At the beginning of the Renaissance, artists were also scientists and philosophers. Legendary artist Neal Adams is reviving that tradition. He took time away from his work at Continuity Studios to talk to First Comics News about his work on Batman, his career and how the universe works.
First Comics News: When I announced I had this interview with you, staff writer Michael Deeley asked me to convey our feelings that you are the definitive Batman artist and that the character has yet to regain the heights achieved under your tenure.
Neal Adams: You mean the ancient Neal Adams is good, he did this great Batman too bad he died. Well, I have done some other things. I was just talking to Michael Gross yesterday – he was the ex-editor and art director of National Lampoon. We talked about the days when the National Lampoon was a really good magazine and it had some things like Son of God comics in it, and features like that, that were pretty ground breaking. All he gives a damn about is the stuff I did for National Lampoon and I reminded him I did Batmanand he said, “Oh yeah, you did that.” It’s a frame of reference kind of thing.
You went to the Manhattan School of Art & Design?
Neal: It didn’t have the name Manhattan in it. It was The School of Industrial Arts. S.I.A we called it.
1st: Did you study cartooning?
Neal: They had a cartooning class called Cartooning. It dealt with “big foot cartooning.” In the Biz we have a thing called “big foot cartooning” and “little foot cartooning.” “Big foot cartoons” are gag cartoons and Walt Disney [characters], and all those things that have big feet. “Little foot cartoons” are like Superman and Batman – they have feet in proportion to their bodies.
S.I.A. taught “big foot cartooning.” They didn’t focus on “little foot cartooning,” which is what I was interested in – comic books. I was told that I was wasting my time to even ask about that because not only did they not teach it, they thought that anyone interested in doing it was mentally deranged.
Comic books were about to go out of business. America had turned it’s back on comics. Why was I even considering that I might find a future in doing it, because nobody is doing it?
1st: That must have been encouraging.
Neal: I said, nevertheless, that’s what I am interested in. I told them that is what I wanted to do, and they said, “There isn’t going to be any work for you. It’s gone.”
As testimony to that, if you check everybody’s age in comic books there isn’t anyone within five years of my age who started in comic books. There are a couple of writers who did something else and then got into comics later who are close to my age. There is one artist, Jim Steranko, who was a magician that kind of slipped into comics, who is about my age. But he didn’t start as I did; aimed at getting into comics. If you were to check even closer you would probably find there was no one within seven years of my age. That means there was a 10 to 15 year dearth, an emptiness of people studying to do comic books. I find it interesting that I can’t find anyone near my age.
1st: At the time there were only Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, no other superheroes. There was Archie.
Neal: There were no horror comics. The closest thing you got to horror or mystery was My Greatest Adventure, Mr. District Attorney, or Strange Adventures. DC Comics was the last bastion of comic books. Everyone else was either driven out of business or driven so far underground you didn’t even recognize them as comic books. Even the cartoon books, most of them were gone. Disney was in and out, but basically on their way out, and you had Harvey Comics and you had Archie Comics.
It was a terrible time. I wanted to study comics and the school didn’t want to teach me comics, but there was me and a group of other people in my class who kind of insisted on learning about comics and comic books. I don’t know what happened at the school but a year after we got in and made it clear we wanted to study comic books, they changed the class from Cartooning to Cartooning and Comic Books. They allowed one teacher, Charles Allen to teach about comic books. By the third year they had enough students who were pushing for this that they hired another teacher to teach the cartooning guys.
1st: Did any of your classmates go on to do comics?
Neal: In a related sense. Comic books and cartooning has a much broader sense, although one might not think so from the outset. My friend Ken Stitzer went on to be a special effects titles guy. After he drew Mr. Magoo and some other comic books, he went to into filming special effects at R. Greenberger, one of the best special effects title companies in the world. Ed Maslow went on to Pratt and then became a high level creative director. Bob Versandi, who did some Archie Comics, went on to advertising and became an art director and creative director. Other didn’t quite do so well. This is because the teachers were right – there were no comics. There was no opportunity in comics; there was no place in comics. I found by bitter experience that even I (who had probably the best portfolio you could possibly have) couldn’t even get through the door to see the editors to do comics books. They were right, I was wrong. A common experience for me.
1st: After you graduated you applied at DC, what was that like?
Neal: A guy named Bill Perry met me in the lobby and he told me why he couldn’t bring my art in for anyone to see. He looked at it briefly and sadly and said, “Terrific, this is really good stuff. Fifteen years ago, 20 years ago, you would have gotten work right away, but I can’t take you in to even see anyone”. I asked if I could see an editor and he said, “Kid you’re wasting your time.”
1st: Obviously they had no plans for a future.
Neal: If you’re a wounded dog and you have been shot in both legs and your ass, and there’s a wolf at the front of the alley, you don’t think about your future. You are just trying to stay alive.
I own my own company. The people who do the work don’t think about where the company is going. Just the guy who owns the company thinks about what we are going to be doing next year.
1st: What made you decide to apply at Archie Comics?
Neal: I didn’t go to Archie to work on Archie. I went to Archie to work for Joe Simon and Jack Kirby; to work on the Fly or the Shield.They had a series of superhero titles at Archie and I tried to see those guys and get work. They never came into the office. I ended up talking to Joe Simon on the phone, but I never even got to meet them. I went there weekly trying to get work and to drop my samples off. In the end I never got anything.
1st: Your first professional work was in the Adventures of the Fly?
Neal: Not really true. I was told by the people at Archie that Mr. Joe Simon would be interested in samples of the Fly. I did three or four pages on the Fly. I brought them in and left them there for Mr. Simon and was told he wasn’t in. I came back the following Wednesday and Joe Simon wasn’t there again. I’m this 17-year-old kid who has done four pages of samples for Mr. Simon and he hasn’t even come in. They felt sorry for me, so they got him on the phone and he said, “Ah, young man, I looked at your samples. They are very nice, but I have decided to do you a big favor. You’re not going to think it’s a favor, but I think it is the best thing in the world for you. Your samples are good and we could probably use you, but the truth is you have a good career [ahead of you]. You know how to draw. There are other things you should be doing with your life, not comic books. It’s a waste of your time. So I am advising you to do something else and I am turning you down.”
To which I said, “Thank you, Mr. Simon.”
1st: It must have been hard to do that.
Neal: Twenty years later Joe Simon sought me out to get advice on how he might handle his character’s rights. I sat and talked to him for a half hour in the DC coffee room, gave him names and such. He never realized or remembered I was the kid he talked to all those years ago.
The guys at Archie felt sorry for me and they said, “Maybe you want to do some samples for Archie?” I thought, “Any port in a storm,” so I started to do samples for Archie and I left my Fly samples there. A couple weeks later when I came in to show my Archie samples, I noticed that the pages were still there, but the bottom panel was cut off of one of my pages. I said, “What happened.” They said, “One of the artists did this transition where Tommy Troy turns into the Fly and it’s not very good. You did this real nice piece so we’ll use that, if it’s ok.” I said, “That’s great. That’s terrific.”
Meanwhile, I had managed to do enough samples to get Archie work, not a regular story, but the Archie Joke Book. In which you write, pencil, letter and ink your whole page or half page, according to what you sold, for $32.50 a page.
1st: It sounds like a lot of work, but at least it was work.
Neal: Well, those Archie guys saved my ass. I had work, because $32.50 was half of a decent paycheck and if I did two pages in a week I had a full paycheck. If I did four pages in a week I had a double paycheck. So I did as many as I could.
[Adventures of the Fly #4] was my first work, and that panel was printed in a comic book. It probably is one of the greatest collector’s items you could get of mine. If you could get that Fly comic book that has that panel you could probably sell it for $800, or whatever the hell ridiculous price collectors charge.
1st: After Archie you went to work for Warren Publishing and did some horror work for them?
Neal: I wouldn’t call it horror work, but yes, whatever they called it. Even so, Warren was years later. I had a whole career between Archie and Warren. Almost two careers.
1st: What was your first regular work?
Neal: My first regular work was at Archie. My second regular work was doing backgrounds on a strip called Bat Masterson. Based on the Bat Masterson TV show for Howard Nostrand, who was an ex-comic book artist, and now became an advertising commercial artist.
1st: You did Ben Casey too.
Neal: That was (again) later. It’s easy to compress those things together in time, but from my point there was for me an eon between the two. I got out of school and did Archie pages and backgrounds for this guy who was doing this Bat Masterson strip. I got the opportunity to do my own comic strip based on the Ben Casey TV series a couple of years later, after I had been through a very long, dense and powerful learning curve. That was a miracle. It was, in fact, a whole career with many parts. Then, and only after that massive ‘career’ did I get the comic strip.
1st: Even today it is hard to get newspaper comic strips.
Neal: The truth is the good comic strips are gone. If you want to read comics strips you read comic books, you don’t read comic strips. What comic strips are now is what they used to call “a gag a day.” It’s a gag but it’s in three panels. Rarely do you have an ongoing comic strip that people might consider for movies or radio show. It used to be that comic strips were the ultimate comic achievement. You got lots of money, you got lots of recognition, and you could wear a tux and a bow tie and go to the cartoonist society and have dinners, and nifty stuff like that. [You got to] meet Hollywood stars and maybe have a movie made out of your stuff. That was a different [time]. When I got into comic strips, the business was hitting its last rung, its last high point. I got it on the downslide. I managed to do a syndicated strip; probably the youngest artist to ever do [one].
1st: That’s quite an accomplishment, how did you get that assignment?
Neal: You know who Al Capp is?
Neal: The guy who did Li’l Abner. Well, he had two brothers, Jerry Capp and Elliot Caplin. Elliot Caplin was the only one in the family that kept the Jewish last name. Al and Jerry changed their name to Capp. Elliot was a writer – he wrote Juliet Jones, Big Ben Bolt, Mary Worth and some other strips. [He was] very prolific and very good at what he did. Jerry, his brother, did other things. Rarely did he write, but he fancied himself a writer. What happened was, Elliot -the more intellectual brother – got a chance to do a syndicated strip based on the Dr. Kildare television show. At that time there were two competing terrific television shows, Ben Casey and Dr. Kildare. They were probably the hottest things on TV. Elliot got a hold of Ken Bald who had previously done another strip. Together they turned out the Dr. Kildare strip. Jerry, the youngest brother, [who was] perhaps a little jealous of his brother, thought, “Why don’t I do the Ben Casey comic strip?” So he went and procured certain rights to do a Ben Casey comic strip and he searched out a possible comic book artist or cartoonist. A call came to a place I was working at, Johnstone & Cushing. Samples were sought and I went up to meet Jerry. He invited me to do samples for this comic strip, and we would become partners. I don’t think he expected to run into Neal Adams. But Neal Adams wasn’t Neal Adams then. He was just this 20-year-old guy who wasn’t old enough to sign a contract. So we sent samples, we sold it. Newspaper Enterprises bought it. We did the syndicated strip for three and a half years. My second career.
1st: That’s a decent run.
Neal: It would have run longer, if it wasn’t unhappy from the inside. I was invited to do it for as long as I wanted but it really wasn’t what I wanted to be doing. I didn’t really want to be doing comic strips or books. I really wanted to be an illustrator – a commercial illustrator – that was my goal. At the time I was doing the Ben Casey comic strip, I was doing storyboards and things for advertising agencies because the comic strip wasn’t paying very well. And the deal that was set up initially wasn’t a very good deal, so it rankled me quite a bit. The writing wasn’t good.
1st: So, it was time to move on?
Neal: I did move on. I made an illustration portfolio that took me six months to do. I took it to various advertising people. I left it at one place overnight and when I came back to get it the next morning it was gone. So six months worth of work down the drain and now I still needed to feed my family. So I went to Jim Warren’s company because I thought, “This is someone new doing comic books. Maybe I could get some work there.” I took my work there and met Archie Goodwin, probably the nicest person in comics. It wasn’t much of a conversation. Archie just gave me a script. I wasn’t expecting it to be so easy. I started the beginning of my comic book career.
1st: This was a big change from what you had been through before.
1st: Before you couldn’t get any work and now you walk in and they hand you a script.
Neal: The truth is that had I been able to walk into DC Comics, they would have given me a script. The problem was that they were so paranoid at the time. They were so whacked out, they just figured it wasn’t going to happen. They didn’t have a future. There wasn’t anything wrong with me. I was fine. They were totally screwed up.
1st: They hadn’t even seen your work?
Neal: It was hard getting into comic books because the comic book business was so terrible. Life wasn’t hard for Neal, Neal did fine. Any advertising agency I went to would give me work. I got a syndicated strip — probably the youngest guy to ever get a syndicated strip.
Archie welcomed me. Archie was the beginning of the new world of comic books. They were looking to do different things and recognized talent. Comic strips and comic books have never mixed. When people in the comic strip business are looking for people to do a new strip, or to revive an old strip, they never go to the right people because they never know what is going on. For example, Flash Gordon — they needed a new artist for the strip. Who were they going to go to? Well, anybody who knew comic books would say Al Williamson is the ultimate imitator of that style. He was the perfect person. They gave it to Dan Barry, who was more soap opera like. I don’t know what the right term is.. more Alex Toth, who was exactly the wrong person to give it to. [Barry] did a good job, he did an interesting job, but it wasn’t the Flash Gordon that we remember. Then they gave the Sunday strip to Mac Raboy, another wrong person to give the strip to, when Al Williamson was there ready to do either one.
It’s the people in the comic strip business who don’t know what is out there. They were incapable of seeing past the other. Same with the people in comic books. If somebody had a syndicated strip and was suddenly available to do a comic book, logic says you give them a good book. Well, you can’t count on that. The fact that I did Ben Casey didn’t even mean that the people in comic books knew who I was. So when I was looking for work at DC Comics, it was if I had fallen out of the sky. They were unaware that Ben Casey was out there in 165 papers across the country for three and a half years. They were unaware of the level I had gotten to, doing that strip. I had gotten awards from around the world for doing that strip and brought a level of art to it. I went into the comic book business and it was like 15 guys in a closet who never spoke to anybody. They had no idea who I was. And suddenly I show up out of nowhere and [start drawing comic book covers], and everyone is like, “What the hell is going on?”
1st: That it really surprising, you would think it would be the same circle of people.
Neal: I was offered a comic strip based on Robin Moore’s The Green Berets about Vietnam. Elliot [Caplin], who was going to write the strip, said, “Look Neal, you are working with my brother so I can’t interfere with that. But if you have time on your hands and it’s possible for you to do this other strip, I have this other strip. I am pretty sure I can sell it and you’ll make more money then you do onBen Casey.”
Now of course he was undercutting his brother there, but he thought maybe it was possible to do two strips. And it was possible because I had worked out certain techniques. I could do it. I had a three-hour lunch with the fellow who wrote the book. By the end of the lunch I was so disgusted with what was going on with Vietnam, I realized I was definitely not the guy. I talked to Elliot and told him in all honesty I am really not for this war, so I don’t think I am the right guy for this spot. He said, “I am so out of the comic book thing, who would you recommend?”
In my brain I was laughing to myself and I said, “Joe Kubert.” Kubert was the ultimate war artist. [I told Elliot] ahead of time, “You’re used to guys like Stan and myself. You are not going to like Joe’s stuff right off the bat. He is going to have to do a couple of weeks of dailies and in three weeks you are suddenly going to get it, and understand why Joe Kubert is Joe Kubert. You are going to want Joe Kubert more then anybody else in the world, I promise you this.”
He said, “You have never lied to me before, so I’ll call him.” Four or five weeks later, he called me on the phone and said, “Exactly what you said happened. I gave him the script, he did the script [and] I didn’t like it. It was crude and course and rough. By the time I got to the third week I was totally in love with it. He is not like Stan and you, but this is great stuff and I think we can sell this.” And sure enough he sold the strip. Joe stopped doing war comics and started doing the Green Berets the syndicated strip.
1st: Then you took Joe’s place at DC?
I was doing stuff for Jim Warren. I was out of the comic strip business, but the problem with the Warren stuff was that I got a little too intellectual and experimental, putting a lot of work into the pages, and it really wasn’t [paying off]. The effort I was making was for no real reason, except it was fun and I was having a good time. So I thought, “Now things have changed. Now maybe I would get some work at DC Comics.”
I noticed that over at Marvel, Jack Kirby and Stan were doing better comics. [I thought,] “Maybe DC is looking and thinking that I could get some work over there. Well, who should I work for?” I really didn’t like most of the comics [at DC] but I did like war comics, and I knew the artists who did them, so I thought, “You know, now that Joe is not working there, they’ve got Russ Heath and they are plugging other people in where Joe used to be. Maybe I could kind of shift into a Joe Kubert kind of thing and do some war comics, and kind of bash them out.”
I had gotten one of Joe’s samples in High School and Joe knocked them out pretty quick. It was a way to make money. So I went over to see [DC Editor] Bob Kanigher and I showed him my stuff, and I did have that feeling that they were missing Joe – a guy who could draw and do that rough, action stuff. So he gave me some work. In a short period of time I had as many stories as I wanted to do. We had a run in or two, Bob and I. Well, we had one run in.
1st: What happened?
Neal: Well, it wasn’t much of anything. He decided to art direct my stuff. I brought it in and he told me what he didn’t like about it, and things I should change. I recognized that this Bob Kanigher was the guy I had heard about before and he was a little rough on folks. So, I closed the door to his office and I said, “If we are going to work together, why don’t we have a little private conversation, you and I.” So I closed the door and I said, “Bob, I have read your stuff for years. There are some things about [your work] I like and some things I don’t like. I’ll make a deal with you. I will never mention the things I don’t like about your writing and you don’t try to art direct my work, because if you do, I am not going to work for DC any more. He said, “Well that’s fine, no problem.” And from that point on we had a really terrific relationship. Well, I didn’t hit him or anything.
1st: How did you go from war comics to Batman?
Neal: They pretty much wanted me to do anything I could. Like I said, it was as if I had fallen out of the sky. I could do whatever was needed. I did an Elongated Man story. I did Spectre. I was taken offSpectre and I did Deadman. I did a lot of covers. Since I was a little kid I wanted to do Batman but it seemed [DC] had a certain way of doing Batman. It had to do with some type of contract they had with [Batman creator] Bob Kane. So I went into [DC Editor] Julie Schwartz’ office and I said, “I’d sure like to try a Batmanstory.” And Julie said, “Get the hell out of my office.” I went down the hall to Murray Boltinoff’s office. He edited a book called The Brave and the Bold. Murray wanted me to work on anything. He was scrounging around for some kind of thing for me to do with him. I did Jerry Lewis comics and Bob Hope comics for Murray. It was the best money I ever made in comics. I could pencil 10 pages in a day.
1st: That’s amazing.
Neal: They paid the same as they did for the other pages, it was insane for me not to do them. I said to him, “You’ve got this comic book called Brave and the Bold where you have different heroes teaming up with Batman. Can I do an issue or two of that?” He said, “No problem. Next one up, you’ve got it.” I said, “Only one thing, I don’t want to change anything in the writing, I just want to every once in a while change locations and time of day.” I wanted to change the time to night because it just seems silly to have Batman walking around in his underwear in the daytime. Murray said, “That’s fine, no problem.” So, I took the script and I started drawing Brave and the Bold.
After a couple months, Julie Schwartz corners me at DC Comics, he has a handful of letters and he stops me in the hallway and he says, “How come all these fans say the only Batman at DC Comics is inBrave and Bold?” I said, “Well, Julie, in Brave and Bold he’s really Batman. He is not walking around in the daytime in his underwear, he is skulking around at night.” He said, “What makes you think you know how to do Batman?” I said, “Julie, it’s not me who knows how to do Batman, it’s me and every kid in America who knows what Batman ought to be. The problem at DC Comics is that no one knows what Batman is.” He said, “Get back here. Now you are going to be drawingBatman.”
Julie opened the door for me to do Batman. He asked me if I would like to work with Denny O’Neil. I said that would be fine. He seemed to be a nice young man. So, I started doing Batman with Denny.
1st: It certainly turned out to be a very legendary run.
Neal: You know it’s funny how things happen. You don’t really do things on purpose. It not like I thought, “This is going to be legendary.” I was doing fine on Brave and Bold, truth be told. Bob Haney’s scripts were good; he really packed a lot of stuff into his stories. I got to do Batman/Flash, Batman/Aquaman, Sgt. Rock. I was having a great time.
1st: With things taking off at DC, why did you leave for Marvel?
Neal: I didn’t, as far as I know. I don’t think I ever left DC. I worked for DC and Marvel at the same time. There were lots of things in comics that were disheartening and they represented a certain kind of oppression. I have some difficulty with that. The idea that an artist works exclusively for a company and yet he is still a freelancer sort of bothered me. I understand if you are going to pay him a salary and take care of his medical insurance and all these other things you do for an employee. But, if he’s a freelancer, he’s a freelancer and he can work for anyone he wants. [Unfortunately] the companies had managed to crush the proverbial nuts of artists to such an extent that if they did, in fact, go from one company to another they would actually have to change their names – not legally, but they’d sign different names. So, suddenly the name “Adam Austin” would appear and [the art] would look just like Gene Colan’s. You started seeing these weird names show up. That was the tradition, the not-so-brave tradition. So I thought we ought to cut that out.
I went to Marvel and spoke to Stan Lee and I said, “I would love to do a book for you.” He said, “What do you want to do?” I said, “Well, what is your worst selling title?” He said, “X-Men. We are going to cancel it in two issues.” I said, “Okay, I’d like to do that.” “He said, “It’s only going to be for two issues.” I said, “That will be fine.” He said, “I’ll make a deal with you; you do X-Men for two issues, we cancel it and you do an important book, like Avengers.”
Well, the title went on for 11 issues and those turned out to be significant and important issues. They sort of set the tone for the rest of [the series]. Whatever reasons they had for canceling it turned out to be wrong reasons because the sales did go up. Not a whole lot, but every artist who came by said they wanted to do X-Men because of those 10 issues. So, it was a pretty revolutionary thing at Marvel. Those issues have been reprinted and reprinted.
1st: Most of your work has been reprinted. I remember back in the 70s they reprinted the Green Lantern stories in black and white paperbacks and sold in bookstores.
Neal: Funny thing about that. [When I started working for Marvel] Stan said, “What name do you want to be credited?” I said, “How about Neal Adams?” Stan said, “You know, a lot of people who go from one company to another use an alias.” I said, “Well, I don’t think we’re going to be doing that.” He said, “Well that’s fine.” Then I caught a look in Stan’s eye and he said, “Well, you know Neal, if someone is working for Marvel we don’t really like it if they are also working for DC Comics.” Testing the waters, I said, “Okay, Stan. I’ll see you then.” I started to walk out and he said, “NO, no no, I am not saying that. If you want to work for both companies that’s fine with me.” I asked, “So it’s fine?” He said, “No problem. It’s fine.”
So then he said, “How do you want to be known? I am thinking Nefarious Neal.” I said, “That’s ridiculous.” He did it that way a couple of times and then that went away. That conversation broke the back of [the name change] habit. From that point on no one had to change their name. It’s funny how easy it is. Sometimes you march in the streets, carrying signs, sometimes you just do something at the right time, at the right moment, and everyone goes, “Oh it’s that easy? Yeah, that’s exactly how easy it is! If Neal can do it, why can’t we do it?”
1st: In the 70s DC used to keep the original art and even give it away to people who visited their offices. How did you get them to return original art to the artists?
Neal: They would destroy it.
1st: How did you convince them to give back your art?
Neal: Threatened them with physical violence. No, I didn’t. I didn’t know what was happening. I should have known from school. Sol Harrison visited my High School and he gave away a lot of art. I guess I thought he had permission from the artists to do that. I got a bunch of pages that I later returned when I became a professional. But I managed to get the best. I got two Joe Kubert’s. I got a Carmine Infantino. I got a Gil Kane. I got the best stuff.
Anyway, I was up at DC one day and there was a guy working at the cutting board, cutting stuff up, and I caught it out of the corner of my eye. I got up because it looked like he was cutting up original page-size art. Sure enough he was. I watched for a short moment – it seemed like an eternity – as he was cutting it in three parts. He probably only cut one set, but it seemed like he was cutting so much in front of me. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what to say. Finally, I said, “What are you doing?” He said, “I am low man on the totem poll. I get to do the crap jobs around here. I’m cutting the pages up.” I said, “That’s original art.” He said, “Yeah, every three months we have to clear the drawers.” I said, “Stop, don’t do that.” He said, “What are you talking about?”
So I leaned in close and said, “DON’T CUT ONE MORE PAGE!” And I rose up and I got a little big in front of him “I am going to talk to some people. When I come back, I don’t want to see that another page has been cut.” Again he asked, “What are you talking about?” I said, “I am telling you, don’t cut another page. I am not saying I am going to hit you, I am saying don’t cut another page.” He stepped back and said, “Alright” and moved away. I went over to Carmine. Carmine was sitting at his desk and I said, “In the production room they are cutting up original art.” He said, “Yeah.” I said, “I don’t know if I am explaining this correctly. They are destroying the original art of an artist who works for DC Comics. They are cutting it up and throwing it in the garbage. They shouldn’t be doing that.” He said, “No, you’re right.” I said, “If that person cuts another page, I am going to be walking out of here and I will never do another page.”
Anyway, by the end of that day they had stopped cutting up pages. Seven years later they started to return those pages to the artists.
1st: That’s a long time.
Neal: It took a while. They did a little experimenting in the meantime. Experimented to see if the pages were valuable, if they could sell them. They took one of my covers to an auction in Chicago and offered it for sale with the stipulation that they didn’t have to sell it but they wanted to get a price on it. The price they got was $200.00 and their little greedy minds went, “We bought this for $60.00. We can sell it for $200.00. We don’t even need to print comic books!” Then they discovered that all the art wasn’t worth that much. “Are we in the art business or in the comic book business? What are we going to do now? Now that we discovered the art is worth money, we have a bigger problem. This bastard Adams has now caused us to think!” They didn’t like that, damn it. “Now we actually have to do something. We have to make a decision.” So in the end there was only one decision to make and that was to return the artwork to the artists.
1st: It was nice that they ultimately made that decision.
Neal: Nice. Yeah, it was nice.
1st: It probably wasn’t easy.
Neal: It wasn’t easy, poor babies. There were some other incentives for them to do that. For example, there was a private conversation in which was said, “It probably wouldn’t be very good for DC Comics if someone called the state of New York and said DC Comics thinks that they own all these pages of original art, some of which they have destroyed, some of which they have kept, as if it were property; and of course they would have had to pay sales tax on it.”
So, they would have had to pay sales tax on 50 years worth of original art. That would have been a little expensive. It was better for them to agree that the artwork belonged to the artist, that they never bought it as a piece of property and that the copyright law really didn’t say they owned it. [Better that] it said they are supposed to return it. If somebody had made a phone call, things would have gotten heavy. So, it was all very nice.
1st: Very nice. Did you ever have any interest in joining the editorial staffs at either DC or Marvel?
Neal: No. No, what would I do?
1st: You are running your own company in that capacity.
Neal: I own my own company. I’m not a publisher or editor or an employee. I can’t be fired unless I don’t like me. I never intended to publish myself. I published because Pacific Comics went out of business and I was left holding the bag. There were $60,000 worth of bills that they owed me. I had purchased materials from overseas and from different people for Futurepast, our magazine, and Pacific had gone out of business. So I decided to become a publisher. For that and other reasons.
1st: What brought you to Pacific Comics in the first place?
Neal: What brought me to Pacific Comics was certain creators – Sergio Aragones and Jack Kirby. I had made a big fuss. I said, “You don’t have to work for Marvel or DC Comics. You can work for an independent publisher if you want to, because chances are they can pay you just as well as DC or Marvel Comics.” They thought, “That can’t be.”
I would talk to people who wanted to be publishers and they would actually pay fans to do fan art. I would sit down and talk with them and I would say, “You guys are paying [fans] exactly what [Marvel and DC] are paying, or maybe even more than they are paying Jack Kirby and Gil Kane, to do pages. So why don’t you go to them? Pay them reasonably and let them own their own property. Let them own it and they will work for you.”
Then Jack would call me and say, “What’s going on here? I’ve got these publishers calling me and they are offering the same damn kind of money DC is, and I can keep my rights and they’ll pay royalties.” Same thing with Sergio Aragones. He came to me and said, “Look, can I do this? Is there a problem?” He had a thing calledGroo the Barbarian. I said, “Sergio, if you want to do it and they are willing to pay you, and they are going to give you royalties, you’ll probably make more money from whoever that is (it turned out to be Pacific Comics) than you would make from DC or Marvel with the same deal. You’ll own Groo the Barbarian. You’ll own it forever.” So he said, “Cool” and he went ahead and did it.
After that, with a Jack Kirby book and a Sergio Aragones book, the Pacific Comic guys came to me and said, “How about you?” So, I kind of got behind it as an indication that yes, this was a good idea. For everyone else who wants to know, yes, this is a good idea. Go ahead and do this.
1st: In the mid 70s while working at DC you pitched aMs. Mystic comic to them, how was this different form the Ms. Mystic published by Pacific Comics?
Neal: No, I never pitched it to anybody. They heard about it. Inever pitched it.
1st: In 1979 you published the New Heroes Portfolio, which was the introduction of the Continuity Comics’ universe. Was there a plan to put all these characters together.
Neal: No, it was just a thing called New Heroes Portfolio. I created these characters and did them. What happened was that Sal Quartuccio said, “If you were going to create new characters, what would they be?” I said “I don’t know.” He said “How about creating a portfolio of new characters? You can get them out there; you can protect your copyright.”
So, once a month I did a new character and they did a portfolio. There were these characters that I sort of created off the top of my head and did them in the New Heroes Portfolio, never with the thought in mind of necessarily taking them any further. Things evolve, the process moves forward and the things that you did suddenly becomes something else.
1st: Eventually as a publisher, they all ended up with lives of their own.
Neal: I tend to create things with lives of their own. I don’t start off saying this is simply this. I create what it’s all about. Even when I did those portfolio pieces, I wrote [little histories], where they came form, what [they’re] all about. I can’t just draw a picture. It has to have a history. So essentially that’s what happened.
It is one of those things I do and I don’t necessarily do it all the time. I have a series of characters I am creating for a fast food place right now. One of the reasons they came to me is they know something of this history of creating stuff. It’s something I do very, very well, because it is no different than creating a piece of machinery. You put all the parts together and all of a sudden you have a new piece of machinery. My characters tend to be more solid than other people’s characters, tend to have more history, tend to have a life before and are headed toward a goal. So you tend to remember them. If I say Crazy Man, you sort of have a good idea of what Crazy Man is about. If I said, give me a rundown of Jim Lee’s characters – this is not a criticism of Jim Lee – it’s a little hard to put your finger on them. They seem to have these abilities [but] it’s hard to know where they came from, what their histories are, things like that. That is not what I do. When I created Man Bat or I created Havok, or Sauron, I was creating comic book characters that have a history.
1st: Then they developed a life of their own afterwards. They are the lasting characters.
1st: Continuity Comics published on a very slow schedule. It was by no means monthly. What were the factors behind this?
Neal: From Continuity’s point of view, it was not a moneymaker. We did the comic books when we could. We weren’t really publishers. We got into it walking backwards, and we turned out our comic books when we could get them done. I tried to work with new people as much as I could. I suppose one of the things I did was create new artists for everyone else to use.
1st: Most of those people ended up working at either DC or Marvel.
Neal: Yes, we sort of published the comic books for fun, because we liked it. As I said they never really made money. It wasn’t until we did Deathwatch 2000 that we really got serious about it. We got books out on a real schedule and we kicked a little ass.Deathwatch 2000 was pretty successful for us.
1st: In addition to outstanding art, Continuity Comics pioneered every enhancement used in comics today. You had alternate newsstand covers, foil enhanced covers, poster covers, trading cards, company wide crossovers…
Neal: And indestructible covers. “You can’t tear this cover” made from the same stuff FedEx envelopes are made from.
1st: Image Comics came along and gave DC and Marvel a clear challenge. That was never the plan with Continuity?
Neal: The shock to me was the success of Image. The shock to me was also our success, when we did Deathwatch 2000. Continuity and I seem to have this habit, we seem to be the groundbreakers and everybody else comes in. The person or the company that breaks the door down is usually not as successful [as those that follow]. When we did Echoes of Future Past it was a $2.95 comic book. When people saw this they said it was too expensive. But it turned out to be a great package. The number of pages and the cover price now are a standard. That kind of a comic and that kind of a cover price are a given now. People love it. When we first did it, people said, “Whoa, that’s too expensive! You can’t do that. You can’t charge that for a comic book.” The idea of doing a $2.00 comic book…
1st: I remember the reaction of the clerk at 7-11, when I bought Revengers for $2.00, he was shocked at the price.
Neal: Exactly. To be an independent publisher but still be in the mainstream was very, very difficult. It was the kind of thing you wouldn’t do. But what happened was Image came in afterwards and basically took our model and used it for very, very successful publishing. So, if I look back at it, I don’t think I could have done it a different way, because I don’t think I could have blasted out there and been immediately successful. I had to sort of make the tramping grounds, then everyone else could come along and do it. I was right, big deal, now why don’t we do Deathwatch 2000 and really kick out with a series that is a moneymaker and is successful on a commercial basis? And it was, we sold 10 times as many comics, 10 times per title than any other comic we did before that.
1st: That’s tremendous, that’s a huge jump in volume.
Neal: We were selling like 15,000 copies, we went to 150,000 copies.
1st: Those are huge numbers.
1st: But the whole line came to an end in January 1994. Why was the entire line canceled?
Neal: Not because of me. Because of Image. There was this increasing flood of comic books. There was this intention on the part of collectors to collect these comic books and buy them in boxes of 100 and store them away in their warehouses. We got million selling comic books; we even got two million selling comic books. It was totally insane. Then the collectors finally realized, “What the hell are we doing? Everybody is doing it. We are doing exactly the same as they are. We will never sell these comic books.” It almost seemed like in one month, or in a short period of time, it shocked people. The collectors left.
Neal: That’s right. And we were in the backwash of it. We never had our retail prices lowered, but I saw Image Comics selling for 50 cents apiece and they were stacked in the front of the stores. Well, the stores paid more then 50 cents for these comic books, so every one they sold lost money. It was totally, totally nuts.
1st: After all the Continuity Comics came to an end, how did the deal with Acclaim Comics come about?
Neal: Well, what happened is I decided to close down. Everybody’s comic books were being cut. Comic book stores took any opportunity to cut their orders and the new orders were terrible. I ran into a couple of situations that were really rough. The new orders were terrible because essentially what the stores were doing was losing money on a daily basis. They were cutting their orders even to DC, Marvel and Image to the least number of books they could order and still stay in business. Naturally, [being] a second-tier comic book company, our orders were cut immediately. If you’re on a roll and you fall into that situation you cannot survive. It’s not like we have Warner Communications supporting us. Marvel, during this time, went into debt. Some people say $800 million some people say $400 million. Continuity couldn’t possibly survive. That would be totally insane. It was like we had been thrown into a bowl of disaster. What were we to do? The smartest thing I could do is say we are cutting our losses here and we are not moving on. I am in a position to do that, because everything happens through me. So I can say, “I am not going to loose any more money. I am not going to stay in business for the sake of honor. An insane thing is going on. I am not going to do it for the sake of showing a good face. I don’t want to go bankrupt.”
There were other companies at that time that went bankrupt. I can’t think of them off the top of my head. I don’t dwell on it. Normally, it’s a very, very bad business, comic books. You can tell by CrossGen. CrossGen got some of the best artists, some of the best creators in the business.
1st: And had a lot of money.
Neal: And had a lot of money. As far as I know, I don’t think they ever had a month where they had a profit. Well, if you’ve got a lot of money you can do that. Continuity didn’t have a lot of money. We were paying bills just like everybody else and we couldn’t afford to take those chances. We weren’t going to go belly up for the sake of the comic books. It would take everything else we do down with it. So I decided, this may not be the favorite thing for the fans to have us do, but the best thing I can do for the company and to save us, was to get out of business for a while and see what happens. So I backed off. We call it a hiatus. That’s what we did. We have been on hiatus for quite a while. On the other hand, we are making money on our other things.
1st: Acclaim published your comics for about three months, how did this come about?
Neal: It was one of those things. I guess they wanted to show a good front to sell the company, so they published a bunch of our comic books. I never thought it was going to work. They just wanted a bunch of comic books to sell for a period of time. They sold them okay; they did okay. But really not enough to continue. The company was going to go. That whole thing was an inflated bubble. The problem with being an independent publisher is that even your friends will point to you and say, “How come you aren’t as successful as these guys? How come you are not doing this? How come they are getting past you?” You have to sit back and say, “Well, maybe they are just smarter than me. Maybe they know more then I do. They have more money behind them.”
In the end, you look back and see who survived and who didn’t. Continuity is still here. We have comic books in the drawer which we will eventually publish and we are doing fine. I am sitting in a conference room with nice marble and glass on my wall here and I edit the advertising of commercials. We just finished a computer-animated commercial that is on the air. When you are watching television at night there is a commercial that has been on for the last couple of weeks. That has to do with Nasonex. It has this little bee that is in your face. That’s ours. That’s Continuity’s first on-air-commercial. I made more money from that than I did from any month of good selling comic books.
1st: Do you get royalties for that?
Neal: No, but the money you get upfront is very good. Very good. Neal is walking around with a smile on his face. They pay well. And I am getting to direct some live action stuff. That makes me very happy.
1st: You also have this Science Project going on.
Neal: Science Project isn’t exactly a science project as much as it is a 40-year-old burden that I have to disabuse myself of very soon. Because I think it is a very successful theory of everything. They talk about science as the theory of everything, how it all works. I think I have figured it out.
1st: I have seen some of the pages you have on line, and I assume you are going to publish at some point.
Neal: Yes, as I said, I think I have figured it all out. I think I have figured out how the universe works. It seems like an awful big thing to say, so I don’t really dwell on it a lot. It’s one of those problems that somebody had to figure out and I am probably wrong. The chances that I could be right are hardly any, but if I am, it’s figured out. Then we work from there. I invite questions, always. People think of me as sort of “fireman artist,” like I’ll smash through the door, pull the people out of the fire, and draw comic books in my spare time. I guess I’m part that, but I am [also] sort of a geek. I am one of those guys who is interested in hydrogen power. All kinds of things nobody else is interested in. Comparative religion and physics — those are two subjects that will clear a room faster then any two that I can think of. Oh, you want to talk about comparative religion? Oops, I have to go into the next room.
1st: Comparative religion is a lot of fun if you are talking to someone of a different religion and you can compare and contrast.
Neal: Comparative religion is a lot of fun if you address the history or how we got to where we are today. And if there is a possibility for truth to cause us to be more free than we are, or whether all the lies will continue, and that we will be oppressed by the religion that we have to live through for as long as man exists on the Earth. The answer is that I know there is a lot of truth to the study of religion. People are too bored to talk about it. It is a hard thing to talk about. Maybe if I prove it is possible to show how the universe works, maybe people will be interested in the religion, or maybe they will stone me when I’m an old man.
1st: You also have a Blood graphic novel in the works.
Neal: Much more interesting. A lot of it is shooting, killing and punching.
1st: Who is going to publish that?
Neal: Probably us, probably Continuity.
1st: When can we expect to see that?
Neal: I don’t know, because it’s a continued story. Since I am on the first book, I wouldn’t want to publish it until I had the third book done. Probably four books in all, so I am working on it. And I might do a Batman.
Neal: We are talking about it.
1st: That’s interesting. I am sure everyone would like to see that. Is this something that Continuity would package for DC?
Neal: They seem to trust me, you know. Maybe me and Frank Miller will work on it together.
1st: Interesting, is this connected to DC All Stars, or is this something different?
Neal: This would be a separate story.
1st: How far along is this?
Neal: Just the talking stage.
1st: This is certainly something everyone would look forward to.
Neal: Yeah, I think so. Let me tell you a story. I am at the San Diego convention talking to this guy who is a zoologist. I am talking about my science project. I am talking about how the universe is created. We are having a very good conversation because this guy is a zoologist and there are comic book fans standing around, some of them understanding, some of them wondering, “What the hell are they are talking about this science crap for, when they want to talk about Batman.” I am having this conversation with this zoologist and I am trying to make some points to him. I say, “Why don’t I just give you the theory from the point of view of zoology because you are interested.” He says, “Yes, I am.” I said, “We will just talk zoology as related to evolution of plants and animals on the planet.”
We had a long conversation. It lasted about two hours. At the end of the two hours, the guy says, “Very interesting, very simulating, I am very fascinated by this whole project. Fantastic.” [Then] he says, “I have one question. Do you ever think you are going to do Batmanagain?” I could understand exactly where the guy was coming from.
Personally I like this science shit if it’s new and interesting, but new things don’t happen every day. Usually you don’t understand them. They are hard to understand. But the advantage of having a comic book artist do it is that I can explain it in English.
1st: That makes it much easier.
Neal: Much better.
1st: And there are cartoons to go with it on the website.
Neal: Yeah, exactly.
1st: You have the Neal Adams sketchbook out andMonsters…
Neal: Which sketchbook are you talking about?
1st: There is a new one out from Vanguard.
Neal: Not a new one, the regular one is just a reprinting. We also did another sketchbook that is just a sketchbook. It’s called theSavage Sketchbook. It’s the kind of sketches that are done at conventions; it’s a collection of sketches. Only, we decided to go back and pull out a lot of old sketches and things that are connected to jobs and such. Actually a super sketchbook and we are selling it for $20 bucks at conventions, like the other ones. We are going to go through Diamond to sell it, because it really turned out to be a nifty thing. As much as we have been talking about doing a bunch of Neal Adams books, fancy books, things we have done in the past, blah, blah, blah, which would all be very nice, I find them a little poofy. It would be nice, I feel, since I work on so many things, to do a series of sketchbooks. Like one on girls.
Every once in a while I have done some pretty sexy looking girls; but also girls that are efficient and good at what they do. Like say, Samuree. She doesn’t have big breasts, but she certainly has great legs and a great ass, and she kicks the shit out of everything. I would prefer to have a character like that. We could put the big breasts on the other characters. I like those kinds of characters with a slightly different turn. And men, we can do one on muscles, guys that have more muscles than Fred. Science Fiction, a sketchbook on science fiction. Projects we have done like Warp and various things. We are embarking on doing a series of sketchbooks that people really seem to like. They love the Savage Sketchbook. I think that is something that is going to be coming up in the next year that is going to be very strong for us. Just at that convention, and to Bud Plant, we sold 500 already total of the Savage Sketchbook. Although I have a feeling that once we go into the Diamond Order pack it’s going to take off.
1st: That will get you better distribution, but can’t fans get it form your website?
Neal: They can get it on the website. Every order that comes in from fans includes the Sketchbook. It’s $30 bucks on the site. But at cons we sell it for $20 dollars. People like to peel that $20.00 bill and get something worthwhile and they do it at the conventions all the time. It may not seem it, but it has become a new force in the business, to do sketchbooks. It’s like oh, by the way this is something I can actually put on my bookshelf and it looks good. It’s not just something I feel like buying for myself, it’s a cool little thing. And so we are doing sketchbooks. We found out from the Monsters book — with Frankenstein, Dracula and the Werewolf — in the back there are sketches from the different movies I worked on and in some ways that turned out to be the favorite thing in that book. It’s kind of nice to have that available to fans. People sort of wonder what Neal does all the time. What does he do between the stuff he talks about? There is this big space of time.
1st: I thought it was commercial work.
Neal: Some of it is commercial work, but some of it is quite far ranging. And it’s nice to know what some artists are doing. I like to see what story boards Bernie Wrightson is working on. I like to see what commercial stuff Adam Hughes is doing, besides his regular stuff — it’s got to be sexy, it’s got to be cute; he’s that way. It’s a short form communication, sketchbooks of an artist you like, what they do besides the regular stuff, the stuff you don’t get to see. It’s cool. It’s one of the things we are doing.
1st: Lately we have been seeing more of your artwork, the Neal Adams Sketchbook and Neal Adams’ Monster came out from Vanguard, Batman Illustrated By Neal Adams came out from DC, you did the cover for One Small Voice at Aardwolf, and at Marvel you did a cover for Captain Marvel and the Avengers. Is this the kind of stuff we are going to see more of?
Neal: I don’t know. There are lots of good cover artists out there. I would tend to do a more storytelling cover, so I don’t know that I am happy with the stuff I have done so far. We have never closed our doors to doing covers; and it surprises people when they call and say I would love to have Neal do a cover and Kris, who handles the call, says, “If you can afford Neal, we would love to do it.”
How expensive is he? Well, he is not that expensive. Maybe it fits within your budget. The question is really one of confusion. I haven’t put out any vibes that I would like to do covers. On the other hand, I did the cover on the last Avengers. That was a significant and reasonable cover to do. Doing some cover on some second rate series isn’t something to have Neal do. I think you should save Neal for something cool. We are sort of letting the companies know, “If you are going to use Neal, why not use him for something significant.” I have a feeling they made a few more sales [on the lastAvengers]. But Marvel has a lot of information to digest. They don’t react as fast as they used to. You know, when Stan was in charge he pretty much made the decisions.
1st: On your website you have a redesign for Batman. Is this something related to your Batman project at DC or was this all on your own?
Neal: That was me just messing around. I have had this stuff in my head for a while. I worry about people not solving problems that can be solved in a reasonable way. Like Robin. The problem with Robin came up when the movie company wanted to do Robin in the movies. So they said to DC, “We have to redesign Robin.” They couldn’t use Robin the way he was. And DC was stuck with the problem of what to do. So they called me — a very smart thing to do in my humble opinion — and they said, “Can you do some new designs for Robin?” I said, “Are you asking me to redesign Robin?” They said, “Yeah, we are asking you to redesign Robin.” I said fine and I started to work.
Then I heard through the grapevine that they asked 12 or so other people to redesign Robin. So I had my daughter, Kris, call DC and say, “This redesign thing is going to cost you some money if you want Neal to do it.” They said, “We want Neal to do it.” They ask how much money. She tells them. She said, “What’s happening now is, you’re casually asking Neal to redesign Robin, you’re not telling Neal why. We have a feeling something is going on. You’re not telling Neal it is important or that you’re getting other people to do redesigns, and that he is in competition with other people.” They said, “Oh, no, we don’t have to tell Neal that.” She said, “No you don’t, but on the other hand since Neal is going to win the competition, Neal is not going to sit there with the other 12 guys and just do designs until the cows come home. We are going to charge you professionally, the way we would do it for an advertising agency, if you want Neal to work on it.” They said, “Well, we want Neal to work on it.”
They wanted me to work on it because the film company was saying they would change it. So I started to submit some designs. The most important thing that I did was realize the character had to remain Robin, but had to be a new Robin, and there were some things that were really wrong. Like his legs were bare, that didn’t make any sense. He wore these little elf boots, that didn’t make any sense. His colors were too bright — yellow and red — and he was going to be out at night, it doesn’t make any sense.
So how do you solve all those problems and still not change Robin? Aren’t you talking about designing Batman Jr.? So I started to solve problems as much as I could. I didn’t care about what the others guys were doing. I have done this before on a professional basis. I have designed costumes for stage plays and other stuff. I was solving problems and applying them to a costume. They were just designing costumes. Which was fine, but that was not what the problem was. The problem was how do you make this Robin valid? Turn the boots into ninja boots, cover the legs, deepen the colors on the costume so they were more in [line] with the Batman, put packet things on the sleeves to carry weapons, redesign the mask, redesign various things. Anyway, after a few designs I came up with what I think is the key important design to the Robin costume, and that is that the cape is yellow on the inside and black on the outside.
1st: So that he blends in at night with Batman.
Neal: That’s right. At the same time when he stands with his cape thrown back, it’s still yellow and he is still Robin; justifying the yellow cape. So he can actually be Robin, he can have the Red vest; he can have the yellow cape over his shoulders. So we have saved the Robin. That, of course, was the costume that the film company loved. They said, “This is terrific. This solves all of our problems. There were problems they didn’t explain to me, but they were problems I already know because I know this shit. I know this shit because I am supposed to be a professional. So, I had done it. Then they asked DC, “Could you have your designer go one step further? Have him give Robin a darker costume, closer to Batman’s costume.” So, I did. I created another Robin costume. Then I had Kris get on the phone with DC Comics and she said to them exactly what I am going to say to you. “Neal is going to send over a Robin costume. We recommend that you do not show it to the film company. You will sort of like it. It’s not Robin, it’s a dark costume. They will love it because they want a dark Robin. You have already shown them a successful Robin. If you show them this costume they will buy this costume and you will destroy your licensing for Robin forever. We are going to send it over, but we recommend that you do not show it to them. [Make up whatever excuses you can to not show it to them. You can say, ‘You know, we have gone far enough. We have changed the Robin costume enough. We have cooperated enough. We are not going to go any further we are not going to do any more designs.’ We recommend you not show it because it looks too good. Do not show it.”
I don’t think they did. I don’t think they showed it. I think they made the argument and they probably got it through, or they showed it and said, “You are going to destroy our licensing if you do this.” Whatever it is they decided to go with the one before that, with the black on the outside and the yellow on the inside, and that became the Robin costume. And they paid the price for it. Of course they used something I would do. I don’t think it is any kind of arrogance to say that if I do this professionally for other things I should know what I am doing, and I am the right person to go to. It is not meant as a criticism or slight to any of the other guys, because they were really not given the full information. They weren’t explained the problem, they were just saying give us a new Robin costume. So they filled the book with those Robin costumes, and you can see them, but it was not problem solving.
Anyway, that is the same thing that has happened with Batman. That’s the reason you see the thing on my site. Too many people are screwing around with the Batman costume; I am feeling that somebody’s going to come and mess with it too much. Already you have Batman going around with a garrison belt. A garrison belt was modern in 1935, probably 1921, instead of those little tubes at his waist, which clearly everyone recognizes as being useless. You can’t get a batarang out of a little tube. A garrison belt doesn’t work any better, in fact it throws you back in time. There has to be a design for a belt that includes all these things that is molded to the body and make sense. And people shouldn’t be screwing around with other designs. Especially when you come up with a garrison belt. So I thought, “Well if the least I do is get it out there, this is what my thinking is: Take it or leave it, or whatever you want to do. Because I am not making a big fuss of this, but there’s a direction you don’t want to go, a direction you guys have been going. Quit screwing around with this old fashioned stupid stuff. It’s got to be a good costume. If they decide they want to use it, they will pay for it, like sensible people and buy the new Batman costume. If not, at least whoever gets influenced by it will move in the right direction. I don’t want to see Batman destroyed, I have a vested interest at a fan level for that character to continue and to do well.
1st: What do you think was your best comic book work?
Neal: It’s not a good question because the answer is always, “I don’t have a favorite. Whatever I am working on is my favorite, blah, blah, blah.” I’ll be glad to say for the sake of saying it that theSuperman vs. Mohammad Ali is my favorite comic book. Seventy-two pages of some of the best comic books I have ever seen. It ought to be reprinted, it’s a really terrific comic book. People used to laugh at it because it’s like Superman vs. Mohammad Ali; what is that? But it is probably one of the best and most read comic books around the world.
1st: I actually have a copy.
Neal: It’s got a lot of things in there. It reintroduces Superman and gets Superman beat up. It shows boxing technique. The idea of not falling down and not giving up and that there is more to this guy then just super powers, he’s got some guts. And it shows something about Mohammad Ali, and I feel sorry for America for not appreciating its black heroes. But, we are always a little behind everyone any way.1st: With such a long and outstanding career in comics is there anything you wish you could have done, but never been given the chance or the time to do?
Neal: No, not really. I mean I am doing it. I just did a book on how the universe works. What’s better than that I don’t know.
1st: When can we expect to see that?
Neal: I should have had it out by now. I am getting it out as quick as I can. I don’t think of it as being a book that comes out at a particular time. When it’s ready we will send our stuff into the distributor and it will be out. People will go, “Oh it’s done.” It’s been done. We are just busy. Our livelihood is not going to depend on it. We are only going to sell between eight to ten thousand copies. It won’t mean much to us financially. Hopefully people who want to read it will buy it. Maybe it will get good arguments going and maybe it will get to the right people, and maybe the science community will see the light, poor bastards that they are, stumbling around in the dark. You know what science says? It says that all the continents were together in one gigantic continent on one side of the Earth.
1st: I remember this from science class. I have also seen the NASA video on your site with the tectonic spreads.
Neal: When I first head the theory, I thought if I had my little spaceship and I was traveling through space and I came across this planet, and all the continents are all together on one side, and three quarters of the Earth is all ocean, five miles deep, I’d look at it and go, “This is the most messed up planet I have ever seen in my life. How did it get like that?” It wouldn’t make any sense to me. It came to my mind 40 years ago. It’s pretty funny. You might not think its funny. I think it’s funny as hell. It’s a giant continent on one side.
1st: I always wondered how they came to the conclusion that all the land masses were like that.
Neal: First of all they did what any 10-year-old boy would do. They said, “Gee it looks like Africa and South America fit together. Africa and South America seem like they could fit together.” Maybe they did, maybe they were together. The truth is they were together. Not only were they together, they don’t actually fit together. There is a 25 degree angle that you can’t compensate for if you push them together. What they found is that if you measure tectonic levels, which are like these layers, in Africa and you measure the ones in South America, they kind of fit together. Then if you study paleontology you discover certain dinosaurs lived on all seven continents at the same time. Well, you have to say that kind of proves that all the continents were together doesn’t it.
1st: It definitely leads to that kind of theory.
Neal: Right. If they were together there are only two ways they could be together. The first would be that the Earth was smaller, and all the continents were the crust of that smaller Earth. As [the Earth grew], that crust would have grown apart, split and moved apart. The dinosaurs didn’t really move. They just stayed on the surface they were on as the Earth would grow. Like an outer coating on a balloon, and you just blow the balloon up and they kind of stay in the section they’re at. They seem to move apart, but they don’t really move.
Or you could say all those continents were once shoved together in one giant continent on one side of the Earth and broke apart, and moved around the Earth. With that, you sort of have to come up with some concept, or theory, to move the continents around. What immediately comes to mind is those little Warner Brothers ants – the little guy with the trumpet in front taking your picnic away; carrying continents across the globe. The advantage that scientists had in those days was that they couldn’t visualize well. They somehow used the ocean as a way to imply that they floated, which is a little strange. So if you mentally take the ocean away and then you look at it, it is a little hard to imagine how those continents could have been together and floated apart.
What they have now are called rifts. They split and moved apart and that’s how the continents [shifted]. If they moved apart, if the rifts moved apart, where are all those pieces that are the oceans, now? Where are all those pieces? The thing that fights this stupid theory is that the continents are between 2 and 5 billion years old, while the ocean floor is only at its oldest 200 million years old. Most of it is under 70 million years old. So you’ve got 4 billion then 70 million. Originally, they figured that the ocean floor must be really ancient like the land, so they sent all these ships around the Earth and took plugs from the bottom of the ocean, and measured the age of the ocean. There are no ancient fish fossils under the ocean, so that was really troubling. Around the rifts it’s like no-years-old and the oddest it gets is like 180 million years old; at the beginning of the Jurassic period. Where do you go to find ancient fish fossils? Well, you go to Utah, you go to China, you go to Italy. You can find fish fossils in Utah that are 250 million years old, but you can’t find them at the bottom of the ocean. What it really means is that the bottom of the ocean wasn’t there. It is a little hard to conceive that the Earth could have grown.
1st: Everything else in life grows. Even the Sun expands in mass during its life cycle.
Neal: You would think that the Earth would have the same privileges as the Sun.
1st: Everything in nature grows.
Neal: It’s funny. It’s kind of a model. Or I’m wrong. The bad thing is, some scientists actually argued that the Earth grew, way back in the 1960’s. They all got shot down. The reason they got shot down was because those guys were geologists, and all they know is geology. They don’t know anything else, they know geology. So they get their asses kicked because people ask them physics questions. They say how it is possible for the Earth to grow. You can’t ask a geologist how it is possible for the Earth to grow because they are geologists. You need somebody in physics who believes in the possibility, to use physics to show how that’s possible. But if you did that, you see then you would have to say that all the stuff we have learned in the last 150 years is sort of wrong.
1st: Over time science changes. No one thinks the Earth is flat. We don’t use leaches anymore.
Neal: Actually… we do. So what you need is somebody who could study all the sciences, because all the books are out there. [You need someone] who is actually willing to spend two or three years on a problem, because he doesn’t have his teaching degree based on it and he doesn’t have to worry about tenure. [Somoene] who doesn’t have to worry about anything and is really not afraid of anything, to plow through all this stuff and make it clear. You need somebody whose livelihood doesn’t depend on if they are a geologist or a physicist. Somebody that is not a geologist or physicist and is willing to study it all and fill in all those little blank spaces.
If you can do that you might be able to justify how the Earth could possibly grow. The problem with that, which I thought at that time, was all I really have to do is show how the Earth grew. It seemed to me a limited goal, but it wasn’t. What happens is, it has all these connections to everything else. What you then find out is there was no big bang. Matter exists in a primitive stage all throughout the universe and we are floating in it’s pre-matter. You can’t identify it because it doesn’t extend its electromagnetic field outward. We have a growing universe, and everything is growing. Planets, moons, suns are growing. And there is no such thing as gravity, it is all electro-magnetic attraction, all these principals that we have lived by and we thought we understood. Theories we don’t understand are wrong. Because we started out 150 years ago with guys that said, “Well, this is how the universe worked – you had this big empty space and all this stuff. Gravity collected all this stuff into planets, suns and moons, and that’s how you get the universe. Since then we actually haven’t come up with a better theory than that. It is pretty much the theory that exists now.
Now, we say it was all compressed into this thing the size of a walnut or a football, or a barn – one of those three – and it all blew up, blasted out into space and then it all collected into suns and moons. Pretty much the same theory but it shows what it was before that. If that theory is right then it means that all the matter that exists always existed and always will exist. The same amount, world without end, Amen. And that it was never created. Or you go with the theory that what you have is this universe that was filled with pre-matter. You don’t know how it got there but it was something you couldn’t identify, call it dark matter. It filled the universe. Something happened to that pre-matter and a piece of matter was created, and then another, and another, until you had the universe you have today. If that’s the case then who turned off the off switch? Or if nobody turned it off, then the universe is still growing, matter is still being created and being created everywhere.
1st: Most scientists believe the universe is still expanding outward.
Neal: Well, that’s the thing about it. That’s what makes the joke. They say it’s expanding outward because that’s an explosion. But what I say, and what this theory says is true, is that the universe is growing. That’s why it’s expanding outward. It’s expanding outward just like a one-year-old baby who becomes a two-year-old baby. It’s growing. It’s not becoming less dense, the universe is a balance of negative and positive energy, and these two fields are always to remain in balance. So there has to be a given amount of stuff in a given amount of space and if there is more then they move away from each other. So as you make more, it grows. The cells of your body aren’t touching one another, they move apart and if you introduce more atoms in there your body will grow. That’s what’s happening to the universe. More matter is being created and the universe is growing. On the outer edges it seems like it is growing real fast, because it’s on the outer edges and we are multiplying because we are men. Not gigantic galactic beings. You think it’s happening fast, but it’s really not happening fast at all. We are just multiplying it outward. If it’s 100 million miles it’s this and if you go 100 miles more it doubles that, and if you go another 100 million miles it doubles that, and if you go another 100 million miles it doubles that. All we’re doing is watching it happen. We are watching the growth of our universe.
The impression that scientists are now giving us is more stupid impressions – the universe is moving outward, dissipating. We are alone as a speck in the middle of the universe, and we will never see our neighbors because they will be so far away. This is just so much bullshit. It makes so little sense. It goes against everything else we know. Everything else we know grows outward. Even crystals grow. We live in a universe, balanced negative and positive perfectly, and as new matter is created out of pre-matter, it gains an electro-magnetic field that faces outward, instead of an electro-magnetic field that faces inward. That is why we can’t identify it. Now we have an outward facing electro magnetic field. The balance of the negative and positive of that electro-magnetic field means it needs to take up some more room to grow. That’s how the universe works. It’s really quite simple, and I am either right or wrong. If I am right, everything we know has to change. Fuck ‘em if they can’t take a joke. That’s what I say.
I don’t mean to make a fuss of it, but when I was doing comic books I said, “We really should be getting 64 colors, instead of 32 colors. It’s just that we are not getting tone yellow, guys.” They said to me, “You’re an idiot. You don’t know what you are talking about. It’s too expensive to get the tone yellow, and we are just going to make due with the solid yellow.” I said, “Why don’t you call the separator and ask how much it would cost for tone yellow, Sol? Marvel Comics is getting tone yellow, I don’t think they are paying any more money for it, are they?”
He said, “Let me explain it to you, every plate costs money. You have 100% blue, you have 50% blue, you have 25% blue, you have 100% red, you have 50% red, you have 25% red, you have 100% yellow, you don’t need 50 and 25% yellow.” I said, “Oh yes you do, because you can’t make flesh color, and that’s what you have at DC Comics, you have pink flesh. You can’t make all the other subtle colors. You add those two colors, Sol. If you add those two colors, by simple mathematics instead of 32 colors you have 64 colors. You add two more colors, you multiply with the other colors, and you get 64 colors. DC Comics has half the color that Marvel has. How does that make sense to you? Sol said, “Its economics. We’re not paying for it.”
So I slipped the info. to the president of the company through Joe Kubert. “How come we don’t get as many colors as Marvel, Jack?” Jack said, “What?!” Joe told him, “We don’t have tone yellow. Marvel has tone yellow. Are they paying a lot more then we are?” Jack said, “God damn it. Harrison, get in here, what’s going on? What’s this thing about tone yellow, we’re getting less color then Marvel?” Sol, said, “It would be more expensive.” Jack said, “Call them up and find out how much more expensive.” It turns out the same guy is doing the separations for both Marvel and DC. Sol calls and asks, “Angelo, how much more would it cost us to get tone yellow?” setting up the conversation of course.
[When the conversation ended, Sol said,] “It turns out Jack, it wouldn’t cost us any more to get tone yellow, we will get it from now on. He asked me if I wanted it, and I said, ‘Yeah.’” Jack said, “Fine. No more money?” Sol replied, “No. No, we’re fine.”
How long did that conversation take? Half a minute and DC Comics had twice as many colors. By asking.
That’s why I would say to Sol, “Just ask.” In another conversation, Sol would say, “You can’t put more than 250% of a color on anything. If you put 100% red, 100 % blue, you can’t put 100% yellow, you have to take one of the colors out, it’s too much color. It will slide off the paper.” I said, “It will slide off the papers.” Sol replied, “You don’t understand if you have too much ink on a certain area of the press the paper will slide.” I said, “I have heard about this principal, that’s why they don’t put too much color under black, Sol. But, we are printing on toilet paper, we are not printing on coated stock. But, even if we did, you could take more then 250% of color. Its comic book paper, it’s the cheapest paper you can buy. It will soak up ink like a sponge.”
Sol said, “You don’t know what you are talking about, God damn it. Get the $@#% out of here.” The next day Sol said, “I just saw the color guides for the new Batman, am I right, the sky is solid, yellow, solid red, solid blue?” I said, “Yes Sol, that is more than 250% of a color, so I guess the page is going to slide.” Sol said, “Yeah.” Neal replied, “Then they will tell you, right?” Sol: “Son of a bitch.” Neal: “It’s already off at the separators.” Sol:“God damn it.” Neal: “You could call it back, Sol.” Sol: “No.”
Suddenly another one goes down, the paper didn’t slide around.
Neal: There are things that, if you understand science, will happen and won’t happen. And I have depended, at various times in my career, that the science will work. You can depend on the science.
I live in a world of science. And that is what the universe is. It doesn’t seem like it should relate to comics books and I’m sure a lot of people will laugh in the end. But in the end it really is that. It shouldn’t not make sense.
1st: Everything should make sense; everything should be fairly straitforward.
Neal: That’s what I say. Every new advance in science makes sense and makes everything seem simpler. It’s like when we discovered atoms. We discovered everything is made out of atoms. Now everyone wants to make it complicated again. They are going around telling everyone how complicated it is, and me, I’m this comic book guy, who’s trying to keep things simple. I don’t think it’s complicated and I don’t think there are all these little particles. You can put all the names on them you want. I think there is one, period. If you split it in half, you have a positive and a negative. It’s sort of like this.. you have a zero universe, okay, you have zero particle, as you split them apart becomes negative and one becomes positive and that’s how the universe works. All those little particles are trying to get back together to become zero. If you can find a way to keep them apart, you can have matter. That’s it. No more complicated then that. You get plus one and minus one. That’s why we have so many plus ones and minus ones. You came from a zero. Well there you go, now you have something to think about.
1st: Well, thank you very much for your time.
To visit Neal Adams on the web go to www.nealadams.com
Neal’s Batman redesign
Batman of tomorrow