NEAL ADAMS: Mentor, Father-in-Law… and Friend

THE NEAL ADAMS CHRONICLES: Pete Stone pays a very personal birthday tribute to one of comics’ greatest…


I worked with Neal Adams — who was born 83 years ago, on June 15, 1941 — for almost 35 years. He was a legend many years before I met him, but he was still fighting. I will let others write what he did for the industry, comics creators, returning art, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, and so many other concepts. I just thought I’d say some things about Neal as a person.

In the summer of 1987, I was a college student who was looking for an internship in the field that I wanted to be involved in. All I had to do was find a company that wanted me. Yikes. Being a junior in college, I had no idea what the real world was like, but I had hope. So, I sent a collection of my short stories to Marvel Comics, DC Comics, Dark Horse and a few others. Including Continuity Comics.

Elliot Maggin (writer of Superman and so much more) responded to my “portfolio.” He said I wrote like Edgar Rice Boroughs and Robert E. Howard and Joseph Conrad. He got me to a tee. I was like a young artist trying to emulate his heroes. Except I was trying to emulate my favorite authors. Elliot said I should come to New York City and have an interview. I didn’t pass out. Nope. Well… maybe I did.

I remember telling a group of good college friends that I had an interview — and I might meet Neal Adams. If I didn’t get the job, at least I would meet the legend himself. So I put on my best pants, a dress shirt and a tie. (Yep, my mother taught me to dress well for every interview.) After being mistaken for an IRS agent, and told that Continuity didn’t have an Elliot Maggin, I was finally introduced the man who thought I had some future in writing.

Then, sure enough, after listening to what Elliot could tell me about comics, Neal appeared. He was in a rush, so he cut me off immediately and said he’d had bad experiences with interns in the past. I believe there was subtle probing of my intelligence and work ethic. I apparently passed. I was hired… sort of. I was free because my college was paying me. How bad could I be?

I finagled a job three months later and the very first week I was there, Samuree #1 and Toyboy #1 arrived in boxes from the printer. It was amazing to me. Boxes and boxes of the same comic. I could take as many as I wanted. Neal went through every page, unhappy with the darkness of some of the printing but giddy that it was a printed comic. Mark Beachum was still in the studio. So were so many other comic artists. I was in heaven.

As time went by, Elliot taught me a ton about comics and comics writing until he went off into a new career in politics. I respect and love him for giving me a chance. Neal immediately became my new mentor.

Neal and I would sit together in the conference room. He would draw and conduct business while I wrote dialogue on tracing paper over future pages. He taught a kid with little art experience so much. After a time, I felt like we were a weirdo friend duo. I listened and learned. I met Joe Kubert, Larry Hama, Michael Golden, Irwin Hasen, Dan Barry, Ron Wilson, and so many others.

One weekend, the “studio guys” all went to Central Park and played a game of touch football. Touch… HA! Very first play, I caught the kick-off and raced down the field. Neal, with a big smile on his face, ran right toward me. Since it had rained the night before, the grass was wet and when I planted my foot to spin around him, I slipped right off my feet and my face slammed into that ham hock Neal called a forearm. We played the rest of the game, but two days later a front tooth turned black from that impact. Neal was certainly nice enough to pay for the replacement tooth, but it still makes me laugh. Neal Adams killed one of my teeth!

On quiet Friday afternoons, Neal would take us to a promising movie. We saw Who Framed Roger Rabbit as an entire studio. Even back then, Neal was sure Bucky O’Hare would be just as good. We saw The Matrix and were all blown away. That movie was the future.

In the studio, we all read comics and argued about which one was better. We found artists that would end up great, like Bryan Hitch and Lee Weeks. Neal made sure he got all the comics that came out every week so he could see who his competition was. He knew Mark Silvestri was a threat, Jim Lee had a great commercial sense, Todd McFarlane was an amazing stylist and Adam Hughes was quietly lurking in the background. It was a glorious time to be around Neal. He was drawing advertising work every night, doing layouts for young artists hungry to be better and guiding a comics company. Watching his decisions was fascinating.

No one saw the crash in 1993/1994 coming. Our CyberRad comic had reached 150,000 copies in a new #1 issue, with a hologram on the cover. Our best seller ever. Spawn, WildC.A.T.s, and Cyberforce were selling like gangbusters for Image. Superman was dead and four new Supermen were out there. But it didn’t last all that long. Sales, for Continuity, dropped. Comics stores went out of business and when Toyboy #7, pencilled and inked by the brilliant Michael Golden didn’t sell well, the writing was on the wall. Neal hung on for a bit, but eventually decided to let it go.

I was devastated. Here I was, in my 20s, having made it into the comics industry, only to watch the company go out. But it was too exciting to be around Neal to walk away. So, perhaps foolishly, I learned how to video edit and animate his drawings. Then I was in a whole new world. Neal Adams as commercial artist and director of animatics (pre-production commercials).

I worked in advertising for 17 years and learned a tremendous amount about video editing, animation and working with clients. I can’t thank Neal enough for trusting me and throwing me into the deep end of the pool. I even married his daughter, Kris.

My last quick story, which I have mentioned before, is the Christmas where I finally found something he really wanted. We had talked about Hal Foster for years, how smart he was, what a great artist he was, and his realism. Neal loved Hal Foster. So, for Christmas, I bought him the entire run of his Sunday strips, printed from the originals. It’s a HUGE book, but well worth the price.

Neal looked through that book for the rest of that Christmas. My daughter said I “won” Christmas. I’m not sure that’s true, but I was happy I could give him something to look at for a while.

I miss Neal every Monday morning because he would come in with new art that he had created during the weekend. It was a tremendous amount of work because he worked constantly. Head sketches, commissions, covers and pages of his Batman issues.

He was a great artist and a great man. I hope that people remember him as a one of the best Batman artists of all time. I miss him as a boss, a mentor and a father-in-law. I truly hope he is sitting with Jack Kirby, Al Williamson, Frank Frazetta, Hal Foster, and maybe Bill Finger at a big table, writing and drawing great comics and drinking coffee and teasing each other.

He was my hero for so many years and I miss him almost every day. He told me one day that he had achieved everything he ever wanted to… and more. I hope that’s true.

Happy birthday, big guy/boss/father-in-law. You were one of the best.


— A Loving Tribute to THE SILENT NIGHT OF THE BATMAN — and NEAL ADAMS. Click here.

— NEAL ADAMS Was Actually the Co-Writer of SUPERMAN VS. MUHAMMAD ALI. 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. I’m a long time fan of The Great Neil Adams. I read all his work in real time. X-men, Batman, Deadman etc…Thank you I loved hearing about the man.

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