Neal Adams and Jim Steranko both had a huge influence in creating my professional style. Adams work has affected every aspect of my comic art from storytelling to how I draw my figures. Steranko’s influence was and is more directed toward page design and storytelling. Once again I was too young to experience either of these artist’s when their best work came out but I did discover their art while collecting back issues of comics.
I probably discovered Steranko first when I picked up his legendary three issue Captain America story (#110, 111,113). If memory serves it was Cap #113 that I first saw and I was completely blown away. Not so much by his drawing per say, but more for his dramatic use of lighting and his incredible and unique storytelling and page layouts. Steranko was the first artist I saw who creatively worked his story titles into his art (I know Eisner did this years earlier in his Spirit work but I did not see that until much later). Despite his stellar work on Captain America, I still think Steranko’s work in Tower of Shadows #1 is his best.
You might not clearly see any Steranko influence in my work these days unless it is a story I have written myself (check out my Garbage Man work). When I have control over the story it is much easier for me to manipulate the visuals in a (hopefully) clever manner that goes beyond simply presenting the story. I did an homage to Steranko in the Deadpool #-1 issue I drew for Marvel. Not only is the cover a clear example of Steranko influence but the interiors are intended to be as well. To this day, Steranko is the only artist that I have ever done that with.
Although I probably discovered Neal Adams later than Steranko, his work has had much more of an overall impact on the development of my style. The first comic I owned as a child was Amazing Adventures #7 but since I was only 6 at the time I don’t think I really recognized it as “Neal Adams”. The first artistically impactful Adams work I remember was his short run on the Avengers. His realistic treatment of the characters along with his dramatic storytelling and his fresh and unusual “camera” angles really changed the way I looked at comic art. His composition within a given panel was as interesting and clever as his page layouts. Choosing a “worms eye view” or “low angle” shot from behind the main character was completely unexpected but an Adams standard. Although I never tried to copy his drawing style, I did try and adopt his approach and presentation. There are many panels in my comic work that you can clearly identify as a “Neal Adams” shot or pose.
Once a fellow artist said to me that he couldn’t understand why everyone made such a big deal out of Neal Adams’ work. I almost slapped him! Perhaps he had never seen Adams classic work on Batman, Deadman, The Spectre , The X-men or The Avengers. I know it seems unlikely but I will give him the benefit of the doubt. For my money, Adams ranks right up there with Frazetta (and now currently Adam Hughes) as the comic artists with greatest innate drawing abilities. In other words, they were born with the greatest portion of God given talent. Just look at Adams’ sample work as a 16 year old (check out the Neal Adams Treasury) and you will no doubt agree .