At this point, say that neal adams is one of the most influential cartoonists in history is somewhat obvious. He has left golden pages to remember, where based on his particular way of understanding comics, he engraved his imprint on the legend of some of the mythical characters of the best labels in the medium. But if there is a character in which he looked majestic, it was the Dark Knight of Gotham City. I don’t think I’m wrong if I say that Adams is one of the best pencils that have drawn the sinister silhouette of the vigilante.
It’s great to see that classic material back in bookstores, and the ‘Batman: The Devil’s Fathers’ tome has already passed through our hands. On that occasion we attended one of those wonderful moments of the ninth art, when they coincide in the different headers of the Gotham crusader Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams. The combo gave readers some brilliant moments, thanks to the changes they introduced to the form and substance of the Batman collections. A darker tone, with the crosshairs placed on the origins of the character. The clear intention was to move the Dark Knight away from that almost cartoonish aspect that had starred in his adventures during the previous decade.
Both authors sought a realistic approach, both in the scripts and in the visual aspect of the series. Adams made clear his ability to define characters, the dynamism of his pencil and the mastery in creating environments in which this black series Batman fit like a glove. But before that great moment, Neal Adams had already made contact with the character, and took the pulse of the reality of that Batman of the late 60s.
In this new installment of ‘Great Authors of Batman’ dedicated to Neal Adams, we go back in time to the months before the happy meeting of this great cartoonist with O’Neil. So, Adams put his talent at the service of one of the titles that suggest the greatest nostalgia to the veteran reader. ‘The brave and the bold’ was a format that dazzled the public, since it united the Batman universe with that of other DC characters.
The encounter of these sidekicks with a heavyweight like Batman meant a good boost to the sales of their own collection, but also offered the public the possibility of seeing the vigilante outside his natural habitat. Month after month, through the pages of ‘The Brave and the bold’, the best of the publisher passed, in adventures that had a self-contained character, and that did not require the reader to know about the continuities of the individual series of each character.
Neal Adams enters the masthead in his 79th issue, in 1968. His journey begins with an encounter between the caped crusader and dead man, a character that, in the hands of Neal Adams, looks macabre and majestic. The nature of this peculiar vigilante demands this aspect and context. Adams is a real expert in creating those balances between the cloudy and the bright., without forgetting the date in which these comics are published. In that sense, we see how the author claims to be a true pioneer, giving strong clues to the future that he has in mind for Batman.
Unfortunately, not everything in this installment has the same luster. The initial episodes belong to the series ‘World’s Finest Comics’, where Batman and Superman met as a team. In ‘Brave and bold’ numbers 175 and 176 appear, written in 1968 by Leo Dorfman and Carl Bates. The inclusion of these volume installments makes historical sense, of course, as they show the start of Neal Adams’ work leading up to his entry into ‘The brave and the bold’.
The problem is that reading this adventure shows the most childish and disconcerting face of DC comics at the time, direct heir to the ideas that dominated publishing in previous decades. Ridiculous stories told without any elegance, full of clichés and distorted by the undesirable presence of teenage helper fashion is what we read in the volume’s entry.
Do not panic. Once this hurdle has been overcome, which has no more interest than the historical recovery, we enter into a different dynamic. Bob Haney is the screenwriter of ‘The Brave and the bold’, and provides complexity and content to the issues compiled by this volume. It brings us closer to the most detective and street Batman, much more believable than the smiling paladin, unbearable factory of jokes or irritating jokes managed by Dorfman and Bates. Not all deliveries hold the same tone, because it has to adapt to Batman’s companions in each issue, but it is consistent, coherent and quite entertaining.
Let’s not fool ourselves, the great claim of the proposal is Neal Adams. It’s amazing how well his art stands the test of time. It is sophisticated, elegant, dynamic and experimental with the strength of a teacher of teachers. The varied examples of narrative techniques, mixed with the power of his stroke, are not out of place in the comparison, always risky, with today’s authors. Despite the passage of 50 years since the publication of these adventures, ‘Brave and bold’ leaves you speechless. The very use of panel elements to introduce text, the page layout or the break up of the panel for both visual and narrative purposes are at the forefront of comics in their historical context, and pass the test of the years with flying colours. .
On a negative note, I have no choice but to refer to the renewed color of these numbers. It’s excessive, over-bright, and at times disrespectful of Neal Adams’ masterful use of shadows. The renovation of some pages does not sit particularly well, and I do not understand the mania for digital remastering depending on which works. Another thing that breaks me is the lack of the original covers for each issue.
Flash, Aquaman, Green Arrow or the Teen Titans are some of the guests at this party led by Neal Adams. I think my admiration for the art of this magnificent cartoonist has become clear, creator of a style that would define superhero comics during the 70s. The return of essential classics is always good news. ‘Batman: Brave and Bold’ it is.
The Batman: Brave and Bold volume It is published under the Great Authors of Batman collection, dedicated on this occasion to Neal Adams. It is a volume of 232 pages, which includes numbers 79 to 85 of The Brave and the Boldin addition to World’s Finest Comics nos. 175 and 176 and the complement of Batman no. 219. As an extra, sketches of the honored artist on these pages. The recommended retail price is 23 euros.
Born in 1941, this American author is one of the great innovators of the medium. His realistic style and his excellent narrative ability make his work a reference for several generations of cartoonists. He has passed through the great collections of Marvel and DC, with celebrated stages leading the Avengers, Green Lantern and Green Arrow or Batman (where he creates the villain Ra’s al Ghul together with Dennis O’Neil). He is also remembered for the particular vignette match between Superman and Muhammad Ali.
[note]Deadman arrives in Gotham City in search of the only man capable of helping him find his killer: the best Detective in the World! In the late sixties, Neal Adams drew several stories for The Brave and the Bold, the series where the Dark Knight shared adventures every month with other superheroes from the DC Universe.
This book includes numbers 79 to 85 of The Brave and the Boldin addition to World’s Finest Comics nos. 175 and 176 and the complement of Batman no. 219. Characters as relevant as Aquaman, Flash, the Teen Titans, Green Arrow or Superman himself parade through its pages in unforgettable stories written by Bob Haney (teen titans), mike friedrich (Phantom Stranger) and Cary bates (The Last Family of Krypton). [/note]
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Review of ‘Batman: Brave and Bold’, with art by Neal Adams
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