Neal Adams on The Coming Of the Supermen, His Frustration With DC Movies, and Jack Kirby


Master comics storyteller Neal Adams launches a new series today for DC Comics, wherein he uses Superman and the Bottle City of Kandor as a gateway to exploring dozens of concepts and characters created and championed by the great Jack Kirby.

Here's how DC describes the story, the first issue of which is in stores today or available on ComiXology:

As Darkseid and the hordes of Apokolips lay waste to the world, even Superman is overwhelmed—but not for long, as three heroes from the miniaturized city of Kandor emerge at full size, armed with all the vast powers of Kal-El, ready to become the new Supermen!

This battle of titans also features the machinations of Lex Luthor, plus fan favorites Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane aiding in the fight for Truth, Justice and the American Way.

Adams, whose long library of DC Comics are marked way down on ComiXology this week, joined to discuss his new Superman book.

We talked actually a little bit about this at New York Comic Con, but at that point I hadn't really seen much about Dark Knight III. Did you have a lot of communication with DC about the fact that both of you guys were kind of doing a twist on the City of Kandor coming alive all at once?

You know what, I didn't want to know anything about what they were doing. I had no interest in what they were doing. I had presented mine quite a long time ago, I was moving ahead, nobody was tapping me on the shoulder and saying, "Oh, by the way, we're doing this." I thought, "Well, if that's their attitude, fine, that's great for me because I like that better. They can do whatever they want to do, I'm doing this."

Now in the course of this story, you're going to be dealing with a lot of the Jack Kirby Fourth World characters.

Everybody and his brother. Everybody and his brother. I got Orion, Metron, Steppenwolf, Miss Miracle, Darkseid, Granny Goodness. I'm reading from a list. Big Barda, Desaad. Because I can't, you can't remember everybody, you know what I'm saying?

I'm doing all of those people because there's so much fun. I mean I told the last guy that I was talking to that Jack Kirby has essentially been over at Marvel and created the Marvel Universe. If anybody wants to deny it, you know, you can go ahead and deny it, but it's true. But then Jack Kirby came over to DC and he created a whole new universe with Apokolips and all those other characters, and seemingly out of nothing. He had that much juice left in him that he could come and create a whole universe of characters. Unbelievable. They were all good, and they were all different, and they were all unique. I mean, you got Orion riding around in a, you know a Segway, only it goes into the air. Right? Okay?

And he did it what, fifteen years before they invented the Segway. I'm just saying this is Jack Kirby, making stuff, making the future, you know? Doing these incredible things, and I have to go see a movie where they're recycling Zod. Like really, you want to recycle Zod and this time you want to kill him? I'm sorry, why don't you bring in Darkseid and Jack Kirby's New Gods? That would be the thing to do. I mean you and I went to watch, I assume you did, watch Smallville, right? Near the end of the series they bring in Granny Goodness and you go, "Oh, my God. It's Granny Goodness."

They're bringing in everybody, they're going to get Darkseid and all, and then it's gone. Like, what! What! What! What happened to you guys? I get Granny Goodness and that's the end of it? From my point of view, I'm saying, "Look guys, I don't know about you, but these are some of the greatest characters in comic books. I am just going to lay them out for you. I got six issue, I'm not going to able to do them all justice, but by golly, they're going to be there and they're going to be fighting like crazy." I'm going to have a great time within my story so that all the rest of you can go, "Oh, yeah, that's ... Why haven't we been doing that? Let's do it. Let's make a movie." You know, I want them to do that. I want this to be the, you know, first bun on the tray.

Now because it's because of these characters, I have to ask, is Jimmy going to play a big role in this? Because obviously Jimmy is one of the biggest winks to the Fourth World.

Jimmy, Jimmy Olsen. He was, no, not as much as I would like. He's there, right, and he participates at the beginning, but we get into an awful lot of super stuff and Superman going to all sorts of planets and like that, so it's a little hard to keep Jimmy. I would loved to have kept Jimmy. On the other hand Jack Kirby didn't create Jimmy, so, you know. I did Jimmy as Jimmy Olsen. Okay? I didn't change him so I said, "From the point of view if you're a fan, what does Neal think Jimmy Olsen is?" He's that red headed kid. There he is right there. He's up on the roof and he's with the kid and he's doing this, okay, that's Jimmy. Now we can leave that because we got other fish to fry.

Again it's only a six issue mini-series, you know, I would love the Jim, you know, the roomy house in there, but I can just do so much. But since it's not, it doesn't take place in that, you know. You know, maybe, you know, some kind of future issue. I mean this thing stepped itself up to be done to have more issues after. It really does set itself up and it really throws a whole base in the water in your face right at the end. I'm telling you this, you got to ... It's shocking. Poof.

The thing is that the story that you're going to read is a significant and important story, but underneath it all there's this subplot that is really the plot of the story and you don't get that till the last panel of the last page.

DC's just announced their Rebirth initiative. I have to ask, would you ever come back to monthly and continuity comics or do you think at this point you're better suited to these kind of prestige format mini-series where you can have your own world?

Isn't the monthly comics a prestige format in the end where you can have your own world, really? For example, let's say I did Deadman for a year, one Deadman per month, okay? That's two graphic novels, right? So what's the difference? Doing monthly book is, yeah, cool.

The Kryptonians in your story, the first ones we see in number one are very different from what we've seen more recently. Obviously the whole thing is very Kirby inspired, did you want to kind of bring out that Bronze Age sensibility just in general across the board, even for the non-Kirby elements?

I don't think it's ... See people talk about me, my stuff being in the Silver Age or the Bronze Age or any of the rest of that stuff. You have to understand that what I've been doing when I'm not doing comic books, and I have been doing for the last couple of decades, is I've been doing advertising and advertising is far more contemporary than comic books. It's always is. I've been writing commercials, I've been doing commercials, I've been boarding commercials, I've been voicing commercials, I've been doing all this stuff and we are on the ... Advertising is on the edge of whatever's contemporary.

Anything that happens, bang, you got an ad for it, or multiple ads that do it. You know, you watch the Showtime at the Super Bowl and you have contemporary commercials, so contemporary that you hate them. Personally I hate Monkey Baby Boy or whatever the hell that is. What is it? The Dog Monkey Baby.

Anyway, so I don't stay off the contemporary edge. You know, to find people thinking that I, you know, the Bronze Age sensibility, and I don't see it. I just see taking Jack Kirby forward and not changing him, okay, but drawing him better. You know, Jack Kirby was never known as a great draftsman, but a great artist and creator and my stuff is perhaps, you know, and of course I don't want to be egotistical about this, drawing just a little bit better, so the handsome guys are handsomer. But that's not the point, the point is that I'm taking Jack Kirby and doing him like me but still Jack Kirby. All I'm doing is adding a little bit of different drawing to Jack Kirby, but I'm not changing Jack Kirby, it's Jack Kirby.

So where does Jack Kirby exist? Is he in the Silver, the Gold Age or the Bronze Age? I don't see any of that. I see it, you know, wherever you take it and there's an awful lot of characters by the way that are remnant of the Silver and Bronze Age and the Golden Age. Aren't they really? Captain America, you know, Shazam, all that stuff. Very little from that point of view, contemporary. Are there many contemporary comic book superheroes? Are they all rehashes of old stuff, really.

I'm taking Superman, and guess what? Women will look at him and fall in love with him, if I do it right. Men will look at him and say, "Man, that guy works out. That guy looks tough." That's then, "When I get to the gym I want to look like that." I'm trying to do a real life Superman, somebody that when he walks in the room, you know, has got muscles and you believe him and he's there and he's got a presence and he seems solid. Women walk in the room and they say, "Hmm, that is a good looking man." That's what I want to get out of my Superman, and I don't want him to have godlike powers, I'm trying to limit his powers, could be realistically fantastic, but not godlike. I don't want him to fly into a sun and survive, you know what I mean? I mean a good example would be in one sequence Superman wants to move a ship and so he puts his hands on it and he pushes the ship. In the next sequence he wants to fly through the ship, so he puts his hands on it and flies through the ship.

I'm sorry, what's the difference? Why didn't he fly through the ship the first time? His hands are only six inches long. If I got Torpedo, so what's the difference? Well, you should be able to as an artist and a creator and a writer to look at the difference and say, "Yes, if he's going to push the ship, he's got to get a giant plate of steel that's at least eight feet long and push it at the ... put it at the front of the ship and start pushing. He can't do it real fast because he might going to make a real eight foot dent in it and accelerate it as he moves it. He has to figure these things out because he's a man of steel, he can't do what standard people do." Why don't we do that in the comic books? I don't understand why.

That particular example you just cited actually got used in the Supergirl television show this year. She tried to push a, like a, tried to push a grounded oil tanker back out to sea and she inadvertently punctured the hull and created an oil spill.

Exactly! Exactly! Exactly! They're thinking like it's a realistic person. That's, you know, that's the kind of Superman I want to be doing, and that's what I've done for six issues. I'm done now, you know, I feel like all I'm doing is talking about it, but it's got a lot of stuff in it. Let me just say this, that first issue is a set up for the other six issues. Don't think for one minute when you read that first issue that you know anything, because there's going to be lots of surprises.

One thing that I've always said is that whenever we see the New Gods people are often trying to reinvent them because almost nobody has really got a good handle on them since Jack.

Exactly. Exactly! Exactly. I have no new handle. I have no new handles, believe me. I am using all the old handles.

You and Jack were the first two guys I remember doing like cool creative things with layouts and panel borders and stuff like that. So as much as you guys are very different cartoonists, you're cut from the same cloth in a lot of ways. Do you think that that helps you to kind of navigate and interpret his world?

Boy, I would like to think so, you know? I think so, and I think that since I'm the other guy, I think I should be doing it. I have a certain obligation because I think a lot of people have just left Jack's stuff in the mud and haven't, you know, cleaned it up and brushed it off and shown it to people with a new shiny surface on it.

That's what I'm trying to do, I want everybody else out there to look at it and say, "My God, what have we been missing? Let's do this. There's two or three movies right here, let's do them." That's what I want to see. You know, look at heart I'm a fan, you know, I love what everybody ... I like what I do but I love what everybody else does, and I'm in a community of incredibly brilliant and wonderful people, and Jack Kirby is one of the top guy. To be able to do all these Jack Kirby, to get six issues and do Jack Kirby cover to cover, unbelievable. It's great, and that's what I did.