In many respects, ‘The Art Of Neal Adams’ is a whistle-stop tour of at least fifty years in the famous comicbook artist’s career and showing how extensively he’s been able to find work in everything from there to advertising to storyboarding and is still in continuous demand in his seventies. Back when I was growing up, if you weren’t captivated by Jack Kirby then you were certainly were by Neal Adams as I was when he took on ‘The Uncanny X-Men’ and whose ten issue tenure with writer Roy Thomas and inker Tom Palmer kept it from the brink of cancellation. Had the sales figures gotten in a little earlier, even that would have been postponed even further but then, would we have had a ‘New X-Men’ title somewhere down the line?
Anyway, this book, written by Neal Adams himself looks at how he broke into the industry and shows some of his early work including some sample strips for ‘Archie’ comics. Something I did suspect and was confirmed here with the ‘Ben Casey’ newspaper strip was how he swiped from photos he made to get such accuracy in his illustrations. A point to newcomers, you still have to draw exceptionally well to do this and Adams was shown the ropes by Elmer Wesler and Howard Nostrand and willing to do everything he was asked to do and do it well as part of his training. Things are a lot different today but seeing how Adams took his tentative steps and how much he improved in a short time showed what a quick learner he was.
Even in a book such as this, don’t expect to see everything. The comicbook section is surprisingly slim but there are other books out there which cover that in greater detail anyway. The vast area covered also shows that the comicbook artist can work well in other fields and Adams certainly led the way as later artists have also now got similar strings to their bows.
You also learn a few new things as well. Adams admits to a love for martial arts movies which made it easier to do covers and posters for them. At The School Of Industrial Arts he got pinned into fashion illustration when he had to pick from three options to study, the other two being over-subscribed, but served him in good stead for design. That should be a lesson for any up-coming artist that you can learn lessons from any kind of course. I was also surprised to see Adams could paint as well although he doesn’t favour it so much. There’s also a reminder of some illustrations for a proposed Arthur C. Clarke book ‘Childhood’s End’ as a film version back in the 1980s. I remember seeing some of these illustrations in Steranko’s ‘Prevue Magazine’ (although it might have been ‘Comixscene’ because I think it was in a bigger paged format) but nice to see them in colour here. Someone really ought to make that film.
Oddly, the only illustration that I thought was a bit off the mark was one he did for the SyFy Channel combining casts from ‘Farscape’ and ‘Stargate SG-1’ and not getting some of the likenesses but that’s a minor point. If anything, I was getting into a bit of a game of spotting Adams’ doing his own likeness in some illustrations by that time in the book anyway.
As a topper to end the book on, we have an eight-page story called ‘Greetings’ that was produced before the My Lai Massacre in VietNam about the effects of war on a civilian village that is still as strong today as then.
As a complete sampler of Neal Adams work and showing his own personal choices this is a fabulous book to add to your collection.
(pub: Vanguard Productions, 2010. 144 page illustrated softcover. Price: about £11.00 (UK) if you know where to look but prices can be higher. ISBN: 978-1-93433-134-7)