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Neal Adams, legendary comic book artist who revitalized Batman, dies at 80

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Neal Adams, the legendary comic book artist who reinvigorated Batman and other superheroes with his photorealistic stylings and championed the rights of creators, has died. He was 80. He Adams died Thursday in New York of complications from sepsis, his wife, Marilyn Adams, told The Hollywood Reporter. He jolted the world of comic books in the late 1960s and early ’70s with his toned and sinewy take on heroes, first at DC with a character named Deadman, then at Marvel with the X-Men and the Avengers, then back at DC with his most lasting influence, Batman.

During his Batman run, Adams and writer Dennis O’Neil brought a revolutionary change to the hero and the comics, delivering realism, kineticism, and a sense of menace to their storytelling in the wake of the campy Adam West-starring ’60s ABC series and years of the hero being aimed at kiddie readers.

Adams created new villains for the rogue’s gallery — the Man-Bat and Ra’s al Ghul as well as the latter’s daughter, Talia, who became Batman’s lover. The father and daughter, played by Liam Neeson and Marion Cotillard, were key characters in the trilogy of Batman movies directed by Christopher Nolan. The Batman run also revived some villains who had grown stale, none more so than the Joker, who became less comical and more the homicidal maniac that modern readers and moviegoers know and love, truly taking his place as the Caped Crusader’s archnemesis.

“We took a harder edge. We decided that Joker was just a little crazy,” Adams told Abraham Reisman for a 2019 Vulture article that made the case that without that classic story, 1973’s “The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge” in Batman No. 251, comics such as The Killing Joke and portrayals by Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger, and Joaquin Phoenix would not exist.

Adams, also with O’Neil, came up with a then-controversial turn for Green Lantern/Green Arrow that tackled social issues such as drug addiction, racism, and overpopulation and introduced the Green Lantern hero John Stewart, who became one of DC’s first Black icons.

Their 1971 two-part story “Snowbirds Don’t Fly” remains an important milestone in comics’ evolution toward attracting more mature readers.

Adams also proved to be an influence on generations of artists, giving many a boost or break into the industry. He acted as a mentor to Bill Sienkiewicz, who would draw an influential run of Moon Knight and New Mutants, and Frank Miller, who would go on to reinvent Batman himself with The Dark Knight Returns.“It wasn’t until I sat at tables at conventions next to the same people I would watch treat my father with such reverence that I understood: He was their father, too,” his son Josh Adams said in a statement to THR. “Neal Adams’ most undeniable quality was the one I had known about him my entire life: He was a father. Not just my father, but a father to all that would get to know him.”

PHILADELPHIA, PA – JUNE 20: Artist Neal Adams attends Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con 2014 Day 2 held at Pennsylvania Convention Center on June 20, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images)

Adams helped change the practice of comic book publishers keeping the original art by artists or even shredding and tossing it, influencing companies to establish policies of returning the art, something that allowed artists to enjoy a second income stream.

Adams helped change the practice of comic book publishers keeping the original art by artists or even shredding and tossing it, influencing companies to establish policies of returning the art, something that allowed artists to enjoy a second income stream. The biggest case in point: Marvel returned pages of art to Jack Kirby, the co-creator of Fantastic Four, Thor, X-Men and Hulk. He also proved to be a champion of two writer-artists who laid the foundation for DC, Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. When he learned of their plight — one inciting factor was hearing that they could not attend a Broadway musical featuring the Man of Steel — he led a lobbying effort that eventually led to greater recognition for the pair, a creator tag in comics and other media that continues to this day, plus a pension.

Adams was born in New York City on June 15, 1941, and attended the School of Industrial Art in Manhattan. He set his sights on comic books early, and while he kept getting rejected from DC in the late ’50s, he did humor gags for Archie Comics. He also worked in commercial advertising, bringing a comics art style to his efforts, which would later influence his DC and Marvel work and help him stand out. Adams also worked for several years in the ’60s on a daily comic strip featuring Ben Casey.

By the end of the decade, he finally landed at DC, at first doing covers, then back-up stories, then finally the main stories. When he was assigned Deadman in the title Strange Adventures, he had pretty much established his style, and it was only a matter of time before the industry noticed. Deadman became a surprise hit and earned him an Alley Award for “the new perspective and dynamic vibrance” he brought to the medium.

During the Batman heyday, when Adams was blowing readers’ socks off on a monthly basis, he also was causing a stir in the DC offices with his art.

“In those days, if the work came in early enough, it would sit in flat files in production for maybe three or four weeks before anyone would actually pick it up and do the lettering corrections,” then-editor Paul Levitz recalled at the 2010 Comic-Con panel. “The great books that would always come in, people would come and they would look at it. And when they would come in to deliver their art, they’d stop off in production, [saying,] ‘Do you have Neal’s last job?’ or ‘Let me see what’s in the Detective drawer.’ And that becomes a ‘Can you top this?’” The artist also understood the value of fan support and was a fixture on the convention scene, where he was lovable, cantankerous and a repository of comic book history who loved being a raconteur. In addition to his wife of 45 years and Josh, survivors include two other sons, Jason and Joel; daughters Kris and Zeea; grandchildren Kelly, Kortney, Jade, Sebastian, Jane, and Jaelyn; and great-grandson Maximus. His three sons and Zeea all work as artists in the comic book or fantasy field.

COMICS

GeekAfrique’s Best Comic Book of 2022: ‘New Masters’

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‘New Masters’, by the Coker brothers, takes the reader into a future Nigeria which while dark, is filled with hope, powered by writing that’s masterful and art that’s gorgeously atmospheric, weaving one of the most compelling stories in graphic fiction this year.

By Abdulkareem Baba Aminu

As soon as the story opens with the following lines: ‘1124 Post Adventu, a few miles East of the Kainji Mines, deep into the Eko Exclusion Zone’, we meet Ola. The spunky tech-enhanced teen, accompanied by a droid called Àṣẹ, has slid down a cable to scavenge, but instead finds what could be a large deposit of raw Obsidium, a crucial mineral that has all kinds of individuals in hot pursuit. I immediately fell in love with the characters, a love which becomes absolute when the droid asks our heroine if she would like it to “Initiate the pick-race protocol”. How much more Nigerian could a comic book get? (Note for non-Nigerians: To ‘pick-race’ means to run away, or to flee a situation or an individual out of one’s league)

Ola soon tries to offload her precious find, and in the process, we meet some of the most colourful characters I’ve come across since the original Star Wars trilogy or Nnedi Okorafor’s spectacular ‘LaGuardia’ graphic novel. A shifty suya seller-cum-black market dealer, a high-powered committee consisting of humans and aliens, or a couple made up of a Yemi Alade-esque fashionista and a lover from literally another world. It has such a varied cast of characters that a traditional comic book reader might feel overwhelmed. To me though, it was a perfectly-built world, populated by the most realistic characters I’ve come across in science fiction in a long time.

It has such a varied cast of characters that a traditional comic book reader might feel overwhelmed. To me though, it was a perfectly-built world, populated by the most realistic characters I’ve come across in science fiction in a long time.

Also, what’s a futuristic yarn set in Nigeria without Lagos, the city we all love and hate in equal measure, or Tejuosho for that matter? That’s not to mention cameos by Hausa words like ‘Tozo’ when Ola barters for a bit of Suya at Yaba Market, or an earlier-mentioned exclamation of ‘Shaege’ (a corruption of the Hausa word for ‘bastard’, weirdly also used to denote chronic badassery). Then the cherry – or cherries – on this layered cake: Views of Eko City itself, as well as the slums of Makoko, still sinking even in this far-flung future.

This, the first story arc, is called ‘The Eye of Orunmila’ in reference to a massive status quo-changing trove of knowledge that will change the universe. It also appears to be the chief McGuffin of the story, driving the story forward so well that the following chapters almost have no choice but to follow suit. The writing by Shobo Coker, one half of the duo of Nigerian brothers who created this masterpiece, is deft in its delivery of character beats, and in its layering of fantastical sci-fi backdrops. The dialogue flows in such an organic way that one could easily forget he is reading a comic book. One word: Bravo.

The art is the work of an accomplished illustrator. One minute it looks stark and glisteningly computer-generated, the next it’s as organic and unsettling as some of the most masterful watercolour work currently being done in the medium.

The art, by Shof Coker, is the work of an accomplished illustrator. One minute it looks stark and glisteningly computer-generated a la ‘Blade Runner’, the next it’s as organic and unsettling as some of the most masterful watercolour work currently being done in the medium, a la the production design of Denis Villeneuve’s ‘Dune’ film. Even the lettering is kinetically charged, and is part of the artistry which graces the pages of this beautiful comic book. There also are locales that are as many as they are far-flung from each other and a distinct and deliberately-done combination of the familiar and the futuristic. One word: Bravo, also.

PR material says it is ‘A vision of West Africa under the thumb of alien colonizers’, wherein ‘A motley crew of outcasts find themselves caught up in a power struggle for control of an ancient artefact with immense power’. The comic book is also described as ‘A ground-breaking blend of science fiction, adventure, drama, and vibrant Afrofuturism’. I totally agree, even if the correct term is ‘Africanfuturism’, but that’s a fight for another day. With a handsome trade paperback edition out now, it is safe to declare this the most energetic debut of this year so far, and by far.  

‘New Masters’ Vol. 1 trade paperback, published by Image Comics, is on sale now.

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COMICS

AI-created comic deemed ineligible for copyright protection

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The United States Copyright Office (USCO) reversed an earlier decision to grant copyright to a comic book that was created using “A.I. art,” and announced that the copyright protection on the comic book will be revoked, stating that copyrighted works must be created by humans to gain official copyright protection.

In September, Kris Kashtanova announced that they had received a U.S. copyright on his comic book, Zarya of the Dawn, a comic book inspired by their late grandmother that she created with the text-to-image engine Midjourney. Kashtanova referred to herself as a “prompt engineer” and explained at the time that she went to get the copyright so that she could “make a case that we do own copyright when we make something using AI.”

“AI art” is artwork created by an artificial intelligence machine learning process, meaning that a computer/machine has learned information, such as the past work and art style of other artists, and descriptions of characters and images, and then generated a new image using that learned knowledge.

“AI art” is artwork created by an artificial intelligence machine learning process, meaning that a computer/machine has learned information, such as the past work and art style of other artists, and descriptions of characters and images, and then generated a new image using that learned knowledge. The knowledge fed into the machine is almost always from humans, who also often feed into the machine-specific guiding instructions for the creation of the art, but the actual final creation is generated by the computer/machine (in this instance, it would be Midjourney).

The USCO had previously denied giving copyright protection to A.I.-produced art, including earlier in 2022 when it denied protection to Stephen Thaler and his AI-generated painting, “A Recent Entrance to Paradise.” Thaler then sued the Copyright Office, so the Office granting protection to Zarya of the Dawn was naturally a surprising turn of events.

However, in a post on her Facebook page. Kashtanova revealed that the USCO had contacted her to tell her that it was revoking the protection, explaining that it had errantly missed that Midjourney had created the art for the comic (despite Midjourney being listed on the credits of the cover of the comic). The USCO has given Kashtanova 30 days to appeal its decision.

Kashtanova pointed out at the time that they were “open to how it was made and put Midjourney on the cover page,” but the actual application doesn’t specify the role of Midjourney in the creation of the comic, only noting that the comic was “A.I.-assisted.”

Source: AI Business              

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COMICS

Lagos Comic Convention 2022: We’re ready for 10,000 guests – Elegba

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Ayodele Elegba created Lagos Comic Convention, the fastest-growing annual gathering of geeks in the country, and this year will see the event hitting a milestone as it marks its tenth year on Saturday, Sept. 17. He spoke to us about his enthusiasm that this year’s will be the biggest and best show they’ve ever given fans, as well as many other points. He spoke to Abdulkareem Baba Aminu, and herewith are excerpts:

By Abdulkareem Baba Aminu

GeekAfrique: For Lagos Comic Convention 2022, what will you be doing differently?

Ayodele Elegba: This year is like a rebirth for us. After the COVID pandemic, we saw a decline in events and socializing. It was a scary situation, and we never thought we would be back again. We are grateful that geeks from all over Nigeria came together last year, even if masked, but with the same hyper-enthusiasm. This year, we have been able to secure a title sponsor in Raptures, a comic book app that hopes to change the way comics are perceived in Africa. We also have secured sponsorship for our zones as well, something we have been trying to achieve for a while now. Also, the French Consulate’s kind sponsorship continues this year.

This year, for the first time, the entire event will be ticketed and we have made this decision because our goal is to make the event self-sustaining, and we can give the fans the opportunity to finally support the event and say ‘thank you’ for the 10 years we have organized the event for free. This year we will be announcing the DreamMakers Award for individuals and organizations who have contributed immensely to the growth of comic books in Nigeria. 

“It’s been ten years, and we are poised to welcome over 10,000 guests this year.”

Of course, we are back at the Landmark Event Centre, and we will be bringing back all the juicy activities the fans are used to seeing, like cosplay, panel discussions, screenings of exclusive clips from films and animation, and exhibitors selling their comic books and merch. It’s been ten years, and we are poised to welcome over 10,000 guests this year

GeekAfrique: Since you began the event, what has been the single most difficult goal for you to crush?

Elegba: I think the most difficult has been to make big corporates see the comic convention for what it is. Many of them are used to musical concerts and reality shows and will not put money into what they still perceive as kids’ stuff. We’re still working hard to change that perspective and get big money companies to support and sponsor.

In the past, I would clear my account to pay for the event. But over time we have seen the event now able to mostly sustain itself based on sponsorship, vendors, and ticketing. This year we are grateful for all the numerous exhibitors and sponsors who have joined us this year to make it a reality.

GeekAfrique: You’ve kept at it for a decade now. What has kept you going on?

Elegba: I guess the dream has kept me going. You know, the image of a future where African comic books will become a household name, and adapted into movies, games or animation. Also, the dream of the average young person making money from talent, as well as that of animation studios springing up all over the country, and big-name streamers courting them. This dream keeps me awake every night, and I am glad of the growth we have seen in the creative space since Lagos Comic Convention began.

GeekAfrique: How much of a presence will animation have this year, as RENDACON has been created to take care of that?

Elegba: Animation will always have a special place at Lagos Comic Convention. This year will not be an exception, as we have studios like Spoof! Animation coming to premiere its latest project at the event. With our partnership with FilmOne, it means animated films and shorts will be screened on actual cinema screens this year. We had actually begun to see a growth in animation content at the convention a few years ago. More and more animation studios and storytellers were springing up, and we didn’t have enough room to actually do justice to them all. so we established RENDACON (Radical Exhibition of New and Dynamic Animated Content). We will be having the second edition in November, and we hope to bring a lot of speakers and trainers to discuss topics that will help growth in the animation space.

“It’s tough (laughter), especially when you have some very juicy scoops. Even now I am privileged to some government announcements that will be made at the event, but I am not permitted to say.”

GeekAfrique: Participating creators and companies no doubt share secret projects with you during planning. How do you summon enough willpower to keep those secrets?

Elegba: It’s tough (laughter), especially when you have some very juicy scoops. Even now I am privileged to some government announcements that will be made at the event, but I am not permitted to say. I keep my mouth shut because I don’t want to spoil the surprise(s). I think it’s more fulfilling to see rather than be told, and this is why fans need to attend physically and experience all the great stuff for themselves.

GeekAfrique: Your own comic book company has been rather quiet regarding actual publishing of books. Why is that?

Elegba: We just wanted to re-evaluate our business model and look at other ways of succeeding at printed copies. The animation side of the business is doing quite well and it’s almost impossible to make comics at the same time too.  But we will be making some announcements at the convention, so fans should watch out.

QeekAfrique: If you could have one celebrity grace the Lagos Comic Convention, which one would it be?

Elegba: I would love to have Idris Elba over, to come to talk about his experience working with James Gunn on the Suicide Squad movie, his Heimdall role, and to just hang out with fellow geeks and soak up the awesome Lagos energy. It’s always a pleasure seeing a black man representing very well in comic book movies.

Lagos Comic Convention is slated to take place on Saturday, September 27th, 2022.

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