn’t want to deal with that again, so he quit rather that put up with the miromanagement again.

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  2. There is one Pollard art job post 1996 that I am aware of. He drew one of the stories in the Target exclusive DC comic that came out some time ago. I can’t think of it’s name, maybe someone else can.

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  3. “One of my childhood heroes”
    Is exactly what I told him when I was fortunate enough to meet him and his wife for dinner and pick up a commission from him a couple of years ago. What is now a classic Marvel style, his art epitomizes that era and prodigious output was second to none.

    Happy Birthday Keith!

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  4. He has always been one of my favorite artists as well. I had him do a commissioned sketch a few years ago for a friend of mine. My friend is Canadian and had gone through the process to get his US citizenship, with lots of hassles and lost paperwork throughout the process. As a gift to him for going through this, I commissioned a sketch of Captain America, replacing the stars on his shield and chest with maple leaves. We called him the Camerican. Keith did an amazing job!!

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