NYCC 2012: NEAL ADAMS & Son - FIRST X-MEN, More!

 “We’re like at the opposite ends of the spectrum” Neal Adams began. “There’s me, who’s been around forever, apparently – I never thought I’d say that – and there’s Josh, who is newly around.”

The father/son duo hosted a panel yesterday at NYCC, casually discussing the evolution of their artistic careers and fielding questions from the audience. Josh, who is working on the Dr Who comic for IDW, started by offering up a tease for his new project, an online series called . “It’s about a guy named Steven who stumbles across the Garden of Eden, and befriends Adam and Eve, but Eve is quite literally made for Adam and Adam has seen another man for the first time in his life, and is discovering new feelings about himself.” He will be writing and illustrating the story, which his father couldn’t help but note reflects a shift in the industry. “I hate to say this to the writers, but you’d better watch your asses,” he quipped. Josh also mentioned his three week long experience painting 46 pages of wrestler Mick Foley’s book, , calling it “probably one of my favorite jobs I’ve ever done.”

 

His interest in working on comic books developed around the age of twelve, he shared, hypothesizing that his other siblings worked it out of their systems at a younger age. “During most of his life,” his father said, “I wasn’t the comic book guy – I was the artist who did computer graphics and advertizing. Then suddenly, I became that guy.”

As That Guy, most of the audience’s question were directed at Neal, who spoke of his work on Batman Odyssey – released as a hardcover just this week – and Marvel’s currently running The First X-Men. He called the new gig “odd, because of course I’ve saved the X-men from cancellation and now I’m doing a book that’s the X-Men before the X-Men. Actually that’s my hobby. I stop books from being cancelled.”

Now in the midst of working on the fifth issue, he felt free to let some details slip about what fans could expect to see from the story, which will answer the question of how Professor X became the leader of the mutants. “He was obviously younger, and had a life and became ‘Charles Xavier.’ Wouldn’t it be interesting if we went back in time to find out who might have been protecting and saving from the military industrialist conspiracy these mutants who they would simply take advantage of and turn into weapons of war? Who would that guy be? Who is older than Charles Xavier?”

After one audience member incorrectly guessed Magneto, the name “Logan” was thrown out and met with approval. Wolverine will have Sabretooth in tow, “who he has to bribe to come into this little conclave of idiots. Well, he’s a mercenary, so he’s probably not the best choice to help these kids,” Adams clarified. “Our very first issue, we have Logan confronting Charles, who is 17 years old at Cambridge, on a dark and stormy night with the dead body of a teenage mutant boy, a black kid.” Xavier – lacking a full head of hair, as Adams would have preferred – then threatens to call the police, claiming not to be a mutant. Logan fights him on it. “’You pass. You look like a person. Maybe we don’t look like people, but you pass and you’re hiding and you know it. You are a mutant just like we are and the last thing you’re going to hear on the day you die is another mutant screaming, being tortured and dying because you didn’t help them.’ Xavier turns back to him and says ‘No, I am not a mutant, this will not happen to me, and I’m not like you.’ Wolverine then says to him, ‘That last thing I said? I didn’t say it out loud.’ That’s how we start our story.”

“Why does Wolverine always come back to the school to check up on everyone periodically and to leave again? Just to make sure the job is being done right. So if all those pieces fit, how does he lose his memory? Maybe Charles took it away, because he did such a lousy job,” Adams suggested. “I’m just saying all those pieces need to be filled in.” The series will also feature “a character named Virus, who is probably the ugliest, slimiest, most disgusting character in comics.”

 

As for Odyssey, Adams said the seed for the story came from contemplating questions typically raised by Batman’s adventures, like “Gee, wouldn’t I shoot Batman in the face if I had him captured? And doesn’t it seem like Batman is always fighting with clowns who escape from Arkham and he has to face them again? Why doesn’t he just blow them away?” He called the thirteen issue series “the greatest damn time of my life. Well, maybe not the greatest – I have kids.”

The creator then mentioned an upcoming graphic novel project for Dark Horse called Blood, as well as potential ideas in the works with DC. “It’s a little tough because the company has become a little tight-assed? Is that the expression? Everyone’s got to follow certain formats. I’m looking to kick out a story and they say, ‘well is it part of the fifteen issue mini-series?’ I’m finding my way through.”

The audience brought up his involvement in the Batman movies, prompting a number of interesting anecdotes. “They wouldn’t let me come within a hundred miles of the Batman movies. I guess they thought I might have an opinion like ‘why does the mask go like this on his face,’ “ he said, squeezing his cheeks in a hilarious imitation of Bale’s Bat-mask. “Probably not a good idea.” When asked for his thoughts on Nolan’s version of Ra’s Al Ghul, a character Adams famously created with Dennis O’Neil, he said, “I don’t think Ra’s has really fully been done in the Nolan films, do you? It didn’t quite look like him. He had eyebrows!”

He also spoke of his experience redesigning the Robin costume around the time of . It was agreed he would be paid two thousand dollars, until DC made it clear they were asking several other artists to take a crack at it as well. He then upped his price to $12,000, with the condition that they wouldn’t be required to pay him if they didn’t like it. In the end, his work won them over, and he even designed one extra suit that was “darker” and cautioned them to never show it to Warner Bros. “What was going on was, the film company, after they already broke the balls of DC comics, excuse the expression, were now making DC comics come up with a Dark Robin who matched the Batman. So we said ‘don’t show it to them, whatever you do.’” They heeded his advice. Otherwise, Adams feels “Robin would have disappeared.”

Reflecting on his origins, Adams recalled his first encounter with Joe Simon, “partner of Jack Kirby before Stan Lee… before Stan Lee wrote all the things that Jack did.” After submitting some samples in the hopes of landing a job, Adams received these words of wisdom from Joe Simon over the phone. “Kid, I’m going to do you a favor. It’s not going to seem like a favor, but I’m doing you a favor. I’m turning you down. The work is good. I’m turning you down because you deserve better. This business is going to go out of business in a year.” As fate would have it, years down the road once he’d become “Neal Adams, the guy on the white horse, saving the business and all that, fighting for original art and royalties,” Simon was interested in trying to get some rights to Captain America back and had an entire conversation with him about it over coffee, with no idea he’d once turned him down early in his career.

Now the industry is thriving, allowing both father and son to consider a variety of work opportunities. Looking ahead to possible future projects, Adams teased “Kree/Skrull war hasn’t been redone yet. I’d love it do it. It’d be a great story. I think if Brian Michael Bendis was allowed to write half of it, we might do it. If he could write the conversations…”

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