Last week we paid tribute to legendary comic writer and artist George Pérez, who sadly passed away earlier this month. The comic book world also lost another legend back in April, and we would be remiss if we did not speak of his great contributions to the industry and beyond. Neal Adams passed away at the age of 80. Neal is remembered for his amazing work in creating ultra-realistic comic art starting back in the 1960s. He is credited with giving Batman a darker image, which completely revitalized the character. However, Neal will be remembered for far more than that. Here is a look back at the life of Neal Adams. 

Neal Adams’ Early Life 

Neal was born on June 15, 1941, in New York City. However, he spent much of his childhood at a U.S. military base in Germany, where his father was stationed. Neal grew up with a strong interest in the Holocaust. This was in part due to childhood memories, but also because his mother-in-law was a Jewish refugee from Nazi-occupied Poland, where she helped other Jews flee the country. This influenced Neal’s decision to pursue a greater understanding of Holocaust education later. Due to these experiences, Neal became a man who would go on to make a habit out of standing up for others.  

Neal’s Artwork 

Neal came along during a time where comic book art was more cartoony than anything else. He helped to move the industry far beyond that customary practice. He brought an innate realism to his art. His characters were far more grounded than previous iterations. He brought Batman back from the campy era of the 1960s television series, and into his previous dark and shadowy roots. He co-created Batman’s deadly nemesis Ra’s Al Ghul, as well as a new Green Lantern in John Stewart. Fellow comic book legend Jim Lee referred to Neal Adams as “a master at every facet of art.” 

The Deeds of Neal Adams 

Neal was regularly active politically in the comic book industry. He fought for creator’s rights, and his efforts paid off. He pioneered the now-standard practice of returning all original artwork back to the artist, which resulted in Marvel returning art to both him and Jack Kirby in 1987. He was a vocal leader in lobbying to give Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster credit and long-overdue compensation from DC Comics. He also helped form the Comics Creators Guild in 1978. 

Dina Babbitt 

One of Neal’s most noteworthy acts was championing the effort to get Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum to return the original artwork of Dina Babbitt, a Holocaust survivor who was imprisoned at the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II. There, Dina was forced to draw portraits of Romani inmates for notorious Nazi death camp doctor Josef Mengele, in exchange for sparing the lives of Babbitt and her mother.  

They Spoke Out: American Voices Against the Holocaust 

Though his efforts to get the museum to return Dina Babbit’s paintings ultimately failed, Neal illustrated a graphic documentary about Babbit in collaboration with Rafael Medoff, an American professor of Jewish history. In 2010, Adams and Medoff produced an online motion comic series They Spoke Out: American Voices Against the Holocaust. The series told the stories of several Americans who protested the Nazis or helped rescue Jews during the Holocaust. This is but a small piece of the legacy of Neal Adams. May he rest in peace.