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DC's old science-fiction book "Strange Adventures" was in trouble. The decades-old title desperately needed a new lead character to boost sales, so the book’s editor, Jack Miller, called writer Arnold Drake into his office on a Friday in 1967 and told him to come up with a brand new character -- by Monday! Drake had previously co-created the "Doom Patrol" and "Stanley and His Monster," and worked on several romance comics. But could he come up with an entirely new character, all by himself, over just a single weekend?

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DC HOUSE AD FOR STRANGE ADVENTURES #206

What inspired Arnold Drake to come up with Deadman? “Dead-lines!” Drake joked as he presented the first Deadman script to Miller the following Monday. Miller liked the script, and assigned Carmine Infantino to draw it. Drake loved Infantino’s Deadman, with one exception. “Boston Brand is supposed to be an ex-fighter,” Drake told Infantino, “Bust his nose!”

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Boston Brand was fatally shot, but thanks to the favor of his fortune-teller, Vanshu, and the powers of Vanshu's god, "Rama Kushna," Brand lived on -- in spirit form! And now, Brand could possess and control any human just by touching them!

Are Vanshu and Rama Kushna real? Yes -- sort of. The actual spelling of the names is "Vishnu" and "Rama Krishna." According to the Hindu religion, the universe is remade every four billion years by Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva. Brahma creates, Vishnu maintains, and Siva destroys. Rama, an ancient king of India, symbolizes the ideal man, and Krishna is a bit of an adventurous rogue. Taken together, "Rama Krishna" makes the perfect spiritual mentor for an adventurous rogue such as Deadman!

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SA #207
SA #208
SA #209

The first Deadman story was the only one illustrated by Carmine Infantino, who created the character's circus costume, cadaverous white mask, and physical appearance. Below is a panel by Infantino, from Strange Adventures #206, showing Boston Brand in full costume, arguing with his girlfriend, Lorna.
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PANEL FROM SA #206 by CARMINE INFANTINO & GEORGE ROUSSOUS

“Carmine was offered the job of Art Director, so the question became who was going to take over Deadman. Since I was so up to date on my deadlines all the time and only handling half the covers at DC, Carmine offered me Deadman because I guess he thought I’d do a decent job.” --Neal Adams
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DOUBLE-PAGE PANEL FROM SA #208 by NEAL ADAMS
"Once I started doing Deadman, as far as I know, Carmine [Infantino] didn't want anything to do with it. He did the first issue but I don't think that Carmine thought Deadman was much of a comic book ... he didn't give a shit about it." --Neal Adams

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HOUSE AD FOR STRANGE ADVENTURES #207

Neal Adams illustrated every early Deadman adventure (except the first one), but numerous writers worked on the book, including Arnold Drake, Jack Miller, Robert Kanigher, Bob Haney, and finally Adams himself. "It became kind of a mish-mosh. It looked as if it was going to turn into one thing in the beginning, then it went off into different angles," Adams recalls.

"Towards the end of the series, Neal was rewriting most of the scripts anyway -- with my approval -- so I decided he might as well get the credit for it." --Dick Giordano, who became the editor of "Strange Adventures" after Infantino left the position.

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SA #210
SA #212
SA #213

"None of those [previous story] angles were wrong in and of themselves, but even a lesser writer, if he remained on the book for a decent period of time, would give it some more continuity. So, needing a lesser writer, I volunteered for the task." -- Neal Adams

"[Adams] got so absorbed in the mystical aspect of the character, that he totally forgot half of the Deadman ‘formula’ ... that marvelous human-interest stuff. That was my major nit-picking about Adams' work. He also could have used a bit more humor. Graveyard humor, of course.” --Arnold Drake, Deadman co-creator who scripted only the first of the character's adventures.

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HOUSE AD FOR STRANGE ADVENTURES #213

Deadman was evicted from Strange Adventures before his epic saga was concluded -- but DC managed to find the perfect title to finish the story: "The Brave and the Bold," where Deadman could team with Batman.
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SA #212
BB #79
SA #215

“I don’t really feel responsible for Deadman. I didn’t create the character, Carmine Infantino did. I wrote about three of the Deadman stories, and plotted those three, and was in on the plotting of some others. But most of the credit has to be given to Jack Miller, now deceased. He had a very realistic writing style, probably due to the fact that he had been writing romance stories for a long while, and it gave him a good feeling for dialogue, something that was better in Deadman than it is in most comic books.” --Neal Adams

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SPLASH PAGE FROM SA #215

Who killed Deadman? He traveled to a hidden Eastern paradise called Nanda Parbat to catch his murderer, an assassin known as the Hook. To his delight, Deadman discovered that while within this secluded retreat, he was, somehow, alive! But being alive meant he had to deal with Nanda Parbat's gatekeeper, a giant named Taj (pictured below on a new cover Neal Adams did for a Deadman reprint series).
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But the big freak-out came when Boston Brand discovered WHY had been killed. As we recently pointed out in our "Shocking Comic Book Endings" (Dial B for Blog #142), this was one of the great scenes in comic history. Here's how it went down:
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“I’ve always had kind of a soft spot about Deadman, because he was the first superhero I ever had a little freedom with, and with which I could strut my stuff, so to speak.” --Neal Adams

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ABOVE: Neal "struts his stuff." The famous "HEY, A JIM STERANKO EFFECT" panel from SA #216

BELOW: Deadman meets Rama Krushna face to face. What a wild spread! The individual images in the panels of the second page combine to form a full-page Deadman face, also from SA #216.
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After he finds his own killer, Rama sends Deadman on his way -- but now with a NEW mission! He is to "balance the forces of good and evil" in the world. He is also given new weaknesses "which under certain circumstances... no ... I can say no more!"
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After Adam Strange took over the "Strange Adventures" title, evicting Deadman, Neal Adams' version of the character lived on in three other books: Challengers of the Unknown #74, Aquaman #50-52 and JLA #94. Adams didn't draw all of these stories -- the Aquaman story was a three-part back-up to a Jim Aparo lead story, the Challs story was a single issue back-up to a George Tuska lead, and in the Dick Dillin JLA story, Adams drew only several pages with or related to Deadman.
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Aquaman #50
Challengers #74
JLA #94

“I’ll tell you what my favorite [Deadman] story was -- it wasn’t a Deadman story at all. It was a Deadman / Aquaman story. We did it in the back of Aquaman. I read over the stories Steve Skeates was doing in Aquaman and I thought of a way of tying all the plots together in a very odd and obscure way, which is my favorite way to do things.” --Neal Adams
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BELOW: Panels from Aquaman #50 and 52, featuring art by Adams and the late Jim Aparo.)
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Next, in Challengers of the Unknown #74, Deadman fights an evil astral form!
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Finally, in Justice League #97, Deadman helps the JLA battle his arch enemy, the Sensi. This was the last Deadman story illustrated by Neal Adams.
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The stories were over, but Adams wasn't quite finished with the Deadman character yet. He drew a few new covers featuring DM for a series of deluxe reprints published in the mid-1980s. There's one below!
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DEADMAN'S ORIGINAL LETTERS PAGE HEADING
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"I would have liked to do [the Deadman series in Strange Adventures] longer. We did some really nice things with it." --Neal Adams on his Deadman run

COMING NEXT on DIAL B for BLOG:

NEAL ADAMS - STEVE RUDE - JOHN BYRNE
JOSE GARCIA-LOPEZ - MIKE MIGNOLA - KELLY JONES
Deadman Art Gallery!