Thursday, July 19, 2012

Meeting Dennis O'Neil and Neal Adams

If you told me on Tuesday morning that I'd be meeting two of the most influential names in comic book history later that day, I would have said "You get right out of town."

I received an email from my fiancé on Tuesday morning informing me that there's a comic book event being held at Housing Works Bookstore Cafe at 7:00 PM. Housing Works is a non-profit organization fighting AIDS and homelessness. The Bookstore Cafe is located at 126 Crosby Street, Manhattan, NY (SoHo). Not only is it a great used book store, but all profits go to Housing Works.

The title of the event was "Leaping Tall Buildings: Neal Adams, Denny O’Neil, Christopher Irving, Seth Kushner Talk Comics".

What!? Writer Dennis O'Neil and illustrator Neal Adams!? They're responsible for some of the best and most memorable comic books of all time.

We went and it was fantastic. Christopher Irving, writer of the book "Leaping Tall Buildings: The Origins of American Comics", was the moderator of the panel. They discussed the social relevance of comics.

Dennis and Neal told all sorts of stories from earlier in their careers. They talked about how they wanted to movie away from the hokey silver age of DC. At the time, comic sales were very low so they wanted to produce stories that were "real" and could be more relatable. They brought this realism to Batman, Green Lantern, and Green Arrow. One comic in particular was the famous Green Lantern/Green Arrow #85 which features Green Arrow's ward, Speedy, on the cover as a drug addict.

Neal talked about one particular story regarding this comic book. They were told to not show too much drug paraphernalia on the cover. It didn't matter what was inside, as long as it was toned down on the cover. Neal said that all he did was remove a rubber tourniquet. Everyone chuckled.

Another interesting story that Neal told was about the origin of Green Lantern John Stewart. Apparently, the editors at DC Comics wanted to name him Lincoln Washington. Neal hated this name because it invoked a racial stereotype. Neal told them to just use a "normal" name, and he picked John Stewart. "I didn't know there was going to be a famous talk show host one day", said Neal. Everyone laughed. Neal's a funny guy.

After the talk, I purchased a copy of "Leaping Tall Buildings". Dennis O'Neil and Neal Adams were nice enough to sign my copy.

It's not every day that you get to meet a living legend. But every now and then, you get lucky. Tuesday, I hit the jackpot. I got to meet two.

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