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Creator of DC’s first Black superhero, Neal Adams passed away at 80

Neal Adams, who created John Stewart, DC’s first Black superhero starring in Green Lantern, passed away at the age of 80.

Neal Adams, the creator of Green Lantern’s John Stewart, passed away at the age of 80 from sepsis. Adams was a long-term illustrator to comic heavyweights DC and Marvel, perhaps known best for revitalising Bob Kane’s Batman of the ’60s, soft bubble gum version, to the more hard-edged rogue that we see today.

If you’ve seen any comic book creator’s name on any merchandise, film, or tv show, it’s all thanks to Adams, who was a huge advocate for creative copyright and was responsible for convincing large publishers like DC and Marvel to allow artists to remain the sole owner of their original artwork, that would allow them to autograph and/or auction for additional income. Adams most notably fought for the iconic duo behind Superman, Jerry Siegel, and Joe Shuster, and helped to change publishing rights as we know them.  

Neal Adams Batman
Credit: DC

Adams first broke into comics in the 60s with a stint at Archie Comics, before moving on to illustrations for advertising and the Ben Casey newspaper comic strip. 

Most significantly, it was Adams’s collaboration with writer Denny O’Neil, that is perhaps seen as a true career highlight. The duo reinvigorated DC’s Batman and Joker, bringing a darker, more serious tone to the comic. With the social themes of, race, drugs, and pollution at the forefront of their work, together they co-created John Stewart, the first Black Green Lantern and one of the first Black superheroes for DC.

DC has shared via their website: “With deep respect for Neal and his tireless work and great love for the comics industry, we extend our condolences to his family and friends”. They also have some of Adams’s work up at the moment, you can check it out here.