How the Art of George Perez & Neal Adams Defined the House Style of DC Comics
DC Comics artists have a solid platform to stand on thanks to the amazing work of George Perez and Neal Adams. Their passionate work ethic continues to inspire subsequent creators, and both left indelible impressions on creators and readers alike. The “house” style they created benefited succeeding generations of artists, as did their subtle dance between speech bubbles and picture board sequences.
Perez and Adams were prolific creators for decades, making important contributions to DC’s most popular franchises. Perez mastered the art of creating Eisner-worthy full-page compositions with exceptional attention to detail. Neil Adams influenced generations of artists by depicting the human anatomy with an unsurpassed realism.
The sheer volume of artwork that George Perez completed (and drew almost every DC superhero) contributed to his success. Two pivotal series and a legendary DC character stand out as Perez’s most influential contributions. In the ’80s, Perez worked with Marv Wolfman New Teen Titans (1980) before creating the classic Crisis on Infinite Earths (1985). According to crisisPerez re-imagined Wonder Woman and transformed her into a dynamic character with a more original, cohesive backstory.
Sometimes referred to as “masters of the big comic book moment,” two of Perez’s works demonstrate his ability to create exciting emotional themes and elaborate front pages. A groundbreaking moment in New Teen Titans shows Dick Grayson giving up the mantle of Robin the Boy Wonder. Perez delivers the moment with an image of a mature Robin on seven panels, each depicting the other Teen Titans and their respective reactions. Perez packs five more panels underneath to encapsulate the emotional moment Robin leaves Batman’s side and shadow.
Perez’s masterful work Crisis on Infinite Earths is the prime example of his ability to deliver artworks worthy of epic moments. crisis is a saga in which parallel universes are dying and the body count is catastrophic as antimatter engulfs legions of superheroes. Perez’s cover for the series features over a dozen superheroes and a platoon of Earths in a multiverse falling apart. A fine example of his artistic style, combining multiple panels onto one page, occurs early in the narrative when citizens run through the streets as their city dissolves in a wall of antimatter.
Perez called his work reimagining Wonder Woman a “personal triumph” and credited his “inner feminist” with calling for the character to be reimagined in hopes of increasing her popularity. No one wanted to work on the title according to Perez, but he valued her place in the multiverse and made her indispensable. Perez developed his own ideas about the superhero, detracting from a character that simply mirrored Superman. He also avoided sexualizing her, emphasizing her roots in mythology.
Neal Adams challenged artists to capture highly detailed scenes and paid particular attention to the kinetics of superheroes in action. He revived Batman and the Joker with his realistic portrayals, especially in high intensity fight scenes. Adams helped Dennis O’Neil leave behind the Batman seen on the 1960s Campy show and resurrected the more gothic Batman of the 1940s. Adams’ illustrations in Batman In #251, the Joker looks like a lunatic who could easily walk into reality from the page.
The Joker used to be a goofy prankster compared to Adams’ twisted, insane villain. Batman #251 is a transitional book with clearer night scenes and muted colors than previous Batman books. Adams was adept at adding realistic characters, backgrounds, and lighting to his foreshadowing technique. Many artists before had mastered the technique, but with much more subdued detail.
Adams’ seminal work as co-creator of villains like Man-Bat and criminal mastermind Ra’s Al Ghul changed the Batman franchise forever. Man-bat first appears in Frank Robbins detective comics #400, a book featuring Adams’ iconic close-ups and dynamic fight scenes. Although its creation strictly followed the 1954 comic book code, it is still an important part of comic book history.
The blow-by-blow boxing match Adams created for O’Neil’s Superman vs Muhammad Ali (1978) is one of the liveliest action films in comic book history. The opening range of this iconic matchup shows Adam’s dedication to detail and realism. The scene depicts a summer day in downtown Metropolis, with downtown details such as street vendors, billboards, and local residents standing out.
Both Perez and Adams created some industry-changing comic book covers. The genius of Perez’s sweep for Wonder Woman #10 is unparalleled. Perez showed his talent for design when he made it look like Deathstroke was blowing apart the cover of Wolfman’s New Teen Titans #34. He always thought big and never shied away from challenging compositions.
Adams wraparound case for Superman vs Muhammad Ali offers a stunning display of the crowd watching the fight. The faces in the audience include celebrities and professionals from the comic industry, but also comic characters such as Batman and Lex Luthor. Adams even counted himself among the spectators.
Of course, Adams created many superlatives Batman also covers, with many of the best collected at O’Neil’s Batman: Tales of the Demon. Adams captures the humanity of Batman on these covers, bringing a dark realism to Ra’s Al Ghul and other members of Batman’s rogue gallery. Adams’ art inspired other creators to move from drawing cartoon characters in campy settings to portraying tougher characters in more realistic worlds.
Artists today model their work after Perez’s elaborate full-page compositions, packed with characters and background details. Perez’s presence as a visionary artist and his significant contributions to cutting-edge narratives set a precedent for the comic book artist’s role. Adams’ work was equally revolutionary. Much of his art is delivered like the elaborately crafted cinematic storyboard art that comic book creators emulate in today’s age of comic-to-film adaptations.
The Line it is Drawn is a tribute to Neal Adams