David Spurlock reported the death of industry veteran artist and inker Dan Adkins yesterday at age 76. Adkins worked for all the majors publishers from the 60s on, including Charlton, Marvel, DC, Warren, and so on, with a memorable stint on Doctor Strange perhaps his best known work. Spurlock wrote:
I went to Reading PA yesterday to buy Steranko and Adkins dinner. Neither Steranko nor myself had been able to reach Adkins. After dinner with Steranko, I hit the road back to New York only to be phoned by Steranko who had just received word from Adkins’ son that Dan left this world last week. In addition to many other credits, including T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, Dr. Strange and much of the best inking ever done for Marvel, Adkins served as an art director at Marvel, was key to Wood launching Witzend, and he also mentored a number of young artists including Paul Gulacy, Val Mayerik and P. Craig Russell. He is missed.
Adkins was a skilled artist with a smooth, clear line, very much in the style of early 70s mainstream artists, but with a flair all his own. He was also, by all accounts, a character of some dimension. My earliest con dinners in comics were never complete without some Adkins anecdotes, none of them suitable for repeating upon his death. P. Craig Russell also had a FB remembrance:
I was very saddened to hear today of the death of Dan Adkins. As everyone who ever met him would say, he was quite a character.
He was the best assistant/collaborator Wally Wood ever had. His inking work on artists such as Barry Windsor Smith and Gil Kane was incomparable. His Doctor Strange series for Marvel Comics in the late 60’s ran concurrently with his best buddy’s work, Jim Steranko’s Nick Fury, Agent of Shield. As a high school student I followed those books each month as the two battled it out over who could dazzle the reader more. It was in high school, in choir class, that I met Dan’s paperboy and found out Dan lived only a few miles from me, just outside East Liverpool, Ohio. It was in that little studio that Dan handed me, alongside Val Mayerik and Paul Gulacy, our careers.
His own artwork on a series of stories for Warren Comics Creepy and Eerie magazines in the mid 60’s, shortly after he left Wally Wood’s studio, was his high point and remain an inspiration to this day. Each story was a different exercise in inking techniques, ink wash, crosshatching, zip-tone, etc. His title page for The Day After Doomsday, a virtuoso display of the transposition of the grey tones of a photo into thousands of tiny pen point marks and crosshatching to create texture and light has been a constant goad to me, a high water mark I’ve reached for and never attained.
For 30 some years Dan began and then abandoned numerous projects (illustration 4). In recent years his artistic output consisted of single illustrations of whatever caught his interest, superheroes, movie stars, recreations of classic covers, pigs (illustration 1).
I will miss his shaggy dog stories, his totally unselfconscious personal anecdotes and his complete absence of any sort of interior traffic cop holding up a hand and saying “you can’t say that”.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.