A Chat with Adam Hughes

Adam Hughes is one of comic book’s most prolific artists with a career spanning 20 years, he is most commonly known for his renditions of popular female characters in his iconic pinup-style. His is known as one of comic’s greatest cheesecake artist (Pin Up artist) and his cover work has been beloved by fans worldwide. His most iconic piece of imagery came from a poster that DC comics had him draw, called the called “Real Power of the DC Universe”, which featured 11 of DC’s most iconic female character standing and sitting abreast of one another much like a glamour shoot you’d see in fashion magazines. Adam’s artwork is not only confined to the world of comics, his work can be seen in magazines like ImagineFX and even on trading cards. Adam even crossed over from 2D to the 3rd dimension by providing design works for Sideshow Collectibles and DC Direct, all of which bares his iconic style. In town for STGCC 2015, our resident comic fan Chen KangYi sits down and talks to Adam about the stresses of comic book fame and who’s the fairest of them all.

STGCC 2015 Interview Adam Hughes 01

You’re renowned in the industry for your unique art style, who or what inspired that particular art style?

Hmm…..The mortgage company that’s paying for our house *laughs* It’s weird because I felt that I’ve actually stopped emulating my favorite artists which I’ve been doing for most of my career – picking up bits and pieces from each of them-. I really feel that in the last 5 to 7 years, I’ve really developed my own style and the thing that inspires that isn’t an artist but it’s actually more like “how much time do I have to get this piece done?” and “what can I do to make this (the piece) look good but still get it done in a timely fashion” So it really actually is things like schedules and deadlines that accidentally create an artist’s style because it’s like “how can you get it done and make it look good”

Besides the mortgage company *chuckles*, what keeps you going as an artist? Do you feel burnt out or when you reach a point where you don’t feel inspired anymore?

I only get burned out when I do too much work in too short of a time period. I’m definitely one of those people who need to rest a lot and it also means resting mentally. But to answer your question, no I don’t feel burnt out, I’m still full of enough self-loathing about my artwork that I think I always can do better. Whenever I finish a piece, I would go “Oh! That was nice but I could have done this, that and another thing better” and you try to incorporate that to the next assignment.

So once you hit a deadline, you’ll just give up and let the piece go?

Yeah, you have to and that’s just it. A friend once told me that “art is never finished, it’s abandoned”. Virtually everything I do, 3 days later I just go “OH! I forgot to do this…well, nobody will notice that but me”

Speaking of burn outs, how do you personally overcome artist block or do you even encounter artist block?

Oh hell yea! I spend most of my time scratching my chin and looking at the blank sheet of paper than I do actually drawing. *chuckles*, with that said, it’s video games; I’ll actually sit there and go “I’m gonna kill somebody digitally and I’m gonna pretend they’re artist block”. Either that or I vacuum, I know a lot of artist who go “I’m not getting anything done productively on the drawing table, I would get something productive done elsewhere” that way, at the end of the day when you didn’t get a darn thing drawn you still feel like you’re a useful part of society *laughs* because you know “My floors are spotless”

If you can assemble a dream team of Artist, Writers, Colorist and Pencillers, who would it be and why? Who would be Adam’s Avengers?

With me in it? Well… I would be everyone *laughs*I would be Ironman as well as Hawkeye! If we’re talking dreams and imagination…I’ll do it all myself and get all the glory for myself *laughs*. I’m one of those people who love collaborating with people but I still wanna do stuff on my own. So my dream team is me! So it’ll be Adam writer, Adam colorist, Adam guy who cleans the toilets *laughs*

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You’re drawn some of comic book’s hottest ladies and you’ve even drawn the Fables spinoff: Fairest so….Who do you think is the FAIREST of them all?

Well… I’m contractually obligated to say it’s my wife! *laughs* But when it comes to fictional women, I would go Catwoman. If I was drawing all the characters at the same time, I would make sure Selina was the prettiest!

What makes Catwoman one of the women you’re fondest of?

Erm… I love damaged goods *laughs*And I think the reason why people like Batman and the Batman universe so much is because everybody in Gotham City is damaged goods. I’ve always said that everybody in Gotham city is awful and the reason why Batman is the hero is because he is the least awful person in Gotham. Selina Kyle should have it easy, I mean she’s beautiful, smart and talented; and yet there is something inside of her that drove her to a life of crime and she won’t turn away from it. It’s not just thrills, there’s something bent and broken in her just the way there is with Batman, the Joker and probably even Alfred. *laugh* If you ever watch Downton Abbey, a hundred people have to take care of that house. Alfred is the one guy who has to dust, clean, make the food, clean the sheets and patch up the owner every night when he comes home shot. I’d be miserable too, there’s a reason why he’s there.

What is your favorite live action portrayal of Catwoman?

In The Dark Knight Rises, about 20 minutes into The Dark Knight Rises I was like “Okay, I don’t care if Batman shows up, could we just watch 2 hours of Anne Hathaway just doing cool stuff ” because it was way better than any of the Batman stuff.

Who is your favorite Male Superhero?

Captain America, I love Captain America. I actually got to do my first Captain America cover ever and I was 9 years old the whole time I was working on it.

But he’s very different from damaged goods right?

Yeah! Nobody likes a perfect character; it’s finding the character flaws and finding how those characters overcome those flaws. Those character flaws are the same as the obstacles in their “Careers”. For Captain America, one of his obstacles is the Red Skull and his legion of Hydra the other obstacle is that he doesn’t really fit in and that’s my favorite thing about Captain America. I love the idea of a guy who isn’t where he belongs anymore and there’s no going home. As you get older, all of us are separated by where we were born not just by distance but also by time. If you go back to the school you went to or you go back to the village or the town you’re from and it has changed, you’ll go “Wow, that’s not the way I remembered it”. When Cap first came back in 1964, WWII has only been over for 19 years, the only thing different was well… The Beatles had long hair *laughs*. Everybody he knew was probably still alive and I love the fact that as more time goes by he’s 70 years outta time and soon it would be 100 years outta time and he’s becoming Buck Rogers. I just find the tragedy of that very appealing.

STGCC 2015 Walk Of Fame Adam Hughes

Being a 20 year veteran of comics, what do you think is the hardest part of being in the comic book industry?

This is gonna sound vague and slightly Zen, it’s all the stuff nobody prepared you for. When you turn your hobby into your job, there is that initial “Oh crap, I have to draw even though I don’t want to draw”. When we’re kids, we’re all into our favorite creative things whenever we want and we all wish there would be no school so we could do all our favorite things all day. The minute somebody tells you to do it and says “You have to have all this done by Friday”, it really can become a chore and your hobby doesn’t become as much fun as it used to be. But when you’re a kid and you wanna grow up to draw comics, you’d think it’s just gonna be like “Arrgghh, I’m just gonna sit around all day in my underwear, draw comics, watch cartoons and its gonna be great” There’s a whole brochure of stuff that nobody tells you, if I could time travel back to visit my 9-10 year old me; one, I would tell him to lay off the pizza *chuckles* two, the guy who plays Judge Dredd plays Doctor McCoy and it’s awesome and everybody’s happy and three, here’s all the stuff that you’re not gonna be ready for when you break into the business; some of the expectations being put on you, weird things and this is gonna sound like complaining that my diamond shoes are too tight but things like career management. Nobody teaches you how to manage your career, I look at genuinely famous people like politicians, athletes, actors and actresses and I feel like their life is no longer their own and you hope that is somebody somewhere that’ll teach you what to do in situations like having your autograph being sold on Ebay and what to do when somebody stalks you. Comics fame is really low-key fame but there are issues. We will get stuff mailed to our house with a letter from someone saying “Oh my god, I love your work! Can you please sign this comic and here’s a self addressed stamped envelope” The first thing my wife and I go…..”HOW DID THEY GET OUR ADDRESS!? Close the blinds and lock all the windows!” *laughs* We worry sometimes, if a crazy disgruntled fan who didn’t get a sketch decides to do something about it, it really could happen anywhere. So it’s always weird that nobody tells you when you’re a kid that you have to pay your own taxes, in America you’re responsible for your own taxes and that’s what all self-employed artist do. It took me the better part of 18 years to get my tax problem sorted out because I just make so many mistakes early on and there’s just so much stuff so THAT’s the hardest part.

What are your thoughts on Old School (pen and paper) verses New School (Photoshop and Illustrator)?

I got my feet in both worlds because I draw on pencil and paper, and I scan and color it on a computer…. I don’t care, to me all that matters is the final product. If you’re best tool is digital them do it! With all these purist who say “Oh, it’s not painting unless you’re using oil paint”, well…for you(purist) but for this other person here, he sings with a stylus and a Cintiq tablet. That’s the whole nature of art, it’s like if your art is ketchup and mustard and you make these glorious Ironman paintings but just squirting condiments on the board and that’s how you are most comfortable then do it. Don’t worry about what anybody else says. I used to try and paint for real all the time and it never worked. The minute I started coloring digitally, everything gelled into place. I think that art medium and what tools you use, they should be like your shoes, your car or even the chair you sit in. They should be so comfortable you shouldn’t think about them. Imagine walking somewhere and having to think about your shoes every step of the way. I think as an artist, if you’re thinking about your tools while you’re working, you’re not spending time being creative, you’re thinking about the mechanics of drawing which you should have worked out already. That’s why every artist should just draw all the time, you gonna get to the point where the pencil or the stylus or the paint brush is an extension of your hand and you’re not thinking “Oh the paper is fighting me today” or “I don’t like this pencil at all”, you have to sit there and think about “Well…Batman is sad, he needs more rain because rain would make him seem more sad.” That’s why I don’t care about my medium, when I see a beautiful piece of artwork…on twitter….*chuckles* I never seem to ask what the medium is anymore, I used to be concerned about that. I just sit there now and just think “that is a beautiful, wonderful piece of art that tells a story.” and it doesn’t matter where it came from. Unless I see something I wanna steal from *chuckles* then “lemme go find out how that person drew those clouds” *laughs*

Thank you Adam for your time.

Photos by Ken Koh

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