EXCLUSIVE ADAMS MONTH COMMENTARY: Neal Adams reveals the challenges of his first major Harley Quinn cover.
It’s NEAL ADAMS MONTH here at 13th Dimension, and we’re featuring 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 Jim Lee.
For the full NEAL ADAMS MONTH INDEX of stories — click here.
Yesterday’s installment featured Robin: Son of Batman #9, which was based on one of the greatest comic-book covers ever, Limited Collector’s Edition C-51. (Click here.)
Today, it’s Harley Quinn #25 — out 2/17 — which is based on Superman #240.
Neal Adams is mainstream American comics’ greatest living artist. I don’t think there’s much argument there.
Harley Quinn is one of mainstream American comics’ biggest crossover hits — and she’s gonna be an even bigger deal when Margot Robbie struts in the erstwhile Dr. Quinzel’s stilettos this summer in Suicide Squad.
But Adams has never drawn her — at least in not any substantial, public way — until now.
Sure Harley made a cameo at the bottom of Adams’ Detective Comics #49 variant (click here to read about that) but this time she’s front and center. That’s noteworthy in itself.
But Adams took the extra step and added a series of Jokers in the background, as rendered by various artists.
This, my friends, is poster material.
And the makings of an anatomy lesson …
Dan Greenfield: Here we go. Tell me about this one.
Neal Adams: I can tell you about this one. This was one of the hardest covers to do. It really drove me crazy. We had chosen to go ahead and do Harley Quinn and we wanted to do a Superman cover but I had not considered the consequences, OK?
Let me tell you something about drawing women. All comic-book artists when they’re young, they always draw men. Always! With muscles! Wrong muscles. Wrong anatomy. But…it’s lumps, OK? So guys will draw men to the exclusion of women.
I get art students at conventions all the time. They’re bringing their stuff up to me and it’s always men. I say, “Are you gonna learn to draw women?” And they do that pause. Because drawing women is so hard for most artists because they don’t have defining muscles. And if you put muscles on ’em, they look ugly.
So they don’t know what to do and it’s all smooth lines. It’s just gentle lines. Because women are different from men! Men, the lumpier you make ’em, the better they are. They’re so easy to do, so that’s what guys do. And it’s also something that they aspire to. They wanna have muscles like this! So they’re afraid to draw women.
Like, there’s a school, the school that Adam Hughes came from, whatever that studio was that all those guys can draw women! And they draw women and you sit back and go, how the hell…? Who is, like, the core of this thing that allows these guys to draw women so well?
Well, whatever it is, there’s a tremendous difference between women and men. One of the differences is women never stand straight. If they stand straight, they’re boring. They may be sort of sexy but if they’re standing straight, they can’t thrust their hips out, they can’t tip to the left and raise their shoulders up. They can’t do all those things that women do that make them cute.
They have all these poses that they do that if a man did, you’d go, “What the hell…?” And unfortunately, this cover (points to the original) has Superman standing there in a Carmine Infantino pose, straight as a rod with his two legs akimbo! Well, if you put a woman in a pose like that, she doesn’t look cute and sexy.
How do I do it? Well, if you’re good, you have these little bags of tricks where you go, “The skin is under the fabric and since it’s a little bit under, it makes it that much more fleshy!” You do certain things like the bustier pushes the breasts upward and pushing the breasts upward makes it more sexy.
You take he shoulder, raise it up a little bit (Neal moves his shoulder up) —because girls raise it up! You take the tilt of the head and you do this (tilts head). You throw all these little subtle things in and even then there’s no guarantee it’s gonna be good because if she were standing there with her hip out and her shoulder up and looking cute and taking her hammer and holding it like that — in a way that you look at me and go, “Ew, why is he doing that? (Dan laughs) That’s so ugly! Ewwww!”
You do that, that’s a girly thing, OK? So it was a challenge beyond a challenge.
So as a stupid reward, I thought, I’m gonna take all those people in the background and I’m gonna turn ’em into the Joker.
I had (a Continuity Studios employee) pull out Jokers for me and I said, “Most of these don’t even look like the Joker.”
She said, “Yeah.” (Sighs)
(So I say) “Hey, can you give…Hey…NO! Don’t give me an ideal Joker. Give me ALL the Jokers! Because they all look so different from each other, if I line them up nobody’s gonna look the same as the next guy but they’ll all be the Joker!”
So I decided to make something out of the Joker thing and make it part of it. So once I solved my problem on Harley Quinn, I got to taste this joy of making all these different Jokers that everybody did.
You can also find more on Neal Adams at his website, here.