The celebrated Mr. K pays a BIRTHDAY TRIBUTE to the late, great artist, who was born 82 years ago on June 15, 1941…
By PAUL KUPPERBERG
If I have to tell you who Neal Adams is, you’ve obviously stumbled onto the wrong website. Neal was a celebrated figure in this business of comics since almost the beginning of his career in the mid-1960s.
I’ve told the story often — including here, in my remembrance of Neal from May of 2022 — that my first exposure to his art was the cover of Action Comics #356 (November 1967). Neal’s photorealistic take on the world was a sharp and startling contrast to the stiff, cartoony style of Wayne Boring waiting on the other side of the cover. At 12 years old I was hooked and sought his stuff out on the newsstand. His work on Batman in both the Dark Knight’s flagship books and The Brave and the Bold is legendary. His Green Lantern/Green Arrow run is unforgettable, his take on Deadman in Strange Adventures an experiment in storytelling, and in his “A Journey to the Center of the Android” in The Avengers #93 (November 1971), he’s just showing off. Superman vs. Muhammad Ali, cosmic. Calendar pages flip. Years fly by. Et cetera, et cetera, so on and so forth!
Some of Neal’s most interesting covers during those days weren’t on Action or World’s Finest, but on the horror titles of editor Joe Orlando, predominantly for The Phantom Stranger — his cover for Showcase #80 (February 1969) was the first image comics buyers saw of the character since the original, short-lived 1952 The Phantom Stranger series — and House of Mystery.
It’s hard to say who exactly conceived and designed these wonderful covers but between Orlando and Neal, plus newly appointed editorial director Carmine Infantino in the mix, it would be difficult to come up with a stinker, especially with high concept covers like these. And the high concept was so simple: Kids in jeopardy. Eight-, 9-, 10-year old moppets, all so sweetly drawn by Neal, in perilous supernatural situations, witnessing some weirdness or finding themselves in its path. (The kids are never in any direct danger so as not to incur the wrath of the Comics Code Authority.)
Infantino (layout) and Orlando (pencils) had done the cover for HOM #174, heralding a new editorial direction for what had been home to the George Kashdan-edited Dial H For Hero strip — and setting the dark tone for what was to come.
The kids-in-peril trope had pretty much fallen by the wayside by the time Neal left the covers three years later, but he resurrected the theme in 1977 when he returned to HOM for another, shorter run. By happy fanboy coincidence, some of my earliest published comics were five-page introductory/interstitial stories for those new, 80-page Dollar Comic issues of House of Mystery, so I can claim “my” comics had covers by Neal Adams!
Here then, MY 13 FAVORITE NEAL ADAMS HOUSE OF MYSTERY COVERS:
— PAUL KUPPERBERG: My 13 Favorite NEAL ADAMS SUPERMAN Covers. Click here.
— NEAL ADAMS Loved — and Lived for — Comics, by PAUL KUPPERBERG. Click here.
PAUL KUPPERBERG was a Silver Age fan who grew up to become a Bronze Age comic book creator, writer of Superman, the Doom Patrol, and Green Lantern, creator of Arion Lord of Atlantis, Checkmate, and Takion, and slayer of Aquababy, Archie, and Vigilante. He is the Harvey and Eisner Award nominated writer of Archie Comics’ Life with Archie, and his YA novel Kevin was nominated for a GLAAD media award and won a Scribe Award from the IAMTW. Now, as a Post-Modern Age gray eminence, Paul spends a lot of time looking back in his columns for 13th Dimension and in books such as Direct Conversations: Talks with Fellow DC Comics Bronze Age Creators and Direct Comments: Comic Book Creators in Their own Words, available, along with a whole bunch of other books he’s written, by clicking the links below.