Batman: Illustrated by Neal Adams volume 1 


By Neal Adams with Bob Haney, Leo Dorfman, Cary Bates & various (DDC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-0041-1 (HC): 978-1-4012-3537-6 (2003 PB) 978-1-4012-7782-6 (2018 TPB edition)   

I’m doing this far too frequently, these days, but here’s a swiftly modified reprinted review to mark the sudden passing of one of our industry and art form’s last true titans. Neal Adams died on the 28th of April. As well as a creator and innovator who changed the entire direction of comics and sequential narrative, he was a tireless activist and advocate whose efforts secured rights for workers and creators long victimised by an unfair, stacked, system. A fuller appreciation and more comprehensive review will follow as soon as I can sort it… 

Neal Adams was born on Governors Island, New York City, on June 15th 1941. His family were career military and he grew up on bases across the world. In the late 1950s he studied at the High School of Industrial Art in Manhattan, graduating in 1959. 

As the turbulent, revolutionary 1960s began, Adams was a young illustrator who had worked in advertising and ghosted some newspaper strips whilst trying to break into comics. As he pursued a career in advertising and “real art”, he did a few comics pages for Joe Simon at Archie Comics (The Fly and that red-headed kid too) before subsequently becoming one of the youngest artists to co-create and illustrate a major licensed newspaper strip – Ben Casey (based on a popular TV medical drama series). His first attempts to find work at DC were not successful… 

That comic book fascination never faded however, and as the decade progressed, Adams drifted back to National/DC doing a few covers as inker or penciller. After “breaking in” via anthological war comics he eventually found himself at the vanguard of a revolution in pictorial storytelling… 

He made such a mark that DC chose celebrate his contributions by reprinting every piece of work Adams ever did for them in a series of commemorative collections. We’re still waiting for a definitive collection of his horror comics stories and covers, but will probably never see his sterling efforts on licensed titles such as Hot Wheels, The Adventures of Bob Hope and The Adventures of Jerry Lewis. That’s a real shame too: the display a wry facility for gag staging and small drama… 

Batman: Illustrated by Neal Adams was the first of 3 tomes available in  variety of formats and editions featuring the “Darknight Detective” – as he was dubbed back then – and featuring every cover, story and issue in original publication order. 

Here then, ‘From Me to You: An Introduction’ gives you the history of his early triumphs in the writer/artist’s own words, after which covers from Detective Comics #370 (December 1967, inking Carmine Infantino) and the all-Adams Brave and the Bold #75 (January 1968), Detective #372 (February), B&B #76 (February/March), Batman #200 and World’s Finest Comics #174 (both March) serve as tasters for the first full-length narrative… 

The iconoclastic penciller first started seriously making waves with a couple of enthralling Cape & Cowl capers beginning with World’s Finest Comics #175 (April 1968): ‘The Superman-Batman Revenge Squads!’ Scripted by Leo Dorfman and inked by long-term collaborator Dick Giordano, the story detailed how an annual – and friendly – battle of wits between the crimebusters is infiltrated by alien and Earthly criminal groups intent on killing their foes whilst they are off-guard… 

WFC #176 (June) featured a beguiling enigma in ‘The Superman-Batman Split!’ – written by fellow newcomer Cary Bates. Ostensibly just another alien mystery yarn, this twisty little gem conceals a surprise ending for all, plus guest stars Robin, Jimmy Olsen, Supergirl and Batgirl, with Adams’ hyper-dynamic realism lending an aura of solid credibility to even the most fanciful situations. 

It also ushered in an era of gritty veracity to replace previously anodyne and frequently frivolous Costumed Dramas… 

More Dynamite Covers follow: Batman #203 (July/August) leads to Brave and the Bold #79 (August/September); heralding Adams’ assumption of interior art chores and launching a groundbreaking run that rewrote the rulebook for strip illustration… 

‘The Track of the Hook’ – written by Bob Haney and inked Giordano – paired the Gotham Guardian with justice-obsessed ghost Deadman: formerly trapeze artist Boston Brand who was hunting his own killer, and whose earthy, human tragedy elevated the series’ costume theatrics into deeper, more mature realms of drama and action. At this period Adams was writing and illustrating Brand’s solo stories in Strange Adventures…  

The B&B stories matured overnight, instantly became every discerning fan’s favourite read.  

Covers for World’s Finest Comics #178-180 (September through November) segue sweetly into Brave and the Bold #80 (October/November 1968) where ‘And Hellgrammite is his Name’ finds Batman and The Creeper clashing with a monstrous, insect-themed super-hitman, again courtesy of Haney, Adams & Giordano, whilst #81 saw The Flash aid Batman against an unbeatable thug in ‘But Bork Can Hurt You!’ (inked by Giordano & Vince Colletta) before Aquaman became ‘The Sleepwalker from the Sea’ in an eerie tale of mind-control and sibling rivalry. 

Interwoven through those thrillers are the covers for World’s Finest #182 (February 1969, inking Curt Swan’s pencils), #183 (March, inking over Infantino), Batman #210 and Detective #385 (both March and all Adams). 

B&B # 83 took a radical turn (and is the only story herein without a cover since that one was limned by Irv Novick) as The Teen Titans try to save Bruce Wayne’s latest foster-son from his own inner demons in ‘Punish Not my Evil Son!’ (Haney & Giordano) but the next team-up was one that got many fans in a real tizzy in 1969. 

First though comes the fabulous frontage for World’s Finest #185 (June 1969) after which ‘The Angel, the Rock and the Cowl’ recounts a World War II exploit where Batman and Sgt. Rock of Easy Company hunt Nazi gold together, only closing that case 25 years later. 

Try to ignore kvetching about relative ages and which Earth we’re on: you should really focus on the fact that this is a startlingly gripping tale of great intensity, beautifully realised, and one which has been criminally discounted for decades as “non-canonical”. 

Detective Comics #389 (July), and World’s Finest #186 (August and pencilled by Infantino) precede Brave and the Bold #85. Here, behind a stunning cover, is arguably the best of an incredible run of action adventures… 

‘The Senator’s Been Shot!’ unites Batman and Green Arrow in a superb multi-layered thriller of politics, corruption and cast-iron integrity, with Bruce Wayne being appointed as a stand-in for a law-maker whilst the Emerald Archer receives a radical make-over that turned him into a fiery liberal gadfly and champion of the relevancy generation: a remake that still informs his character today, both in funnybooks and on TV screens… 

Wrapping up this initial artistic extravaganza come covers for Detective Comics #391 and 392 (September & October 196), completing a delirious run of comics masterpieces no ardent art lover or fanatical Fights ‘n’ Tights aficionado can do without and confirming the unique and indisputable contribution Adams made to comics.s.
© 1967, 1968, 1969, 2003, 2018 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.