Among his many achievements, he revitalized Batman, co-created characters like Ra's al Ghul and John Stewart, and forced comic publishers to pay creators more.

Neal Adams, the influential comic-book artist whose work revitalized characters like Batman and Green Arrow, has died. His son Josh Adams confirmed the news in a Facebook post. He was 80.

Born June 15, 1941, in New York, Adams grew up on a series of military bases. He first broke into comics with work for Archie Comics in the '60s before moving on to illustrations for advertising and the Ben Casey newspaper comic strip that ran alongside the TV medical drama of the same name.

When he returned to comics in the late '60s and early '70s, Adams' skills — now honed by his experience in other fields — revitalized the look and characterization of iconic superheroes. Collaborating with writer Denny O'Neil, Adams brought Batman and his adversaries like Joker back to their darker, more serious roots in direct contrast to the campy tone of the Adam West Batman TV show that had dominated pop culture in the '60s. They also added to the Dark Knight's canon, co-creating characters like Ra's al Ghul and his daughter Talia who have endured to the present day across a number of comics and screen adaptations. It can't be said enough that Adams made Batman look like the coolest character of all time, with his cape constantly flowing behind and around him in physics-defying directions.

The Adams/O'Neil team also took a politically engaged tone with their Green Lantern/Green Arrow comic, which sent Hal Jordan and Oliver Queen on a road trip across America. These two "hard-traveling heroes" encountered social problems of the day like racism, pollution, and drug addiction — the latter was memorably dramatized in a storyline that featured Green Arrow's sidekick Speedy becoming addicted to heroin. They also co-created John Stewart, the first Black Green Lantern and one of the first Black superheroes in DC period.

Adams didn't just tackle politics in his comics, though. He also worked for years to change the nature of the comic industry to benefit the workers who made the books. Although his efforts to organize a union of comic writers and artists were unsuccessful, his advocacy for Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster was. The reason that every Superman TV show, movie, comic, cartoon, or other content features an unmissable "created by Siegel and Shuster" credit is a result of Adams' work, as was the pension that the two creators received from DC through the end of their lives. Adams also convinced comic publishers like DC and Marvel to return original comic art to the artists, allowing them to autograph and/or auction their pieces for supplemental income.

Neal Adams
Comic artist Neal Adams influenced many and changed his industry.
| Credit: Albert L. Ortega/Getty
Batman: Illustrated by Neal Adams Vol. 1
Neal Adams redesigned the look and feel of Batman with his '70s comics.
| Credit: DC Comics
Green Lantern/Green Arrow: Hard Travelin'
Artist Neal Adams and writer Denny O'Neil changed comics history with their socially-conscious stories about Green Lantern and Green Arrow.
| Credit: DC Comics

Adams also mentored other comic artists like Frank Miller (who further revitalized Batman with his 1986 masterpiece The Dark Knight Returns) and Bill Sienkiewicz (whose unique style profoundly impacted Marvel heroes like Moon Knight and the New Mutants). Adams was also a constant presence at comic conventions, drawing art commissions for fans and regaling others with stories of his time in the industry.

Adams is thus well-remembered by the comics community, and you can see some heartfelt tributes to his work and legacy below. He is survived by Marilyn Adams, his wife of 45 years; his three sons, Josh, Jason, and Joel; his two daughters, Kris and Zeea; and his many grandchildren.

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