Comic Book Artist / Writer / Legend
Artist of Green Lantern / Green Arrow (1970 - 1972)
Go to Part One to read this interview from the beginning. It starts by discussing Neal Adams' work on the modern-day Robin Hood Green Arrow.
In the previous section we discussed Neal Adams' new comic book series Superman: The Coming of the Supermen. We conclude by talking about some of the recent comic book superhero films and comics as art.
AWW: I think it's a trend to say "it's not like your father's or grandfather's whatever."
[Now, the discussion turns to a spoiler-filled conversation of the 2013 film Man of Steel. As with the 1980 film Superman II, the villain is General Zod. Like Superman, Zod is from the planet Krypton (having escaped the planet's destruction because he was locked in an extra-dimensional prison) and posses all of Superman's powers. The film climaxes in a battle that levels much of the city. Superman has Zod in a choke-hold, but the villain is using his heat vision to fire death rays, slowing turning his head so that the beam's threaten an innocent family. To stop Zod, Superman snaps his neck. In previous films, Superman's human foster father Jonathan Kent told his son to use his powers for good. In Man of Steel, Pa Kent castigates his son for saving a bus full of people as it might expose his true identity. Later Pa Kent sacrifices his life when he goes to rescue the family dog, which is trapped in a car in the path of an oncoming tornado. He specifically tells Clark (aka Superman) not to rescue him.]
Neal Adams: It goes back to Batman. Why would I change Batman? He's right. Don't change it. You know we've got these changes on Superman. We've got a segmented costume that looks like armour. Because he's the Man of Steel. No, that's not a good idea. That's really not a good idea, is it? He's the Man of Steel. Armour? Nuh-nuh, he doesn't need armour. This last movie they did with Superman was, like, "Oh, he kills a guy at the end." Who'd he kill, Zod? Didn't he already deal with Zod? You mean the first time he was smart enough not to kill him, but this time he's going to kill him and half the people in Metropolis? So, you have to kill him? That's it? You can't put your hand in front of his face when he fires those beams? He can't figure out a way to do it? He can't fight on the moon, the Sahara Desert or some place like that where he doesn't kill half a billion people.
Oh, I know. I know why he kills people. Because his father was crazy. He tells him "Hey, it might have been better to let all those kids in that bus die to protect your identity. That's my advice, son. That's my sage advice being a good American farmer. Protect your identity. Let all the kids die." "Really, dad, really?" Excuse me. "And guess what we got for you? We have found for you the only dog on Earth that stays in the car when the rest of the family leaves." The only dog on Earth. Most dogs the car stops, the dog gets out and runs around in a circle until everybody else gets out and joins him. This dog stays in the car. What the hell was that? Where did they find that dog? I have never seen a dog do that in my life. I've known lots of dogs. They'd be right out of that car, like a rocket. This dog stays in the car. And the father doesn't know that Superman can move like a blur? He doesn't want to be rescued? He wants to f---ing die? You could have the worst dad in the world, you're going to rescue him. You're not going to let him die. He could be f---ing Stalin and you would rescue him if you're his kid, because it's your dad, right? No, this guy has the moral fortitude of a cat. No, he's going to die, I'm staying away. Somebody may see me. No, you move like a blur, kid. Stupid, stupid movie.
And Zod? His eyes are welded to the back of his head? So, he can only move the beams from his eyes when his head moves? Excuse me? Can't his eyeballs just look over and fry those people? Why did his head have to move? Little steel things coming out of the back of his head, attached to his eyeballs -- that only let his eyes look straight ahead? Is that the deal? And Clark or Superman can't -- let's see, he's got his right arm around his neck, he can put his other hand in front of [Zod's] eyes. No, you don't want to do that, because that's thinking. Stupid s--t.
AWW: It's the same with Green Arrow, they think it's cool to have heroes kill.
NA: When they started it [the TV show Arrow], yeah. But now they're not doing it anymore. They're paying attention to Neal. Pay attention to daddy Neal. "Hey, cut it out." They're doing it right. They're trying to do it. I mean those guys are really making an effort to make a good series. The weird thing is that DC Comics somehow has the good TV series and the lousy movies and Marvel has the good movies and lousy TV series. What the hell is that?
AWW: Are they bringing some of your stuff into the new spinoff Legends of Tomorrow?
NA: Nah, not really. Did you look at the poster and go "who the f--- are these people?" You watch the show and you know who they are, but when you look at the poster, you go "who is that?" I have to put my thinking cap on to really know. It's like that movie Marvel made -- Guardians of the Galaxy, based on the worst comic book on Earth, except maybe for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The worst comic book I have ever seen from Marvel, and do you know why they made that movie? Because they sold all the other characters!
Marvel used to go around going "we have 2,200 characters" or whatever the number was. No, they didn't! They had nothing! They already sold Spider-Man, they sold Fantastic Four, they sold X-Men -- they sold all their characters. Who'd they have left? The Avengers. That's it. And Guardians of the Galaxy. "A racoon. Hey, guys, let's make something out of it." It's all they had to make anything out of. It's like slicing up the smallest piece of pie on Earth and pretending they're a big company. I don't know what it was with Disney that believed they own their characters, but they didn't own any of them. They got this German company that owned Fantastic Four and they're just acting like clowns. These Germans they're the company that made a movie on Hitler like the good side. Hello? This is not a good company. Constantin, that's right. They're making a Fantastic Four movie so Marvel has said discontinue the comic, to hell with it. Screw it, let's mess with them until they give us back our characters. They're never going to give them back. They'll sell 'em back.
So, they had nothing. Basically what happened was DC Comics kept ahold of the licenses for their characters. Marvel, which is basically Stan Lee all out there by himself, went around Hollywood selling off the rights to the different characters to show his uncle that these were worthwhile properties and that we ought to make movies out of them. Except he made the worst deals in the world. Back in the day, they'd give you $10,000 and they'd own it for 10 years. As long as they made a movie within ten years, they could continue to own it for another 10 years. So they wrote these horrible contracts which DC Comics didn't do because they had lawyers and people with brains. So, they wrote these horrible contracts which seemed good at the time, but when it came time to really do the stuff, all they had left was the Avengers. Everything else was gone. Doctor Strange was part of the Avengers. They basically sold off their lead characters - sold off the X-Men, sold off Spider-Man, sold off Fantastic Four, I mean who's left?
They sold these off and they had the smallest number of characters left. And so they've made the most of them, and in fact they have made the most of them and it's been fantastic. I mean, you've got DC Comics who has a plethora of characters that they can't seem to make a movie out of and you have Marvel who has very few characters, but they seem to have made some of the best movies in Hollywood. Which is amazing, shocking. And they're trying to recapture their characters as much as they can. They have Disney working with them, putting a little pressure on these guys, but the people who bought them know they're worth money. They're not easily going to give them up. So, you can imagine all the kinds of negotiations that's going on with these other companies and Marvel. "Can we use some of our characters as back-up characters?" What's the new one, Deadpool? You've got some X-Men in there. They rented them. "We want to rent some of our characters back." Crazy. Crazy.
AWW: Maybe DC's film division will start borrowing from you the way the TV shows have.
NA: From your mouth to God's ears. God bless you, my boy. Remember when they had um, the Smallville show? They had an actor "I'm never going to wear that costume." Jesus, take him out back and beat the s--t out of him please. Right near the end Granny Goodness showed up and I thought "Oh my God, they're going to do Darkseid" and then they ended the show. Ah, really? Granny Goodness? The show's up. Then they ended it. What a killer.
AWW: I remember Smallville's slogan was "No flights, no tights." The same thing happens with Robin Hood at times -- the shame of certain elements. When a film comes out they say "this time he isn't wearing tights."
NA: Yes, this one makes it different, exactly. Because they're so smart. Brilliant, brilliant people. I don't get it. If you test something and you make sure it works, then don't you take it and do it? Isn't that the smart way to go? I think so. I remember DC Comics would call me, and they casually informed me because there's an excess of enthusiasm, they have to call Neal. And so they call me and said "We think we have an agreement with a Canadian company that's going to make Deadman." "Really, that's interesting. Are they going to pretty much going to do the Deadman we have in the comic book?" "Well, they're going to change it a little bit." "Oh really? And so how are they going to change it?" "Well, first he's not dead." [Laughs] Say no more. Why is he called Deadman? Just, you know. Not dead. Next thing you're going to tell me she's a woman. It's Livewoman. No, it's Deadman. That was a long time ago, 12 years ago or something like that.
AWW: It's odd because Deadman's one of those properties that could absolutely work. I think there are a lot of DC characters that would work in the mainstream more than they're known in the comics field.
NA: We are the mainstream. Think about it. [In reference to rumours about the plot of the 2015 Oscar-nominated film The Revenant] "Raped by a bear and then he stumbles back into civilization." Ah no, make a superhero movie. That's the mainstream. Getting raped by a bear, that's mainstream? I don't think so. "No, it didn't really rape him. That's bulls--t." Got behind him, felt him up. "I know but somebody said he raped him." That's the only reason Romita watched the movie. Getting raped by a bear, I'd watch that. "Really, you know. How'd he get through the paints?" "Ah, we're not talking about that, what's the matter with you?" It's the mainstream, isn't it? No, I guess not. The X-Men, that's the mainstream. Deadpool, another kind of superhero. That's the mainstream. Let's be honest. What makes the hundreds of millions of dollars in movies? Comic books. We're taking over the world. Get out of the way. Frenchies, you thought it was Asterix and Lieutenant Blueberry? Sorry, it's Superman.[Bad French accent] "Well, we don't zhink Super-duper-man is serious comic, a proper experience for people." I go "Go f--- yourself. We win. You lose."
The French believe that America created three forms of art. Of course, they are the French. so whatever they say has to be true. We created jazz, we created the musical comedy and we created the comic books. That's it, just in case you wanted to know the judgment from on high from the French is that's what we did. I mean that's not bad.
I had a guy interview me one time, he came all the way from France with his film crew to interview me. Fortunately I had a soundstage. And the guy pulls out a cigarette and starts to light it, and I say "no, no, no. You can't, you can't, nobody here ... please. You can't smoke. Because people here just leave. Everybody in the studio will leave." [French accent.] "Oh really, I don't is zat not a good thing?" "No, it's not a good thing. And by the way, French cigarettes stink. I'm just saying okay, they will leave and walk out. Why don't we do the interview at the end of the day, then I'll let you smoke the cigarette because I can absorb this foul-smelling crap." So he says okay.
And so we waited until 7 o'clock. And the crew set it up and they lit me from the side. You know, so you get nice shadows on one side, like one of those sexy interviews. The guy sits back and lights up his French cigarette and of course they do stink. It's during the war you know, they got crap cigarettes, they keep on smoking the same s--t all the time. [French accent] "Well, ah, Nealadums" -- my name is apparently one name in France, Nealadums "So, Nealadums, you know that the influence of the comic book on the culture of the world is now changed and you are at the forefront of, and you know this, what do you think your impact on the world market of the comic books is." And I said "You know, you goddamn Frenchies are going to screw up comic books. You screwed up jazz, you're going to screw up musical comedy, and you're going to screw up comic books. Everybody's going to take it seriously and think it's art. And you are going to screw it up. I hate you guys. Why don't you just stop it? Stop this and leave us alone and mind your own business." And he goes "Ah, Nealadums, you are fooling with me, I can tell. Hahaha, very funny." Ah, me. You can't take this stuff too seriously. So, anything else?
AWW: No, thank you very much. That was fantastic. Thanks.
NA: It's a pleasure.
Neal Adams' new comic book series Superman: The Coming of the Supermen is released monthly. The first issue was available in February 2016.
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The Green Lantern / Green Arrow series in three different editions.
Other Comic Books by Neal Adams
The Arrow TV series
The Green Lantern / Green Arrow series in three different editions.
Interview text, © Allen W. Wright, 2016.
Illustrations from Green Lantern / Green Arrow, Batman, The Brave and the Bold, Superman: The Coming of the Supermen, Strange Adventures (Deadman) and Superman vs. Muhammad Ali by Neal Adams, © DC Comics, used without permission as fair use for criticism and review