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Batman And X-Men Comic Book Artist Neal Adams Is Dead At 80

Neal Adams artwork of Batman
(Image credit: DC Comics)

Marvel and DC movies are among the most popular franchise heavy-hitters these days, but that wouldn’t be possible without decades of comic book source material to draw from. Countless writers and artists have left their mark on these properties, and among the most well-known names is Neal Adams, who’s many accomplishments include memorable runs with characters like Batman and the X-Men. Unfortunately, it’s been revealed that Adams has passed away at the age of 80.

Neal Adams’ wife, Marilyn Adams, informed THR that her husband died Thursday in New York of complications from sepsis. Born on June 15, 1940, he was a little under two months from hitting his 81st birthday. Along with Marilyn, Adams is survived by their three sons (Jason, Joel and Josh), as well as his daughter Zeela from his previous marriage to Cory Adams, who was a comic book colorist.

Following his early work with Archie Comics, Warren Publishing and illustrating the Ben Casey comic strip, as well as tackling commercial art for the advertising industry, Neal Adams made his DC Comics debut in 1967 with issue #182 of the anthology series Our Army at War. It wasn’t long before Adams was assigned to work on superhero titles like Action Comics and Detective Comics, and among his earliest success was illustrating Deadman in the pages of Strange Adventures, with Adams’ work helping catapult the supernatural character to heights of popularity (Deadman also nearly got his own TV series more than a decade ago).

Starting in 1969, while he was still freelancing for DC Comics, Neal Adams also started working for Marvel Comics, where he was paired with writer Roy Thomas on nearly ten issues of the X-Men series. Adams later worked on The Avengers“Kree-Skrull War” storyline, and his other Marvel work in the years to follow included doing interior art on titles like Savage Sword of Conan and Thor, and cover art for Doctor Strange, Ghost Rider and the 2015 Secret Wars miniseries, among others.

Going back to Neal Adams’ time with DC Comics, the artist will arguably best be remembered for his run with Batman on writer Denny O’Neil (who passed away in 2020). The two of them previously worked together on X-Men #65, and during their time on both the main Batman title and Detective Comics, Adams and O’Neil shifted the Caped Crusader down a darker path to distance his comic book adventures from the campy tone of the Adam West and Burt Ward-led Batman TV series that aired from 1966 to 1968. During this time, the duo also created villains like Ra’s al Ghul, Talia al Ghul and Man-Bat, as well as re-tooled classic adversaries like The Joker and Two-Face.

We could spend all day talking about Neal Adams’ accomplishments, including Superman vs. Muhammad Ali and Batman: Odyssey, as well as helping form the Comic Creators Guild. However, I’d be remiss if I also didn’t mention the work he and Denny O’Neil did on the Green Lantern book from 1970 to 1972, where Hal Jordan was paired with fellow Justice Leaguer Oliver Queen, a.k.a. Green Arrow. With Adams having already redesigned Green Arrow’s costume and given him a distinct goatee in The Brave and the Bold #85, the Green Lantern/Green Arrow run delivered commentary on issues like overpopulation, racism and drug use, with the latter being explored in the “Snowbirds Don’t Die” two-issue arc, where it was revealed that Green Arrow’s sidekick Roy Harper, a.k.a. Speedy, was using heroin. Adams and O’Neil also debuted John Stewart, the third human member of the Green Lantern Corps, in Green Lantern #87, who was one of DC’s earliest African-American superheroes.

We here at CinemaBlend express our condolences to Neal Adams’ family and friends for their loss. He was a talented creator who’s work at Marvel, DC and elsewhere will be enjoyed for generations to come, and he will be missed.

Adam Holmes
Adam Holmes

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.