Alter Ego #181 May 2023 (magazine review).

With the previous issue of ‘Alter Ego’ still in transit due to the British GPO software glitch, at least more current content is getting through faster. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss this particular issue, as it is devoted to the late, great Neal Adams (1948-2022). With a wealth of art, there are definitely a few gems you might not have seen before, from convention sketches to original comic book pages to his advertising work.

His artist checklist should also have you looking through it for anything significant you might have missed. As editor Roy Thomas attests, if Neal Adams had any flaw, it was meeting deadlines. I hadn’t realized he was working for DC and Marvel Comics simultaneously until now. Any leeway given was simply because his draftsmanship was so good. It also seems that I’m in agreement with Gil Kane that Adams’ X-Men work was superior to whatever else he drew in that time period, although of all of them, I’ve yet to pick up his ‘Spectre’ work. I am surprised DC Comics hasn’t released an archive volume of it yet. Adams’ first issue of ‘The X-Men’ was based on a plot Roy Thomas had done for Don Heck, which was something else I hadn’t realized. Did I mention there’s a lot of information here?

James Rosen is preparing a Neal Adams biography and shared some of the artist’s history here, including his childhood. Neither of his parents demonstrated artistic talent.

Howard Chaykin’s interview with Neal Adams, conducted in 2020, began with the former’s first encounter with the latter’s art. As such, this interview explores what influenced Adams when young and how he borrowed from everyone until his own style was discovered. Considering he was only almost 21 when he took on the newspaper strip ‘Ben Casey’, lying about his age by saying he was 25 for the contract rather than having his mother countersign it. Something else that struck me is that ‘Ben Casey’ has only been reprinted once. You have to wonder why it has never received the book treatment.

Set aside a decent half hour to read Bryan Stroud’s 2007 interview with Neal Adams, as he recounts how he finally got to work for DC Comics and then Marvel Comics. Some aspects have been covered before, but there are other points relating to how comic books were seen as something that was going to close any year back in the early 1960s, and they were actually trying to dissuade him from looking at it as a career move. Looking beyond this interview, I think Marvel’s discovery that university students had taken to them showed they had moved to a different age generation, and DC Comics was slower to adapt.

For the finale, Neal Adams goes over his anti-Vietnam War 1971 story, ‘A View From Without…’, showing the true realities of war there. It’s still available in various collections and is well worth examining the real victims in conflict, as it still applies today.

There’s a switch of pace with Michael T. Gilbert actually using his Mr. Monster character for a series of different pictures based on various themes.

Then it’s back to the Fawcett Collectors of America, this time examining Neal Adams drawing the original Captain Marvel and even the TV actor version, followed by homages from Zorikh Lequidre, Mark Lewis, artists Eric Jansen, and Alex Ross. Adams wasn’t keen on the original not being able to have the comic title and stuck with ‘Shazam!’ because Marvel got the title name when it was available. Business-wise, I do think Marvel made the right move, as it would have seemed odd to have a competitor with a product that could have been mistaken for belonging to them.

Anything with Neal Adams’ name on it is likely to sell well, and I suspect this issue is likely to sell out, so order your copy before it does.

In addition to the interviews and insights into Neal Adams’ work, this issue of ‘Alter Ego’ offers a comprehensive look at the artist’s life and career. It’s a treasure trove for fans of Adams, as well as comic book enthusiasts in general. The variety of art pieces and the stories behind them provide a fascinating glimpse into Adams’ creative process and his impact on the comic book industry.

As this issue highlights, Neal Adams has left a lasting legacy, not only through his artwork but also through his dedication to the craft. His influence on future generations of artists is undeniable, and his innovative approach to storytelling and character development continues to inspire both creators and readers alike.

In conclusion, this issue of ‘Alter Ego’ serves as a fitting tribute to Neal Adams, celebrating his life, art, and contributions to the world of comic books. For fans of his work or those interested in the history of comics, this issue is a must-have. Don’t miss the opportunity to delve into the world of this legendary artist and explore his incredible journey in the comic book industry.

GF Willmetts

April 2023

(pub: TwoMorrows Publishing. 82 page illustrated magazine. Price: $10.95 (US). ISSN: 1932-6890. Direct from them, you can get it for $10.95 (US))

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