Neal Adams, Influential Comic-Book Artist and Advocate, Dead at 80

Neal Adams in 1979. Photo: Jones/Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Neal Adams, influential comic-book artist and advocate for creators’ rights, has died at age 80, Deadline reports. According to his daughter-in-law Saori Adams, he died on April 28. Adams worked on a wide array of iconic superhero characters, including DC’s Batman and Joker and Marvel’s X-Men and Avengers. “Neal Adams was an amazing illustrator, he changed comics,” DC publisher and chief creative officer Jim Lee said in a statement. “I loved his take on Batman. It was lithe, acrobatic, and dynamic. Neal’s work continues to inspire me. This is a huge loss for the entire industry.”

Born in 1941 on New York’s Governors Island, Adams studied at the School of Industrial Arts in New York City. His early work on the Ben Casey newspaper comic strip helped him launch an artistic career that spanned nearly six decades and led him to big names like DC and Marvel. In 1970, he illustrated a scene in which an elderly Black man confronts Green Lantern for not paying enough attention to the concerns of people of color. Vulture named it one of the most notable pages in the history of the American comic book. Adams created the scene with writer Dennis O’Neil, a frequent collaborator of his. The pair were responsible for reviving Two-Face and creating the character of Ra’s al Ghul. They were also the force behind one of DC’s first Black superheroes, John Stewart.

However, Adams’s career expanded beyond his artwork for comics. In 1971, he and Dick Giordano co-founded Continuity Studios, a company that created graphic design, movie storyboards, and advertisement art. Adams was also known for passionately advocating for creators’ rights; in the 1970s, he helped unionize the comic-book industry and worked to form the Comic Creators Guild. His efforts also led DC to credit and compensate Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. In 1998, he was inducted into the Eisner Award’s Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame. The following year, he was inducted into the Harvey Awards’ Jack Kirby Hall of Fame. And in 2019, he was inducted into the Inkwell Awards Joe Sinnott Hall of Fame in 2019 for his lifetime achievement. “R.I.P. Neal Adams,” Guillermo del Toro tweeted in response to his death, “one of the first and great stylists to push USA comics to a new level.”

Neal Adams, Influential Comic-Book Artist, Dead at 80