Neal Adams: The future is now for motion comics

Oct. 19, 2009 | 2:01 p.m.


Neal Adams

Who is the greatest living comic-book artist? Neal Adams gets my vote. His work for DC Comics in the 1960s and ’70s still stands as a towering achievement, and he drew the perfect Bruce Wayne, the definitive Green Lantern and the most memorable Green Arrow. Adams remains a dynamic figure in the world of illustration (check out Adams’ website if you haven’t already), and his new passion is for motion comics, as he writes in this guest essay for Hero Complex.  — Geoff Boucher

New York, Union Square, 14th street, October 28th. It’s not every day that a new medium is invented or created and usually it happens by accident, against the tide and is roundly ignored and criticized by the majority of the population.

You want to put sound with movies? Talkies?! A flash-in-the-pan! Comic books?  That’s not a medium, is it? They’re written? And drawn? I thought they just sort of … appeared.

And now the latest…motion comics? Isn’t it enough that HALF of our movies are based on (heh) comic books, overnight, it seems?  No? There are going to be motion comics?  And what is that, a moving comic book?  Yep! But isn’t that … animation?

Actually NO. Animation, as it is defined today, is hundreds of thousands of animation cells drawn by a studio of animation artists who adapt ONE creator’s work to a simplified version — a version that has as few actual lines as possible. Done well, it can be brilliant — BUT, it can never be the original artist’s work. Until now. Which brings us to the aforementioned Oct. 28th.

On that day the first “true” motion comic, the first issue of Marvel’s “Astonishing X-Men,” will be presented in a world premiere at 14th Street-Union Square as part of MarvelFest NYC 2009. It will be outdoors and projected — yes, I did just say “projected” — on the side of the massively large, now closed, Virgin Megastore.

Ladieeze and Gentlemen, you will actually see the drawings of artist John Cassaday come to life and move. You will hear the words of the writer Joss Whedon (of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Dollhouse” fame) spoken by John Cassaday’s drawings. (Well, OK, it’s actors doing the actual voices coming from the drawings, but this is exciting stuff.) Also, to add to the excitement, there is a signing at the near-legendary Forbidden Planet comic book store as well as a Marvel-Disney costume contest.

It’s a comic book come to life and fully drawn by your favorite artist and written by your favorite writer. “Impossible,”  you logically say. “No one artist could do all that work!”  And, you’d be absolutely RIGHT. But, this is the Age of Computers and, more importantly, the Age of Brilliant Computer Operators. The BEST of these are at my studio, Continuity, and they manipulated the work YOU will see (or miss) on the 28th. (If you do miss it, you can purchase the “Astonishing X-Men” series via iTunes beginning that same day.)

Properly cajoled and manipulated, computers can do nearly anything. For us at Continuity, computers have taken John’s drawings and made them talk, run, jump, punch and take a massive cosmic ray blast right in the labonza! As a result? A never-seen-before medium.

Welllll, that’s not true, of course. Continuity has been doing this sort of revolutionary animation for years,  Except yours truly is a dyed-in-the-wool comic book artist (and comic book writer, too).  Who better to debut this new form? All this comes together as Walt Disney Co. is completing its $4 billion purchase of Marvel Entertainment. Did Disney buy Marvel in time to tap into the most incredible boom time in the comic book business, and will motion comics contribute to the Disney bonanza? A prediction: “Motion comics” will be a household name a year from today.

— Neal Adams


Neal Adams Batman

Neal Adams on “Dark Knight” and the comics industry

Spider-Woman get Marvel moving in motion comics

“Brave & Bold,” a look back at classic Neal Adams

“Tales of the Black Freighter” sets sail

“Next Door Neighbor” webcomics peek past curtains

Act-I-Vate is making dynamic webcomics

Webcomic to check out: “Fear My Dear”  

Carnival Comics scares up downloadable apps 

Photo: Neal Adams in 2007. Credit: Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times


10 Responses to Neal Adams: The future is now for motion comics

  1. Alex says:

    I really hope Mr. Adams is being tongue-in-cheek about all this. First, there is nothing new about so-called "motion comics" as we had this back in the 60s when they made those awful Marvel Superheroes cartoons like "Hulk" (the iconic Spider-Man series was marginally better). And comics are meant to be a medium in which we, the readers, fill in the blanks. We don't need some animator interpreting the art for us or a voice actor doing same. If they want to do an animated film, then they should do an animated film, not some half-measure. The "Watchmen Motion Comics" that came out on DVD earlier this year was one of the worst productions of its kind I have ever witnessed (the fact they only had a single actor playing all the roles – male and female – didn't help matters any). And that used the original artist Dave Gibbons' work, too. I watched about a minute of this trailer and that's about all I could take. Just as computers can make "drawings come to life" like this so too can computers be used to at least give full animation to the proceedings. Nothing against this X-Men production – it's an OK novelty – but it isn't going to replace animation or comic books.

  2. Neal Adams is an icon, (CYBERRAD!!!) no doubt, but this feels like he's giving us a bit of the hard sell. I think the technology is great, it's a fun and different way to experience comic books. The big push from Virgin for their motion comics was premature, even though The Gamekeeper was pretty neat. The promo video for this project has me thinking only one thing:
    Why this story?
    I love me some Joss Whedon, but this X-Men run was not one of the best. This motion comics gimmick would work better if it had some of the great Marvel classics as a source material. Secret Wars, The Infinity Gauntlet, or even the Jim Lee / Chris Claremont adjective-less X-Men. Marvel has a magnificent catalog to choose from, and with a little love put in, (reoccurring voice actors, packaging DVDs with the actual comics) this could be a great project, and a new way to get those classic Marvel stories back out there.

  3. Keith Bowden says:

    I greatly admire Neal Adams' work, skills and business acumen, but this isn't an article; it's an advertisement for a product that his studio produces. Nothing wrong with self-promotion in general, but not in the guise of information and evaluation. ("Motion comics" have been around for a long time, the best known ranging from the 1960s' Marvel Super-Heroes cartoons to the Watchmen Motion Comic that was released back in March of this year.)

  4. Stan OC says:

    Is this really an essay or a stream of consciousness advertisement for a marketing event at a defunct media retailer? What could be more ironic than projecting this onto the tombstone of the Virgin Megastore?
    I agree with Ambrose that something like Secret Wars or Infinity Gauntlet would make more sense. Watchmen motion comic was pretty good because it was a self-contained story and played to mainstreamers who never read the comic book. Similarly the Godkiller illustrated film works because it is a new self-contained story instead of recycling old stories (and because Lance Henriksen and Danielle Harris are cool to listen to, which makes it better than Watchmen).
    Marvel should do this with complete self-contained stories and treat them like graphic novels not floppy comics.

  5. spidey says:

    I really hate the kick Marvel Comics has been on since Joe Quesada arrived. And I dig Joe alot. He's done wonders for the books. BUT this seeming obsession trying to turn comics into movies (be it literally in this case) or television (by calling comic volumes SEASONS and doing stuff in wide screen and referencing real life actors ad nauseam) has become just too much. To the point that it feels like the comic book makers themselves are embarrassed about their own artform. Make comic books comic books and leave movies and tv to the folks who make movies and tv. Sheesh.

  6. James Dawson says:

    "Motion comics" definitely aren't new — and definitely are nothing to get excited about. Go here to read my review of the unfortunate Watchmen motion comic DVD, which I disliked intensely:,,50031…

  7. 2true says:

    Sounds like the usual Marvel hot air balloon…nothing new, old ideas dressed up and hyped to death…Neil is ok but shouldnt delude anyone that he's in say frazettas league, impressive if perhaps you're new to comics or lived in a cave for much of your life. The really good comics artists become illustrators. Do some research and you'll find Marvel hasnt really done anything new for years it just talks up its artists because it wants to sell graphic art books…the quality of the art was better in the 50's.

  8. […] scene,  admits that he is a skeptical soul when it comes to the hard-sell on motion comics, which some leading figures have presented as a digital-era salvation for the comic book industry. “Even though I’ve collaborated […]

  9. […] HERO COMPLEX also has an interview with ground breaking comic artist Neal Adams who’s Continuity Studio/Neal Adams Entertainment is producing the Motion Comics for Marvel. […]

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