EXCLUSIVE COMMENTARY: Brave and the Bold #84? Meet Action Comics #49.
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 Dave Gibbons and Jim Lee.
For an overview of what you can expect during NEAL ADAMS MONTH — including segments with said inkers and colorists — click here.
For the full NEAL ADAMS MONTH INDEX of stories — in case you missed any (shame on you) or you want easy reference — click here.
For yesterday’s segment, on Green Lantern #76/Green Arrow #49, click here.
Action Comics #49, out 2/3, is a riff on Brave and Bold #84:
Dan Greenfield: All right, let’s get to Action # 49 which was based on the Brave and the Bold Sgt. Rock cover.
Neal Adams: Isn’t that an interesting composition?
Neal: That is one of the worst compositions in comics and yet you’ve seen it…
Dan: A thousand times, yeah.
Neal: It feels like a thousand times but you’ve seen it a number of times. That composition comes from Carmine Infantino. Another artist who could draw better than Carmine Infantino—and no offense to Carmine but Carmine had a particular style…
When you hold a person, their ass sags down. (Dan laughs) That’s just what happens. You hold ’em from the top, you hold ’em from under the knees and their ass goes down. And usually, the head crumples, like this. (Neal gestures.) But Carmine did that composition and Batman is holding Sgt. Rock there, out, like a log draped over his arms. And since then, a whole bunch of drawings have been done…but they’re not mine!
I’ve seen the debate take place: “Oh, Neal did that first! It wasn’t so-and-so or so-and-so.”
Dan: Yeah, I recently saw something about that somewhere.
Neal: Yeah, it’s big. A kind of pseudo-controversy: “Who did that first?”
Neal: OK. In the end, as far as I know, this was the first cover but — it’s really Carmine! It’s not even mine. That is a Carmine Infantino composition. It’s the Catholic cross, you know? (Neal gestures with his hand across the cover.) And Sgt. Rock becomes the crossbar.
So, here we go (with Action #49) doing the same composition and, of course — had I chosen, because, nobody’s going to tell me no — I could have said, “That’s not how you hold somebody! The ass is gonna go down.”
But I thought, “You know what? Who cares?” In a way, without it being so, it’s an homage to Carmine Infantino.
Dan: Now, the decision to make this with Superman and Supergirl—was this your decision?
Neal: That was, yeah. … But it was done with the thought in mind that they’re gonna say, “That’s not a good idea.” But they said, “They’re all a good idea!”
Dan: This is P. Craig Russell doing the inks over these?
Neal: P. Craig Russell! Who woulda thunk it? You know? I wasn’t able to guess! I have a friend named Buzz. Buzz whose name is Aldrin Aw, who is a fan artist. He used to do Vampirella and has done some other things and he’s helping me on some backgrounds and stuff. We go to conventions together and he kind of hangs out with my son. He came in and he looked at it. Took him about half a minute and he said, “P. Craig Russell.”
I said, “Now where do you see P. Craig Russell in there? I do not see it! I do not see it!” He said, “Well, it’s so obvious!” and he points to the lines over here and, of course, it turned out to be P. Craig Russell. We were told ahead of time that it was somebody else!
Dan: Now, when you picked Superman and Supergirl like this, were you thinking because of Crisis on Infinite Earths? The George Perez version of the cover?
Neal: No! I’ll tell you the truth, I was thinking of a good display for Supergirl because she’s on television. I thought, “We’re not doing enough with Supergirl. We wanna see Supergirl some more.”
It just seemed like, Superman holding Supergirl — who is presumably either dead or somehow disabled — is a good idea. And it works for the theme — it really does work for the theme. You might say Batman and Sgt. Rock doesn’t necessarily work for the theme because it was too —
Dan: That was one of those classic Bob Haney kind of concepts.
Dan: They always worked, though! That’s the thing. They always worked. They were fun stories.
Neal: Bob Haney is a very, very underrated writer in comic books because he just did these rich, thick, stories.
Dan: Yeah, he did whatever he wanted and people… See, I think that there’s been a lot of renewed enthusiasm from a lot of people. People who were so hung up on continuity couldn’t buy into his stories but now that doesn’t matter so much. When you’re talking about books that were written then, they were fun stories and they’re interesting. They make you think about — there’s a lot of “what if?” quality to a lot of what he did.
Neal: There’s that and, I know that I get a lot of comments about my working with Denny O’Neil, and the Brave and Bold stuff gets kind of ignored. Even though people love it! Even though they love it, they’re not cognizant that it was all done by Bob Haney.
Where Denny’s stories have focus on a specific thing and it just targets that thing, Bob Haney just blasts out in his stories! “You can go here, you can…You wanna go into Germany? Let’s go! London?” (Dan laughs) Very, very rich and very full stories. So my stint working with Bob Haney was one of the most pleasurable I’ve ever had in comic books and those stories are really kick-ass comic books!
To me, this also brings back those days. Everybody talks about the Silver Age. I don’t recognize the Silver Age. I don’t recognize the Silver Age as being anything except, wow, what an exciting time it was! Because we were at a time when covers were meant to sell comic books. It wasn’t a display of the hero with his chest sticking out. It was a storytelling thing.
So in this story, the concept that Sgt. Rock might be dead was already controversial and would have people picking up the story. They weren’t picking it up just for my Batman. “Hey, Sgt. Rock!” That’s kind of a dumb idea but also (the reader’s thinking): “Are we gonna kill off Sgt. Rock in Brave and Bold”?
Dan: And also the pairing of them is incongruous.
Neal: Right, the pairing seemed incongruous and it turned out very well because we have a very young Bruce Wayne—he looked like maybe 21, you know?—and a very grizzled Sgt. Rock. It was an eye-opener to people. It kept people interested in Batman.
All of these things come from that time that make them (interesting). … So I can see how we got to here from there. You can see the transition. You put all these covers on the wall, you’re gonna see the transition from the Golden Age to the Modern Age. ‘Cause there are bits right there and those elements are in these covers.
You can also find more on Neal Adams at his website, here.