ISSUE #84: Bat-Neal
Okay, real talk… Neal Adams changed the game for Batman covers and ushered in a much Darker Knight than had come before. Zero offense to Infantino (also a Batman master) or Miller or anyone else that came before or after Adams, but Batman covers that sported Adams art felt moody and borderline-horror. As such, they captured the character the way many of us want Bats to be.
I had the pleasure to sit down with Neal this past weekend at GalaxyCon in Louisville and we chatted about covers, the newly launched facsimile program (which, so far, has featured many of his covers) and Batman, Green Lantern and Horror at DC through the 60’s and 70’s. Anyone who gives this guy a bad rap clearly has never REALLY talked to him. Complain about his prices all you want, but this is one of the few living legends left and he’s got plenty of awesome stories to tell.
For anyone who wants to see my past feature on Adams, check out Cover Tunes #22 where I dive in to all aspects of his career. Today, however, I am focusing on just his time and efforts on the Batman-related titles of the Bronze Age. I could legit feature almost every cover he did during those years and I’m sure collectors’ mileage may vary, but the following are a handful of my favorites that can still be gotten relatively inexpensively. (NOTE: Picking five was extremely difficult). Of course, books like Bats #251, Bats #232 and Tec #227 are out of reach for many collectors, but many others are in the low-budget realm. Like any other Silver/Bronze book, premiums are placed on high grade copies, but lower mid-grades can all be had for $10-$15 a pop if you’re diligent.
Here are my top five. I hope you like them as much as I do…
PUBLISHED: DC Comics – August, 1970
ARTIST: Neal Adams
Perhaps one of my top 10 favorite covers of all time, it takes a value back seat to the 1st appearance of Man-Bat two issues prior in Detective #400. The dark cover is a nearly impossible near-mint find, but that darkness is what makes the cover. The cleaner the copy you can afford, the more this book is beautiful. With that said, mid-grades can be had cheap. I really dig the Man-Bat character (co-created by Adams) and am enjoying reading him in the current Justice League Dark series. I could have chosen many other Man-Bat/Batman covers as they are all pretty awesome. Books like Detective #407 and #416 are right up there, but not nearly as impactful as this #402.
PUBLISHED: DC Comics – December, 1969/January, 1970
ARTIST: Neal Adams
I really love this cover and how much it resembles the cover for House of Mystery #174 (the first Horror issue which sports a cover by Nick Cardy). A dynamic cover with nothing too spectacular, but it is the overall feel and layout that really make this one. Adams mixes his prowess on Bats with his mastery of the horror cover and the resultant composition has a great mood and atmosphere. Whenever I find this one, it is almost always beat to hell, but if you come across a nice copy, it is a beautiful book.
PUBLISHED: Peter Pan/Power Records – 1975
ARTIST: Neal Adams
Sometimes referred to as PR27, Neal Adams did this cover and more than likely all of the others in the series, as well. There are seven of them. Most came with a 45rpm record (like this one did) and some with a 12 inch 33rpm record to tell the story. These are almost completely overlooked and are not common with the record in playable condition. I particularly love this one since it is an almost forgotten Joker cover that is really excellent. Given the difficulty of obtaining an affordable copy of Batman #251, this may be a nice budget alternative for many collectors. Along with a classic Batman and Robin cover, there is the faint idea of the bat signal with the cape in the spotlight. A genius subtle move from Adams.
PUBLISHED: DC Comics – May, 1972
ARTIST: Neal Adams (…and Bernie Wrightson on inks!)
Okay, Adams and Wrightson on the same cover are magical words to my ears. This is an imposing Bats cover which is crisp and clean and bad@$$. No clutter (save the hype box). This should be everything one wants on a comic book cover. It just doesn’t get any more perfect than this, does it? When I see a cover like this, I feel it’s a shame comics have gotten away from this look and wish someone would bring it back (not just on a one-shot, but permanently).
PUBLISHED: DC Comics – August, 1977
ARTIST: Neal Adams
DC’s Treasury-Sized books which are often overlooked by collectors and they shouldn’t be (mostly due to their difficult-to-store size). These are often found in rough condition due to being stored poorly, but can be quite inexpensive when found in person. This cover draws heavily in style from the highly-priced (and highly-prized) Batman #232 cover. For those who can’t afford that 1st appearance of Ra’s Al Ghul, this may be a nice budget option for you with the same pencils-forward design of the background coupled with a foreground of high emotion… I mean look at that tension! This one is a wraparound cover that often goes unnoticed in bags and boards. These treasury-sized books allow for a lot more detail and that fact is keenly felt on this one. Adams didn’t waste the canvas and instead used it to shine even brighter than usual.
And there we have it for yet another week. As mentioned above, there are a ton of worthy Adams Batman covers that could have been featured, today. Sound off in the comments and let me know your favorite that ISN’T a big key (we all want those). Until next time, be well, thanks for reading, Happy Thanksgiving and happy hunting.