Interview: Neal Adams on Batman: Odyssey

Neal Adams is what is commonly known as a "Renaissance Man." Writer, artist, animator, and much more, for 50 years his work has been making an impact in comics and beyond. Known at Marvel for his runs on X-Men and Avengers, crosstown rivals DC also sought his services, and got them in spades with legendary runs on Deadman, Green Lantern/Green Arrow, and of course, Batman. For 2 years now, anticipation has been building about his latest comics project, a return to the Dark Knight entitled Batman: Odyssey. In July, the wait is over. I spoke with Neal about the project, how it was developed, and his philosophy of building a better Batman.


Matt Adler: How did this project come about, and how did you come up with the initial idea that would form the basis of Batman: Odyssey?

Neal Adams: Well creating a story is always kind of magic, isn't it? But in this case, everybody helped me, by leaving all these little bits and pieces lying around over the years. When did Bruce Wayne's life first intersect with Ra's Al Ghul? We don't really know. Why has Deadman formed a particular attachment to Batman? And here's a juicy one. Why does it seem that Batman has such whacky foes, and they all end up in Arkham? There's lots more. it just seemed that people left all of this stuff lying around for me to pick up.

Finally of course, there's this thing with guns.

How did this project come about? My friend Frank Miller heard I was showing an interest in doing comics again, he talked to Bob Schreck, and Bob Schreck, one of the smartest young men in comics, ran with the ball.

MA: Early on, it was announced Frank Miller would dialogue the series, but as I understand, he had to drop out due to scheduling issues. Has your conception of the book changed much from those early plans to work with Frank?

NA: It's true that Frank has gotten very busy, but the fact is, I didn't exactly need the help, since I have done a lot more writing in comics than people seem to be aware of. Once I get through plot, outline and dialogue, that's pretty much the writing. Of course the sacrifice is, 1. Whatever Frank's contribution would have been, and 2. Frank's draw as far as sales are concerned. On the other hand, since I had something to do with the early training of Frank Miller, as you probably know from his interviews, even Frank was curious to know how this epic would turn out. Just as I am curious and excited to know how Frank's projects will turn out. He's got the prequel to 300. The hero with the bat ears removed project, which I am told by the sentinels at the door, bodes to be great. And of course, the second Sin City film.

MA: You've mentioned that the title of this series, Odyssey, has direct meaning within the context of the story, as it sees Batman go on a personal journey of change in terms of how he deals with threats and how he approaches his role as Batman. Is this a sort of change you've felt Batman has needed, even beyond the context of this story?

NA: I think it's an area that needed to be gone into for a long time. And it's not something that can be handled with kid gloves, and I don't handle it with kid gloves. It's kind of a gut-slammer and an Odyssey at the same time, and I've been trying to warn people, you really have to start the story on Book 1.

MA: How does this story fit in with the overall Batman mythos?

NA: There has been a back and forth in the comic book business that we talk about and don't talk about. That is the need for change of characters, as opposed to the throwing out of the baby with the bathwater, with these changes. Joe Quesada had to save Spider-Man from being destroyed as the character he was created to be. DC has killed Superman, and taken tremendous backwater on it, and now Batman. Aquaman is dish-dirt over and over. They even cut off his hand, and then magically had to grow it back. I'm not a big fan of this irresponsible change in the characters. And then being forced to admit it was a massive mistake. I, myself, brought Magneto back to life, and Professor X back to life. In the case of Professor X, they had taken the time time slowly kill him, and bury him over a year's worth of comic book.

My feeling is this. If a creative wants to change a character completely, not just save it or make it better, but change it, go create your own damn character. They're changing Thor over at Marvel. But they're not really changing him. They're making it the same, only better. That's what I'm doing with Batman, in my little epic. The same, only better.

MA: From the preview art, we've seen that Aquaman will be guest-starring; what made you decide to bring him in?

NA: Well, I could easily say Aquaman was brought in because we were near the water, but that's not the case. In my mind's eye, I feel there are lots of other members of the Justice League that would like to jump in, to help Batman over his crisis, but they're holding themselves back. Aquaman just saw the need, and so he jumped in. And wouldn't you know it, Batman curses him out for it. That's what you get for trying to help a friend.


MA: Can you tell us a little bit about your creative process in writing and illustrating an issue of this series?

NA: Writing is a separate process from drawing. And if you're lucky, they come together. The writer in me has had to question if the artist in me could do certain things. The artist in me (now that the script is complete), is cursing the writer for putting too many panels on a page, and begging to open the story up, because he needs more pages. And when I mention this to other artists and writers, they laugh at me.

MA: As someone who's been working in this industry for 50 years, what are you most impressed with in today's comics?

NA: I'm most impressed with the fact that back in the day, I really didn't have much competition, except for some notable notables. Now, because somebody has pushed the business boundaries (higher rates, return of original art, royalties, creator ownership, stuff like that), more and more tremendously talented creatives are writing and drawing comics. And so the competition is much, much stiffer. I guess I'm just going to have to go to my "A Game".

MA: What other projects are you working on these days, in or out of comics?

NA: My studio recently completed the very best motion comic book for Marvel, Astonishing X-Men: Gifted by Joss Whedon and John Cassaday. Marvel is busy trying to turn motion comics into income. Sort of the way comic books began. You do comic books, they just barely pay the rent, then Superman comes along and turns them into money.

Our studio is working on a viral campaign for Taco Bell featuring The Super Delicious Ingredient Force, based on the old 70's superhero cartoon shows. It's as funny as farts and babypoop. I have also turned the plot in, and I am working on the breakdowns for a 5-part Wolverine series.

Matt Adler knows what Batman needs to take him to the next level: membership in the Super Delicious Ingredient Force.


  1. Neil Adams always comes off like a total dick. Maybe it’s just me.

  2. The more i see stuff from this new Batman book, the more i want it. Neal Adams’ stuff is so great. I really dig the flying Bat-Ferrari. 

  3. I want this as a trade on my bookshelf….but I don’t want to pass up the issues. It’s so pretty!!!

  4. @ ChristopherJohn, I agree that in interviews Adams comes across dickish.  I think of him as the Frank Sinatra of comic books. 

  5. I’m still not entirely sure what this story is about, I keep thinking its the superhero version of Ulysses.

  6. @ChristopherJohn, @finbarbat:  Guys I totally disagree with that assesment of Neal.  I met him at San Diego a few years ago and he was great! I knew about this then because he showed me some sketches for it.  The guy was a total gentlemen, not at all dickish.

  7. @christopherjohn–ego plays an important part in the greatness of an artist. Picasso, Pollock etc etc where all pretty quick to tell you how great they were. Adams knows he’s a legend and that his work is still top level. i think that’s pretty cool. 

  8. Neal Adams doesn’t strike me as a dick as much as he is a self-mythologizing huckster in the old Smilin’ Stan mold.  If you ever get a chance to hear him speak on a panel at a con, you should go.  He’s a natural storyteller.

  9. I haven’t really liked some of his recent cover art, but these samples look great!

  10. @wallthegreenmonster I have no problem with the man being aware of his talent and his place in the industry, but there’s no reason to hit people over the head with it. It’s like "We get it. You’re a great artist."

    @k5blazer I’ve never met Adams in person so I can’t comment beyond what I’ve seen/heard in interviews. I’m glad you had a good experience with him. There’s nothing worse than meeting someone whose work you enjoy and leaving disappointed with how they relate to fans. 

  11. If anyone has earned the right to have a high opinion of himself, it’s Neal Adams.

  12. To be honest, I’ve never read any of his works on Batman. Was he involved in the animated series in any way?

  13. Neal Adams drawing Batman? I am so there…..

  14. I think Neal Adams is the most overrated comic book artist of all time.

    His layouts are fantastic, but I think everything else just looks average. His old work was very simlar to newspaper adventure comic strips in their photorealistic nature, but I thought actual comic strip artists like Alex Raymond, Al Williamson and Hal Foster had already done the style better than he had. I think Neal Adams just had the added benefit of drawing very popular characters. I think he newer stuff just looks extremely generic. 

    Of course this is blasphemous to most comic fans. 

  15. Yes it is.