The year was 2015. My dad, my friend Matt, and I had just checked in to the Omni Hotel in Dallas, TX. We were going to be attending Dallas Comic Con, planning on meeting an entire host of celebrities, and getting our geek on for a whole weekend. We were fresh off the road and hungry, so we were on our way out of the hotel to hunt down a burger place. In the foyer, I looked up and saw a man coming down the escalator. The look of him was familiar, like the sight of him was triggering something important in my mind. Finally, as he reached the bottom of the escalator, it dawned me.
Oh my Gosh! That’s Neal Adams!!
Rewind back to 2012. Again, I was attending Dallas Comic-Con. I was incredibly excited for this one because Sir Patrick Stewart would be a guest. Not wanting to miss seeing Captain Picard/Charles Xavier in the flesh, I decided to go to the Q&A session just before his in the same room. I thought it would give me a chance to rest my feet and ensure that I would have a spot for when Sir Patrick came out. I looked at the program to see who would have the ballroom in the session before… some guy named Neal Adams, a comic book artist from DC. I thought, why not? I like comic books. It’ll be cool.
The actual Q & A was fun. I remember someone asking Neal Adams who his favorite character to draw was. With a grin on his face, he said, “I always give this answer, and it’s a lie, but it sounds nice, so I say it. My favorite character to draw is Batman because he has a cape. And drawing the cape is just as hard, if not more so, than drawing Batman himself. So drawing Batman is like getting to draw two characters for the price of one.” The ballroom chuckled, as did I. I thought he was a funny, witty guy, and I made it a point to look up what he had worked on when I got home.
Later that night, as I looked up who exactly Neal Adams was, I realized just how lucky I had been to be in the same room as this legend. He was the man who, alongside Dennis O’Neill, brought the Batman comics out of the campiness of the 1966 series, laying the groundwork for the modern versions of the character. Neal was the man who made the Joker a truly sinister villain and not just a cartoony gimmick. He was the man who drew the famous Green Lantern/Green Arrow issue that took a sobering, hard look at racism in America.
He was the man who fought for Creator’s rights, so that comic book legends like Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster could actually keep rights to their creations and be compensated fairly for them. He created Man-Bat. He created Ra’s Al Ghul. He designed Tim Drake’s Robin costume. He drew Superman vs. The Amazing Spider-Man. The more I read about him, the more amazed I was. I sat in that room, casually listening to this artist laugh and carry on about his career, and not once did I stop to consider who I was listening to. I was in the presence of comic book royalty, and I didn’t even know it.
Back to 2015
There I was, watching this legend casually ride down the escalator. So many were standing around Neal, much like I was in 2012, unaware of who was standing near them. I left my Dad and Matt wondering where I’d gone. I couldn’t let this opportunity pass. Timidly, I walked up to him and said, “Excuse me, sir?”
He looked up at me, startled, probably thinking he had accidentally bumped into me or something.
“Sir,” I said, “I just want to shake your hand. It’s truly an honor to meet you.”
He laughed, shook my hand with a firm grip, muttered a “Thanks,” and went on about his business. I caught back up with Dad and Matt, telling them that I had just met one of my comic book heroes, which made the whole trip worth it.
I got to see him in a Q and A at Comic-Con that year, too–that time, it was deliberate. My friend, Matt, who has now gone to Heaven, bought me a copy of his latest release at the time, Batman: Odyssey, and had it autographed for me. Likewise, I bought a print of Batman and Robin and had it autographed to commemorate the trip. That picture is hanging on my wall as I write this article. He was the only artist whose work I bought a series with no knowledge of the story arc, simply because he was the artist drawing it.
I was saddened when Steve Ditko died. It really hurt when Stan Lee passed. And my heart still skips a beat every time I see an update on George Perez’s Facebook page, afraid that this is the post I’m dreading to read. But this one… this one I shed tears over. This one got me in ways I didn’t expect. It’s always sad when someone you appreciate passes away. But this guy was someone I aspired to, someone whose skill and wit I yearned to emulate. A legend has entered into the halls of memory much sooner than any of us wanted.
Our prayers are with the Adams family in this time of grief and loss. May we all live our lives in such a way that we inspire others the way Neal Adams inspired me.
Stay Devoted. Peace and Love.