meet the man who redefined Batman
We asked hugely influential comic artist Neal Adams about his vision of Batman, designing Ra’s al Ghul and more…
What was your characterisation of Batman when you started drawing him in the late 60s?
Well, he didn’t hang around in the daytime in long underwear. He had a cape that flowed like Dracula’s cape. He was drawn more realistically. He had good anatomy. He was a better detective. In fact, he was always a good detective, but when you make a cartoon of it you hardly even notice. Batman is, after all, the Sherlock Holmes of today. He is Sherlock Holmes and an Olympic champion if you want to put the two together.
So what did you want to change about the Batman in the comics, as opposed to the TV show?
We decided we were going to make the real Batman – a Batman who was involved in real cases with semi-real people, and for a while we would avoid the clowns, because they really don’t reflect well on Batman. When we began to consider reviving Two-Face and The Joker I had a long conversation with Julius ‘Julie’ Schwartz at DC and I said: “Julie, look, before we get into the clowns, don’t we need a Moriarty?”
Is that where Ra’s al Ghul came from?
Yes. Julius came in one day and he said: “Ra’s al Ghul!” and I said: “Okay, Julie, it sounds Arabic to me, what is it?” And he said: “Well, it’s our villain. That’s our Moriarty. He’s just an evil genius who wants to help the world, and unfortunately he’s willing to sacrifice lives to do that.” So I went off and indeed created the look of Ra’s al Ghul that we know so well in the comic books now.
You recently revisited Batman in your own series, Batman: Odyssey. What were you aiming to do with the artwork there?
Well, I wanted my artwork to be worth the money they were paying me, which was a lot more than they were paying me back in the old days. So I went into a lot more detail with things and it became richer and fuller. I always felt the work I did was worth reading a second time and a third time. In this I nailed it. I nailed the richness of it. If you hit Aquaman you go: “Wow, this is interesting”. You get to see dinosaurs – there’s so much in there. It’s an exercise in the artist’s joy, and that particular artist is me.
What are you doing next?
I’m about to do a Superman series that’s going to include the New Gods. This will be a six-part Superman series, and it involves New Krypton, it involves New Genesis and it involves Apocalypse and Dark Side, and it’s a romp and it’s a tribute to Jack Kirby from yours truly.
HOMA GE TO A kane CLA SSIC Batman 227, published in 1970, is Neal’s homage to Bob Kane’s cover art for issue 31 of Detective Comics, from 1939.
THE MAN BAT In Detective Comics issue 402, Neal drew a story featuring one of his favourite characters: Man Bat.
BATMAN : OD YSSEY Expressive and postmodern, Neal both wrote and drew the artwork for Batman: Odyssey.