There is no doubt that Neal Adams is one of the greatest living comic creators. His work on Batman, Green Lantern/Green Arrow, and X-Men are transcendent and stand out as some of the greatest artistic moments in any of those characters’ rich histories. But Adams is also remembered for his work on Deadman.
Deadman was first introduced by Arnold Drake and Carmine Infantino in Strange Adventures #205 (1967). Deadman was the story of Boston Brand, a murdered circus aerialist who was killed during a performance. Brand was resurrected and granted the power to possess any living body. As Deadman, Brand uses his ghostly powers to try and solve his own murder. Starting with Strange Adventures #206 (1967), Adams and writer Jack Miller began an 11 issue run that defined the character visually and narratively for decades to come. In those issues, Adams introduced the hidden city of Nanda Parbat, a setting that still informs DC media today in frequent appearances on CW’s Arrow. That’s why it is so darn exciting that in November Adams is returning to the ghostly character he defined in a brand new Deadman #1. At New York Comic Con, it was our distinct honor to talk to Adams about the legendary artist’s return to DC’s deadest hero.
“I always wanted to come back to Deadman,” Adams says. “Because I didn’t finish the story. I started the story, but I didn’t finish. I didn’t tell everyone the story.”
Indeed as we mentioned, Deadman only ran less than a year, but Adams knew that there was something special about Boston Brand. “You have to understand I move ahead faster than other people and I see the future faster than other people,” Adams says. “I knew Deadman was the type of hero that had staying power.”
Deadman has been a weird staple of the DC Universe since Adams’ departure decades ago, but as he puts it, “The thing people don’t understand about Deadman, even the writers at DC who tried to write stories after me… this is not a comic book about a guy in spandex doing superhero things and getting cats out of trees. This is a story about a guy who’s dead. That’s a big event. If he stays around after he’s dead, that is an ever bigger event- it’s a very different story to tell.”
Adams’ run on Deadman was abrubtly cancelled, but the fact that the character still resonates speaks to the fact that Adams’ work goes beyond those less than a dozen issues. “I was beginning to tell that story,” he says. “I was managing to tell a story that Arrow rips off all the time – with my cooperation, of course- because of course, they have good taste. They’re big fans on that show, and they recognize cool things like Nanda Parbat.”
As to why Deadman was cancelled back in the day, Adams recalls, “When I was finishing up the series, Deadman was going on just as the direct sales market was being created. People didn’t actually know what comic books were selling because across the country, guys in leather jackets and pony tails were going to distributors and buying comics that way and selling them in garages and motels. So sales on Deadman weren’t that good, but they were selling like hot cakes in other ways and sales weren’t reported to be that good. So Deadman got cut off. So I decided one day I’d go back to Deadman.”
“I’m a long lived fanboy from a long lived family, so I knew I’ll get my shot,” he adds. “And when I do, I’ll tell the rest of the story.”
So what can fans can expect from Adams’ Deadman #1?
“There are things no one knows about Deadman. For instance, he has a brother and sister. He has parents that own their own circus. His father made a deal with Ra’s al Ghul because the father’s wife was dying. And Ra’s al Ghul doesn’t save someone without exacting a price. And now Deadman’s brother is missing, and his sister followed, Now Deadman has a grudge against his dad. There’s a very deep story going, we never told it. We only began to scratch it when the book ended.”
One would think working on Deadman would be like going home again, but Adams considered the decades old wait between Deadman issues a minor hiccup. “What it’s like is having a lot of friends, and having someone interrupt a story you were telling. And now I get to say, ‘Where did I leave off?’”
Adams gets to return to the world of Deadman, but Boston Brand isn’t the only DC horror icon that Adams will explore. “We’re going to use some of the stranger characters of the DC Universe. Etrigan, Phantom Stranger… these characters travel where super heroes don’t travel. They’re doing things that we don’t understand, and Deadman has one foot in that, and Deadman doesn’t like them very much.”
Deadman will be a six issue series, but Adams says DC is already hot for more. As for long term goals with the characters, Adams teases that, “The goal here is to get people in Hollywood that might be interested in making a Deadman movie, interested again.”
A Deadman film or TV series seems like a no brainer, but until then, fans will get to find out the rest of Adams’ Deadman tale as the story telling prowess and deft penciling of Neal Adams returns to Boston Brand in November.
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