When DC releases Neal Adams' Superman: Coming of the Supermen #1 in February, they'll be returning the character and his supporting cast — as well as Jack Kirby's New Gods — to what the legendary writer/artist calls "the way you remember them."
But that doesn't mean Adams is shying away from making new statements, as his Coming of the Supermen story also features a young Muslim boy who is taken in by Superman, a character he says is "significant" to the plot of the story.
Coming of the Supermen isn't the only new work from Adams in February. DC is paying homage to Adams' career throughout the month by releasing variant covers that recreate some of the artist's most acclaimed covers — all drawn by Neal Adams himself and inked by other well-known artists, including Frank Miller and Jim Lee. The covers will change the characters somewhat and will incorporate designs from DC's rebooted "New 52" universe.
And what's next for the writer/artist? Kamandi and Deadman might have some new Neal Adams work to anticipate -- and perhaps one other member of the DC Trinity.
Newsarama talked with Adams to find out more about his plans for Coming of the Supermen, his variant covers for February, and what he might be working on next.
Newsarama: Neal, I just saw the alternate cover for Action Comics #49. You've been drawing 27 covers that are coming out in February. How in the world did you get all those done?
Neal Adams: Unbelievable, right? They asked me to do covers based on this legendary comic book artist's greatest covers. And they refused to tell me who it was. And it turned out to be me.
Just yesterday, I saw the inking of Frank Miller's cover. Very, very cool.
Nrama: So there's a different inker for each cover?
Adams: Every one is being inked by somebody different. There are 27 of them.
I'm drawing covers based on covers that I did in the past, but each cover has different characters than were on the cover in the past.
So there's one cover that has Superman throwing Batman off a construction site. In this case, it's Wonder Woman throwing Superman off a construction site.
And each cover is being given to a different inker to work with me, to ink the cover.
There are, of course, 27 different inkers — including Jim Lee, including Frank Miller, including… everybody! Everybody's telling me, "save one for me!" It's crazy. And they're all coming out in February.
In the meantime, I'm finishing up Superman: Coming of the Supermen. I'm doing the last of Superman: Coming of the Supermen this week, and I'm having a great time.
Nrama: Let's talk about that series, which also starts in February. The story centers around the idea of there being another planet where Kryptonians live, correct?
Adams: Yeah, if you're enough of a geek, or if you go on the internet and look around, you'll find these conspiracy theorists who have all these weird theories. And one of those theories is that there's another planet on the other side of the sun that we can't see, because it's directly opposite the Earth. And of course we can't see around the sun.
So I thought, well, if we're going to take Kryptonians and put them on a planet, why don't we put them on that planet. You don't see them, you don't know they're there, but then you can call upon them for stories. They're on the other side of the sun.
So I have the Kryptonians setting up their civilization on that planet. Unfortunately Darkseid and the Apokoliptians discover the planet as well. And he wants he planet. So now we have a conflict.
And the conflict is between these Supermen and, of course, the Apokoliptians, who are monstrously awful and terrible, who have all these weapons and are very powerful. The Supermen are not quite as super as Superman. They have diminished superpowers.
They're concerned that the Apokoliptians could actually beat them, so they have decided to call upon their hero, Superman, to come and help them. But they don't want to leave Earth alone without the Earth's greatest superhero. So they send three replacements to take his place, so Superman can come save the new Krypton from Apokolips and Darkseid.
So now we have three new Supermen. And if you've seen the movie Gunga Din, there are three guys who are like compatriots and friends and fighters and all the rest of it, but they joke around with each other. Well, these guys are like those guys. They're a good group of guys and they're going to help Superman, but they're just discovering their superpowers.
And they're trying to convince Superman to save the Kryptonians.
Nrama: So the main villain is Darkseid?
Adams: Yes, the main villains of the piece are Darkseid, who is the worst of the worst, and Lex Luthor, who is worse than the worst of the worst. You just can't trust that guy. He's the worst, awful person in the world.
And I'm truly doing Luthor the way we saw him in the past. He's not being made younger or tremendously muscular. He's kind of a genius — sort of like Moriarty, you know? Sherlock Holmes' Moriarty. He is Luthor.
Nrama: Luthor's not the only character you're drawing and writing in a way that's familiar from the past. These are all pretty classic versions of the Superman characters, aren't they?
Adams: Yes! From my point of view, these are Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster's characters — Superman and Lois Lane and Luthor. All these characters, the way you remember them, the way you feel about them, the way they are, I'm not playing around with them. I'm not putting weird clothes on them or anything. They're basically Superman, Lois — the standard characters. Lois is Lois, and Luthor is Luthor.
And when I do Jack Kirby's New Gods, I'm not changing them. I'm making them the New Gods. I don't feel that Jack Kirby got a chance to explore these characters anywhere near enough. Once you see them, you realize the characters have so much to offer as characters that it's a shame they were cut short.
Even on Smallville, right at the end, Granny Goodness was introduced. Granny Goodness from Apokolips. And those of us who know Kirby stuff were like, "oh my God! We're going to get all the New Gods!" And then the show ended. "Oh no, really?"
So I'm using all these characters, and I'm just having a great time. Not that it isn't a good story. It's a very well crafted story, if I say so myself. But it includes all this stuff.
Nrama: You mentioned Lois — she's a classic TV reporter in this.
Adams: Yes. She's gorgeous. And I show Superman as a romantic superhero. He's handsome. And he's a wonderful person. You can't help but love him. And when you see Lois, you're going to say, yeah, I love that character. She's a doll. But she's Lois. She's got spunk. She doesn't put up with crap.
Basically, I'm just doing what we all know to be true. I'm not changing it. I'm not adding any new past. Same old past, but just done a little bit… I don't want t say better, but a little bit closer to what feels right — like, "yeah, that's Superman, that is Lois and that is Luthor."
Nrama: And among all these very familiar heroes and villains, you also have a young character named Rafi who has a dog named Rusty. What interested you about including that character in this big superhero story, and what role does he play in the story?
Adams: You know, a couple years ago, I wanted to do a story for DC Comics that included a little Arab Muslim kid. And I thought, that would be good. Well, you know, we were just coming off the war, and I did this really nice cover, and they all said they felt a little uncomfortable about it and, you know, they didn't want to fly in the face of anything.
You know, I've always been a bit of a groundbreaker. I created John Stewart, who was the first really good black superhero, in my opinion, who isn't a gang-banger who suddenly gets superpowers, or he's not an African chief, which we can all relate to. He's a college graduate and he's got a profession, and that's what I think black America wants to see.
In this case, I'm treading gently. I'm doing a Muslim Arab kid who's got troubles, because his family is mostly dead. And Superman decides to take him under his wing — maybe even will adopt him; we don't really know.
But he is strangely intrinsic to the plot of the story. And we will see here, at the end of the story, that this boy was really basic to the plot of the story. So he is not there as a throwaway. Believe me, he's not. He's a significant character. And it's like, by the way, he's a Muslim kid.
Nrama: Yeah, that actually isn't even mentioned during his introduction.
Adams: Right, and I think that's good for us. We do comic books for kids as well as adults. I know it's a little crazy to say that. But you know, we want people to think the world out there is pretty good, I think. And I think every once in awhile, it's part of our job. People might say, like with Green Lantern/Green Arrow, those guys are getting moral preachy. I don't think we're getting preachy. We're just trying to deal with reality, just like everybody else. And these people are part of our stories.
And he's a great kid. And he's got a great dog.
Nrama: And he's buddies with Superman.
Adams: Yes, that's right.
Nrama: So Neal, you've done Batman recently and you're finishing up Superman. What's next?
Adams: Yes! Where can I go from here? Wonder Woman? I think I could do Wonder Woman.
I don't know. Their problem is that they have a tremendous amount of respect for me over at DC Comics, but at the same time, they're paying me very well. So their attitude has to be, you know, let's put him on something important, like with those covers.
One of the things that DC is talking about with me — they're thinking about reintroducing the character called Kamandi from the Jack Kirby era. And that's very interesting. What I'm trying to do, if I can, is reintroduce Jack Kirby's characters so people who do the television shows and the people who do the computer games can see what Jack Kirby contributed to DC Comics but kind of cut short. So instead of having to refurbish Zod one more time, maybe we can get into the Jack Kirby library of characters and do those.
Maybe I can play with Deadman. We're kind of talking about that. And we're talking about Kamandi. And I think I'd rather, in a way, let it be a surprise. But I'm having fun.