Neal Adams, the legendary comic book artist who drew Batman, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, the X-Men, the Avengers and countless more superheroes, has died, his daughter confirmed to Variety. He was 80.
Adams was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame, one of the highest honors in the comic book industry, in 1998. A year later, he was ushered into the Harvey Awards’ Jack Kirby Hall of Fame, and he was honored in the Inkwell Awards Joe Sinnott Hall of Fame in 2019.
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He was born in New York City on June 15, 1941, and got his start in the comic book world drawing for Archie Comics in 1959 after being rejected by DC Comics. After working on several comic strips and horror magazines, Adams began freelancing at DC in 1967 on the series “Our Army at War.” His first superhero gig came with the covers of “Action Comics,” DC’s flagship Superman series, and “Superman’s Girl Friend, Lois Lane.”
It was during this Silver Age of Comics, where the medium was pushing artistic boundaries and finding financial success, that Adams’ career began to take off. He drew Batman and the supernatural hero the Spectre, two of the most iconic characters featured in his long career, in early 1968. He also took over drawing the hero Deadman, a ghostly character who could possess people and who became a hit with readers.
In 1969, Adams began freelancing for both DC and Marvel, where he drew the X-Men and the popular Kree-Skrull War storyline of the Avengers series. After collaborating with writer Dennis O’Neil on an “X-Men” run, where they brought Professor X back to life, Adams and O’Neil worked together most notably on the “Batman” series, where they revitalized the iconic character and brought the Caped Crusader back to his darker, broodier roots.
Adams helped bring to life some of Batman’s most recognizable villains in new storylines, like Joker and Two-Face, and co-created Ra’s Al Ghul and Man-Bat. O’Neil and Adams also teamed up on the successful “Green Lantern/Green Arrow” series, where they tackled real-world issues like racism, drug addiction, pollution and more. They created Green Lantern’s John Stewart, who was one of the first leading Black superheroes in comics; launched the then-controversial storyline that Speedy, Green Arrow’s sidekick, was addicted to heroin; and redesigned Green Arrow to give him an updated costume and his iconic goatee.
In addition to his artistry, Adams was a major champion of comic creators’ rights and helped modernize the industry’s practices of returning original work to the artists. In 1978, he co-founded the Comic Creators Guild. In 1987, he won a legal battle with Marvel that returned artwork to him and legendary artist Jack Kirby, and he helped lobby for Superman creators Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel to receive overdue compensation from DC.
Adams is survived by his wife Marilyn; sons Josh, Jason and Joel; daughters Kris and Zeea; grandchildren Kelly, Kortney, Jade, Sebastian, Jane and Jaelyn; and great-grandson Maximus.
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