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…

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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.

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