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Comic Legend Larry Hama on The Death of His Mentor, Neal Adams

A remembrance by Larry Hama.

Neal Adams, my mentor, friend, and surrogate dad has departed this mortal plane. I had always thought he was indestructible, or that he at least had a portrait in the attic that was getting older, and now the world seems little colder, and dimmer. He opened doors for many of us, faced down our bullies, fought hard for our rights as creators, and opened his heart and wallet when we were hurting, or in need.

I’ve told this story a thousand times, but it was the single most important lesson about drawing that I ever received.

It was the early ’70s, and I had the drawing table next to Neal Adams at his Continuity Associates studio. I was sitting in the “Siege Perilous” struggling with a comp for an Air France commercial, and Neal was standing behind me, looking over my shoulder, sipping coffee, and depositing Linzer tart crumbs on my back.

Says Neal, “I see you’re still settling.”

After a beat.

“Okay, I’ll bite. What does “settling” mean?”

Neal explained, “I can tell that what you see in your head is ten times better than what you’re putting down on the paper. But, you’re thinking “I can’t pull that off,” and instead of trying to tackle that self-doubt and wrestle it into a good drawing, you’re settling for what you already know how to do- mentally tracing the template you’ve always used. Choosing one of the three eyes you can replicate by heart, or the two noses, or the single ear. Every time you settle, that’s like going to the gym and doing a single pushup. But when you bear down and try to draw that complicated pose, that unique expression, that expansive gesture, that’s like doing a hundred pushups. Yes, the first time you try it, the drawing will suck big moose, and so will the next few dozen- but the magic happens on the day that it stops sucking.”

Photo taken in front room of Continuity in the early ’70s. Neal, going over a commercial job with Carl Potts.

Rest in peace, Uncle Neal. All my love.


Larry Hama is an American comic-book writer, artist, actor, and musician who has worked in the fields of entertainment and publishing since the 1960s.  He is the co-creator of Bucky O’Hare and is most well known for his instrumental role of defining the G.I. Joe characters for Hasbro, as well as writing the comic book series for over four decades.


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