DC Comics will publish a new Superman Story in February « Coming of the Supermen » in which you are the writer and artist. In this book Superman will be helped by 3 citizens of Kandor in order to defeat the legions of Apokolips.
For this occasion I had the occasion to talk a little bit with the legendary Neal Adams about his upcoming project and the industry.
Classic question first, how does it feel to be back on a Superman Title after such a long time?
Well the thing to remember is when I last did Superman it was Superman vs Muhammad Ali. And when I did that I felt obligated to do a Superman that was very much the DC Comcis Superman which I still feel the same way about.
But now, since everybody have been playing with Superman a little bit I feel that the opporunity has been given to me to work on Superman a little bit differently that I might have done all the way back when I did Superman vs Muhammad Ali. So what i’m doing with this Superman is i’m making; a little more attractive Superman, like a real person. A person you could fall in love with if you’re a girl. A character who you can see the anatomy of a little be more; because I do like anatomy, so you can see his muscles under his costume. I’m taking some elements of the new costume but not all the elements because I really don’t agree completely with elements that has been changed. For example the color of the new costume, is a little bit hard for Clark Kent to hide when he’s wearing a shirt because you’re going to immediately see that color so it really doesn’t make any sense.
There’s things that i’m doing to hark back a little bit to the regular to what I call a regular Superman but at the same time give him an extra romantic flair. You know when I first did Batman I didn’t really change him. People saids « wow Neal changed Batman ». No I didn’t, what I really did was I went back to the original Batman and then I drew him a little bit better, I drew him with a better cape, his cape float like a real cape and I gave him a more athletic body, something that was more gymnastic he wasn’t bulky and heavy chested. So I basically did the same Batman that I read when I was a kid exepct that I made him an athletic and powerful character who was drawn that much better. So people thought « Oh Neal is changing him ». No I didn’t, I didn’t change him at all in the end I took that cirlcle out of his chest so he wouldn’t be a target but essentially that’s all that I did, I really didn’t change the character because I do have very very much respect for the character.
So I believe I’m doing Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s Superman but forward in time with more better drawing. Now you could say « oh this is Neal Adams being egotistical and he believe he’s such a good drawer » but in fact I am aren’t I? I mean the thing that marks my work is that i’m a better drawing artist because I do study anatomy I do know these things. Well if you take those things and apply them to the same character then as I said in the past the character becomes what the character would look like if he was really a person and not just a comic book drawing. So what i’m tring to do is turn Superman real and make him a real person so that you look at him and say “did he shave this morning? Does he cut his hairs” You loot at him and say “when he kisses Lois are his lips soft or are they hard?” you think about it when you look at this character I’m trying to make Superman accessible to the readers.
We can say he is more “human”.
That is the surprise at the end of the story that I cannot reveal to you that is implicit in the name.
Superman’s outfit looks like the classic one that fans are used to, however the belt seems a bit different. Fans are not always happy with changes but at the same time they want something different, how did you work?
Well I decided to leave the trunks on. I’m sorry I see him without the trunks and he just looks wrong to me, I’m just so used to the real Superman. So I assumed that he’s wearing a kind of pant that go up to his waist and he’s wearing a tunicle grip (~) that goes to his crotch and that’s all one piece and he has a belt on but the belt is more or less decorative not not like in the movie back in Kandor where you see that kind of design. The belt is decorative in nature and it has an S on it , the family crest it’s a little bit more like a hard belt, not like a soft belt that a gymnast would wear (actually gymnasts don’t wear belts do they?) It’s a decorative belt that you could hook your thumbs in it, that’s really all, i’m just trying to make that look reasonable. It hooks down in the middle, it has the Superman’s crest, maybe in fact that’s why he wears it because it got the crest on it and he wants to identify himself. And that’s it, i’m not really going away from the original Superman and I spoke to enough people to get the feedbacks and there are not a lot of people who like the new costume the way it been presented and I have a feeling that for the sake of licencing for the sake of all kind of things that we’re gonna drift back toward the old costume.
I’ve seen this thing in for example Frank Miller’s Batman and even some of the other Batman were there’s what we used to call a Garrison belt. Well Garrison belts are what american G.Is wore in world war two. I have some difficulties with that because all you could do is put your cigarette in there, some food in there and stuffs. Basically with a garrison belt it was very clunky and lumpy and very unconfortable. One of the things I started in Batman Odyssey was a belt that has compartments to it that got a little bit wider on the side so you can put a gun into it and it was designed and I think it has to be a design because after all Batman lives in the modern days he hires people to do these things. Wouldn’t he get somebody who would design a belt that could carry all these stuffs and not just put on a garrison belt. The garrison belt is what SGT Rock wears, it just seems silly to me. I’m not saying that Superman with a trunk isn’t a little bit silly, I tried to deal with that and I know it’s a little bit silly but you know it’s still Superman and that’s how I remember him.
It’s really staing true to the classics.
I think so. I have a problem with people who takes to many liberties with all these things and change characters so completely. I have a character called Havoc I created over at Marvel and Havoc has gone through so many costume changes and he still keeps on coming back to the original costume that I did because that costume is designed to augment his powers and to allow his powers to be used the way they ought to be used, the costume is part of what he does. And people keep changing it and my comment would be: Look if you want a different character why don’t you just go out and create the character? Stop messing with mine. You want another Batman go make another Batman, call him Rat-Batman or something but create your own character, leave the good ones alone. They have already proven themselves. I just think that you know, it’s not part of the creative process to mess somebody else’s artwork, to mess somebody else’s creation but to create something new and I think that’s the obligation of the creator and not to mess around somebody else’s stuffs.
Let’s talk about the three « Supermen » featured in the story can you tell us what was the process to create them, if you had any inspiration for example?
I was inspired by the movie Gunga Din. It takes place in India and there’s three british soldiers one of them is played by Cary Grant, one by an actor named Victor McLaglen*. Three very different characters and they plays off each others, they have a good time together and they are discovering themselves in the movie. It’s sort of a “good friends” movie, three good friends get together and they have this adventure even though they are in the military and the commander hates them and they have girlfriend and stuff.
*the third one is played by Douglas Fairbank Jr.
That’s sort of like that, it’s a relationship where three volunteers needed to come to earth to take over the job of Superman so that Superman could come back to New Kandor and solve the problem there. The problem was that Darkseid and Apokolips tried to move in. And so they ask for volunteers and these three guys said “yeah let’s go”. And so these three guys were the volunteers who became the new Supermen. They came to Earth to save Superman’s position while Superman went to New Kandor. Of course they had to convince him to go but that didn’t take too much. So these are guys that are used to knowing each others and they kind of hang out together and they are all different from one another but they are in fact, you know, Supermen.
They live under a red star in the bottle city of Kandor, there powers aren’t as strong as Superman so they have to learn things like what is this heat vision, how do you use it, how do you turn it on so they are learning their superpowers. For example they can’t fly in space so they have to take a spaceship. Whatever Superman does to fly in space; which is a little bit hard for me to understand, they have to fly a spaceship. But they are guys that are ready to jump into a fight, punch the bad guy.
They seems like “funs” characters.
Funs but toughs and manly. Manly, tough and funs. I mean if you were to watch Gunga Din you’d pretty much get an idea of what it’s like.
2016 seems to be your year with the 26th covers coming out, your Batman Omnibus, the second volume of the Green Lantern/ Green Arrow.
Oh my goodness… I know it’s crazy right? And we have plans for other things that I can’t even talk about. But those 26 covers by the way are all gonna come out in February it’s covers for different books and it’s crazy. But DC Comics thought it was a good idea and who am I to say no?
People seems to want more classic story about the original heroes, do you feel it’s the case?
I have a feeling that for example newer fans they don’t even know what they call classic so you can’t count them in this opinion. But it seems to me that the comic-book reading public worldwide becomes so diverse and there are so many people that any opinion is a good opinion. So you can take a character and ruin it, turning it into something else and there will be people who will be reading it. You can turn it into a children’s book and people will read it. I think there’s a great variety of audience that can be appealed to. And if you can sell them ten or twenty thousand copies of a comic-book, that could be a movie, a television show. We’re in a great period of experimentation and I would be the last person to say “don’t do that” I would never say “don’t try it”. I don’t like people stepping on character’s that I or other people created for the sake of destroying the character and putting their own character to replace it. I do highly approve creating your own character and trying to make it live on its own or take another stylistic approche to it.
But I don’t think that there are too many nos that you can say in this process. I think that the audience is invigorated with the variety, interested in what’s going to come down the pipe that’s new. They’re interested in being part of it, they’re interested in enjoying it and the work we have now for the first time in history of comic-books, they’re a world audience. And they are hungry for fun stuffs to enjoy, and they become dedicated to a certain title, a certain character, just like in Europe you know, people were dedicated to Astérix, who would ever believe such a thing? Dedicated to Tintin, who would ever believe such a thing? It’s just some stupid kid having adventures it’s not even a character, not a super-hero in any way. He’s just a kid who when you hit in on the head he falls on the floor, and he has a dog, big deal. But still, people have fallen in love with it, and it becomes part of their lives. So they get it but if you talk to somebody else who is not into it he’ll say “what the hell are you reading? That’s nothing”. Well the truth is nothing for somebody is something for somebody. For example one of the American best selling title in India is Archie Comics. They love Archie because it’s so easy to understand, I don’t know and I have no explaination for it. But they love it in India. They have their own comic-book characters but they love archie. Why? I don’t know. I know that my stuff is appreciated worldwide and I don’t know the difference between my stuff and five other guy’s stuffs. Why do I get this attention? It’s very interesting and very exciting to watch. Do I have any opinion on it? Not really, I’m watching, i’m going to the circus just like you are. You know there’s somebody in the corner trying to write articles and to analyze it but they are in the circus, too many things happening. It’s very very hard to pin this stuff down and for me I like the opportunity to jump in and create. I get invited to this, I just got a call this morning. Do I’d like to do a Harley Quinn cover? Sure! Neal Adams making a Harley Quinn cover does that make any sense? Why not! So let’s have a good time. I think that in the middle of all of this it’s sort of like movies, somebody will do a legendary epic thing, and somebody will do some great tragedy that will become a movie. In the middle of all this somebody will do something that will do a perfect T.V Show, a perfect cartoon show in comic-book form and turn it into cartoon show. There’s just so many choices and so many opportunities and so many talents. We’re talking about a pool of talents that is worldwide. It used to be that comic-book artists and writers were only from New York and basically from the Lower East-Side of New York. Now, comic-book people send their work on the internet, publishers never sees the original pages. And they can come from any countries and any part of the world. You can send pages from Iceland. I think it’s great, i’m totally fascinated by it. Remember I’ve been around for a while, i’ve gotten to watch this evolutionary process and it’s quite fascinating.
Finally last question! Do you have any last words for us?
Well, hello everybody. But beyond that, has the collection of the Super-Dupont by Fluide Glacial cames out yet?* Just so you know that, that character was popular; I guess it’s not popular anymore, but it was popular for a while and I did a story that included Super-Dupont, Super Duper-Man and all these very funny amerian super-heroes 25 years ago. It’s very very funny. It’s a satire, a french super-hero who wears a bérêt and he has a mustache, a pat belly, a long john he wears bedroom slippers. It’s a very very funny character. It was great for me to do it because I’ve been over here and the guys are terrific and they let me do stories and have a great time. I’m a creature of the world and you must understand that anything that is interesting and new in the world I love, I love the creative people around the world and I want them to contribute to this new time. Remember we’re coming into a time hopefully where we won’t be killing people quite so much and we have something for the young people to do and that is to be creative. And I look forward to that.
*”Il était une fois Super-Dupont” December 2.
Thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions. It been a real pleasure!
/*Transcripted from a phone conversation*\