It's amazing and wonderful that, at 80 years old, Neal Adams is still producing powerful artwork that keeps us talking.
Yet there's something else we need to take into account -- something that I've seen in my own parents and aunts and uncles and cousins as they've grown older. We all eventually become exaggerations of ourselves. Our predilections/fetishes/tendencies become magnified. If we had a big ego at 30, it's bigger at 80. If we're hard-headed at middle-age, we're even more so in our old age. So many things, from lessons learned to experience gained, affect it, but we aren't likely to stop, or even notice, the magnification of our own tendencies.
Most people's lives become more insular as they age, bodies weaken, we retire, and our worlds simply get smaller. So usually only a few select friends and family members even see this exaggeration of our personalities play out.
In the case of Neal Adams, the whole world gets to see it, his most devoted fans (like us) witnessing the changes and predilections and not liking them. The ape-like faces, the over-wrought anatomy and layouts and so on, are part and parcel of that exaggeration of personality.
Neal was never one to listen to other people's art advice because, frankly, he was better than they; instead people came to him for advice. So at 80 years old, even if an editor voiced concern with the work, those words would likely fall on deaf ears.
We grew up with Neal; many of us were kids admiring his work when he exploded into the comics market in the '60s and '70s. He was the cool uncle. The comic book market needed him. Now, as a lion in winter, Neal likely longs to stay relevant. A number of today's artists, to some eyes, may have surpassed Neal in what they put on a page -- but even so, every single one of those guys learned the lessons that Neal had already taught on the printed page in decades past.
Neal doesn't want to be left behind. So Neal heaps on the excesses he saw artists do throughout the '90s and afterward; he piles on his obvious love for Mort Drucker's work. He overplays and finesses in ways we fans of his best stuff aren't fond of. WE don't like it because it suffers in comparison to those beloved works, but there aren't enough of us to be his prime audience. His new books aren't really done for us.
On the other hand, it's still a gift. Neal Adams at 80 years old is still drawing comics, still bringing us Batman and Deadman and other characters from the "big two."
No, Neal's not the same as he was when he drew The Joker's Five-Way Revenge or Superman vs. Muhammad Ali. But we're not the same as we were, either. And the fact that he's still delivering powerful layouts in a comic book landscape where layouts have become phenomenally boring means he still has something to teach. The message may be muddled and the teacher crankier than ever, but it's still Neal Adams and we'll still continue to look, listen, and sometimes even learn.
Because Neal Adams, at 80, is still better than many comicbook artists currently in their prime. And that, in the past half-century, hasn't changed.