From The Hollywood Reporter"Neal Adams, Comic Book Artist Who Revitalized Batman and Fought for Creators’ Rights, Dies at 80"

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Ah, what a shame.

One of the most influential artists of the latter half of the 20th century. Perhaps not the best writer of comics, but his artwork was something else. 

Neal Adams basically embarrassed DC/Warner Brothers into providing better financial treatment to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster when Superman the movie was released. And he pushed for the companies to return the pages to the artists, which, as The Hollywood Reporter pointed out, became an additional income stream for them. That's an even better legacy than creating gorgeous images (like this one, from Superman vs. Muhammad Ali).

The Hollywood Reporter article is excellent. The first time I saw his art I was blown away. As wonderful as his art was, his hard work on creators' rights was extremely important. It shook up the industry in a very positive way.

His death from sepsis (blood poisoning) was likely caused by an out-of-control infection. In the first year of Gayle's battle with cancer she came close to dying from sepsis.

An undisputed giant in the field.

He will truly be missed. 

Another legend has left us. 

He was incredible... both behind the scenes and on the page. 

It's on the page that I knew him, and his art never disappointed. I had the tabloid of the first Ra's Al Ghul story, and there are some images there I'll never forget. I knew Batman from reruns of the TV show, and probably a few comics by that point... but reading that story, it clicked. "Oh...THIS is why people love Batman!"

I have that tabloid, too. It's Limited Collector's Edition C-51, August 1977, reprinting Batman #232 (June 1971) and Batman #242-#244 (June-September 1972). 

This is definitely one of those cases where the bigger page size emphasizes the spectacle of the story ... so that you overlook its flaws. These and other, earlier appearances of Ra's al-Ghul are collected in a different book, Batman: Tales of the Demon, and in the foreword writer Denny O'Neil points out some of the plot holes. One I spotted even when I read it the first time: Matches Malone. 

(Do I need a spoiler for a 51-year-old story? If so, here it is: )

Matches Malone is introduced in Batman #242 (June 1972) and dies on the next page, when he shoots at Batman in a restaurant kitchen and the bullet ricochets and hits him.

Batman went to recruit Malone for a team to go after Ra's al-Ghul, and after this accident, he (and Robin) impersonates Malone ... but why? None of the other people on the team have even heard of Matches Malone. And when they fly to Switzerland to begin their assault, Batman-as-Malone makes an excuse while at the airport to get away from the others ("You guys check in the hotel! I'm gonna look up a pal! We once shared a cell! Meet ya for eats!") and is not seen or mentioned in the rest of the story.

Unfortunately, neither Limited Collector's Edition C-51 nor Batman: Tales of the Demon include Batman #245 (October 1971), which ties up one loose end in the saga proper. Also in Batman #242, to facilitate the planned assault on Ra's al-Ghul's lair, there's a bogus news story that Bruce Wayne has died in a "jungle plane crash," which frees Batman to be away for several months, as he tells Commissioner Gordon. In #245, Batman returns to Gotham, and there is a mayoral election under way -- and one candidate is accusing the other of murdering Wayne. Batman considers both candidates to be corrupt and comes off as pretty disdainful of having to bother to prove the story isn't true. But in the end, another newspaper headline declares "BRUCE WAYNE FOUND ALIVE! GOTHAM MILLIONAIRE SURVIVES JUNGLE PLANE CRASH!"

Then there's this classic image:

Of course I bought it when it came out, and still have it. 

Neal Adams did a variation of this for ESPN Magazine, Jan. 1, 2000 issue, illustrating the "Champions of the Century" as voted by its writers: 

The image features Muhammad Ali boxing Michael Jordan (Why? Por qué preguntar por qué?), and also includes Magic Johnson, Josh Gibson, Jackie Robinson, Wayne Gretzky, Secretariat, Billie Jean King, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and more. 

And fortunately, I got a print of this for my birthday 10 years ago:

From Comic Book Artist #16 by Jon B. Cooke:

While the Academy of Comic Book Arts (ACBA) was established to be a kind of funnybook Motion Picture Academy-a self-congratulatory organization focused on banquets and awards-it quickly served as a soapbox for the Angry Young Men in the industry, primarily Neal Adams, Archie Goodwin, and their ilk of educated, informed and gutsy artists and writers, self-confident and filled with a strong sense of self-worth, attitudes sadly absent from the field for decades. If the shameless ill treatment of such as the poverty-stricken team of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, creators of Superman (the character that turned the industry into an undeniable success) by the very publisher they put on top would inform the '70s workers, it was, "We'd better look out for what's ours." It was time to demand equity and respect from the publishers. (Jeff Rovin recalled, "I can't tell you how many times Martin would listen to some of the things Neal Adams was saying and mutter, 'Who the hell does he think he is?'")

Ahh so sad to read this. Neal Adams was one of the greatest comic book artists ever. He is right up there with Kirby in terms of his influence on his peers and those that followed. He always seemed so energetic and youthful, I thought he would go on for many more years.

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