Tag: Neal Adams

With Further Ado #110: Lest We Forget…

With Further Ado #110: Lest We Forget…

When we were in college years ago, my pal Paul Barresi overheard two girls talking about music as they listened to a Wings song.  One girl was astonished when she learned that Paul McCartney was in a band before Wings.

That’s the way it often goes. The new generation is oblivious to that which is dear to the previous one.  But a wonderful thing that’s really different about Geek Culture is that it’s so accessible.  I always use the example that if you like rock music, it’s unlikely you’d be able to spend time with the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger. But if you like comics, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ll be able to spend a little time with Neal Adams at one point or another.  It’s almost magical how the world of comics, especially when combined with conventions, provides robust opportunities for fans to meet, and spend time with their artistic heroes.

And with all that, it’s always debilitating when creators are not acknowledged. There’s been a bit of it lately. Continue reading “With Further Ado #110: Lest We Forget…”

Brainiac On Banjo #090: Powers Roughly Equivalent of God’s

Brainiac On Banjo #090: Powers Roughly Equivalent of God’s

Deep in the dark / I don’t need the light / There’s a ghost inside me / It all belongs to the other side / We live, we love, we lie – “The Spectre” written by Gunnar Greve, Jesper Borgen, Tommy Laverdi, Marcus Arnbekk, Anders Froen, Alan Olav Walker, and Lars Kristian Rosness, 2018

The comment expressed in our headline above was made by the fabled Jules Feiffer in his groundbreaking 1965 book The Great Comic Book Heroes. It was groundbreaking because Feiffer was the first to take the history and craft of comic books seriously — so seriously, in fact, that it was excerpted in Playboy.

The Spectre was created by Jerry Siegel, and if truth be told it’s probably my favorite of his creations — including the Big Red S. Feiffer was right: it’s a bitch to write a series where the lead isn’t really a “hero” and yet has, as Jules noted, powers roughly equivalent of God’s. And we’re not talking about the New Testament’s cosmic muffin — this is the Old Testament’s hoary thunderer, and The Spectre is his personal instrument of vengeance. Yup, the after-life might not be as sweet as you’d hoped.

I don’t know if the kids who were reading comics at the every end of 1939 were ready for that. Within two years the series was lightened up by a bumbling guardian angel called “Percival Popp, the Super Cop.” Think Frank Capra, but stupid. The Spectre became a founding member of the Justice Society, but when World War II ended he was out of the group, out of More Fun, and living off of Officer Popp’s police pension.

Still, the character made an impression and when Julie Schwartz was looking for another golden age character to revive after The Flash, Green Lantern, The Atom, and Hawkman, he chose The Spectre. That was odd, but with the arguable exception of Zatanna (or, really, her dad Zatara), The Spectre was the first character he brought back that Julie hadn’t edited during the Golden Age. Despite some decent scripts from Gardner Fox and artwork from the always amazing Murphy Anderson, it just didn’t click. The series was handed over to a relative newcomer named Neal Adams, who did some truly wonderful artwork, but it also did not find success.

But the guy still remained in the hearts of DC’s creative community. Editor Joe Orlando needed a new lead for Adventure Comics, so he brought in Michael Fleisher and Jim Aparo and let them go nuts. The Spectre took this “vengeance of God” thing to a fundamentalist level, and he would kill the bad guys with such creative cruelty that they might have made EC artist “Ghastly” Graham Ingles genuflect at his porcelain throne. It was great. And it lasted 10 issues.

Since then The Spectre has been floating around the DC Universe in all its forms, incarnations, and mistakes. Lots — and I mean lots — of A-listers handled his adventures, including my buddies John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake. They enjoyed one of the longest runs.

So it was with absolutely no surprise whatsoever that I stumbled across a DC Digital First thing called Ghosts. At first I thought that odd — thus far they hadn’t done resurrections of their mystery anthologies in their new digital line. Then I saw “Ghosts” was just another way of saying “The Spectre” and then I noted it was written by Dan Jurgens.

I really like Dan’s work, both as an artist and a writer. We worked together on Green Arrow for a long time, and instead of just leaving the series to do something new, he told me he was making a play to do Superman and, if he got it, he’d be moving on. As much as I liked Dan’s stuff — he and Mike Grell made a great team — he certainly earned the right to take a shot at the Man of Steel. I successfully fought back my overwhelming desire to mindfuck him into staying, although I did think about it. Dan did some remarkable work with the brightest of DC’s corporate jewels. Right now he’s writing Nightwing, and is damn good.

Dan, along with artists Scott Eaton and Wayne Faucher, did a fine job on the story. I don’t know if Ghosts is a one-shot or a play to resurrect The Spectre again, this time without having to resort to paper and staples. They were somewhat restrained in their story… if you compare it to the Fleisher / Aparo run. Then again, a head-on collision between two 10-car passenger trains would seem equally restrained.

DC has done a number of very entertaining stories in their almost-daily Digital First line, unburdened by a continuity that mutates as often as amoebas commit mitosis. Seeing The Spectre pop up in this format evoked a response characters rarely have when they cross his path: I was pleasantly surprised.

Continued After the Next Page #015: On the Passing of a Giant

Continued After the Next Page #015: On the Passing of a Giant

There are a lot of amazing people that make and have made great comic books. Some of the people who made the comics of my youth are now friends, if not, at least, acquaintances. There are however some people whose names are inscribed in the mythical pantheon of comic creators. Names like Kirby, Lee, Ditko, Toth, Raymond, Wood, Eisner, Adams, Buscema. Another name that is included in that list is O’Neil.

Dennis J. “Denny” O’Neil passed away last week. A couple of years ago, I got to meet Denny at the Baltimore Comic Con and spend some time with him. I want to share what I learned from him, but first I need to explain what he meant to me.

As a young student of comics, (I mean, I wrote the first research paper in my life about the history of comics when I was in seventh grade.) I learned about O’Neil and [Neal] Adams‘ critical run on Batman and later Green Lantern & Green Arrow. There was a level of realism that they brought to comics that seemed to counteract the turn that DC made towards camp in the 1960s. That realism mirrored what Lee, Kirby, and Ditko had done at Marvel, but was also quite unique.

I don’t want to call Denny’s writing dark or gritty. I kind of have the feeling that he wouldn’t like that. His characters were flawed, like all humans, and despite great wealth or power, they had to find solutions to problems like the rest of us. His characters were nuanced and multidimensional in a way that set them apart and inspired later creators.

The first book that I remember reading new from Denny was The Question. I had read some of his Iron Man earlier, but I wasn’t as aware of creators at that point. The Question, written by Denny with art by Denys Cowan, inks by Rick Magyar, colors by Tatjana Wood, letters by Gaspar Saladino and later Willie Shubert, and shepherded by Mike Gold, lit my hair on fire. It was a story full of mystery and pain and a struggling hero just trying to do what was right. My mind was opened by the complexity and brilliance of the art and the richness of the stories. It made me understand the vast breadth of storytelling that was possible in comics and it, along with Mike Grell‘s The Longbow Hunters, was the story that pushed me intellectually as a comic reader.

I think most of us have that time where we step away from comics. Whether it is intentional or not, there is a time as we hit adulthood that we stop buying new comics and focus on other things. That happened to me during college.

By mid 1990s I was married and had a job. You know. Adult stuff. One day in late 1995, I saw a comic book on a newsstand that caught my eye. It was Nightwing Volume #1 Issue #1. It was my favorite character in his very first solo series, and that Brian Stelfreeze cover was exquisite. I had to buy it. I loved it. It was written by Denny and immediately captivated my imagination. I remembered how much I loved comics and began to slowly start collecting and reading again. Denny brought me back to my passion. Continue reading “Continued After the Next Page #015: On the Passing of a Giant”

Comics Legend Dennis “Denny” O’Neil Passes at 81

Comics Legend Dennis “Denny” O’Neil Passes at 81

The comics community and the world has lost a giant. Dennis J. O’Neil, known as Denny to all, passed of natural causes on June 11, 2020 at age 81. He was a celebrated writer and editor and was beloved by so many in the comic industry.

He is known for being a trailblazer with his work on DC Comics titles in the 1970s. His revitalization of Batman with Neal Adams is considered a watershed moment in comic storytelling. The pair also worked on the socially conscious Green Lantern / Green Arrow series that brought issues such as drug abuse and its effects into the super-hero comic genre. His work on The Question with Denys Cowan is one of the greatest comic runs of the late 1980s.

O’Neil worked for Marvel, Charlton Comics, and wrote prose besides his work at DC. He was incredibly prolific and his hand can be seen in many of the characters that we know and love today. A glance at his wikipedia page will tell you all you need to know about his career.

Beyond the numbers and the titles, Denny O’Neil was wonderful human. He loved deeply and was thoughtful and considerate. He was generous, as many who know him are posting across social media today are saying. The world is a little darker without his presence.


Pop Culture Squad will have more to say to celebrate Denny’s life in the near future. Please excuse us as it is a difficult moment for all of us to process.

Continued After the Next Page #009: Conversation with John Workman – An Oral History of Comics

Last summer, as we were getting this site up and going, one of the first things that I did was reach out to legendary comic letterer and artist John Workman. I had met him at a couple of conventions in the past, and he had told me some interesting stories about how comics were made in the 1970’s and 1980’s. I felt that the stories were amazing insights into the world of comic making, and I wanted to get all the details so that we could share those incredible stories with all of you.

My intent for our initial interview was to clarify some details he had told me about making Thor in the 80’s with Walter Simonson. What ended up happening was an almost two-hour conversation and a truly life changing event for me. I clipped out a little bit of our conversation for a column last year called When Thor Road the Bus.

Before I get too far along, I must say that John Workman is one of the nicest people that I have ever met. He is thoughtful, considerate, inquisitive, and incredibly talented. Since our initial phone conversation, John and I have spoken a couple of more times over the phone, and my wife and I spent a lovely afternoon with John and his wife Cathy at their home last November. He has become a regular email pen pal of mine. I consider John a friend, and I am lucky for it.

The purpose of this article is to share with the world some of the amazing things that we spoke about. The topics range from the page counts for comics in the 70’s to his time at Heavy Metal. There are some funny stories about Harlan Ellison and Wally Wood. There is the tale of the “Lost Mignola Batman Story”, and much more. So hang on and I will try my best to navigate all this history and bring it into the world so that we can all share in its wonder.

Jeannette Kahn and Dollar Comics

I had mentioned to John that the title to my column on PCS would be called “Continued After the Next Page” as a throwback to comic days of yesteryear. He broke out into some pretty cool comics production history.

John Workman: I worked at DC from 1975 to 1977 before I went to work at Heavy Metal. During that time, as had been true since the early 1950s, there were thirty-six pages [thirty- two interior and four for the front and back covers] in a regular comic book. Of those pages, somewhere over 20 (27 in the ’60s) were devoted to actual comics material with the rest being made up of a combination of paid ads and “house ads” that let readers know about other DC publications. Shortly after I arrived at DC, the number of comics pages dropped to seventeen, and I remember two things that we had to do. We [the production department] had to white-out all the pages numbers down in the corner so people would be a little less aware that they were only getting seventeen pages of comics, and we had to go in a lot and put in “Continued After Next” or “Second Page” or whatever, because the seventeen pages of comic material was broken up by more ads. There were a lot of in-house ads to fill out the issue because seventeen pages was only one more than the total number of pages in a book.

I was shocked at this and felt the need to clarify Continue reading “Continued After the Next Page #009: Conversation with John Workman – An Oral History of Comics”

Brainiac On Banjo #030: The Joker’s On Us

Brainiac On Banjo #030: The Joker’s On Us

Alex Ross

This Wednesday, DC Comics will be releasing the landmark 1000th issue of the longest-running comic book published in America, Detective Comics. Yup, if you look the word “landmark” in the dictionary, you’ll see a picture of Alex Ross’s variant cover.

Go ahead. Check it out.

I’m a fan of Alex’s, both his work and his own self. But I really like this cover not only because it is a true tribute to Batman, who (not-coincidentally) turns 80 this week, but because it doesn’t have The Joker on it.

Michael Cho

Now, trust me on this one too: the real reason Detective Comics #1000 is called #1000 is not because of its linear numbering. It’s because there are 1000 different variant covers. Hey, kids! Collect them all!

No. Don’t bother. I’m sure DC will release a hardcover reprinting them. And I’m pretty sure I’ll buy it. But this week I am not ranting about the crisis of infinite variants, but, knowing me I probably will in the future.

Uh-uh. This week I’m ranting about The Joker. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #030: The Joker’s On Us”

Brainiac On Banjo #008: Fake Covers

Brainiac On Banjo #008: Fake Covers

Every several years I find a brand-new way to enunciate my firm belief that in order to sell more comic books, publishers should seek to produce better comic book stories and take their feet off of the stunt pedal. Well, it’s time once again to play that great all-American game, To Sell The Truth!

If you are in the habit of memorizing every word I have ever written (please stop that; you’ll hurt yourself!), doubtlessly you recall my ragging on and on about the stunt covers of the mid-1990s. Foil covers, bagged comics, holographic covers, 3D leather embossed covers… a whole lotta gimmicks were in vogue, each for nanoseconds. At least lenticular covers did some good – they taught a lot of people the meaning of the word “lenticular.”  Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #008: Fake Covers”