Artist/Illustrator Neal Adams 1974 Zodiac Book Cover Sketch Original Source Traced To SFPD Police Composite Drawing Update 2021
October 15, 2021
Los Angeles, California
Update to “Zodiac Composites” blog original posted 2018
I am now reposting and updating a blog originally posted three years ago for those unfamiliar with the fact that THREE ZODIAC COMPOSITES exist all made from witness descriptions from the late 1960s and early 1970s.
My reason for reposting this is the inform new readers of the fact that two additional composites were made from interviews with original eye-witnesses. These composites were obtained by two separate professional artists and, in my opinion, provided a much more accurate rendition of “Zodiac” than the version that remains in general circulation and is mistakenly viewed as “how he appeared” in 1969.
Hopefully, in three more weeks on November 6, 2021, I will be publishing “The Early Years” in two editions; presenting my father’s suspected crimes from the 1920s and 1930s.
Included in those books will be additional dramatic new evidence further linking him to his future crimes (1943-1969) in Los Angeles, Chicago, Manila, and as Zodiac in the San Francisco Bay Area.
For that reason, I wanted to repost the earlier blog information on the progression of the three “Zodiac Composites.”
(Original 2018 blog)
“I am 100% certain that the book-cover sketch (Great Crimes of San Francisco) I drew back then  was based on material that was directly related to the crime. ”
Comic-Con, San Diego
July 23, 2014
I have received numerous requests to explain the variations of “Police Composite Sketches” as relates to the Zodiac suspect. I presented this back in 2014 and will here simply republish that original blog. Most of the public remains in the dark on Zodiac’s actual appearance due to the fact that the media in the main keep reposting the earliest composite in which he appears younger than eye-witness SFPD officer Foukes stated age of “35-45 and more on the high end of that age range.” See republished blog detailing the information below.
Los Angeles, California
August 11, 2014
Thanks to the above statement from artist/illustrator Neal Adams and some further digging, we now have the answers to the several questions I originally raised in my book back in 2009, relating to the then unidentified sketch, which appeared to be a dead-ringer, to my father’s likeness. I quote from Most Evil, Chapter 16, page 191:
…Because of the sketch’s striking similarity to my father (including his black horn-rimmed glasses) I was determined to find its source. Was I looking at an artist’s imaginary rendition of a reproduction or an actual police drawing from official files? If the Zodiac composite was simply the publisher’s decision to take “creative license,” then why place it on an official SFPD Police Bulletin connected to an otherwise completely factual true-crime story? On the other hand, if the composite was an official police drawing, why had it not surfaced earlier?
Five years later, we now have a definitive answer to those questions!
And, those answers come directly from the original source—Neal Adams, the man that drew the original Zodiac book-cover sketch!
George Hodel 1974. Zodiac as represented on paper-back cover of 1974 Great Crimes of San Francisco (Ballantine Books, New York) (SKH Note-The cover-artist, Neal Adams remained unknown and was not identified until post-publication of Most Evil.)
A Chance Meeting Provides the Answer
On Wednesday, July 23, 2014; I received a telephone call from a personal friend, artist/illustrator, Scott Gandell. Scott informed me he was at his booth at the 2014 Comic-Con Festival, in San Diego, California. He was participating in the four-day convention, and had chanced to meet, and was able to talk with a fellow artist/illustrator, Neal Adams, who as discussed here, was the artist that drew the illustrated Zodiac face for the cover of the 1974 true-crime book, Great Crimes of San Francisco. (Ballantine Books, New York)
Scott, being familiar with the facts and history of the sketch, as presented in Most Evil, seized the moment to take Neal Adams aside and question him as to what he remembered about his 1974 book-cover Zodiac sketch.
While, Adams could not recall the specific original source (more than forty years had passed,) he did say, “I am 100% certain that the sketch I drew back then was based on material that was directly related and somehow connected to the crime.”
Adams told Gandell, that under no circumstances would he have simply created his own imaginary suspect, but rather, his drawing of the Zodiac suspect, as rendered on the true-crime book-cover, Great Crimes of San Francisco, definitely was inspired by some outside source material, directly related to the official police investigation.
Based on Scott’s conversation with Neal Adams we have now established: 1) The drawing, was in fact drawn by Neal Adams and 2) Adams did not simply create the likeness from his own imagination, but based it on an official Zodiac investigation source, available and seen by him, between 1969 and 1973.
NEAL ADAMS SOURCE MATERIAL- “Sonoma Composite” Misnamed
In Most Evil, in addition to the known SFPD Police Bulletin of Zodiac, I included a second supposed, “Sonoma Police Composite” which had surfaced with little documentation other than it was referenced on a respected Zodiac website, “This is the Zodiac Speaking” run by, Jake Wark. Jake included the composite with a limited comment which simply stated, “It is unknown why Sonoma County would issue a Zodiac sketch, as no Zodiac crimes are acknowledged in that area.”
I included the “Sonoma Composite” because of the physical likeness it shared to both the SFPD and the Great Crimes of San Francisco composites.
Based on Neal Adams recent clarifications, I decided to conduct further research into the “Sonoma Composite” which has now resulted in its proper identification and revealed that this drawing was never from Sonoma, but rather its source was—the San Francisco Police Department’s 1969, Police Composite.
Denver Post Staff Artist/Illustrator Joe Barros
In Most Evil, I asked a second question. “Why would the artist who drew the book-cover composite place it on an official San Francisco Police Bulletin?” I believe we now have the answer, which is: Because the 1969 SFPD Zodiac suspect composite drawing was the source for his (Neal Adams) original drawing.
Thanks to a forty-three-year -old article from the Vallejo Sunday Times-Herald, written by then staff reporter, Dave Peterson, we have our answer.
Reporter Peterson’s original article (see attached PDF) appeared in the Sunday Times Herald, “Solano and Napa County’s Morning Newspapers” on February 28, 1971, with the headline: “NEW ‘ZODIAC’ ART WORK IS CRITICIZED.”
SFPD POLICE COMPOSITE SKETCH REDRAWN BY DENVER POST ARTIST JOE BARROS
The article included both the original SFPD composite and a revision (see above) drawn by JOE BARROS, staff artist for the Denver Post.
SFPD Homicide Bureau Chief Inspector, Lt. Charles Ellis, commenting on artist Joe Barros’ revision of the original SFPD police artist’s composite, indicated he believed that his department’s police artist rendition was, “more accurate.”
Following is an excerpt from an on-line eBay art sale bio on Joe Barros:
“Joseph “Joe” Barros (1921-2011) was an American artist, painter and illustrator who, for more than thirty (30) years, was the chief illustrator for the Denver Post newspaper. In addition to his newspaper work, Barros illustrated numerous books, many featuring western settings, including Place Names of the Medicine Bow National Forest (by Mel Duncan) and Prairielands of My Heart (by Clyde Brundy). Barros achieved some notoriety in the early 1970s when he created police-type composite sketches of the Zodiac Killer based upon descriptions and the sketches in the San Francisco police files. His sketches were published across the country by the AP Wire Services.[Emphasis mine]
EVOLUTION OF THE SFPD COMPOSITE SKETCH
GOOD? BETTER? BEST?
(1969) (1971) (1973)
Armed with this new information, it is my current belief that the “official source” for Neal Adams Zodiac drawing originates from this 1971 Sunday Times-Herald article and possibly additional AP circulated Barros articles showing his 1971 composite. It appears that Adams used both the SFPD and Barros composites and combined the two resulting in his own Zodiac likeness which appeared as the cover of the Great Crimes of San Francisco, true-crime book, just three-years later. This also answers why Adams placed his cover drawing on a SFPD Bulletin! Why? Because the police-drawing was its original SOURCE.
Above we see comparisons of Dr. George Hill Hodel to the Barros and Adams Zodiac and the 1969 SFPD composites. All three artist renditions show Zodiac as he appeared in 1969, so in the Hodel photo on the left one must subtract or “youthen” Hodel by five years and in the photo on the right, one must add, or age him, some seven years.
The evidence, as it now stands, is undeniable—Neal Adams likeness of Zodiac, based on his review of the official SFPD composite drawing and a merging of it with the follow-up composite by illustrator, Joe Barros, is a near a picture-perfect likeness to Dr. George Hill Hodel’s physical appearance in 1969.
Sunday Times-Herald “New Zodiac Art Work Is Criticized” click below for full article.
1969 SFPD Zodiac Composite Bulletin on Paul Stine Murder
Duffy Jennings Correction—For the Record
In my 2009 publication of Most Evil (Chapter 16, page 191) in addressing the then unknown source of the Great Crimes of San Francisco composite I wrote the following:
…If the composite was an official police drawing, why had it not surfaced earlier?
I found the answer with the help of a confidential source who contacted the author of the essay on Zodiac in Great Crimes of San Francisco, Duffy Jennings. Jennings, a former San Francisco Chronicle crime-reporter, confirmed that, “the composite originated from law-enforcement,” but couldn’t recall the specific agency. Since the sketch includes the correct date (October 18) and number (90-69) of a known San Francisco Police Department Bulletin, it would appear that this composite originated from the files of the SFPD.*
I then footnoted the above paragraph as follows:
*Despite Jennings acknowledgement and the fact that it is an almost picture-perfect likeness to George Hodel, I still have some doubts about this third composite. When I attempted to locate editor Dean W. Dickensheet, I discovered that he died in the 1990s. Further attempts to confirm recollection that this was an official police composite are being made through Dickensheet’s original publisher.
A year later, with the publication of the Most Evil paperback edition (Berkley 2010) I added the below “Author’s Note” identifying the true-crime book cover artist as Neal Adams, and indicating that Duffy Jennings was apparently mistaken in his recollection that it came from law enforcement.
Let me—For the Record—correct that statement. Mr. Duffy Jennings, former San Francisco Chronicle reporter, was NOT MISTAKEN in his belief that the “composite originated from law-enforcement.” He is in fact-correct. While, it was not drawn by law-enforcement, it did “originate from law-enforcement” as it is a rendition of the original SFPD police bulletin composite.
SKH Note– Several readers have emailed me inquiring as to why I used a “confidential source” to check with Mr. Jennings, as opposed to contacting him direct? The answer is: In 2007-8, I was conducting a sub-rosa investigation and, 1) did not want a former San Francisco Chronicle reporter to know that the author of the Black Dahlia Avenger was actively investigating Zodiac and 2) I was under contract with Dutton Publishing and had signed a confidentiality agreement and the book and its contents were embargoed.
As published in MOST EVIL (Berkley 2010) paperback edition:
GHH Photo from 1979 showing him without a mustache. (Helicopter pilot standing beside him is his then INRA Hong Kong Manager, Leo Murray.)
Dr. George Hill Hodel sans moustache (1979)
You leave no stone unturned! Keep up the great work!
Hi Robert: Thanks. Nice to get some belated answers to this piece of the composites puzzle. Steve
I wish all authors were as consistently thorough at checking the facts as you are. Carry on!
Hi Jim. Thanks for the kind words. Much appreciated. So many pieces to the puzzles. Lot to keep looking for. Steve
Prepare to be “pandarized’…I am a little long in the tooth to be starstruck, but my admiration for you is real. I consider you to be a real life “super sleuth”…someday when we are all on the “other side” I’m going to look you and your father up just to see how you have reconciled things between yourselves…
Hi Carolyn. Thanks. These discoveries are almost always a “team effort.” This one got started by my friend and South Pasadena artist, Scott Gandell, who, when the opportunity presented itself, seized the moment and was able to converse with Neal Adams. As far as “the other side” I expect dad’s accommodations will be on a “lower level” so may have to be just a quick visit. I’m not real good in extreme heat. *s*
You will have to get a gate pass to go down and see him…for all our sakes, tie a rope around your foot so we can pull you back if he manages to get an arm around your neck!! One of these days I’ll finally meet you…you are too cool for school!!
As usual, I would say that the noose is tightening with this current up-date but, as your continued work shows, this cadaver is cold, cut down and on display for all to see. Exceptional work from a dogged investigator! Dennis
Dennis: Thanks for your continued support. Always appreciated. Steve
Its almost as if this case were on the stand as you continue to ask it questions that it begrudgingly must answer.
Amazing source work, Steve. Really. And again, another “happenstance” comes together to glue your casework even tighter. So the remarkable drawing on the cover of the paperback was actually a composite of two previous criminal drawings. Very interesting how the artist – unknowingly – created a virtual sketch of your father. (Was it know that GHH did not wear a mustache at times?) Easy enough to shave off, I know.
I’m positive your case is going to flip one day on just such a minor revelation as this – establishing proof beyond all doubt. Keep it up!
Hi J.R.: Thanks. As always, appreciate your ongoing and long-time support. As far as the mustache, I think he most probably did have one at the time, and that the answer is more likely one of the following: A) The Paul Stine, cabbie-murder occurred late-night (10 PM) on a poorly lit residential street, and three of the witnesses were looking down from a second floor residence across the street and just simply did not see it. Or, B) As shown in the blog, and seen in the 1974 photograph (five years after the crime) in comparison to the Adams sketch, GHH’s mustache is barely noticeable in full light, and it is unlikely it would or could have been seen in the dark. Also, as I’ve noted in the past, it is not at all unusual for witnesses to either add or omit physical features in their crime-descriptions of suspects and related information. Recall, in the Black Dahlia investigation, the witnesses (Mrs. French and her daughter) described initial Dahlia suspect, Robert Manley’s Studebaker as being “black in color.” It was white. ( Not at all uncommon. ) All Best, Steve
Trying to get “Great Crimes of SF” for my Nook or Kindle before we start out for our yearly trip to Gualala, north of SF right on the coast….this would be great to read as we sit by the ocean! What caught my eye was the pic of your dad which I recognized immediately….and this was first out in 1974! I think, Steve, your father was just as busy in the SF Bay Area (in later years) as he was in the LA area back in the 30’s/40’s! Recently saw an old movie again (from early 80’s) “True Confessions” w/DeNiro and Duvall. The 1st time I saw it I was pulled back into my SF childhood recalling family discussions about the Black Dahlia. Since my dad/uncles were SFPD, I found the portrayals by DeNiro/Duvall especially compelling….I knew many men like Tom Spellacy & Monsignor Spellacy in my young years! The ending of that film was truly poignant because so often that is just how life ends up…..we see the truth, know the truth, even expose the truth and it ends up as ashes at our feet to blow away like it never happened! If I feel the frustration of all your work in exposing horrific crimes for over 50 years along the CA coast, it must be 10 times tougher for you! Please know that there are so many people who do hear you and thank you for exposing not only the killer BUT also the corruption that paralyzed 2 major police departments, muzzled frightened politicians, and turned religious leaders into cowardly lions. From one who loves her SF heritage to the death, I thank you for telling it like it was and is. Looking forward to Book 3, Steve! Best regards, Pat O’Neill
Hi Patricia: Thanks for the very kind and very articulate words. Yes, San Francisco and Los Angeles were definitely the two happening cities back then. And amazing to see how involved dad was in BOTH from the 20s forward. That he worked at the SF Chronicle as a columnist and drove the “Streets of San Francisco” as a Yellow Cab driver were both very telling as the investigation unfolded. True Confessions is one of my favorite films so much so, that I have its poster on my office wall next to Chinatown. (naturally) Some great acting in that film and really captured the stink of the city back then. Stay tuned. More to come. Best, Steve
Steve, Just read this blog update on the composite Zodiac sketches and seeing my comments to you from 2014! Will have to pull up the film “True Confessions” again! But on to the current blog topic! Neal Adams definitely captured GHH in his sketch used in “Great Crimes in San Francisco” and it is not by chance. No, he carefully looked, measured, remeasured to get that likeness, adding verbal cues from oral/written descriptions on file w/SFPD, I’m sure! Having some contact with a few court room sketch artists in various art workshops over many years, this is a talent many seek, few find.🤨! I think Adams found the likeness here looking closely at the curve of the upper lip, the fullness of the lower lip and the space between the eyes! Barros makes a good attempt but Adams (along w/aging aspect) completes the job. And in much later years as we see GHH posing by the plane, we see just how well Adams nailed it! Well, Steve, I won’t be reading the “Early Years” beachside in Gualala but for sure I’ll be doing some California Dreamin’!! Stay well, still lots of work & good times ahead! 😎🌵
Thanks as always Patricia. Yes, it is as you say, “a special talent.” It’s been my experience that most sworn officers who attempt to become police artists are only able to capture a poor to fair likeness from witness descriptions. (Always exceptions of course.) Back in my day, we had a remarkable composite sketch artist named Ector Garcia who was truly skilled at transforming witness verbal descriptions to canvas. https://latimesblogs.latimes.com/thedailymirror/2009/03/blinded-by-bull.html
But, artists like Ector were few and far between.
And to add a little humor to my point, here are some actual police artist composites of “the suspect”: https://www.ranker.com/list/funny-police-sketches/aaron-pruner
Hi Steve, Those composites and your Father’s photos really look incredibly close! I don’t see how they could be any closer? It’s so frustrating to see all your hard work fall on deaf ears and then pushed aside as cops have turned against you and people with their own real or imagined theories take center stage. Those persons don’t have any supporting facts! You do! So sorry to hear that Buster passed away – (I know some time ago). Dogs like him are so valuable. You can’t fool the nose of a dog! It’s plain for us to see that your Father was very involved in both San Francisco and Los Angeles. You are the man with the answers due to your determination and hard work. Still big fans here. Unfortunately, the corruption, human trafficking, blood sacrifices and pedophilia continue to be a dark scourge of pure evil on our country and foreign countries.
Hope that you and your family are doing well.
Best wishes always, Kathy G.
👍….Ector Garcia although later seriously injured did a great job as a police sketch artist from verbal descriptions! And he got to combine his talents as a detective & an artist into one very rewarding career! RIP Ector. The cartoon police sketches IMO should be called caricature sketches as I bet they gave standout “clues” to the police working the cases. Every little bit helps, right? Looking back on the lives of the police in my life, I have a greater understanding now of their (and their families!) struggles.. Ending with a bit of humor here…….it ain’t easy being “Dirty Harry” as I am sure you know, Steve. 😌🌵
Yes, I got along well with Ector Garcia in the Old Days. Nice guy and very talented. He did maybe half a dozen or so composites on suspects for me back in the Seventies. As far as “being Dirty Harry” I think I will pass and go more for “Harry Bosch” based on our career and personal matches. I’m totally on board (pun intended) with Harry’s maxim, “Everybody counts or nobody counts.” (See updated photo, at the bottom of the below link.)
Listening again to the “synchronicities” link and having watched the Bosch series it’s amazing that Michael Connelley did not know/meet you as he wrote about Harry Bosch! But as I enter the twilight of my years (or is it the Twilight Zone🤣) I truly feel this life is only a “chapter” of a volume of stories/events…..lots more to come👍! Looking forward to more adventures w/Harry Bosch as the private investigator. And hopefully Maddie goes on to become the lawyer! Surely you’ll again see yourself in some similar cases?! I had forgotten the nice tribute you received from Clint/Harry Callaghan on your retirement. Sometimes see Clint on Facebook……still remember trips w/girlfriends to Carmel, hoping to run into him shopping or at the Carmel Inn Bar……fun days!! Just remember Steve….it ain’t over & stay well!😉
What is your opinion of the claim by “The Case Breakers” they have identified the Zodiac Killer as Gary Poste?
Certainly, individuals can share HW characteristics. No question.
In my writings, I’ve made it clear that I am no real fan of HW by itself. Like the polygraph, too subjective and you can always have one “expert” say it’s his writing, another say, “absolutely not.” That’s not science. That said, it can be used to corroborate other hard and circumstantial evidence as PART of putting together a case. The body of evidence against GHH is overwhelming at this point. HW just adds to it.
Samuel ST L:
My opinion is it’s all BS as best as I can tell. Without getting into the weeds of it this “team of experts” is using links like these: “Our suspect’s name can be found in the cryptogram” (so can a hundred others); “Our suspect was a part-time painter in his youth and they found specks of paint on a watch near the body of Zodiac victim Cheri Jo Bates” etc. A “new Zodiac suspect” surfaces every several years then quickly fades into nothingness. Stay tuned more powerful Zodiac linkage to GHH in the about to publish “Early Years.”
Thanks Steve! I’m very confident in your work.
Hi Steve! This might be of use to you so you’d have more accurate records. I know the person who drew the sketch on the Wanted poster in 1969.
Juan Morales, he was a SFPD inspector. If you look closer to the signature you can see his last name.
Thanks Stella. Yes, many LE Departments use “artists” from within their ranks.
Officers that have some background in drawing. Some are very skilled. Others not so much.
It takes a special skill to translate a victim or witness’ word description to an actual physical likeness.
The two Zodiac artist sketches are much more detailed and Adam’s sketch is amazingly picture-perfect in every detail.