INTERVIEW: Neal Adams Returns to Scene of the Crime in Deadman

While Neal Adams is perhaps more famously known for game-changing runs on Batman, Detective Comics and Green Lantern/Green Arrow, the living legend believes he delivered some of his most groundbreaking work with DC Comics’ lesser-known superhero Deadman in the pages of Strange Adventures.

Deadman gave him a chance to do something with a character that was unlike any other in comics, Adams told CBR, because he was already dead and readers already knew how his story would end. At least, they thought they knew.

Now, Adams is returning to the character 50 years later for a new story that is actually a continuation of the story that he started in Strange Adventures #207 back in 1967. The limited series Deadman is back from the dead starting on November 1, and in talking with CBR, Adams shared that Boston Brand — Deadman’s alter ego –– will team-up with Batman, Zatanna, Phantom Stranger, Dr. Fate and the Spectre to solve his own murder mystery. Originally, Deadman believed it was an organization known as the Scavengers who killed him, but in the latest chapter of his ongoing adventures Ra’s al Ghul and the League of Assassins have become prime suspects.

CBR: You started drawing and eventually writing and drawing Deadman in the late 1960s in the pages of Strange Adventures and the character became a breakout hit. Why do you think readers responded so well to Boston Brand and his strange adventures?

Neal Adams: It really wasn’t a surprise to me. The great opportunity with Deadman was that you had a character that nobody had really done anything with – Arnold Drake and Carmine Infantino created the character, which is terrific, but Carmine only did one issue with him – and it gave me a chance to do things that I hadn’t seen done in comics all of my life. For example, artists laying out pages instead of panels – meaning you design the page not just the panel. You could treat the page as if it were a piece of art. That had really never been done before because we were so use to working panel by panel.

Adams’ art for the glowing aspect of his series’ special cover

I also got a chance to do a character that was unlike any other character in comics because he’s dead. He’s a character that is already dead. That is paramount in my thinking because most comic books are stories about the characters that are amongst the living like Batman and Superman. But Deadman is already dead. That brings such a unique perspective. When I finished the series at the time that I was doing it, I actually never told anybody else about the ongoing story of Deadman. I kept it to myself. Not because I was selfish but because one day, I intended to go back and let people discover it. He has another brother and sister. He has a mother and father who are still alive and they have their own circus. There is also a lot of friction between Deadman and his parents – big friction – that has to do with the League of Assassins and Ra’s al Ghul, who I created with [editor] Julius Schwartz and [writer] Denny O’Neil a few years later. All of this comes together and makes a big Deadman story, which nobody has ever seen. Nobody had any idea what this story was about. We just sort of started and now I am getting the chance – so many years later – to continue it.

I was going to ask you if this was the DC Rebirth introduction of this character but based on what you’re saying, as far as Boston Brand is concerned, DC Rebirth and the New 52 never happened.

That’s right. I don’t mean to