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The Greatest Neal Adams Stories Ever Told!

Every day in November we will reveal the greatest stories ever told starring a particular character or written/drawn by a particular creator (and throughout the month, you’ll get daily chances to vote for NEXT week’s lists). These lists are voted on by YOU, the reader!

Here is the list of characters/creators featured so far (along with the rules on how to vote).

Today’s list is the Greatest Neal Adams Stories Ever Told!

Enjoy!

For the sake of fitting as many different comics on to the list as possible, I combined votes for stories within a few of Adams’ longer continuous runs (if someone voted for two stories in the same run, the run got credit for the higher point total and then the other votes on that person’s ballot were just moved up a notch). For those curious, I’ll list which specific story got the most votes when I get to that section).

10. Detective Comics #400, 402, 407 “The Man-Bat Saga”

Working with writer Frank Robbins, Adams created the classic Batman adversary, Man-Bat. The initial story of Man-Bat took place over three spread out issues. Adams was inked by Dick Giordano on all three issues.

9. Batman #237 “Night of the Reaper”

Denny O’Neil wrote this chilling tale of how revenge can warp one’s mind in this Halloween issue that was one of the many comic books that used the real life Halloween celebration in Rutland, VT (along with its organizer, the late Tom Fagan) as its inspiration. Adams was inked by Dick Giordano for this issue.

8. All-New Collectors’ Edition #C-56 “Superman vs. Muhammad Ali”

In this over-sized edition, Adams (who worked with Denny O’Neil on the story) depicts the tale of how Muhammad Ali and Superman first fight and then later fight together to stop an alien invasion of Earth. This event was a spectacle in the best sense of the word. The special was inked by Dick Giordano and his assistants (Terry Austin did a ton of work on it, for instance).

7. The Brave and the Bold #85 “The Senators Has Been Shot!”

In this issue, written by Bob Haney, Adams introduced the famous re-design for Green Arrow that would soon became a major part of the Green Lantern/Green Arrow team-ups. Dick Giordano inked Adams.

6. Strange Adventures #206-216, The Brave and the Bold #86 “The Deadman Saga”

Neal Adams took over the art for Deadman after his first appearance in Strange Adventures #205. Adams then helped mold the character for the rest of the character’s initial story (where assassinated circus acrobat Boston Brand finds himself stuck in a state between life and death as he searches to find out who murdered him). Five of the last six stories were written by Adams as well as drawn by him (he inked himself during the run, as well)! The Brave and the Bold #86, the conclusion of the tale, got the most individual support.

5. Avengers #93-97 “The Kree-Skrull War”

Adams did the art for parts 5-8 of the nine-part epic storyline putting the Avengers in the middle of a conflict through two of Marvel’s most famous alien races. Tom Palmer inked Adams.

4. X-Men #56-63, 65

This run is really two distinct stories, one about the X-Men versus the Sentinels and one with the X-Men in the Savage Land versus Magneto (plus a final issue #65). Written by Roy Thomas, with inks by Tom Palmer, the most popular of the two storylines was the first one, with Cyclops’ last stand getting special support.

3. Green Lantern/Green Arrow #76-87, 89 “Hard Traveling Heroes”

This classic long-running storyline by Adams and writer Denny O’Neil saw Green Lantern and Green Arrow tour the United States looking for “America.” They also went on some outer space adventures, as well. The highest vote-getting story amongst the issues was the two-parter in #85-86 that dealt with Green Arrow’s ward, Speedy, getting addicted to drugs. Adams was inked by a variety of inkers on this run.

2. Batman #243-244 “The Demon Lives Again”

The conclusion of the initial story arc involving Ra’s Al Ghul, Adams, with writer Denny O’Neil and inker Dick Giordano, created a masterfully powerful work here, with imagery that more or less exemplified this era in Batman history (barechested Batman refusing to die, Batman and Talia making out – this Batman is one hell of an action hero).

1. Batman #251 “Joker’s Five-Way Revenge”

O’Neil, Adams and Giordano also teamed up for this famous issue, the story that re-defined the Joker for a new generation of Batman readers. One of the most iconic Batman stories of all-time, it also has one of Adams’ most iconic images (Batman racing down the beach chasing the Joker).

Well, that’s the list! Agree? Disagree? Let me know!

(For the record, if the stories were not combined, then the order would have been:

1. Batman #251
2. Batman #243-244
3. Green Lantern/Green Arrow #85-86
4. Green Lantern/Green Arrow #76
5. X-Men #56-59
6. Avengers #93-96
7. X-Men #60-63
8. The Brave and the Bold #86
9. The Brave and the Bold #85
10. Strange Adventures #206-216)

32 Comments

Neal Adams was one of the reasons I got into comic books in the first place. I miss that modern style of drawing that I don’t see with the new generation.

And all these stories classic!!

I’m always surprised everyone loves Joker’s Five-Way Revenge so much. OK, it restores the character as a killer, but it’s not one of O’Neil and Adams’ best story, and the Joker is just a killer, not the insane killer that makes him so compelling.

I am pleased his Marvel stuff rated so highly. I was always disappointed Adams didn’t do more work with Marvel. His Avengers was gorgeous (probably my favourite run on the title), and his X-Men was superb. Tom Palmer I think was Adams’ best inker.

Great list! There are some who trash Adams based on Odyssey but they would do well to remember that he was and still is awesome, nothing short of a legend. Personally I’ve only read a few issues of the GL/GA run. I think most of this stuff is available in reprint but I’ve heard its been recolored in an unappealing way. Does anyone know the story on that?

Graeme – “and the Joker is just a killer, not the insane killer that makes him so compelling.”

I disagree. I think one murder in particular symbolizes what I think works best with the Joker, madness & intelligence. The scene where he gives one of his ex-gang members a cigar that turns out to be filled with nitroglycerin.

A crazy idea on the one hand, but he’s smart enough to know how to do it without getting himself blown up. Then he confronts his victim, who even figures it’s an exploding cigar (just the harmless kind, however) & Joker admits it & as the guy lights up the Joker is leaving, calmly, he knows exactly how much time he has before it goes off.

I do agree the story has its problems, but that scene really works for me.

Dammit I meant to vote in this one! How close did Ghost of the Killer Skies get?

It’s amazing how many of my favourite Batman stories are drawn by Neal Adams…

5-Way Revenge has one of the all-time best examples of Batman badassery, where he kills a shark underwater despite wearing handcuffs… Even Morrison and Miller have never had him do anything as cool as that.

I love his runs on the Avengers and X-Men. Unfortunately, I’ve never read any of his DC stuff. It amazes me that he worked in the Silver Age and he’s still drawing comics all these years later like Batman: Odyssey.

Didn’t vote for this, but the story that came to mind was Ant-Man’s Journey to the Center of the Android (which I guess is covered under Kree/Skrull war. Great, trippy stuff.

Most of the other stories that came to mind were on this list, a darn good sampling.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

November 19, 2011 at 6:19 am

I’ve o Lu recently begun to appreciate Adams work.
It newer clicked with me, but neither did much older stuff, until I had my road to d,as us moment with Kirby, and my appreciation for The early guys grew. Then after enjoying Ditko, Kirby, Kane, I was able to see why he was an important figure as well – that he was still aped up until the 90’s was what made that harder to see.
I’ve been getting his Batman in those nice white covered hardcovers, thought my fave is Superman and Ali. I think the coloring is only an issue if you are used to the original look – it looks better to me than the originals, yet keeps the flavor of the era.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

November 19, 2011 at 6:22 am

Be good chaps and read that “o Lu” as ‘only’, would you?

And the ‘newer’ as ‘never’ and ‘d,as us’ as ‘Damascus’.

Truly I’m a terrible commenter.

5-Way Revenge has one of the all-time best examples of Batman badassery, where he kills a shark underwater despite wearing handcuffs… Even Morrison and Miller have never had him do anything as cool as that.

Nowadays he’d probably agonize over killing the shark and end up dragging it in alive to get locked up in Arkham….only to have it break out every week to kill again.

Neal Adams is such a towering figure that it is hard to get your arms around him.

Adams totally redefined the look of DC Comics in the late 60s. With the astounding number of covers that he produced , his style was DC in the 70s. DC was defined by “slick” artists during the Silver Age. Adams seemed to take in the influence of Infantino, Kane and Kubert to make the publisher’s line totally his own.

Adams strengths as an artist played a huge role in shaping their line. Characters that worked well in his photorealistic style prospered (i.e. Batman, Green Arrow, Black Canary), while characters created by more expressionistic artists (e.g. Kirby’s Fourth World) had a hard time finding a home. More over, Adams style favored drama over comedy. During that period, comedic Big Two comics began a long wane from which they have yet to recover.

If Adams merely defined the house style for one of the two major superhero lines, or just shifted the style away from expressionism toward realism, or only played a role in ending the humor-superhero hybrids that dominated the sales charts in the Silver Age, then that would be huge. However, he did all three.

Oh, and he reinvented with the X-Men with Roy Thomas. That reinvention laid the ground work the Claremont-Byrne run in several key ways. His design of Cerebro and the lower levels of the X-Mansion was a massive influence on the production design of the X-Men movies.

Man, I wish that Tom Palmer inked Adams nowadays. His storytelling and design work is still incredible, but his self-inking is occasionally painful to behold (of course, I would think that it was amazing if Giordano and Palmer hadn’t done such a definitive job inking Adams in the 70s).

Thought for sure Skateman would dominate the list.

Well, my top 7 all made the list and I just tried to throw in a little love for his “horror” short stories and Warren work when I included “Rock God” and “One Hungers” on my list.
It’s too bad none of his Continuity comics characters were ever published by DC or Marvel. He did have some interesting characters: Toyboy, Armor and SilverStreak, Ms Mystic, Valeria, etc. but the writing and erratic publishing schedule has driven a lot of these books from my memory. Somebody should make him an offer to reprint these in tpb.

The list is pretty much as I expected, i.e. a lot of the ‘sagas’ and epic stories Adams worked on in the late ’60s through the ’70s. But I’m just a tad disappointed that absolutely none of those excellent shorts he drew – and not just from the Warren magazines – made the cut (these accounted for about half of my own picks). John J mentioned two of the really good ones, and I’d add “Thrillkill” and “Another Time, Another Place” (from DC’s Our Army At War) as two more outstanding short pieces.

Most of the stuff on my list is on this list–I’m tickled that Man-Bat made the cut and relieved that Superman vs. Muhammad Ali is there, because that’s one of my favorite comics ever, period.

I also voted for some individual Conan, Dracula and Thor stories that he did, just because his style worked so beautifully in those genres. His Thor stuff looks a little rough beside some of his other work (partly because of Sinnott’s assertive inking), but his sense of composition created images in it that still stick with me, like the parallel panels of Mephisto and Thor in the same pose in Thor #181.

The best Neal Adams’s art ever looked was in Dracula Lives #2. I can’t recall a more lavish looking job by Adams, and the art being presented magazine-sized made it all the more impressive. The story was reprinted in Essential Tomb of Dracula vol. 4, but it looks best in its original publication.

I was energized when Giordano brought (if I’m not mistaken) Adams, Cardy, Aparo, and Skeates to DC in the late 60’s, so some of my favorite issues were Spectre 2-5, Adams also writing 4 and 5. And Aquaman 50-52 in 1970. The first half of each book had a tale by Skeates and Aparo w/ Adams handling writer/artist chores on the second half (guest appearance by Deadman).

I’ve read the Batman stories and the famous opening of hard travelling heroes (“the purple skins” issue), and for the most part they ranged from bad to unreadable. I remember one scene in Five-Way Revenge where Batman enlists the help of Joker’s ex-henchman. The henchman invites Batman to walk ahead of him, and Batman graciously accepts before taking a club to the back of the head. The other stories were characterized by similarly ridiculous exchanges. Denny O’Neil was a far better scripter when he was aping Stan Lee in the 60s. But I guess all of the choices above are fair game if based on art alone.

I am absolutely mystified that Batman 232 (the first Ra’s Al Ghul) did not make the list. I actually thought it was the most likely candidate for the top spot.

Third Man

Ditto. Can’t believe it didn’t make it. Although I’ve only ever read it in the Limited Collector’s Edition format, combined with the issues from the number 2 spot.

Actually, does anyone with a considerably more complete collection than me want to enlighten me as to whether stories from that era of BATMAN would start in one issue, be ignored for several others, and then resume, or whether they all make quite good chronological sense?

I actually found it weird to read all the early Ra’s stories back to back in one collection, because it’s odd how Batman thinks Ra’s is a great guy for the first couple of adventures and then suddenly decides he’s the worst person who ever lived. As it turns out, there isn’t much of a transition there.

I think we knew even back then that Neal was not going to keep up a monthly pace since he wasn’t in every Batman book, but we liked the idea of him being kept on certain characters like Ra’s. DC also had a period where any Deadman guest appearance was drawn by Neal, like the Aquaman back-up story already mentioned and JLofA and Challengers of the Unknown issues where Neal only drew the pages Deadman appeared in.

Often forgotten are Adams’s pages from Justice League of America v.1 #94, which were part of the Deadman arc from Strange Adventures. Adams didn’t draw the whole issue; just the pages where Deadman did important stuff.

Interestingly, that story, by Mike (no relation to Gary) Friedrich, was the first time anyone had actually connected the League of Assassins to Ra’s Al Ghul. Denny O’Neil ran with it in his Batman stories afterwards, but apparently it wasn’t part of O’Neil’s original plan at all. (JLofA #94 also introduces Merlyn, the evil Green Arrow. Oh, and it reprints the first Golden Age stories of the Sandman and Starman. Heckuvan issue.)

As I recall, in the first few Ra’s Al Ghul stories, Batman is not sure what to make of him or Talia, and is somewhat undecided as to whether Ra’s is a menace. It’s only after Batman learns that Ra’s is experimenting with disembodied human brains that he realizes that the Demon’s Head is a legitimate threat to humanity.

No Batman:Odyssey, no credibility

Well, it’s not The Most Ludicrous Neal Adams Stories Ever Told.

If it was, Buttler, as DanLarkin said, Skateman would be all up in there too.

There are a few Neal Adams volumes/recent HCs of his DC/Batman/Deadman stuff, aren’t there? Is that where a lot of this stuff is easily accessible? Oddly, I think I’ve only read a little of his Bat stuff…

And Neal was a pretty cool dude when I met him (briefly, very briefly) up at the Boston Con (as was his son Josh). He was the only one charging for any autographs, and as I heard someone who was telling someone else how they complained to his handler that “no one else is charging for autographs”, the reply was “no one else is Neal Adams”. Oh yeah!

Of course, I probably shouldn’t have almost smeared his signature on my one comic, then…

nice picks can see why some of Neils stories wound up combined. including his green arrow green lantern run for was going to be surprised if at least speedy becoming a junky story did not make the list . plus his marvel worked shows what neil could have done if given a longer run. and figured jokers five way revenge would make the list some how.

@Omar What? Mike and Gary Friedrich aren’t related? Man, I’d always assumed they were brothers or something.

Yeah it’s not fair to bash Adams for ODYSSEY or SKATEMAN; he should be bashed for MR. T I pity the fool who says otherwise :)

DC really should go back to this style of Batman.

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