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 …
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.
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.
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.
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.