A Tribute to the of

The year was 1968 and a lot of changes were taking place at DC Comics.  People were leaving, either due to retirements or to pursue other interests. Others, like Carmine Infantino were moving on to other responsibilities and still other talent was being brought in from Charlton Comics and so it was almost like a large, somewhat disorganized game of musical chairs.  When it came time for someone new to script Deadman, (Arnold Drake and Carmine Infantino having created the character and then Jack Miller taking the writing detail for the third through seventh appearances with some assistance,) the task fell into the hands of the book's illustrator and rising star, Neal Adams.  I've chosen Neal's first crack at writing the adventures of Boston Brand from Strange Adventures #212, June of 1968 and "The Fatal Call of Vengeance!"  Neal provided all the art on this one, too, including the cover and interior, but Dick Giordano is the editor, so it's not quite a one-man show.

Also, I've mentioned before that I like to keep things in their proper continuity when possible.  In the case of the Deadman series it's almost critical as it's literally a continuing storyline, but I've got to make an exception this time.  Just so things aren't quite so confusing I'll fill in the gaps:  In the previous issue Boston was again hot on the trail of The Hook, his murderer, and it led to El Campo, Mexico, where to his surprise he found his twin brother, Cleveland Brand and his niece.  Since I will likely do some backtracking in the future, I think that's enough background for now.

Things immediately take up where they left off with Cleveland and his daughter Lita going through some effects that belonged to Boston, including his gymnast suit, sent along by the circus.  Deadman lingers in the background, ruminating that he needs to continue his pursuit of The Hook and departs as Cleveland surprises his daughter with plane tickets back to the states.  A couple of days later, the owner of Boston's old outfit, Lorna Hill, receives a visitor in the form of Cleveland Brand.  When she sees what she literally thinks is the ghost of Boston, she faints dead away.

Back in El Campo, the real Boston, or at least his restless spirit, is still on the hunt when he overhears a local in a bar complaining that a tourista blackened his eye by hitting him with his hook.  Swiftly Deadman soars into the body of the man the local is speaking to in order to get more information.  It is pointed out that there was an article in the newspaper that seemed to upset the hooked man.  As Deadman looks down he sees the headline that announces he survived the sniper's bullet.  Preparing to leave for the circus to find out who is impersonating him, he notices that the other man is still agitated and is spoiling for a fight, so Brand re-enters the body of the mousey tourist and cleans house before taking to the skies.

When Deadman arrives at his old tent and finds his brother in his uniform, discussing his plan, he is unnerved that Cleve hopes to smoke out his murderer by pretending to be Boston.  In order to keep up appearances as the newly returned co-owner, Cleveland makes the rounds, meeting first with Vashnu, who seems to be aware that this is not the Brand that he knew.  Next it's a turn near the lion cage where the trainer seems to be a bit overzealous in his methods, prodding the beasts at will.  Then another twist in the plot as Varna, another circus staff member arrives and accuses Kleigman the trainer of hating the cats.  She then points out that the combination of his merciless teasing and some booze caused the loss of his hand.  Deadman shouts that this could be his killer, but of course none can hear his anguished cries.  Cleveland instructs Kleigman to calm the big cats down for the parade and that they'll settle this later.  As he strolls past Tiny the strongman, the thoughts of the big bruiser reveal that he is also aware of Cleve's imposter status.

We are next privy to a phone conversation by a man with a hook for a hand.  He seems to be blackmailing someone over their gambling debts and instructs the person at the other end of the receiver to feed a capsule to a lion.

On the next page, the fully made up Deadman, alias Cleveland Brand, is called upon to investigate a disturbance at the animal tent.  With the invisible Boston accompanying him, Cleve soon finds himself in a trap.  A barred cage door slams behind him after he enters the tent and he finds himself caged with a very agitated lion.  Deadman takes over his brother's body and calls into play all his athletic abilities to elude the raging and drugged beast.  Boston reasons that the drugged state of the lion could work in his favor, dulling the predator's reflexes.  Deadman goes on the offensive, gripping the beast from behind until he can move into position at the top of the cage and bring down his full force to strike a crippling blow to the beast.  At that moment Varna enters with a rifle, but is concerned for Brutus.  Deadman does not hesitate to scoop up the weapon and put the enraged animal down for good.  As Varna is taken away on a gurney she tells the acrobat that The Hook gave her the drug to administer to Brutus, promising money.  She says he wants Brand dead, though she doesn't know why and mutters Kleigman's name before losing consciousness.  Boston leaves Cleveland's body to search out Kleigman while the big show begins.

In the parade, Cleveland scans the crowd and notices The Hook.  He gives chase and is working him over with great zest when the battered trainer Kleigman pleads that he is not The Hook.  The prosthetic on his right wrist was tied on only today and he had, in fact, been hired by The Hook as a diversion.  In the next moment, shots from a rifle ring out.  A dark figure with a hook for a hand (though in an apparent goof, it's the left hand) has squeezed the trigger and then bolted from the scene.  The shots bring Lorna and others running and they discover two inert forms; Kleigman and Brand.  Right then Deadman arrives, horrified that his brother has met his same fate, but when the dead white mask is removed it doesn't reveal Cleveland Brand, but Tiny.  Cleve staggers out to the scene, explaining that Tiny slugged him and took his place.

The final two panels show an incredibly frustrated and anguished Deadman howling into the night, leaving yet another cliffhanger in a long string of them in this series.

Neal Adams used an interesting narrative technique on this story, utilizing text boxes filled with omniscient narration, often addressing Deadman directly.  It worked well for this story, as the twists and turns kept the reader guessing.  It was a well-paced story with lots of mystery and shadowy action, and of course Neal's famous photo-realistic art showcased Deadman and his adventures, Strange Adventures at that, in a most satisfying way.  My rating for this story, despite it being a continuing saga, is a 9.

And now, with great pride and pleasure, I present a discussion I enjoyed with the one and only Neal Adams:

Prof:  When did you start at DC exactly? 

Neal Adams:  Golly.  There must be some historians around who can tell you that.  I don't know.  It was in the 60's.  I don't know when that was, but I'm sure some geek around will know exactly when that was, probably the month and the day. (Note:  Wikipedia tells us it was 1967.)

Prof:  Oh, no doubt.  Carmine was telling me that he knew more than one person who worshipped the ground you walked on.

NA:  That's 'cause I walk in very special places.  I don't walk along those cold cracks.  (Chuckle.)

Prof:  He also told me…this one kind of surprised me, he said he first discovered you in the bullpen working on Jerry Lewis, of all things.  Is that true?

NA:  No.  I was first introduced to Carmine…Carmine was, of course, as with many comic book artists, a bit of a hero of mine, because when the shit hit the fan in the country when the book, "The Seduction of the Innocent" came out…

Prof:  Ah, yes, good old Doc Wertham… 

NA:  Many, many artists had to desert the field, or were hidden among the cracks and crevices in various places, like Al Williamson was doing, I guess, ghosting for certain comic strip artists and I guess he would do a comic book every now and then and Alex Toth went to California to do animation, and all these guys really disappeared, and the few guys that were left were the guys at DC comics.  There was Joe Kubert, there was Russ Heath, there was Carmine, there was Gil Kane; known as Gil Kane, Eli Katz was his original name.

Prof:  Ah, yes, yes.

NA:  And Carmine, had a very unique style.  He then was doing the Flash and his style kind of got covered up, but I was a fan of his original style when he was doing Pow Wow Smith and some of those other things, so as a fan, you know, to meet Carmine…and Carmine was actually working on staff…not really staff, he had a desk in with the romance editor…what's his name?  Miller.

Prof:  Oh, Jack Miller?

NA:  Jack Miller, Jack Miller and his girl assistant, and he was in there when I first came to DC Comics.  I came to DC to try to get work with Robert Kanigher.  The 'much beloved' Robert Kanigher. 

Prof:  Sometimes referred to as "The Dragon?"

NA:  Who was a beast in human disguise.  And I got to work with Bob, partially because he had lost Joe Kubert, because I had recommended Joe to do a comic strip called The Green Beret that I had been asked to do, and the comic strip people had no idea who the good comic book artists were, and when I realized that I really couldn't do the strip…I was doing Ben Casey and I couldn't handle two strips.  I took the people from the syndicate and the writer down the path of possibly recognizing that there were such a thing as comic books and rather than try to find somebody in the Ozarks, perhaps they ought to go to some of the best artists that were left in comic books and among which were Joe Kubert, who was the perfect guy for the strip.

Prof:  Oh, sure.  All his war comic experience.

NA:  Yeah.  So I recommended him for The Green Beret to Elliot Caplin, the writer of the strip.  They interviewed.  They did it and Joe was working on The Green Beret for the longest time and Bob Kanigher, coincidentally, was a little short on artists.  I had ended my syndicated strip, which was based on the Ben Casey TV series, and things were just a little bit slow for me and I had been doing some stuff for Jim Warren and I realized I was putting way too much effort into this Jim Warren stuff and it wasn't worth it to me and I thought maybe I'd give it a crack at DC Comics in spite of the fact that when I was a teenager and I left school, they wouldn't even let me in the door.

Prof:  Oh, golly.

NA:  Yes.  It was a very bad time.  An old fella came out to meet me, a guy named Bill Perry and met me in the lobby and I showed him my samples, just to try to meet an editor and he told me that he couldn't even bring me inside.  It didn't matter if my stuff was good, it didn't matter anything.  They weren't interested.

Prof:  Oh, that's surprising.

NA:  No, not at all.  For those times it was very typical. 

Prof:  Just not enough work to go around, I guess.

NA:  Not enough work to go around and they were feeding the mouths that were faithful to them, and they just weren't interested.  Nobody really got in easily.  Once in awhile some guys broke through, like John Severin did a little work for a while, but it didn't seem like that lasted and I guess he found something else in Crazy Magazine.  But when I went there as a teenager, this guy, this very nice old guy just told me I'm wasting my time.  As far as they were concerned, any minute the comic book business would end.

Prof:  Wow.

NA:  Things were not so good.

Prof:  Boy, I guess not.  That just blows my mind to consider it.

NA:  Well, I'll tell you another story that is actually coincidental to that story.  Timely magazines, which later became Marvel, really wasn't doing anything, and you didn't even know where they were, and I was this 18-year old kid who was trying to get some work and so I thought maybe I could go to Archie Comics and work for Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, who were doing at that time The Fly and The Shield and a bunch of other titles for Archie Comics.

Prof:  Oh yeah, their adventure series.

NA:  So, after failing at DC and searching around for nothing…I didn't know where anybody was.  I went over to Archie Comics and I tried to get work and I showed my samples and neither Joe Simon nor Jack Kirby were at Archie Comics.  I met the Archie guys and obviously they felt sorry for me, because I was foolish enough to want to do comics.  Nobody did.  Nobody was showing samples.  It was a dead field.  And so they suggested I come back with some samples of The Fly, and I did.  I came back the next week and they'd introduce me to either Joe Simon or Jack Kirby.  So I came back a week later with my samples and it turns out neither one of them were there.

Prof:  Of course.

NA:  So I showed my samples to the guys at Archie and they looked at them sympathetically with kind of a sad look around their eyes, an embarrassed look, and they said "Well, why don't we get Joe Simon on the phone for you?"  And so they did.  Now it turns out they had shown Joe Simon the samples I had brought in previously, and they got Joe Simon on the phone for me.  Joe said to me, "Neal…young man, your samples are good.  I'd use you on stories, but I'm going to do you a really big favor.  I'm gonna turn you down, kid, because this is not a business to be in.  It's gonna fall on it's face any day now and everybody's gonna be out looking for other work and you want to get a job doing something worthwhile, so it may not seem like I'm doing you a favor, but I'm turning you down, and it's the biggest favor anybody could ever do for you."  "Gosh, thank you, Mr. Simon."

Prof:  How very gregarious.

NA:  So the guys at Archie said, "Well, Neal, do you want to do some samples of Archie?  And you know, maybe we can give you some work doing our joke pages or something."  I said, "Yeah."  So I came back with some samples and in the end I did work for Archie for the Archie joke pages for a couple of months, and that's how I got my first work in comics, because Joe Simon turned me down.

Prof:  Son of a gun.

NA:  The end of that story is, if you'd like to hear it…

Prof:  You bet.

NA:  About 15 years later, or so, I don't know exactly how many years it was, I made my way into comics and the world of comics had changed, the revolution was in, Neal had established himself as a gigantic pain in the ass, but a sufficiently talented pain in the ass that they put up with me, and I was fighting for the return of original art and royalties and all the rest of it and I was helping various people and I helped…I don't know if I helped Jerry [Siegel] and Joe [Shuster] at the time or whatever.  Anyway, I was up at DC, for whatever reason, and Joe Simon was there and I'm talking to editors and people that I know, and again I had established something of a reputation, good, bad or indifferent, whatever you may think of it, and apparently Joe Simon was up there and the word was that he was fighting a battle over Captain America and some other things, because he felt he owned certain properties and under certain circumstances, blah, blah, blah.  Apparently he was looking for Neal Adams.  So he was down the hallway somewhere, so I went and sought him out and introduced myself and he said, "Listen.  Can I talk to you?  I really have to get your advice on something."  And I said, "Well, DC has a coffee room.  We'll go to the coffee room and have a cup of coffee."  So we sat down and had a cup of coffee and Joe explained to me something of his situation with Captain America and the various characters that he felt he had a right to, and I listened to him and I said, "Well, okay, let me tell you this.  First of all I can give you these two lawyers and I can give you this person here who seems to be fighting for graphic arts and I can tell you this, that you should begin by sending bills in and making a paper trail and establishing yourself with the people that you work with and the people who are in charge of the people that you work with as requiring and demanding that you didn't have contracts, you have rights to these things, you have to create paper, and then you can go and see these people, although most lawyers won't think much of this, there are a couple lawyers that you can talk to and also people who are associated with the National Cartoonist's Society that you should talk to."  So, I gave him a list and I wrote down the stuff.  Anyway, so we got up.  He said, "Thank you.  You have no idea how much I appreciate this."  I said I have a pretty good idea.  And so he shook hands and he was gonna leave, and as he was about to leave I said, "Excuse me, Mr. Simon."  He turned around, he said, "Yeah?"  I said, "I'd like to introduce myself.  My name is Neal Adams."  He said, "I know."  I said, "Well, let me tell you a story…"  He had no idea, no idea that this was the same person that he had spoken to.  Absolutely no idea.

Prof:  And what was his final reaction?

NA:  His final reaction was, "I guess that wasn't such very good advice, was it?"

Prof:  Oh, how the pendulum does swing.  That's funny.  That's just too funny.  You actually have two U.S. postage stamps of your work now.  How does that feel?

NA:  Do I have two?  One's a postage stamp and one's…I don't know if it's a postage stamp or... 

Prof:  I think so, at least they gave you credit on it, there's obviously the iconic Green Lantern one and then the Aquaman one is attributed to you also.

NA:  Oh yeah?  I don't think that's mine.  I think that's not fair to somebody.  Somebody out there is not getting credit.

Prof:  That could very well be, but it does look a little like your style.  I mean, I don't have the artist's eye, but…

NA:  I don't know.  I thought it was just one.

Prof:  Okay.  (Note:  I discovered later that stamp was done by Jim Aparo.)

NA:  It was very nice, don't you think?  Very pleasant to see that.  Really not so much for me, but I think for an industry that was basically considered to be just one small step above toilet paper.

Prof:  Oh yeah, exactly.

NA:  To have come so far that the stuff we have done in comic books is appearing on our screens for hundreds of millions of dollars, that is appearing on our postage stamps and on our television shows, that is essentially making a contribution to popular culture across the board.

Prof:  Oh, absolutely.

NA:  Quite incredible.

Prof:  Absolutely.

NA:  Amazing.

Prof:  It was kind of funny, 'cause…

NA:  I had a little to do with that. (Laughter)

Prof:  You did, which is one of the reasons I was pleased to get the opportunity to pick your brain a little bit.

NA:  But you were gonna say…

Prof:  Oh, I was just commenting…Carmine was even asking me…I think being part of the old guard it was just hacking out a living and he was asking me "Now how old are you?"  I said, "I'm 44."  "Why all this interest in comic books?"  I said, "Well, Carmine, I…"

NA:  (laughter) I don't think actually Carmine has absorbed the impact of what is actually going on here, of what a cultural change this is making.  I think Carmine perhaps even thinks that there are illustrators out there doing illustration work when in fact there is a minority of illustration work out there.  All the magazines that used to carry illustration work no longer do it.  The movie posters that used to be Bob Peak and Drew Struzan now are photographs for the most part.  You get a Drew Struzan poster once in awhile, but really you know the illustration field, it hasn't dried up, there's certainly illustration work out there, but nothing like used to exist in the 40's, 50's and 60's and before that.  So the question today is what does an illustrator do?  What does somebody who is really good and really professional and loves to create and draw, what does he do?  Who would ever think that somebody would say "Do comic books?"  It's just a phenomenon.  But that's what's happening.  There are more illustrators and artists doing comic books, excellent comic books…there's not even a question.  And then if you think of all the ancillary stuff, the computer games, the movies, the television, the t-shirts.  I have people walking around who are proudly wearing Superman t-shirts.  They're not some 12-year old kid with some Superman t-shirt with a DC logo on it.  There are people who are wearing stylish shirts and clothing with these various logos.  It's become a major part of our culture and is spreading around the world.

Prof:  Yes.  I couldn't agree more.

NA:  It's really quite phenomenal.

Prof:  It's modern day mythology.

NA:  Ah, you're a writer, I can tell.

Prof:  Oh, well, I dabble.  Let's put it that way.

NA:  Well, what's that "modern day mythology" stuff?

Prof:  (laughter) And perhaps I lift a little from your old compadre, Denny O'Neil.

NA:  Oh, yes.

Prof:  In "Knightfall" he said something to that effect, talking about Superman being a modern day incarnation of Gilgamesh, I believe, but he says, "But you take Batman and what is he, really?  Is he a hero?"

NA:  Well, certainly Batman is a hero, but Batman is the antithesis of the superhero if you think in terms of what superheroes have become.  You know, bitten by a radioactive spider is pretty much the standard.  Batman is the opposite of Superman.  You have Superman, who is the most powerful superhero there is, essentially and almost too unrealistic to consider to deal with and on the other end of the scale you have a person who is in fact not a superhero at all.

Prof:  Yeah, yeah…

NA:  Batman is a NOT superhero.  I don't know who else is a NOT superhero and is successful.  I mean there have been guys around who have put on costumes and have acted like superheroes, but generally they get themselves pasted.  Batman succeeds where no one else succeeds.  He is not, in any way, a superhero.

Prof:  Absolutely true.

NA:  He wears a costume, but that's to scare people. 

Prof:  Yeah, yeah exactly.  His primary method is fear, inciting fear.

NA:  So you see between Superman and Batman the opposite ends of the scale, the whole of the comic book industry.

Prof:  Very much so.  It's kind of a shame after all of the efforts that you were able to bring forth that you were too late to save somebody like a Bill Finger, for example.

NA:  It's a, you know, more often than not, as much as I…I don't look for these things, but what happens is that people don't come to me and say…basically I say, "I'm at your service.  I owe enough to this industry to be willing to say if you need my help, you just have to reach out and I'll help.  Whatever it takes."  And…just sometimes people have too much pride to ask for help and I understand that perfectly, you know.  That's just such a natural phenomenon, but people don't ask, and when people ask, very often people will rally around and do things.  It's just very often the hardest thing in the world to ask.  And so anything that I've been able to do has really been when a person is at the end of their line.  "I can't do anything else."  Call Neal.  And then we turn things around, and everybody rallies, everybody comes to it, it's just... 

Prof:  It's the right thing to do.

NA:  Well, of course.  No surprise.

Prof:  It's no more complex than that.

NA:  No.

Prof:  What's right is what's right…

NA:  Exactly.

Prof:  I don't know.  The things I've read about both Bill Finger and Bob Kane, you just shake your head after awhile…

NA:  I don't know, you know I think Bob Kane did kind of okay.  He made a living at it.  I don't know.  Yeah, he didn't get rich, that's true.  On the other hand nobody was getting rich…well, that's bullshit.  I'm lying.  I just started to lie there.  (Chuckle.)  It's crap.  It's always been a Mom and Pop business, it's always been shit, and the one thing that's happened is it's gotten a lot better.  You know, God bless the people who get into it now.  It's way, way better for them.  For the guys who were in it at the beginning when it was going to be flushed down the toilet, you know the mere fact that they held on or they were able to hold on is a glory, in my opinion, but nobody expected it to survive and everybody was grabbing for whatever little piece of shit they could.  You know they didn't even have contracts.  They had "contracts."  You know Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster signed a contract, but when I got in they didn't even have contracts.  They were ready to go out of business.  They had this statement on the back of the check that says, "We own everything."  I went to a lawyer and he said, "That's not a contract.  Just write "under protest" under it or cross it out.  It means nothing.  It means nothing in court.  It's not a contract."  So we went through that terrible time and it was like being in the Stone Age, it was unreal and it was…you can't put a definition on it.  And those guys who went through it, who suffered through it…you know God bless Bob Kane who was able to bring his Mom or his Dad down and bring a lawyer down and was actually able to get a contract.  He is, as far as I know, the only guy in the business that actually got a contract.

Prof:  Yeah, for that era, as near as I can tell, you're absolutely right.

NA:  And he was paid for comic books he never did, he had other people do it, he was able to do it…he got royalties he got some kind of deal at the end, so he was able to take care of himself and they didn't bother him when he did paintings with Batman on them and he did a TV show.  You know Bob was all right.  I don't know so much about Bill Finger, but I hear he wasn't so good for that.

Prof:  Yeah, like I say from what I've been able to gather Bill toiled in obscurity and unfortunately died the same way.

NA:  But you know most of those guys went home at night and they kissed their wives and they watched the television and they lived a normal life and it was that kind of a business in those days.  You just can't compare it to today.

Prof:  Yeah.  A different world.

NA:  How could you find a Frank Miller back in those days?

Prof:  Yeah.

NA:  I went through it.  I tried as much as I could to help, I tried as much as I could to change it, it was a disaster and it needed every bit of help it could get.  I wish there were more people that could repair the…broken animal that it was, but we came out of it.  We came out of it the better for it.  And I don't know, is it because we're America and we're Americans and we have a better attitude?  Why is it?  Is it because we believe in heroes, is it because we're optimistic, what is it about the nature of comic books that makes it such an American thing?  It makes a universal thing, but it all really comes from America and to think that our greatest comic book superhero came from two little Jewish kids in Cleveland, Ohio, of all places is a wonderful story, so you know so as much as I get pissed off about it, you know I got up out of the fight and I had blood all over me and mud all over me, but you know around me everybody was smiling and moving forward, so I went and washed off and cleaned up and everything's fine.  (Laughter.)

Prof:  Absolutely and well, it was pivotal, the work that you did.  More than one person has commented to me that the efforts that you put forth led to that sea change that was long overdue.

NA:  Well, there you go.  Somebody had to do it.

Prof:  It's certainly something to be proud of.  You kind of broke out on the Deadman comic, was it intimidating at all to be thrown a project that was started elsewhere?  Did that bother you at all?

NA:  Not at all.  I was just accepting assignments and I thought it was wonderful that Carmine did that first issue and then Carmine wanted to be an art director and then he couldn't do other issues and then they cast around and I was basically the only fish to be able to fry and to follow something like that and I just loved the hell out of it.  I had to give up the Spectre at the time.  I thought I was giving up something more significant, but Deadman turned out to be a pretty interesting project, and for me, remember I had done this soap opera syndicated strip based on Ben Casey.  I wasn't really that much of a superhero guy.  I mean, you know, to me, superheroes are a little…if you punch somebody in the face, he bleeds and he falls down and you have to take him to the hospital to get him fixed and maybe he won't get fixed and there's lots of problems.  It's not that you're battling in abandoned warehouses and nobody really suffers the blow.  I don't really do very well in that kind of thing.  I'll do it, because I'm a professional.  But Deadman was a very interesting character.  Once again not only not a superhero, but he's dead.  (Laughter.)  He's dead, man.

Prof:  Yeah, he's certainly not pleased with his station in life…or death.

NA:  Right.  So it was my kind of comic book, because it had a real gritty sense of reality to it, so you've got to remember, too that a lot of those older guys came out of those times where there weren't that many superheroes.  I guess Carmine did superhero stuff, but he also did Western stuff, he did other stuff, too and he was also a tremendous designer and even his characters weren't necessarily superheroes, you know.  Flash was, I guess and he became famous for that, but I don't know, Deadman sort of fit into that, you know, he didn't have balloon muscles, he had real anatomy, he was a gymnast and a trapeze artist and so if I had to make the choice I'd have picked me first, but I think Carmine doing it really set up a great character and passing it on to me really said basically, "Dinner is made.  Would you like to enjoy it?"  And I said, "Yeah."

Prof:  Great analogy.  Now later on you actually took over scripting as well.  What led you to that?

NA:  Well, what was happening with Deadman was that you have a certain standard of writing, of given time, and it flows with the time, and in those days it was, "Here is a superhero; do a story about him."  You know, do a Superman story, do a Batman story, whatever it is, because there's going to be hundreds of them, and you're just going to do one, so you  come up with a story, you know, bring somebody else into it…blah, blah, blah.  To me, that's not what Deadman was about.  Deadman was about Deadman.  Maybe it had an end, but it didn't matter if it had an end, but the idea was you wanted to do the story about Deadman, you didn't want to do the story about Fred who is a divorced parent or whatever the hell it is.  It should be about Deadman, it should circulate around Deadman.  It seemed like Deadman became something that everybody threw up in the air and everybody took shots at it.  Everybody wanted to write a Deadman story because it was the only book at DC Comics that was getting any attention.  So Bob Kanigher wrote a two-part story, and I went to my editor at the time, who turned out to be Dick Giordano, because it had been passed on to Dick after Miller had left under dubious circumstances.  I don't know how to say that the right way.  It wasn't good.  So Dick had it, and Kanigher wrote a script, he wrote a 2-part script, and Kanigher did kind of that thing that Kanigher does.  He sets up a situation, the character fails at the situation one time, then he fails at the situation a second time and then he succeeds.  If you read Bob's stuff, that's how it works.  I was a Bob Kanigher fan and the longer he made the story the more the guy would fail until he succeeded.  So what I did was I took that story and I compressed it into one book, the two book story because it was really only worth one book.  I took the story to my editor and I said, "Dick, it took a lot of work to take that story from two books into one, but if I'd left it as two books it just would have been…"  He said, "I know."  And then he had some other scripts that were being submitted and he said, "Maybe you should take a look at these."  And I looked at them and I talked to him and I said, "You know this is just taking Deadman and turning him into the Flash or something.  It's not a Deadman story."  He said, "You want to write it?"  I said, "Yeah.  I'd love to write it.  At least it'll be a Deadman story."  So that's what I did.  I started writing Deadman.  You can't really tell when you read the stories how much it re-focuses on Deadman, because I'd always kind of made it focus on Deadman through the art and the various things that happened, but it became even more re-focused on Deadman. People seemed to like that.

Prof:  It did pretty well there for quite some time although of course ultimately it got canceled.

NA:  Well, it got canceled for very interesting reasons.  Are you a historian?

Prof:  Oh, a little bit.  Like I say, my focus is more the Silver Age than anything else.

NA:  One of the interesting stories of the Silver Age is the advent of comic book shops.  You're aware of comic book stores?

Prof:  Right, instead of the twirling metal rack at the corner grocery.

NA:  Yes.  The twirling metal rack at the corner grocery was actually the magazine rack at the magazine distribution center or toy store or candy store where they had comic books.  What was happening in those days was that the distribution of comic books and magazines was going way, way down because they had discovered this concept.  Originally they had a concept, and this happened when I was a kid, where what they did was they had a concept of returns, like if they didn't sell your magazines, they'd return them and then you'd try to redistribute them to various places or you'd try to work out some kind of deal, you know, give them to hospitals or whatever, but it was a big pain in the ass.  You're doing a magazine and you get these magazines returned to you, what do you do with them?  Well, you take them to a warehouse and eventually you destroy them.  So the distributor said, "Well, why don't we destroy them?"  "Well, how do we know that you're telling us the truth, that you didn't sell so many, because you could just keep the money?"  (Laughter)

Prof:  Yeah.  A valid question.

NA:  So they said, "Well, why don't we do this?  We'll slice the logo off the top, put them through a machine and we'll just slice the logo, wrap them in rubber bands and we'll send you those back."

Prof:  Okay.  Yeah, yeah, I've seen those.

NA:  Sounds like a good idea.  So they started to do that.  Now in my neighborhood I would go to this toy shop that was on the way to Mark Twain Junior High in Coney Island, and there would be this toy shop and you could buy comic books, last month's or the month's before, comic books, for 3 cents and 2 cents and 5 cents. But the top, where the logo is, would be sliced off.

Prof:  Ah-h-h-h.

NA:  The two cent ones, the slicer would go through 2 or 3 pages, so you'd really lose reading material, but if you just wanted to read the comic book you could sort of imagine what was there and pay 2 cents for it.  Or 3 cents or 5 cents.  The 5-cent ones, just the logo was stripped off.  So this whole idea of keeping the distributor honest… (Laughter.)

Prof:  Wasn't working.

NA:  No.  It didn't work.  Not only didn't work, it didn't work a lot.  I used to trade comic books with kids with the tops cut off all the time.  I don't know if the comic book fans have those copies, but whatever the reasons and however the manipulations went, everybody sort of agreed that that wasn't a great idea.  But, then they came up with a worse idea.  An idea so much worse that you can't even conceive of it.  When I tell it to you, you will say to yourself, "That can't be.  It's not even possible."  They said, "Why don't we have what is called an affidavit return?  I will say that I destroyed 500 copies, and sign a piece of paper to that effect."  (Laughter)

Prof:  Ah.  The old honor system.

NA:  The honor system.

Prof:  With no honor.

NA:  I will say that I threw them into the shredder.  So now that I've said I'm throwing them into the shredder, what do I do with them?  Because I've just said, "I'm throwing them into the shredder."  Now I can either throw them into the shredder, or make a buck.  Hmmm.  Difficult decision.  For an honest man, a difficult decision.  But you know magazine distributors, not exactly honest men, you've got those Playboy magazines, you know.  Affidavit returns…I've got customers who will take those Playboy magazines and sell them easy to all the barber shops in town.  So, at that time there were 440 local distributors.  Why do I know that?  I know everything.  440 local distributors around the country.  Some of them have consolidated in recent years, but at that time it was about 440.  If you were an entrepreneurial young man, a teenager, or maybe a little bit older than a teenager, and you had your father's station wagon, or van, not too many vans in those days, station wagon; you could drive up to the back of your local distributor, 440 of them; one in your area, and you could go to the back, and you could walk in the back, and there would be a table next to the door where the trucks loaded.  There would be a table.  And on the table would be Playboy magazines, Cosmo, tons of comic books, tons of comic books and you could buy them for, let's say it was a ten cent comic book, let's say a 15 cent comic book, you could buy them for 5 cents.

Prof:  Bargain basement.

NA:  Bargain basement.  Now there's no way that you're going to report as a distributor that you sold those comic books, because if you report that you sold them you'd have to sell them for 8 cents or 9 cents.  If you sold them for 5 cents, nobody's making any profit, so you just write them off as being destroyed.  Shredded.  So you had guys with station wagons all around the country who would go and do that; buy those comic books and they would go to their friends who were interested and then they would rent a motel room or a hotel room, like in the Penta Hotel in New York.  And they'd rent a room and they would invite all the comic book fans in the area that they have learned to know and love over the past years because they were all comic book fans and they did newsletters among one another and the announcement would go out that these comic books would be for sale at various prices in this hotel room.  Guys would come up, drink a little punch, buy whatever comic books they wanted at whatever condition they wanted to buy them at.  And some of them would go out and sell some of those.  So all around the country, you've got these little get-togethers in motel rooms, in the local church, outside of school, blah, blah, blah, of people buying comic books from the back of the distributor for 5 cents apiece and selling them for 15 for 20 cents, sometimes they'd sell them for two bucks because they got some really nice stuff that you couldn't get in your local distributors because your local distributors, your local store wasn't even getting them.

Prof:  Oh, golly.

NA:  Wasn't even getting them.  Those guys, all around the country, became your first comic book stores.  You want to know where the guys who owned those comic book stores came from?  Those are the guys with the vans.  That would buy the books out of the back of the distributor, and sell them at the motel room.  Those are the guys who became the comic book stores.

Prof:  Started their own sub-market.

NA:  Well that's how the direct sales market began.  From those guys.  One guy went into DC Comics and said, "Look.  Instead of you sending them to your distributor, telling you he only sold 40% of them, I'll buy them from you direct, and I'll pay you full price, no returns."  How could you lose?  They went to Marvel and did the same thing.  Once DC started to do it, Marvel started to do it.  That became Phil Seuling and the direct sales market, the beginning of the direct sales market.

Prof:  Wow.  Just an obvious, logical progression.

NA:  Exactly.  Now, put yourself in that historical position.  Forget that the direct sales market has begun.  Think of all those distributors around the country and all those guys pulling up in the vans.  You're gonna go in and you're gonna buy comic books, only you're gonna focus, to a certain degree, on comic books you can sell for two bucks or 50 cents rather than 15 cents.  So you're going to get, let me see, Steranko's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Barry Smith's Conan, Neal Adams' Deadman, Green Lantern/Green Arrow.  What books are you gonna buy?  Batman, by Neal Adams.  What books are you gonna buy?  Sell to your friends.  I go to a comic book convention now, I sign mint condition copies of Green Lantern/Green Arrow and Batman, bought by the box load out of the distributor.  My good friend Carmine, "Gosh, Neal, I don't know why Deadman isn't selling better.  I mean, you know, when you do a cover on another comic book it goes up 10 points, but you know your own comic books just aren't doing that well." (Laughter.)

Prof:  Just all that work in the shadows.  Interesting…

NA:  How much sense does it make that the most popular comic books out there didn't do any better than the other comic books?  Just pick the comic books at the time.  The most popular comic books and the ones that everybody wanted to get, they didn't do any better than any other comic books.  There's a reason.  Some of them actually did worse.  Nobody understood why.  The reason they didn't understand why is because nobody in the comic book business thought to investigate the distributors, and if they did, what could they do?  Arms broken?

Prof:  Totally out of control at that point.

NA:  Right.  Now they could have asked for returns.  It's possible.  The reason I know this is because when we did comic books we got into the distribution business, we didn't get into the business, but we dealt with the distributors, and my daughter went around to the various distributors in our area, and they were only too delighted to show her the table in the back with this old shit.  "Ah, yeah.  This is the table where we sell shit.  The guys come in; they just pick the stuff up."  "Oh, really?"  (Laughter.) 

Prof:  Good grief.  That's quite the story.

NA:  We're at a comic book convention when we were distributing, and we had some comic book store owner come over with a bunch of comic books to our table, and this is well into this whole idea, because that business didn't discontinue.  What happened was as time went on, as the comic book stores opened, what they would do is the comic book stores, let's say they ordered a certain comic book and it did well.  And they discovered that it did well by selling out.  So what they'd do is they'd take their vans and go down to the local distributor and say, "Have you got any of these left?"  Then they'd buy them for 5 cents or whatever amount the percentage was, and they'd take them back to their stores and sell them as if they were the direct market sales copies.  Right?  So, what happened was certain comic book companies, and us included, we did things with our comic books.  For example, we did a glow in the dark cyber rad and we distributed the glow-in-the-dark to the direct sales market, but the regular copy went to the retail market.  One day my daughter is at a convention and we're selling stuff and some comic book store, local retailer, comes up and says, "Why doesn't this have the glow-in-the-dark?  This is a rip-off."  My daughter looked at him and she said, "You got that from Diamond?"  "Yeah."  "Well, you know we didn't ship the glow-in-the-darks to the regular retail stores, we only shipped the glow-in-the-dark to the direct sales market.  So are those direct sales market copies or are those from the local distributor?"  "Uh…uh…I'll go check."

Prof:  (Laughter.)  Never to be seen again.

NA:  Yeah, you go check.  Schmuck.  Thief. 

Prof:  Nice try.  Born at night, but not last night.

NA:  Anyway, so if you want an explanation, and I believe Carmine is still confused about it.

Prof:  That could very well be.

NA:  "How come they didn't sell?  They did so well."  Carmine did a speaking tour, went around the country and did like radio interviews on Green Lantern/Green Arrow.  He was invited to all these places and, "Why aren't the damn comic books selling?"  "I don't know."

As is quite apparent, Neal Adams had plenty to share and I learned a great deal from his experiences.  He gave me so much great material, in fact, that this is merely Part I.  You can read the rest of this epic interview next time, along with another review from the Silver Age of DC Comics.  We'll see you then.

Comments and feedback can be sent to me any time, so please do so at: professor_the@hotmail.com.

Long live the Silver Age!

© 2000-2007 by B.D.S.

Interview copy edited by Neal Adams

This feature was created on 05/01/00 and is maintained by



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