Beloved Comic-Book Creator Neal Adams — Co-Creator Of John Stewart And Ra's Al Ghul — Passes Away At 80

Prolific comic-book creator Neal Adams has passed away from sepsis complications. Adams co-created beloved characters like Ra's Al Ghul and Green Lantern John Stewart.

Neal Adams, the prolific comic-book artist and writer responsible for co-creating some of DC's most influential storylines and characters, passed away on Thursday, April 28, at the age of 80. Adams' wife, Marilyn Adams, told The Hollywood Reporter that he died from sepsis complications. Sepsis is a condition in which the body's immune-system response to infections gets out of control, causing it to harm the body. According to the CDC, 1.7 million adults develop sepsis in the United States yearly. 

Adams was responsible for co-creating beloved characters like Green Lantern John Stewart, Man-Bat and Ra's al Ghul, almost all of which have played key roles in popular DC film and animated adaptations, such as Batman: The Animated SeriesJustice League, Justice League Unlimited and The Dark Knight trilogy.

Adams began his comic-book career at Archie Comics in 1959. He also worked in advertising, which, as he recalled during an interview with Print Magazine, turned out to be much more lucrative than he had imagined: "I worked for a place called Johnstone and Cushing, and we did comics for advertising and I was paid four to six times as much as a regular comic book artist. I did storyboards for advertising agencies, and I got paid better than any comic book artist got paid. I did illustration work, and I got paid better. It was a source of embarrassment that somebody would ask me what I was going to charge them and then they became quiet for a minute and said, 'Well, I don't think our accounting department will pay a bill that’s that low. We have to pay you more.'"

Adams made his way to DC in 1967, where he worked on the military series "Our Army At War." Following that, he started penciling covers for "Superman's Girl Friend, Lois Lane" and "Action Comics," before moving on to characters like Batman and Deadman. His distinctive artistic style caught readers' attention, making him one of the most popular artists of his time.

As mentioned, Adams eventually found himself drawing "Batman," on which he collaborated with writer Dennis O'Neal, with whom he forged a prolific partnership. The two were credited for returning the Dark Knight to his somber roots, doing away with the campy reputation he had built up from the 1960s Batman TV series. 

In 1970, Adams and O'Neal broke ground with the series "Green Lantern/Green Arrow," which focused on Oliver Queen and Hal Jordan traveling across America tackling social issues like racism, poverty and drug addiction. The book (which began with "Green Lantern" #76 in April of 1970) became a seminal period for its two protagonists. The 1971 issue "Snowbirds Don't Fly" ("Green Lantern" #85) which saw Green Arrow's ward, Speedy, be revealed as a drug addict, was honored with the 1971 Shazam Award for Best Individual Story.


In a 2014 interview with Print Magazine, Adams explained how comic books can have an impact on society: 

"I think the role of comic books is to be the adults while we're being children. We have to look [at] our children growing up and what kind of world they're going to be in, and try to reproduce that world in the art that we do so that the world will get there. If we don't show some of that world, then our kids will never get there. We're so close to the ground level with comic books that we're actually having an effect. I've had black men cry in front of me because of John Stewart. Just the impact. [...] If you’re in a position to do that with a whole generation of people and your brain and heart are in the right place, then it's a good thing. If you’re stupid and you do the wrong thing, you can cause trouble, and that's not so good."

Adams also worked for Marvel Comics, drawing "Avengers," "Fantastic Four," "X-Men" and "Conan." 

In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, Josh Adams, Neal Adams' son, talked about his father's mentoring nature (the creator helped kickstart the career of comic-book heavyweights like Frank Miller and Bill Sienkiewicz): 

"It wasn't until I sat at tables at conventions next to the same people I would watch treat my father with such reverence that I understood: He was their father, too. [...] Neal Adams’ most undeniable quality was the one I had known about him my entire life: He was a father. Not just my father, but a father to all that would get to know him."

Adams was a staunch supporter of comic-creators' rights. In his statement to The Hollywood Reporter, Josh Adams discussed his father's activism for creators: "[His] career was defined by unparalleled artistic talent and an unwavering character that drove him to constantly fight for his peers and those in need. [...] When he saw a problem, he wouldn't hesitate. What would become tales told and retold of the fights he fought were born out of my father simply seeing something wrong as he walked through the halls of Marvel or DC and deciding to do something about it right then and there."

Adams left a mark on the comic-book industry. His characters and storylines impacted the superhero world in a way that continues to be felt in movies, television series and video game adaptations. His were remarkable achievements, and his legacy will live on for years to come.

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