He was a man before his time. Blatantly blowing off deadlines in an industry more prone to letting filler run into the stream, Neal Adams was an artist first, and a comic book penciller second. He was also the first to completely ditch doing backgrounds, letting long swathes of color, negative space, or laziness, fill a page.

Look at how mature he renders that Robin character. And this more mature rendering gave way to the Nightwing arc when Dick Grayson quits to become independent, allowing another Robin to take his place. Which just started by drawing Robin a little taller and a little older than Carmine Infantino did, under Julius Schwartz’s suggestion.

and then five years later,

Redefining Batman’s look from Julius Schwartz’s “New Look” from 1964 that you can see the range of above, Neal Adams quickly turned that smile of boyish sci-fi (often with aliens and alternate dimension batmen!!!) into a more sleazy world of adult pleasure and power.

This is a Batman that fought not just for the world and its health, but also for himself.

Neal Adams is directly responsible for the character and the setting for the only time that Batman has ever voluntarily had sex with a woman for no ulterior motives. Which also births his only child, an active part of his comics today. He’s like a vice psychiatrist, curing our hero of his neuroses and redefining his look for an audience that suddenly started buying Batman in droves after the last crawling legs of the Adam West fad had worn out.

Besides pleasure, Adams also subjected Batman to countless horrors too real for the peaceful pre war Batman to ever face. Instead of a Joker who made horns blare off at the same time in town (annoying mischief, for sure), Neal Adams, along with his lightning hot (and temperamentally incompatible) writer Denny O’Neil, gave us a Joker that would terrify you aesthetically and kill you quickly.

A much longer piece on O’Neil and Adams’ Green Lantern/Green Arrow comics is forthcoming, but for now, enjoy this gallery of a classic Batman that cost too much money for DC to pay, and that vanished almost as quickly as it appeared, leaving an indelible trail of influence in its wake of honorably discharged athleticism.

Neal Adams really is a master of the comics form, one of the first to realize that the page, as well as its characters, did not have to adhere to reality to be fantastic: indeed, it had to stray from reality in order to be fantastic. Although he wasn’t the first, he was the one to stamp his feet and demand more money for doing it, and certainly the way a lot of future artists more quickly came to the same realization. A sculptor of the form.

The next post will have lots of scans of lovely full page designs.