Adam Hughes had no formal training in art and he began his career in 1987 where he pencilled two short stories for Death Hawk #1, created by Mark Ellis.
In 1988 DC Comics offered him a job on Justice League America. He did both covers and internal art on the series for two years, before becoming just a cover artist.
Ten years later he began a five-year run as cover artist on Wonder Woman; it was here his good girl style of work caught the eye of comic book fans world-wide.
May 2007, Sideshow Collectibles debuted a miniature statuette of Mary Jane Watson, a perennial love interest of Spider-Man's, based on artwork by Hughes. The statue, which depicts Mary Jane wearing a cleavage-revealing T-shirt and low-cut jeans that expose the top of a pink thong while bending over a metal tub holding Spider-Man's costume. This generated controversy among some fans who felt that the statue was sexist
His work still causes some debate in fandom circles and he caused quite a stir by announcing that he would no longer be sketching at conventions due to the increase of art being sold on eBay a day later for silly amounts of money.
In February 2012, Adam Hughes was announced as the artist on Dr. Manhattan, a four-issue miniseries written by J. Michael Straczynski, and one of eight tie-in prequels to the seminal 1986-1987 miniseries Watchmen.
Last year at the Sequential Arts festival in Leeds I got chance to sit and chat with Adam Hughes and his wife, it has taken a while for this interview to see the light of day but better late than never.
SCB- Firstly, I must say how much I admire the way you draw women. In this day and age of comix, it isn't all that often as a female reader that I can say that. This is a genre you have become known for. So, what is the drive behind this for you?
AH- Well, everybody who is an artist draws what they like. Bernie Writghtson draws zombies and werewolves because he loves it, you know? And people draw superheroes because they love it! I love beautiful women. I think there is such a charm -- but an innocent charm -- to the area of good girl art.
It’s the area that gave birth to Charles Dana Gibson and started with Elgrin and Vargas; all those guys used an innocent sex appeal. They elevated and celebrated the charm of glamour. They were never demeaning, you know? You'd never see women tied up, or forced to be something which they weren't happy being, and that’s what I like about it.
Comic books are the last bastion for illustration these days. Everybody uses photography and digitally created images, but comics still use 99.9% illustration by a human being. So as long as there is room for illustration, there is room for good girl art.
SCB- Right, but you draw women with a few curves. Waists are small, but you’re not scared of hips, as many are. You see the female form contorted to extremes in comic books but never with your work. This, I believe, attracts a female following, as well as male, to your art.
AH- You know what? I draw women with impossibly small waists and large boobs, and you're right: a lot of women like yourself don't get upset about it, as it's less about how much you are drawing on the female form.
There is a difference between an artist who loves how women look and artist who loves women. I don’t just sit there and go, ''OMG these characters are so hot!''
I don’t care about what their statistics are. When I draw Catwoman, I care about what her favourite colour is. When I draw Wonder Woman, I like to know what her favourite season is. It's not just about the boobs and the hips, lips or whatever, and I think that is the difference.
AH- Right; Whether attractive, unattractive, tall, short, whatever you are, nobody likes to be objectified or paid no attention to, and I think the fact that I treat these characters as characters -- they are not just objects of eroticism, although they are sexy and attractive -- I’d like to think of them as real people.
You look in their eyes, yeah… there is something going on there. I think whatever success I have had, that might have been the key.
SCB -- I read somewhere that you are a collector of 1:6 action figures. What’s making your shelves pop at present?
AH- Oh well, right now, I’m looking forward to the Christopher Reeves Superman HOT TOYS from China. I just can’t wait for that to arrive. But right now the thing which is popping off my shelves is the 1:6 scale Yoda environment from Sideshow.
SCB- Wow! Is it big?
AH- It’s like Barbie’s Malibu fun house but it’s made of mud! And Yoda lives in it; it’s awesome!
And I got the Hot Toys Spider-Man figure, who is usually re-enacting the cover of Amazing
Spider-Man 120, but currently it’s 122, the last page where Gwen Stacey died.
AH-Yeah, people come in and see Spider-Man on his knees going "WHYYYYYYY?!" And it’s like, outta all the things you could have posed Spider-Man doing, what was the point?
I’m old school.
SCB- That's really funny! There’s nothing wrong with being old school; that makes you cool!
SCB- Who are your all-time favorite artists?
AH- My all-time favorite artists… well, right now I am so influenced by early American illustration like Norman Rockwell, J.C. Leyendeker (who is actually German), Dean Cornwell, Maxfield Parrish, and guys like that; so that's why I’m drawing what I’m drawing in comics.
SCB- Do find yourself being inspired by them within your art work?
AH-You know, there are so many artists that are doing cartooning and that dynamic superhero stuff -- which is great -- but that sort of evocative type of illustration... there’s not that much of a call for it anymore, so its kind of like, "oh well..." It’s a frontal field that I intend to reach. So it's artists like those [above] which tend to keep me inspired; and I keep their books handy, so when I’m feeling a little low on inspiration I dive right into their works.
SCB- As a fellow comic art collector, I was aware of what happened at a convention not so long back with a Wonder Woman sketch you did only for it be found on eBay later in the day. I was following the response from you and from fans on the sale of this piece over on Facebook. Is this a recurring problem many artists are seeing?
AH -- Yeah… it does affect -- I don’t know if it affects other artists -- but it does affect me, as it makes me not want to do sketches for people. It’s really hard to vet them when they come up and say, "Hey, I’d really like to get a sketch," and if somebody waits in line they have as much opportunity as anyone else. [But] you don't know what their ulterior motive is. And there have been a lot of times where I have only done sketches for people who I know. I go, "I know that guy, has bought off me before," so I know he’s not a flipper. So it does affect you, as I’ve stopped doing sketches at cons.
SCB- I find that rather sad, but can totally sympathize on the situation you have been put in.
AH- Yeah, it is.
SCB- Do you ever let the interior artwork of a book influence your creativity designing the cover?
AH- Not the interior work, but the story I let influence me, and if I think something is important enough I will include that on the cover But no, I don’t let the interior art work affect me, as people do accept that covers can look different than the interior art. My job as a cover artist is to sell comics, so if I was trying to draw like the interior artist I wouldn't be successful at it, and that would kind of hurt the advertising aspect of a cover.
SCB-Have you always wanted to work within comics?
AH- Oh well I have always wanted to work in comics and I can’t remember a time when I considered a different occupation, though when I was a kid in the 70s I did want to be an astronaut but when they stopped going to the moon I was like, well what’s the point? So I guess I’ll do that fall back comics thing I wanted to do.
SCB- What is the earliest influence you can remember, the time when you knew; ‘I want to do that?’
AH- As far as an early comic that made me want to do it? I was a big fan of Jack Kirby and the Fantastic Four when I was growing up and I would think; now that would be a lot of fun to do!
But it is ironic as I have never wanted to draw like Jack Kirby or tried to emulate him.
SCB- Do you favour any medium to work in? If so what is the most loved and why?
AH- Well I am really enjoying this sort of digital mixed media that I’m doing right now.
I pencil and ink or pencil and marker wash a piece in the real world and then scan it and colour it digitally.
I have always struggled with colour and when it comes to real paint. Ever since I discovered colouring on the computer it has come very natural for me and I just realised that ideals are worthless if they make life harder for you so there is no reason why not digital colour in the hands of an artist who is trying to do good art? It’s not a tool as viable as a paint brush or an airbrush…
So, yeah… I’m really loving the medium of what I’d have to call digital mixed media.
SCB- Is there any character you have to draw which you would love to work on?
AH- To this day I would love to do Captain America, someday I’d love to work on that.
Everybody likes to see me draw the pretty girls and you know, I want to draw WW2 Captain America guys in trench coats and mud and there’s not allot of room for the bikini carwash sequence in the battle of the bulge.
SCB- And that kind of rounds my questions up! Thank you so much for your time. This is for the boys over at CriticalMess.net.
AH- I know! I know!! That’s so excellent
SCB- It’s been most enjoyable chatting with you and certainly a highlight of the show for me, thank you.
AH- My pleasure.
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