Neal Adams on art and business

Some excerpts from a 1982 interview in The Comics Journal with the late Neal Adams, where he shares his thoughts on art and business:

“It’s a very frustrating position in a lot of ways – trying to convince the companies that by being fair to their creative people, they’re not going to hurt themselves. ‘You’re going to do fine! The guys want you to make money, they want you to make money like crazy, they just want their share of it! That’s all! Give them their share of it, that’s all, give them their share and they’ll make money for you like nobody’s business.’

Be fair! It never hurts to be fair. If you go out of your way to be fair, the other guy will work for you and you’ll work out together. If the creative artist and writer in comic books are given the freedom to be creative by the companies sharing the profits, they will be more creative.

[…] In the comic book industry, the greater freedom, the greater equality that’s given to creative people, the more the companies will be able to make. That’s because the companies represent a thing that is of a qualitative and quantitive value to the creative person. The company represents the conduit through which the creative person gets to his audience, and if a publisher is willing to be that conduit and just be that conduit, not try to be the creator or not try to tell the creator what creation is, but simply be the conduit through which the creator can get to his audience, then he will be incredibly successful.”


“Liberty and freedom seem to be things that are easily taken away and constantly have to be fought for, and there are always new battlegrounds to fight for them. I think, for example, that we are on the down side of a liberty-freedom curve. We are sliding down the other side and we are discovering along the way that our freedoms and liberties can be taken away from us once again, and that they are about to be taken away from us. All of the things that we fought for are slowly being plucked away from us. Not by the intent of some evil person, but out of the self-protective nature of the people in power. They want what they have and they want to protect it. They don’t want other people to have it, even though history shows us that the more people have all that stuff, the better everybody does.

It’s the same in a small way in the comic book industry. Comic book companies think that by withholding liberties and freedoms from their creative people, they will be more powerful and therefore richer. The fact is that the more liberties and freedoms they’re able to give or the more liberties and freedoms the creative people are willing to take back, the more powerful the companies will, in the end, become, because they’re dealing on a more equal level. It’s like the concept of the company that doesn’t want to pay its people more money when, as a matter of fact, it’s the people they pay that buy the product they manufacture. If they don’t pay the people more money, the people won’t be able to buy the product, they won’t be able to manufacture the product and they’ll go out of business. Unless you have rich consumers, you can’t produce rich goods. In order to have rich consumers, you have to be able to pay them a lot of money. If you don’t pay them a lot of money, they won’t buy your goods, so what’s the point of manufacturing goods? An economy is an upward spiral. Unless you keep on moving upward, you fall downward. Once you stop giving people enough money to be able to afford the stuff you manufacture, you can’t manufacture it because you can’t sell it. Who’s gonna buy it? Somebody in Cleveland somewhere, some mythical creature that has money from some magical otherplace that will buy your products, and not people who are working in the shipping department. Well, the guy who works in the shipping department buys the Zenith or he buys some other television set, and if you don’t pay him enough money he can’t buy the Zenith, so what are you producing Zeniths for? I mean, you might as well go out of business. That’s the way it works. People don’t understand that, but that’s what it’s all about.

Now, this is no revelation if you think about it, but it sort of is because there are a lot of people in business who think, ‘Don’t pay him any more money, godammit, because he doesn’t deserve it, he doesn’t work hard enough; we work for what we have!’ But it doesn’t work like that, it simply doesn’t work like that. The more you spread it around, the more you get back. In our country, for example, we’ve decided not to spread it around too much. We decided that we’re going to spend money on this, that, and the other thing, but we’re gonna pull back, we’re gonna tighten the leashes because we don’t have extra money. The people who are involved in making the decisions, and they are not mythical creatures. They are easily identifiable people. They are politicians and the people who can spend enough time and money to buy those politicians.


The philosophy that guides this kind of thinking is a philosophy that truly believes in equality. It’s the same philosophy that has made me fight for the return of original artwork, equal rates, percentages, and all these other things. It’s a real sense of equality, which has to be fought for, and it will never hurt anybody. It will always be positive for everybody.”


“The Comics Creators Guild has not had a meeting in over a year. The Guild has not done anything. The Guild merely exists. It’s there. And that’s the thing that’s very important: it just happens to be present. And what it means is that if enough people get mad about something that’s wrong in our business, all they have to do is get together and say, ‘Let’s have a Guild meeting.’ We’ll open the books, take our Guild stamp, stamp a piece of paper that says, ‘What are we gonna do now? This is how we’ll proceed, let’s collect some dues and get rolling.’ It exists and it’s there.

Whether or not there has been activity in the industry is the point. Whether the activity is satisfactory will only be answered by whether or not the people are satisfied. If the people are unsatisfied, then what they’ll do is say, ‘Let’s hold a meeting and show how unsatisfied we are.’ The Guild has nothing to do with me. The Guild is, in effect, us, the creative people, and if us are annoyed enough, then us get together and decide what to do. If they’re satisfied, if they’re sitting on their fat asses and quite happy and content with what they’re doing, the Guild will do nothing. The Guild is like the monster that you call up when things get rough, and it belongs to everybody in the industry. It doesn’t belong to the publishers or the fans. It belongs to the creative people. And when they choose to call it up, they’ll call it up, they’ll draw the star on the floor and sprinkle the dust on the floor, and by God, the Guild will be alive again. That’s what it is: the Guild is everybody in the industry.”