Neal Adams explains why he thinks his critically panned Batman epic is the best work he’s ever done.
Jon B. Cooke is a regular contributor here at 13th Dimension, but his main gig is putting out a terrific magazine, Comic Book Creator. Issue #3 is just out now and features an especially long, detailed interview with Neal Adams, whom we feature here on a regular basis.
Anyway, in a lengthy interview of my own, I asked Adams what he thought his best work was, and he answered “Batman: Odyssey.” I paused. After some back and forth, I admitted I never made it to the end. We talked about it some more before moving on to the topics that would provide the backbone of this feature, the NEAL ADAMS INTERVIEWS.
I’d planned on going back to the subject but then Jon came out with his mag and I decided to turn the floor over to him because the two of them really drilled deep on “Odyssey.”
Now if you missed the kerfuffle, it went something like this: A few years ago, Adams, after a decades-long hiatus from regular work on Batman, returned with a limited series that he wrote and illustrated. It featured just about every main Batman character, including Adams classics like Ra’s al Ghul, Talia, the Sensei and Man-Bat. Oh, and Batman kills with guns, or at least seems to. And there were flying dinosaurs.
The critics didn’t care for it, typically charging that it was impossible to follow.
Adams addresses, to some degree, those criticisms here, in this excerpt from Jon’s interview in CBC #3. (I highly recommend picking up the mag because the rest of the interview goes on for pages and pages. They cover a lot of ground, on several subjects.)
Adams: “Batman: Odyssey,” you have to read it. It’s a book. I told people at the beginning, you know. Now that I’m coming back, I’m going to be doing a book. I’m not going to be doing a series of stories, or you’re going to read the first story and then wonder, “Am I going to like the second story as much as I did, or didn’t, like the first?”
It’s the first chapter of a BOOK and you’re not going to know what the book is about until you get to the last chapter. And then, when you get to the last chapter, you’re going to have to read it all over again because I set all these plot strings up from the beginning. Every single thing that’s in there, ends up being resolved at the end of the book. When Robin is handling a gun with just a little too much glee and he’s saying, “I’ve gotta tell ya, this really feels cool in my hand.”
CBC: Power of the gun.
Adams: At the end of the story, Batman hands him the gun back and Robin doesn’t want it, because he’s just seen — or at least thought he saw — the result of using the gun. Ah-ha, maybe guns are not so cute and fluffy.
CBC: The character changed.
Adams: Batman had Robin look at the consequences of his attraction for the weapon. [Points to Robin] You have to hold the gun, so your body is connected to that gun at some point. Then you throw it to me and then I seem to kill somebody. NOW, for the first time, you see the result of your action. Now you don’t want it back, don’t want to touch it. That’s a little thing that I set up right at the beginning of the story and resolved at the end. What was the plan? Was Batman ever out of control? Did Batman ever consider using a gun? Did he ever consider killing somebody? Never! Never for one second throughout the story.
Batman is Sherlock Holmes. Batman is the best detective in the world, and he had a problem to solve. So for everybody around him – for even us, the readers – he may actually be considering being a revenger. Doing it. Killing.
So I set up a story where he really has no choice. If he’s going to live and Robin and Talia and Ra’s al Ghul are going to live, Batman must kill. Sensei has a thousand assassins out there everywhere in the world who will one day get, revenge on the Sensei if Batman kills him. How do you solve that problem? How do you get past that without deciding to kill somebody? Batman would never decide to kill somebody, that’s what the story is about. That’s the Odyssey that Batman is on. And for people who didn’t read it all the way through and see that last book and go, “Oh, my God. He did it,” and then realize he didn’t do it and he pulled out of it. That he never would have done it.
Again, this is a mere fraction of the interview. You can grab Comic Book Creator #3 at comic shops or order it directly from twomorrows.com.