Tripwire continues its 100 Graphic Novels You Should Read While Stuck Inside with its eighty-eighth choice, Deadman Volume One by Arnold Drake, Jack Miller, Carmine Infantino & George Roussos and Neal Adams and reviewed by Tripwire’s editor-in-chief Joel Meadows…
Deadman Volume One Writers: Arnold Drake, Jack Miller and Neal Adams Artists: Carmine Infantino & George Roussos and Neal Adams DC
Today’s choice is the first run of stories featuring DC’s Deadman character. His first two appearances were written by Doom Patrol scripter Arnold Drake and his debut was drawn by Carmine Infantino and George Roussos. However, Neal Adams came on board as artist with the second Strange Adventures tale here.
Deadman is circus highwire Boston Brand, whose career is cut short when he is killed by a lone bullet during his act. But invested with special powers by Hindu god Rama Kushna to inhabit the bodies of others after his death, his quest begins to seek out the man with the hook who caused his untimely demise.
Artist Adams made his DC debut in Our Army At War in 1967 but it was his Deadman work a little later the same year that brought him to people’s attention. He isn’t quite as accomplished an artist here as he was later on drawing Batman and Green Lantern but his dynamic sense of composition and unerring storytelling is impossible to mistake. Inking himself rather than having veteran Dick Giordano enhancing his pencils does mean that sometimes his art does lack the polish that someone like Giordano brings to his work but it’s still very dramatic. Also he uses the double splash page on a number of occasions here to bring an extra sense of excitement to the story.
Writers Drake and then mainly Miller bring a sense of the quirky and the offbeat to a series that stood out at DC in the late sixties. Writers like Alan Moore and Andy Helfer brought Deadman back years later and it is a testament to Drake, Infantino and Adams that what they brought to life still had something new to say. DC always handled supernatural tales better than Marvel and Deadman was part of this renaissance that also included DC’s House of Mystery and House of Secrets.
The only slightly below par stories here are the final two featuring Boston Brand’s brother Cleveland as they are scripted by Adams himself. His art is still strong here but his script is clunky and lacks the finesse of Miller and so this book has a slightly disappointing conclusion.
Despite that, Deadman Volume One is an idiosyncratic introduction to one of DC’s most unusual characters and it is interesting to see how Adams got his start in his long comics career.