Monday, June 27, 2011

Deadman - My favorite Super Hero

My favorite characters usually fall under certain themes, like -
supernatural types like Dr. Strange - The Spectre - Dr. Fate

and hard-boiled mystery men like Rorschach - The Question - The Sandman (Golden Age)

So I guess it's no surprise that my favorite character is a combination of these and yet very different from these at the same time.

Deadman was born Boston Brand, a tough talking, hard drinking, cocky star attraction in the Hill's Bros Circus until disaster struck, he was shot dead by a sniper. Oddly he didn't move on from the earthly plane like most dead people do, instead he stayed on Earth and was given the power, by Rama Kushna, to take over peoples bodies so that he could find his killer.

The thing that drew me to this character most was the art by Neal Adams who drew the early issues in Strange Adventures. As most of you know Neal Adams is one of the all time greats in the field of comic art and personally I consider this very early, very experimental work of his, some of his best! As for experimental, check out this trippy page that Neil drew of Deadman's meeting with his patron god, Rama Kushna -

I also really like Deadman's look. I think the costume that Carmine Infantino created for him is one of the best out there. I love heroes with solid red suits like Daredevil and the addition of the death-like mask just makes whole thing work.

Unfortunately, since Adams departure from the character, no one has seemed to know what to do with him .Even Neil didn't really know what to do with him I mean what do you do with a immaterial hero? It's hard to put him in any kind of danger isn't it? And the vengeance scenario could only work for so long.

There have been a few takes of Deadman that I didn't care for, mostly in the 90's when they had to make everyone "dark". Mike Baron and Kelly Jones did a version of Deadman where they put him into a horror type book. Well, not being crazy about horror, it's no wonder I didn't like it.

The other one I don't care for is the Kingdom Come version by Waid and Ross.

Don't get me wrong. I love Alex Ross's work, and loved Kingdom Come, it's just that this is not the Deadman that I know and love.

One of my favorite takes on Deadman wasn't published in a book. It was by Mignola who did a few covers for the 2002 short lived series. Even though he didn't illustrate the stories his covers spoke volumes, as much or more than the interiors. They have a haunted feeling about them that speaks to you even though you don't quite know what they are saying. If only we could get some issues of Mignola Deadman!

As far as DC characters go, they made the same mistake with the Spectre that they did with Deadman, they took him out of his street-wise tough guy persona and made him a vehicle for some nameless faceless entity. For Deadman as well as the Spectre, I'd like to see them go back to their street smart tough guy persona. Deadman can be a protector of the circus occasionally venturing off into the realms of the dead and unknown, but leave him the tough, street smart, wise-cracker that made him so attractive to begin with.


  1. Love the Kelley Jones one best . Most original take by a most original artist.

  2. Have you ever read the Deadman stories from the Dollar Comics version of Adventure Comics? It was written by Len Wein with art by Jim Aparo and then J.L. Garcia Lopez. It was the next best thing to the Adams version imo!

    Cool blog!

  3. Great call! Yes, I agree 100%! The art work was wonderfully close to the original Adams work and the stories hung around the circus which is where I think it aught to be.
    Whenever Deadman has strayed too far from the circus the concept seems to get lost. In my mind they should have kept Cleveland alive and made Boston a kind of guardian angle of him and the whole circus the way he was in the earlier stories by Adams and crew. The whole Nada Parabat story line in vol. 2 and the guardian of the dead in "Dead Again" I felt was a misdirection for him.