Exclusive: Comics Hall of Famer Neal Adams on his best loved covers - Part 2

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Yesterday we were treated to a captivating master class on comic book covers from a true visionary of his craft, Neal Adams, and now here's the conclusion of that fascinating sit-down with the Eisner Award-winning artist.

From Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, and Green Arrow to the X-Men, Conan, Dracula, the Spectre, Man-Thing, and legions more, Adams brought a punctuated personality to any superhero or supervillain he ever put pencils to. His evocative covers are some of the most collectible and memorable in the comic book universe, and we've assembled 25 classics for the indefatigable innovator to discuss.

Adams has been conjuring up these vibrant covers for 50 years, most recently with his new Deadman mini-series, returning to his roots, to the character of Boston Brand, since first drawing him back in 1967. It's as impressive a resume as one can attain in a lifetime, and he's still going strong today!

Pull up a chair and let's plunge into the second half of this impressive gathering of stunning covers as SYFY WIRE sits down with the native New Yorker to learn the secrets behind the birth of these amazing artworks, direct from the mind of the master.

Here's Part 2 of this exclusive exploration. Absorb them all, then tell us which of Adams' covers strike you as exquisite examples of the art!

 

The list below starts at #14; click here to check out #1-13 from Part 1 of our interview.

14. Dracula Lives #3 (1973)

This was reproduced fairly well and it was an epitome to me of the perfect Dracula scene in a movie. That's what I was really looking for; the hero is running and trying to catch Dracula, but they're on the edge of the parapet... what going to happen? Is he going to throw her over? Is he going to turn into a bat? What the hell is going to happen? This is that moment where you're in the movie, you're watching the movie, and the next scene is going to be the entire movie. We managed to get all these elements, you've got people running across the parapets and this guy here with the gargoyle creature over there all fitting together and it's really nice. This is making a composition you almost can never make unless you sit for days and days and work it out and then everybody goes, "Oh my God, that's a great composition." (laughs) That's what you want! Look at how his head goes right up perfectly in the lettering and goes right up next to Dracula. Look how the girl is draped over and fits into his cape. It's all storytelling images.

15. The Spectre #3 (1968)

How do you present three characters? You make a triangle, and I'm sure this scene doesn't appear in the book. This is a Spectre book and In reality I was introducing two characters so you give them equal play. Wildcat didn't appear before this and so you make him the star of the cover and then you do Earth below, which is like a fog, it's just a texture, it doesn't mean anything. Earth below is still there to see but you can see how simplistic the color is. If that were colored normal it would be a real Earth. But it's just a purple. It's done because we were doing covers for $50 a page. It's sort of like giving somebody crayons and saying, "Make a great illustration." And they say, "You can't make a great illustration out of crayons." And then somebody does and you go, "My god, you can do that!"

16. Detective Comics #404 (1970)

Out of my love of Joe Kubert and his work I did what I considered to be a Joe Kubert cover. Now that's not the way Joe Kubert does Batman, that's the way I do Batman, but that's the way Joe Kubert does Enemy Ace, and I think I did a really good job. This is one of my proudest covers because I jammed a lot of stuff in there, yet I made it look airy and I did what Joe Kubert does. I created atmosphere and put the action in the atmosphere and that's what he does all the time. He did this Enemy Ace character for many years and you always got the feeling of sky and openness. Fantastic work! This led to me pencilling one of Enemy Ace's books that Joe Kubert inked, so I got the privilege of pencilling for Joe Kubert.

17. Batman #227 (1970)

Of course that's a take-off of an old Bob Kane cover, a rather horrible drawing originally, but again, famous and iconic. This came out of two things. It came out of Julie Schwartz, the DC editor, wanting to do an homage to the old Bob Kane cover, but really getting in on the concept of gothic horror. His point of view was that gothic horror was selling and how do I get in on the game? Oh, I'll have Neal do a take-off on the old Bob Kane cover. So it was kind of a trick and it's become one of my iconic covers. He was looking at the commercial aspect and wanting to try the gothic horror concept on Batman and it worked. So really I don't even deserve any credit for that. It's Julie Schwartz.

18. House of Mystery #181 (1969)

Well, it's that thing about putting kids in an adult situation. That silhouette could be anybody, it could be their father. For kids to be examining this thing, and suddenly the girl looks up and there's this somebody clearly in the light and clearly out of the picture, for a kid that's scary and you want to know the story. I pencilled that cover once and Vinnie Colletta, an inker who has probably destroyed more pencillers' work than any five inkers, begged me to do a cover to show me what he could do. I finally relented because he worked on me so hard and I gave it to him and he did such a terrible job that I pencilled it over and inked it myself. It was awful.

19. Batman #221 (1970)

It's a weird cover because in a time where a cover should take a lot of time, and you're only paid 50 bucks for a cover, to contrive a cover like that is kind of foolish. Because you should take a sufficient amount of time to do a really constructed composition, like the Dracula painting. You should go through that process. I just didn't have the time or the energy so I basically did a cheat. Pieces don't fit together but they look like they fit together. It looks as though I knew what I was doing. (laughs)

20. Superman #233 (1971)

Since I was a kid I always wanted to do Superman breaking chains on his chest, and then when they asked me to do it I didn't have any time. It took me maybe three hours. It's a piece of crap. I was in the middle of it and the editor, I think it was Julie Schwartz, said "We want to put 'Kryptonite Nevermore' between his legs." And I said it will never fit between his legs, those are two big words. And he said, "Come on Neal, you can fit it." And I said, well yeah, I can spread his legs. One leg is longer than the other. We call it perspective. Sure! Right! I thought this cover would disappear into the pile of stuff and it haunts me. I can't feel bad about it because it's part of my legacy I guess you could say. But it's a crappy cover and everybody loves it. They fall in love with it. You can get this on pegboard, on pressboard, on canvas, on three-dimensional cutouts, you can get it on your lunchbox, on sheets and pillowcases. You can get it on anything. S*** happens, it really does!

21. Strange Adventures #207 (1967)

How do you draw an idea? Which one is my killer? One of the ways you do it is you put people that look familiar but you don't know who they are. Every one of those people are a person. And most of them worked on staff at DC Comics. It was an opportunity to do illustrations of everybody in the office. And so if somebody said, "is that a good idea for a cover?", it's clearly a great idea for a cover. There's no doubt in my mind that if you did that on any cover of any comic book it would sell. Because you wonder, and especially if you make them look like people that might be people. Maybe somewhere inside they'll tell you who they are! Is this my first Deadman cover? Well, it's probably a good idea then.

22. Batman #251 (1973)

I can tell you, we were reintroducing the Joker because we had avoided doing stories about clowns. Denny O'Neil and I were doing stories that were not clown oriented and we were sort of pushed into the position of having to do the clowns. So Denny wrote a more vicious Joker than we've seen in the past. But the idea was, how do you re-present a character that you've known, and yet show the hero? Because the best you can do is do them profile to profile. But the Joker doesn't work profile, it's not good. You always want him front-on. So how do you show front-on Batman and front-on Joker? Put Batman on a playing card and have him thrust toward the audience. It's a trick to get you to look at both of them front-on. And it worked, because nobody questions it. It makes all the sense in the world. What a great re-introduction to the Joker, too!

23. Monsters Unleashed #3 (1973)

Did you notice I did a lot of girls with their blouses torn open? There's something about that that's very intriguing. I don't know why that is. (laughs) Anyway, there's a swamp creature in DC Comics and a swamp creature at Marvel Comics. Marvel has Man-Thing and DC has Swamp Thing but both of them come from another character that appeared in comic books before that called The Heap. And The Heap was the original swamp creature they were both based on. When I was a kid I read Heap comics so it was a natural for me to do this. And you'll notice that he's actually doing things like a monster, people he's grabbing are like rag dolls. He's not trying to hurt them. Like I think this girl in the foreground is safe too, she's just going to get hurled aside. He's not really trying to do anything.

24. X-Men #63 (1969)

This is another way to introduce a character without introducing a character to make her seem so powerful that she could in fact overcome all the X-Men. And that was just a trick to get the audience to buy the comic book. I mean that was the whole point of it, I didn't even do the silhouette of that girl. Whatever it was I had in there got re-done by Marie Severin. Isn't that weird? It's a very simple trick. Make somebody mysterious seem like they're incredibly powerful, that they can win the game, but don't show them. Make the audience buy the comic book to read it to find out who that is. As it turned out, she ended up being a secondary character anyway. Compositionally it is fun, it's a little erratic. Nowadays I would tend to be a little more organized so that there's a place to sign it. There's not even a place to sign it!

25. Weird Western Tales #15 (1973)

Yeah, horses. More horses. I followed a lot of artists that did horses and it's this idea of pulling to a stop, pulling back like that and drawing a gun at the same time. To me, that drawing is the thing that brings you into the comic book. It's not the poster, the Wanted: El Diablo, or those guys over there. It's this guy on a horse and you say, "Am I going to see more stuff like that inside? I want to buy that comic book." It's an art oriented comic cover and that's really all it is. And sometimes that's all it needs to be. If you can intrigue people with a piece of art that's dynamic and has a kind of life to it, they will buy the comic to find out what goes on inside. It's like a movie poster. Am I gonna see that in the movie? I want that!

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