Ellison, Adams, and deadlines

Three somewhat connected bits from separate interviews in The Comics Journal, from the late ’70s to the early ’80s, concerning deadlines. The first and last with Neal Adams, while the second with Harlan Ellison, also concerning Adams:

TCJ: Would it be unfair to say that you have problems meeting deadlines?

Neal Adams: Let me put it this way: Everybody has problems with deadlines. I have a reputation of having great difficulty with deadlines. On the other hand, any book that I was assigned to do and was given a deadline for, that I’m aware of, that I was allowed to finish, I finished within the deadline or if I finished outside the deadline, it did not stop the book from being published when it was supposed to be published. So, I would prefer to say yes: I have trouble with deadlines, but any time I have been asked to get a job in at a particular time, if I have been late, I have not been late to the extent that it has been impossible to put that book out. As a matter of fact, any time that a book was put out and it was insisted that the book was put out so that I could catch up on my deadlines or whatever, it was put out without consulting me. There was a time when a Green Lantern reprint was put in as an editorial decision long before any deadline was up.

I think Carmine Infantino was a little bit annoyed that the Green Lantern/Green Arrow series was getting a lot of attention and that I couldn’t do his covers while I was turning out Green Lantern/Green Arrow. You must understand the situation I was in. I was being asked to turn out Green Lantern/Green Arrow, but I was also being asked to do five covers a week for DC Comics. If you’ll recall the time, I was not only penciling those covers, I was penciling, inking, and coloring those covers. So, when people talk about my having trouble with deadlines, they tend to forget to mention things like, ‘Well, while Neal was having trouble turning out Green Lantern/Green Arrow, Neal was also being asked to turn out approximately five covers a week, pencils, inks, and colors. And when he let down on doing those covers and insisted that Green Lantern/Green Arrow was more important, it was insisted to him by the publishers that indeed it was much more important to get out those covers because those covers sold more books. And, after all, Green Lantern/Green Arrow wasn’t that important after all.’ Now, from that point of view, whatever problems I had with the Green Lantern/Green Arrow series were created by publishing decisions.

TCJ: By the nature of the industry, you have to do so much work every month…

Adams: Not true. Absolutely not true. You can be assigned a job and be told that it’ll be due in four months and just have other people do the other jobs in between.

TCJ: But can you make a living doing that?

Adams: No. It would be very difficult making a living doing that.

TCJ: So, if you want to make a living in comics you have to
turn out &-number of pages every week, every month.

Adams: Yes.


TCJ: I’ll tell you a true story: A very high positioned editor at DC told me three weeks ago that he respected Don Heck very much.

Harlan Ellison: Because he turned in the work on time? Of course. That does not deserve respect. I mean, a dray mule can do that. You know, for whatever other flaws and faults Neal Adams has, Neal cares, and when they rush him Neal turns out drek and he hates it and he hates himself for it because he has the soul of an artist and he’s been a seminal influence and he’s capable of good work. […] All the really good guys, they vanished. They couldn’t take it any more. And of course, the industry says, ‘Well, man, they were irresponsible.’ Irresponsible is what the fuckin’ river merchants call artists who will not cowtow to artificial fuckin’ deadlines. That’s what they call them – irresponsible, crazy, hard to deal with, impossible. Five thousand Don Hecks are not worth one Neal Adams.


TCJ: Neal, deadlines seem to plague your life.

Neal Adams: No, as a matter of fact they don’t. They seem to plague people who write about me or talk about me, but they don’t ever plague my life.

TCJ: Is that because you ignore them?

Adams: Basically.