NEAL ADAMS: On Superman, New Gods and Jack Kirby …

The comics great gears up his Superman epic — and compares himself to the King


UPDATED 11/15/16: Neal Adams’ Coming of the Supermen is out in hardcover this week, collecting the 6-issue miniseries. For a review, click here. But also check out this interview with Adams from before the series launched. There’s some excellent commentary in there about working with Jack Kirby’s Fourth World creations. — Dan.

If you’ve spent anytime here at all then you know just how big a fan I am of Neal Adams’ work. I’ve put it this way: If Adam West made me a Batman fan, then Neal Adams made me a comics fan. I’m simplifying it, but you get the idea. Getting to talk to Neal is always special and I spoke to him recently about his forthcoming project for DC about Superman and the New Gods.

The premise is something we’ve seen before, with a twist: Kryptonian survivors show up and Superman decides to settle them on a planet that just happens to be on the opposite side of the sun. The wrinkle? Darkseid has designs on the very same planet.

Coming of the Supermen is a six-issue mini that starts in February. I imagine it’ll be a bit controversial if Adams’ Batman: Odyssey is any indication (read what Adams has said about that, here). And Adams is certainly setting up some comparisons with Jack Kirby as you can see by his comments below.

For my part, I’m just glad we get to see some more Adams sequential art. There can never be too much of that …

From Adams' Facebook page

From Adams’ Facebook page

Dan Greenfield: So, Neal, tell me what the impetus was for the new Superman series that you’re doing.

Neal Adams: I think the impetus was (DC co-publisher) Jim Lee telling me that since they’re paying me so much money, they can’t have me work on minor characters. (Dan laughs) And I said how about Superman? They said, “You have a Superman story?” Why, it just happens that I do have a Superman story. (Neal laughs) This has been percolating in my head for a long time and the opportunity showed itself. Had they said something else, I might have said Deadman because I have a Deadman story. But Superman I really haven’t done. Think about it.

I did Batman so much and I did Superman with Muhammad Ali but I did a Superman that I considered a DC Comics character and not a Superman that had a little bit more personality and a little bit more juice and a little bit more…I don’t know, weakness? That’s probably not the word. A little bit more humanity. So I thought, well, I really do have a Superman story and it’s a very, very good story so why don’t I propose it? So I gave ’em an outline and they accepted it.


Dan: And the story is?

Neal: (Smiling) You want the whole story?

Dan: Well, spoiler-free!

Neal: I’ll give you enough of the story. If you go on the Internet and you kind of explore the stupid Internet—we call it the stupid Internet because there’s lots of stupid things that happen. But there’s these geek freaks who not only think that there’s a hollow earth but also think that there’s a planet on the other side of the sun that we can’t see because it’s on the other side of the sun. It tracks our orbit.

Well, if I were Superman, and I had New Krypton and I wanted to settle it somewhere, I would settle it there. ‘Cause I don’t want those guys to come here necessarily because they’re super creatures, but on the other hand I want ‘em close enough that I can know what’s going on. Darkseid might think the same thing. Because we don’t really know where Apokolips is or where New Genesis is. It’s kind of this nebulous place. But if it’s on the other side of the sun, that would be close enough and still far away enough for that to be an interesting place. What if Superman settles New Krypton on the other side of the sun and then Darkseid comes and decides to settle there, too.

Adams' Facebook page

Adams’ Facebook page

Dan: Now a few years ago, there was a story where there was a New Krypton but one thing that it didn’t have was Darkseid and the New Gods.

Neal: Which sort of is a shame isn’t it? (Dan laughs) When it comes right down to it, you really want Darkseid. (Neal laughs) I watched this latest Superman movie and, you know, I’m with DC and I love DC. I’ve always loved DC Comics. But I’m a little tired of Zod. I can do without Zod. Like, we fixed him in the last movie. Why don’t we do Darkseid? I mean, he’s there waiting to be done. I just think it’s a perfect time. It’ll always be a perfect time for Darkseid! He’s a great character and all the characters around him are great characters.

Remember the TV show, the Smallville TV show? Right at the end, Granny Goodness shows up and you go, “Oh my God! They’re gonna do Darkseid! They’re gonna do Apokolips! They’re gonna do it ALL!” And then they ended it and it was, like, “Awww, really? Come on, guys!” And then they do the movie. They’re doing movies and there’s no Darkseid! Let’s do Darkseid! Well, guess what? I’m doing it. I’m Darkseiding it up all over the place! I start with Kalibak in the first issue, crashing and bashing and kicking the crap out of everything. I love that. I LOVE that stuff!

And people don’t understand how good Jack Kirby is. You’d think people would look at Marvel and go, “God, he must be good!” Then he comes to DC and something’s missing. No! Guess what? Nothing’s missing! Maybe Stan Lee, I don’t know. But I’m saying, in the creative juices of what Jack Kirby does, there’s nothing missing. Maybe the dialogue went too fast, maybe nobody cared. Maybe too many heads replaced (by other artists). Whatever the hell it is, it really doesn’t matter. All that stuff is fantastic and that’s what I’m playing with! They’ve given me six issues to play with that.

Adams' Facebook page

Adams’ Facebook page

Dan: When was the last time you actually went back and re-read the old Kirby issues? Has it been a long time or…?

Neal: I’ve picked ’em up now and then, you know? I’ve got ‘em lying around the house. But I can’t do that stuff because everybody’s chomped through it, you know? I had to jump forward in time but I used the same characters. I’m not putting new costumes on ’em. They’re wearing the same costumes Jack Kirby had… Maybe the drawing is a little bit better because I’m a better artist than Jack Kirby was.

Dan: Tell me about that. How do you compare yourself to Kirby?

Neal: I don’t. He’s a primitive, you know? Everything’s straight lines and curved lines and it’s all bulky and stuff but in the stuff that Jack Kirby leaves out are mountains of material. He just leaves it out because he just doesn’t care. I care too much and I’ll put it in. It’s still Jack Kirby. There’s nothing really about his characters that’s me except for anatomy and shading and these other things that a better artist does. But I’m not a better creator! I’m not a better writer, storywise. So I’m putting everything that I can get of Jack Kirby into it and I’m adding a little extra drawing. Big deal.

Adams' Facebook

Adams’ Facebook

Dan: A lot of time when people DO use the Kirby characters, there are flourishes like Kirby Krackle and the machinery has a certain…

Neal: Yeah, I like that.

Dan: Are you using that?

Neal: Sure. Sure. I love that. Dots within dots (makes crackling noise).

Dan: Now what are some of the other characters other than the New Gods and Superman that we’re gonna see?

Neal: Mister Miracle, Kalibak, Orion. Desaad is in it a little bit. Certainly Granny Goodness is there. I have a little kid and she gets trapped in Granny Goodness’ web. Most everything. It’s all there. It all shows up.

A Kirby punch-out scene that looks quite different than an Adams punch-out scene ...

A Kirby punch-out scene that looks quite different than an Adams punch-out scene …

Author: Dan Greenfield

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  1. Hmmm. A better artist than Kirby huh? I think I’ll just leave that there. Certainly both artists have their strengths and weaknesses, and really both weren’t the best writers around true. Kirby had the wealth of ideas and concepts, but needed an editor, like Lee to reign him in at times, that’s about it on that end. as for art, well, yeah sure, Kirby and Adams are as different night and day in the art end of the equation. Compared to Adams, yeah, I can see where Kirby’s work could be viewed as “primitive.” He wasn’t slavishly devoted to realistic drawings or anatomy like Adams is. Kirby didn’t draw realistic anatomy, he, for, lack of a better term, used comic book anatomy because that’s what he his strengths were as an artist and more importantly as a story-teller.
    And as popular and innovate as Adams was, and really has very few peers for his style of drawing, he never really had to help built and support an entire comic company on his shoulders like Kirby did. But to each his own. Again, both men admittedly weren’t as good writers as they were artists, and damn if works like Batman:Oddessy didn’t continue to prove that on Adams’ end.

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  2. Happy to see the REAL costume again (trunks and all)! This looks fantastic so far, I’m really excited for it! Neal is a legend and I can’t wait to see his take on Superman and the Kirby world & characters!

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    • I always hated the trunks, but the movie costume sucks royal. Like the “new” belt, though.

      I never liked the new gods either, mostly because I can’t buy that a totally evil society cold function for long without constant conquest, and would rip itself apart, and the New Genesis planet doesn’t seem like a very good society to live in either. Darkseid would never agree to any sort of truce, since his reason for existing is conquest of the universe, so he would honor no treaty and the New Genesis crew would demand he stop ALL conquest, or they are not good guys at all. In short, it would be all out war till the final conclusion of one race being wiped out totally.

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  3. I am 55 years old and barely ever buy “new”comic books any more (only classic reprints), but this Neal Adams / New Gods series really has my interest ! I grew up reading all of the GREAT / CLASSIC – Jack Kirby, Neal Adams, Jim Steranko, etc. comic books, It was a wonderful time to be a kid ! I am however floored that Neal Adams could possibly make such a stupid statement like – “I’m a better artist than Jack Kirby was”….Neal Adams is a totally “different” artist than Jack Kirby, NOT a “better”artist than Jack Kirby….As great as Neal Adams was in his prime, I would choose Jack Kirby over Neal Adams anytime, and every time.

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  4. I can’t believe Adams would make a stupid statement like that. It’s disrespectful. The only thing people are going to remember about Adams it that he and Denny O’Neil updated Batman. Without Jack Kirby there would not be a Marvel comics. That man did everything including creating characters that DC and Marvel are raking in Billions of dollars on to this day. Now don’t get me wrong. I like Neil Adams work. I grew up on it. He was one of my favorites along with Kirby, Gene Colan and Jim Steranko. But he’s not an innovator like Kirby was. Pure and simple. They are two different guys with two different styles. And for him to say that Kirby didn’t care is just total crap.

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  5. Why does Adams consider himself a better artist than Kirby? Is it because he uses photo references for EVERYTHING? Or can’t he just pull, fully formed from his imagination, complicated machinery and costumes that can’t exist in the real world. Neal is good. There’s no denying that. But art appreciation is a matter of taste and knowledge. Neal’s ego may have put his taste and tact to sleep. I stood there at New Orleans when a fellow offered Neal his comic book for critique. I was gnashing my dentures because I saw where it was headed. “I don’t like it,” he said. Of course the guy was crushed. Neal is better than him. His ego told him so.

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  6. Adams really means he is a more realistic artist than Kirby. Or a slicker illustrator. Anything else is merely self-aggrandizement and wishful thinking.

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  7. Really, really, really, looking forward to this!

    As a cartoonist I know what Adams means by his Kirby comment, and of course he isn’t a better artist than Kirby!

    Can’t believe DC hasn’t made a movie both CGI and Live action of the New Gods! Kirby’s characters are just screaming for their own movies, not just support characters but the stars of the movie!

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  8. God Bless Adams, but he is confusing better with more realistic. It’s like comparing Picasso to Andrew Wyeth. Christina’s World should never to set against woman in a Mirror” even if you want to. Maybe in Adam’s mind he is “better”. He shouldn’t blur and meld his own opinion with the entire scheme of things. Adams is great for what he brought to the comics, a polished illustration style more attuned to advertising or paperbacks, or even Men’s Magazine’s. That is merely one aesthetic within the conventional commercial bounds of comic Book making. What makes Kirby brilliant and beyond the commercial bounds was that even as he created the Golden or Silver Age Kirby style to be parroted and then absorbed by Marvel, but he was essentially transcending the aesthetic of mid-century Comic Books to something much more attuned to Outsider art and to the revolution in graphic Novels and independant artists, something that Adams couldn’t even do if he tried. As great as he is, he always looks like he is drawing for a men’s clothing ad circa 1975. He has a right to crow, just not at the expense of a greater master.

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  9. Adams is a far better technician than Kirby. I think that’s all Neal was saying. And that’s True.

    Kirby is the greatest sequential storyteller of the 20th Century, though.

    It’s like comparing Louis Armstrong to Wynton Marsalis. Wynton is a fabulous, technical virtuoso with a Trumpet. A better technician than Armstrong. But, Louis was just a genius who reinvented Jazz Trumpet.

    Neal, in this interview, says flat out that he’s not a better “creator” than Kirby. Neal loves Jack, and admires him. Don’t overthink his comments.

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