Neal Adams is a legend. Let's just get that out of the way. You should take some time to check out his wiki page to see all the characters and books he's worked on. He has a new miniseries coming at DC Comics, SUPERMAN: THE COMING OF THE SUPERMEN. He's taking on the classic concept of Superman along with characters like Lois Lane and Lex Luthor plus some Jack Kirby characters like Darkseid. The story sounds incredible and talking to Neal was a real treat.
Along with the miniseries, Neal is also doing twenty-five variant covers paying homage to his past covers but with a modern twist.
What is COMING OF THE SUPERMEN about? Check out what Neal had to tell us about it. You'll be fascinated by what he had to say.
COMIC VINE: How did this Superman project come about?
NEAL ADAMS: The last time I did Superman was generations ago, SUPERMAN VS MUHAMMAD ALI. That book has since become legend, I guess. At least that’s what everybody tells me. I realized when I did that, I was really doing the standard Superman. I wanted to do a romantic and good-looking Superman.
I’ve kind of had a thing in my head about what it is I want to do with Superman—what he ought to be and how he seems so much like us and how he’s in this science fiction universe where we have lots of really weird aliens. We also have all these people that sort of look the same. They’re like humans. I thought, “You know, I really think that Superman ought to be a super-man but I don’t want to get into that so much. I want to get into the idea of his humanity.
I had a story and a good plot. DC was happy to do it. I had just come off BATMAN: ODYSSEY, which is pretty dark. I wanted to do a lighter thing. I wanted to do Superman because isn’t Superman out in the daytime? Batman hangs out at night. Superman owns the daytime. Batman owns the night. I like that. As much as I like Batman, my affinity is for someone like Superman. Even though he’s a super hero. He’s the yin to Batman’s yang. He’s the opposite of Batman. He’s probably the greatest superhero in comics where as Batman is not a superhero at all. So I thought, “Well, they let me do the dark side. Let me do the light side now.”
I proposed the story and DC liked it. God knows why. They’re letting me do a six-issue miniseries which I am now finishing the inks on. Over the holidays I turned in about thirty pages. I’m finishing it up this week. I’m very enthusiastic about doing this. I don’t know what they can put me on next. You have Batman on one end and Superman on the other. I don’t know what’s next, maybe Deadman.
COMIC VINE: Was it easy returning to the character since you haven’t written him in a while?
NEAL: Well, don’t we all know Superman? Isn’t he a strange visitor from another planet who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men? I think we all know that, right? I just like the way Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created Superman.
To be perfectly honest and not meant as a criticism, people seem to be doing some very odd things to Superman. I kind of like the old Superman. I like that character. The new movie is coming out and I’m very gung ho for the movie, but I just want to go and clean off some of the dirt on Superman’s outfit. He looks a little bit dark. I like the brighter Superman. I like the muscles. Yeah, the guy’s got muscles but get some of the dirt off of him and make him a bit brighter. I like that. I like him to look good. I like the idea that he’s an actor that women can fall in love with. I think they try to do that all the time.
That’s what I’m drawing in the comic book. I want women to fall in love with my Superman. I want women and guys to look at the anatomy and go, “Hmm, I’d better go to the gym.” I guess Superman must have his own gym because he looks very good. That’s the Superman that I like. “Visitor from another planet…” that’s okay. Really, he’s a man. He’s what we want to be. We could never be Superman. We could be Batman, I suppose, but we could never be Superman. In spite of that fact, I still look up to him. I still look up to the character. I think that’s what I’m presenting here. I’m presenting our best Superman.
COMIC VINE: Do you script out the dialogue for each issue first or start drawing and add the dialogue in?
NEAL: I do the script first. DC Comics is a very standard company. We used to have what we called the “Marvel Method” where the art is drawn and then you put in the dialogue. I don’t really believe in that if it’s for me. I don’t know if you know it but I did the script for SUPERMAN VS MUHAMMAD ALI. I also scripted most of the Deadman story. People forget that I’ve done a lot of scripting. I like that because I feel comfortable doing that. Then I get a chance to bitch at the writer—who in this case is me. “What the hell was he doing here? There’s too many panels on this page! Can’t you calm down and put a few panels on the next page? Give me a double page spread.” You get the opportunity to bitch at the writer. You separate the two jobs. You do the one job and then you do the other job. I like that.
COMIC VINE: What do you like about Darkseid and characters that come out of Apokolips?
NEAL: Is it just because I love Jack Kirby’s work? No. It’s because I love the whole concept of Jack Kirby skipping off from Marvel and going over to DC Comics and creating a whole universe. WHAT? Really? It’s stunning. To me, it’s stunning. Remember the Smallville show? Right at the end of the show, Granny Goodness shows up. You go, “Oh my god, they’re going to do Darkseid and Apokolips! They’re going to do all that stuff.” There’s Granny Goodness and it’s the first taste of it. Then the show is over. Oh no! Really? I was just tremendously upset about that from the point of view, I just want to see that stuff on TV. I still do.
Guess what? If I do a good job on this graphic novel, and I think I have, I think DC and the film company and TV people will go, “Hey, this Apokolips and Darkseid stuff is pretty good. Maybe we don’t have to regurgitate again. Maybe we can go to Darkseid and all these great characters. I want to see that stuff done. I’m a big fan of that stuff. I had a great time. I start off with a battle with Kalibak. Kalibak comes out of the Boom Tube roaring and screaming and kicking butt. I’m channeling Jack Kirby and it’s great stuff. I see it and I’m doing it and I go, “Why don’t people do this more? This is great.” Jack Kirby stuff is great.
It’s not that other people aren’t doing it. Again, not as a criticism, people will take Jack Kirby’s stuff and then change it. It’s like, “Hello, it hasn’t been fully explored yet!” Let’s do that. That’s what I’m doing. I’m just exploring this. And I’ll tell you something, six issues is not enough. It really isn’t. These characters are too good and too insane and crazy and too much fun. Big Barda walks on the scene and starts throwing stuff around, and I love it. I’m having a great time with this
COMIC VINE: Lex will have to team up with Superman to fight Darkseid. Who will have the harder time working with the other?
NEAL: Lex, as we know, is a bad guy. Lex is maybe as evil as Darkseid. The idea that Superman would trust Lex, even though they seem to be fighting on the same side, is totally insane. The good thing about this is you get that a couple times in the story. You get those moments where you go, “Well, maybe Lex is trying to do something good here.” Then Superman sees right through him and says, “No! You’re not doing the right thing. You’re doing the wrong thing and I know why and I know how I’m going to stop you.” He just blows Lex’s lab up. Lex is just this evil awful person who may believe what he’s doing is the right thing. It’s that Moriarty concept where the evil genius is says he’s doing the right thing when in fact he’s killing people while he’s doing it. This concept is shared by Luthor and Darkseid. They’re both on the wrong side. Superman has to see through both of their evil plans to find out what the hell is going on. That’s what he does. He’s managed to settle New Krypton on this planet called Nibiru. Do you read any conspiracy stuff on the Internet? Do you know about Nibiru?
COMIC VINE: Not a whole lot.
NEAL: There’s these crazies on the Internet who say there’s a planet on the other side of the sun. It’s the opposite of us. We can’t see it because it’s on the other side of the sun. It has the perfect orbit but it’s on the other side of the sun. Superman has decided to settle New Krypton on Nibiru. What happens is he settled them there, but then Darkseid says, “Hey, this is a good place for me to settle the new Apokolips.” He invades the place and they get it sectioned off temporarily. Then the New Kryptonians, who are in effect Supermen, realize these Apokolipians are not as powerful as they are, but they are so devious and awful, they could actually win a war. They want to get Superman’s help. Instead of calling Superman and saying, “Hey, can you come over and help us (and desert Earth), and we’ll send three Supermen to replace you?” That’s pretty much the basis of the story.
I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the Cary Grant movie Gunga Din? Cary Grant and a couple other guys play these three soldier compatriot characters and I look at them as my three Supermen. They’re these three friends who are part of an intergalactic family of guys and they’re going to take Superman’s place temporarily while he goes and helps New Krypton. They’re not quite used to dealing with superpowers the way Superman is. They’re getting used to their superpowers. They’re discovering things like heat vision and stuff like that. They’re like, “Wow! Look at this!” It’s really a kind of rediscovery of Superman’s powers through the eyes of these guys who are like Superman themselves. Again, it’s a lot of fun.
I’ve managed to put together a story that definitely has a plot and definitely has a place to go. While we go there, like Gunga Din, we have a great time.
COMIC VINE: How big of a role will Lois Lane have?
NEAL: Lois Lane? She’s got the same role she used to have. She’s the girl that sticks her nose into everything. She has quite a big role because she…for example, Superman sort of adopts this Arab Muslim boy, Rafi. He has a dog, Rusty, and his family has sort of blown to the four winds. He has no place to go so Superman sort of takes him.
Maybe we think as a reader, he’s going to adopt him. Lois kind of takes advantage of that and says, “Well I have to go with you to New Krypton because somebody has to take care of the kid.” Superman thinks he can take care of him but Lois points out if he’s fighting bad guys, he can’t do that. So Lois finagles her way into the story and all the way through the story. She has to discover half way through the story she can’t write the story because it’s too involved in the history of what’s going on. “What story can I write? That damn Clark Kent is going to beat me to the story again.”
It’s that Clark Kent/Lois Lane relationship. I love that relationship! I’m such a sap for this Superman stuff. I really am. I have to admit it. So Lois is the Lois you expect her to be. She’s doing those things you expect her to do. Every once in a while Superman softens towards her and gives her a kiss. He says, “Yeah…you’re okay. You’re not a bad broad. I kinda like ya.”
SUPERMAN: THE COMING OF THE SUPERMEN #1 is on sale February 3.