The Progressive: Neal Adams and the Fight to Unionize Comics


Drawing stories about characters like the X-Men, Batman, and the Green Lantern, legendary comic artist Neal Adams knew a lot about doing good and helping others. He combined unprecedented realism with dynamic visuals to make superheroes moody and socially relevant, without sacrificing the soap opera storytelling that readers adored.

Working with writers such as Dennis O’Neil, Adams created Green Lantern character John Stewart, who quickly became one of the most popular Black superheroes, and transformed the Joker from a neglected gimmick character to a madman who captured the public imagination.

But the most important work done by Adams, who passed away at the age of eighty on April 28, might be his fight to improve the rights of artists and writers in the comic book industry. Throughout his life, Adams insisted on the dignity of those who make the stories, fighting against an industry built on exploitation. A pioneer in creators’ rights, Adams fought to form a union of comic book artists and writers, cultural workers that are exploited now more than ever.

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