Tito W. James: You’ve made quite the mark on comic book history, so I’d like to go over several characters starting with John Stewart.
Neal Adams: Ah yes, he’s black you know.
TWJ: Yes! I think he was an important character because now we’re getting a lot more black superheroes. What made John Stewart special?
NA: I think there was a difference between John Stewart and the black characters who came before John Stewart. I insisted to my editor that John Stewart be a college-educated professional man. Too many times before that, the few characters that we had that were black were kind of gang- bangers. You know, tough guys who were struck by lighting and suddenly became heroes. So, they decided to become good guys.
That’s a very “white” attitude. And I don’t think the people in comics realized that black people, or Asian or whatever, didn’t want to be represented by gangbangers. They wanted to be represented by citizens. So, John Stewart was the beginning of not just having black heroes in comics but having people who accomplished something in their life and then became superheroes.
TWJ: Another influential character you brought to life was Ra’s Al’Ghul. Giving Batman a more intellectual villain.
NA: You have to remember that Batman, even though you and most readers don’t know it, was based on Dick Tracy. And Dick Tracy would have strange characters like Pruneface and Spongeface. Basically, criminals who were kind of clowns. And so, Batman’s villains were kind of clowns. The intellectual equality between Batman and his villains was not there. So we needed a Moriarty like Sherlock Holmes had. Someone who was equal to him. And that’s where Ra’s Al’Ghul came from.
TWJ: What do you think is essential to creating a good Batman villain?
NA: I don’t think there’s such a thing. You can create a villain out of anything. Well, let’s take Donald Trump for example.
NA: Donald Trump is my Ra’s Al’Ghul. He’s the evil, monstrous, bigoted, misogynistic, unthinking, powerful man who is unconsciously responsible for an awful lot of things in the world. You could say that this disaster that took place in New Zealand just recently is a result of the ambiance and feeling that Donald Trump and others have created in the world and therefore he’s responsible. I think so, other people may not think so.
You don’t put your influence out there into the world if you are powerful and represent things that are truly evil. Bigotry is evil, misogyny is evil, so many of the things Donald Trump represents are truly bad for any country or any civilization. That doesn’t mean that he isn’t powerful and capable of doing good things in the world, just like Ra’s Al’Ghul, but the deviltry he makes along the way more than makes up for any good that he might do.
Somebody like Ra’s Al’Ghul may believe that he’s doing well and doing good but the truth is that he just doesn’t care about human life and he doesn’t mind if innocent people die along the way. That’s a very bad attitude. We’ve had two kids who died along the border. And you can’t say that Donald Trump isn’t responsible. Is he ever going to be held accountable? I don’t think so. But he caused it. In the end those people in New Zealand, is he responsible? He would argue no and I would argue yes. We’ve never had anything like that happen in New Zealand, but he’s unleashed this feeling in the world that somehow that’s ok. And we’re fighting against that. The Batmans of the world have to fight against that.
TWJ: I agree.
Switching topics. You created the character of Dead Man…
NA: Actually, I did not. He was created by Carmine Infantino and Arnold Drake.
TWJ: Oh, ok.
NA: I had nothing invested in Dead Man except I helped develop the character. There was really no way to define Dead Man because he’s dead. You’re not dead, I’m not dead, nobody I know is dead and also alive to talk about it. It’s speculation and he’s a fun character.
I would prefer to talk about Man-Bat. He was kind of a Jekyll and Hyde character. He’s taken this serum to make him have abilities like a bat the same way Spider-Man has abilities like a spider. This was going to be a gift for Batman but it didn’t work out so well because it’s addictive.
TWJ: What do you wish to see from the next generation of creators?
NA: Interesting things to read. I’m not going to tell them what to do. They can do whatever they want. I just want to be invested and entertained.
I would like to thank Neal Adams for taking the time for this interview.