At this years #WWChicagoCC I had the great honor of sitting down with one of the most revered comic book writer/artists of all time....Mr. Neal Adams! Fan favorite Mr. Adams was gracious, hard hitting and candid as always!
I've been going to large comic cons since 2001 and there's not many comic people I've not yet met. I've been very fortunate to have met and talked at length to a lot of my favorite artist and writers in the comic book industry over time. One of the few legends I had yet to meet happened to be the great Neal Adams. So I was very pleased, shocked and (sad to say) unprepared when I was granted an interview on the very beginning of the first day of the convention! All I knew was I didn't want the same old predictable common comic book creator answers.
With all the experience I had, I also really expected not to be a single bit nervous for the interview.....boy was I wrong! I'd have to say this was the most entertaining talk I'd had in a long time!!
This is how the interview begins just to set the mood for you. After an old timer fan comes up to Neal's table and tells him how he ADMIRED Neal for years and grew up with his artwork! He was happy to meet him finally, called him a genius of comics, shakes his hand and walks off. So I then begin to go off that moment and tell Neal how I admired his work also especially his Batman.......Mr. Adams cuts me off......
"Have you read my 'Batman Odyssey' books?"
"Uhhh...I'll be honest. No, I have not. I just recently got back into readin....." Mr. Adams cuts me off again.....
"OOohhhh..........YOU SON-OF-A-BITCH!!" Saying it playfully
........He reaches over on his table and grabs for a large hardcover trade paperback book of Batman Odyssey and SLAMS it down in front of us. He then flips close to the end of the book right to the page you see below. Mr. Adams leans over close, face to face with me he looks me right in the eyes and says....
"You see this?" Pointing to the the very impressive double page spread he obviously drew. "This is Batman! That is Bruce Wayne HIMSELF under the cowl. The other man is Ra's Al Gouls Son! He is a vengeful person because Ra's has never let him bathe in the rejuvenation pits of Ra's Al Goul. He has now sworn to to kill everyone that Batman knows or holds dear.....EVERYONE!! That is a 44. pointed to his back.......and THAT is Batman shooting him! Batman does NOT shoot anybody......EVER! So tell me, how does this happen?!"
I then went from feeling like Mr. Cool who just took up close picture of Stan Lee and Michael Rooker.......to feeling like I was a new born baby fanboy who was being tested by the master of all things comic books! And on the very first question....I was FAILING!! After a few failed attempts at trying to figure out the scenario....."That's a Bruce Wayne clone, Bruce has NO choice but to shoot him, Ra's Son is not real, it's a multiverse". Each one of my guesses was immediately responded with a resounding "NO!" from Mr. Adams. "I give up" I say feeling ultimately defeated.
Neal, SLAMS the book shut puts the book back in it's spot on the table, turns to me and says.....
"Now you're going to have to read it and find out for yourself! Enough with the flattery let's get down to the questions!"
Needless to say. Right about then I was really starting to feel intimidated and I was not used to that! Then came the fact I had no questions ready for this unexpected interview and I just took the first mile long drop on this roller coaster ride........
"OK!" I say, "Let's do this!" I look around his table and the first question hits me right away. I point to a print on the table. It is a print to the cover of Green Lantern / Green Arrow #85 (printed in 1971) where Oliver finds out sidekick Speedy is a junkie shooting heroin!
Tell me about this? The famous...very controversial Speedy junkie issue! Did a writer or editor warn you that this kind of story was coming up?
"It wasn't controversial!"
It wasn't?! What about the time of age that it came out? What about the comic book code, didn't that cause some problems?
"There were ways to get around the code.....even then. As for the story no one told me to do it, I WANTED to do this story! It was something that was going on all over the place so why not bring it to the forefront?! It needed to be told"
So it was all your idea to do this drug story then and the cover, even at that time? Huh, I did not know that?
"Well yes, Oliver needed a change! Things were getting to a point where something drastic had to happen. I felt things had to change in a big way to move the characters along."
That's interesting. I'd imagine that most comic book writers at that time would be way too scared to touch such a subject matter like that in comics?
Alright, let's talk about John Stewart the first African American Green Lantern. You created him.....why?
"I wanted to do a black green lantern simple as that."
So he was always meant to be African American then?
"Yes. There was no other choice for me. But what I wanted was not just your stereotypical black person. Not the kind of stuff they were showing on TV, movies and other comic book characters. He was't going to be some sort of thug he was an educated man. He came from a good solid upbringing, that was important to me also"
What kind of childhood did you have? Your environmental upbringing?
"I grew up in a very diverse neighborhood. There was all sorts of people around a true melting pot. There was a lot I learned from everyone around, it was a good place"
"Look, let me tell you something. I do not trust white people....white people fuck everything up.....I mean look at history, it's proven...and I'm as white as they come!"
Both of us laughing!
It's just like we are never all going to get along as a human race till that common enemy comes along right?
"Oh of course and you know it's going to have to be Aliens or something. Nazi, how about Nazi.....they always seem to pop up as zombies or something."
Both of us laugh again!
So what do you feel is your legacy is in the comic book industry?
"I feel my legacy in the industry is to make change. I strongly believe that I am a man of change. My job has been to make change where others are afraid to make a change or a character is just feeling complacent. I'm here to get in there and really shake things up, that's what I do."
What new project will you be working on?
"I am working on a Superman, New Gods miniseries also using the New People Of Krypton and all of Jack Kirby's great characters. Now my job is to just not fuck the whole thing up! It will be great and I hope to bring back many great Kirby characters again to a new audience."
"That sounds fantastic!!
Well Mr. Adams I won't take up anymore of your time, I'll let you get back to your fans. I thank you very much and all of us at moviepilot.com and MannysPlace wish you all the best!"
So I left the interview still feeling that I was running away from a scary bully and all I wanted to do was run and hide. Ha!
My Views On Mr. Neal Adams:
Don't take his comment on "I don't trust white people" at face value he means equality for all....he's a man who believes very strongly in racial and social equality. He is a man who lives breathes and LOVES comic books lore!! He has earned his spot in the Comic Book Hall Of Fame (if there was one). Neal Adams contributions to the comic book industry not to mention his classic works of art and storytelling are the stuff of legend. He is a living legend and a great overall person who loves his wife and family. All respect due to Mr Adams.....even if he did OWN me!! Haha!
On A Final Note:
Just as I was leaving the convention for the day I was walking almost out the doors when it hit me!! I turned right around, I scurried to three different comic book vendors and finally after the third one I found what I needed. I headed straight back to Neal Adams table and he was all alone sitting talking with his lovely wife. I walked up to him and told him this....
"See what you made me do?" I held up the brand new hardcover of Batman Odyssey I had just bought! "Now I friggin' have to figure out what the hell happened!"
He smiled and asked for my book. I paid for my autograph signature and Mr. Adams personalized it for me.
Thanks again Neal Adams.....I won't forget this anytime soon!!!