A Chat With Adam Hughes About His Spider-Gwen Variants
By Jared Cornelius
Working for Bleeding Cool has given me some unique opportunities, from covering conventions to getting sneak peeks at upcoming books I've been provided the chance to do some fun things around the world of comics. Some of the most fun I've had has been interviewing creators and artists, so when the owners of my local comic shop, Conquest Comics told me about their store exclusive variant cover to Spider-Gwen #1 I was intrigued. However when they told me that Adam Hughes would be coming in to sign copies on Wednesday and Saturday I jumped at the chance to interview the prolific "good girl artist". It didn't hurt that the recent hub-bub around the title was largely positive and it was close to home, so it was a double win for me. I caught up with Hughes before his Wednesday signing at Conquest and it gave me a chance to talk to the bombshell artist about pizza, blonds vs. red-heads, and living up to Jack Kirby.
Jared Cornelius: I'm here at Conquest Comics in Bayville New Jersey talking with the very talented Adam Hughes about his Spider-Gwen #1 variant cover among other things. Adam would you like to say hi to our readers?
Adam Hughes: Hey everybody!
JC: This is going to be your 30th year in comics is it not?
AH: Twenty eighth maybe, I started in 87 so I think a little ways off from the anniversary bells.
JC: Your work has some very common themes, you're a draw-er of beautiful women. Somewhere on your website it was referred to as "good girl art"
AH: Yeah, traditionally dating back to the pin-ups and calendars of the 30's 40's 50's. I got into via the work of Dave Stevens on the Rocketeer and it's an American illustration tradition, I mean I can draw all sorts of stuff, but that's all they hire me to draw.
JC: How much time would you say you spend on a single cover?
AH: I don't know, I fall to pieces the minute I start looking at clocks. I just got done a Catwoman cover for DC for Convergence that took me a week and a half, but I've done a cover in a day. So it all depends on what the concept is, how many characters are on it and how hard I want to swing for the fence.
JC: Your work seems like you put a lot of time and effort into it, would you say you're a perfectionist?
AH: No I'm not, but I love to quote James Cameron who once said after being accused of being a perfectionist, "I'm not a perfectionist, I'm a greatist." It doesn't have to be perfect, it has to be great.
JC: How do you go about choosing projects?
AH: I usually let the projects pick me. I haven't really sought out too much, but normally when I'm offered multiple things at the same time and I have to go which one do I want, I can't do them all I have to pick one. I pick the one where I'll have a flash of inspiration, I'll go "Ah! I can totally see this cover in my head." If I'm struggling or I'm going I wouldn't know what to do with this particular character, I'll tend to go towards the stuff I have a feeling for because I'll get that idea out there fast.
AH: The realists and it's natural the hyper-realists have their own pocket of illustration universe to themselves and it's all about making things look like they're real and I don't want that. When somebody looks at the cover to Catwoman #51 and says it looks like a photograph I think I failed. I want an illustration that has a level of believability of it. My grandmother couldn't look at a Jack Kirby illustration and understand what was going on, she would be completely baffled by little black dots, or men made out of rocks, but if she looked at an Alex Ross painting, she'd go oh that's Superman. That's what I look for in the term naturalistic, I'm trying to make it feel like. Like I could really see happening.
AH: This past week has taught me I still love to draw Catwoman the best.
AH: One of the things about them that was special was neither of them had multiple series out at the same time. If you're doing covers for Spider-Man or Batman or Superman your work really has to dovetail with what the other writers and artists and cover artists are doing. I love working on books that have terminal cancer and they're circling the drain, I love to work on books there're only one of. There's only one Wonder Woman comic, there's only one Catwoman comic, and half that Catwoman run they were saying the books being canceled, the books being canceled, we just don't know when. The last ten covers of Catwoman I was just like Jim Morrison without any adult supervision. I love working on the iconic characters, but I also love working on the iconic characters where you have as much freedom as possible. That's one of the reasons why the Catwoman and Wonder Woman gigs were where I made my biggest growth spurts as an artist, because I had a lot of free reign to be creative.
AH: The costume design! I'm not one of those people who go, hey I'm gonna do my version or my take on the Wonder Woman costume, or my take on Spider-Man's costume because some of them are classic. Spider-Man's costume to me is like the little black cocktail dress or Wayfarer Ray-Bans it's perfect, you don't need to change it. When I see variations especially with Spider-Verse, you're going oh my god this is everything under the sun, good and bad. That's a good design, that's a terrible design. When I'd seen the Spider-Gwen design I thought that was the most outstanding piece of costume design I've seen this century, because it totally reads as a spider character. It has the webs, it has the big googley eyes and with today's youth their safety blanket is the hood, the hoodie. They love to have the hood around their face and "hey don't bother me".
I think it's funny because someone wears a hood and it's like having neon arrows pointing at them. Look at me! Look at me! I'm trying to keep to myself! It totally reads as a teenager because of that hood and having a great superhero costume design is one that you can break down so simply that Alex Toth or Steve Rude could do in three shapes. Those characters that have such simple costume designs that you could break it down into just silhouetted shapes people can read from a mile away, that's Spider-Man, that's Batman and Spider-Gwen will not be confused with any other character. She's got a great look and that's why I wanted to do the cover when they asked me to do the regular variant and then the store variant I just wanted to draw the costume. There's so many designs for so many character and every once in a while someone comes along where you're going, yeah that's perfect and if anyone ever changes it they're a fool.
AH: Team Gwen.
JC: That's the right answer.
AH: I just read my first digital comic, I just got Sequential on my new iPad which I got for Christmas and I read Ian N.J. Culbard's graphic novel adaptation of H.P. Lovecrafts At The Mountains of Madness.
JC: I really liked that Red Dwarf fan sketch on you did.
AH: Oh yeah, I love a themed sketchbook and we actually gifted that to a friend of ours and she loves British television so it was all sort of a BBC themed book and my wife and I were the first people in these books. I love being one of the first people in a book, because I actually roll up my sleeves and do something as special as I can do because anybody who has to come after goes, oh crap. If you get a book of just urinal doodles, just quickies done while somebody's walking from here to there, that's all you feel compelled to do. I was once handed a sketch book that had a Jack Kirby Captain America and a Rudy Nebres Conan and I was like, ah I have to live up to this. So I was really happy to draw Red Dwarf for the first time but I also wanted to do something that anybody who did something else in the book would have to bring their game.
JC: You're from the motherland, you're from Jersey, and currently living in Atlanta?
AH: Yes, I've been living in Atlanta for twenty some years now.
JC: What drove you away from our wonderful state?
AH: I think I was twenty-four when I left and I thought there's forty-nine other states to live in. (Audible laughter) No I left because I joined a studio of likeminded comic book artists in Atlanta called Gaijin Studios. Nobody in the studio was actually from Atlanta, but it was like we were going to work in the same place. We came from New Jersey, Alabama, Las Vegas, we came from all over and just sort of moved there. When my time with the studio was up I could've moved anywhere in the country but I really did like Georgia.
JC: BBQ or pizza?
AH: Mmmmm, that's tough. I'm getting older so I gotta say BBQ. I love pizza, but if you add up all the slices of pizza I've eaten in my life, which is obviously quite a few, I might say I've had enough.
JC: You were one of a handful of artists to be chosen to work on Before Watchmen. All the controversy aside, DC really did pick seemed to be the best and brightest like Darwyn Cooke and Jae Lee. How did it feel to be selected among the DC elite?
AH: Oh it was nerve racking. It was like being invited to the all-star game and you don't know if you're supposed to be here or not. Right before we started work on it, they offered to switch, instead of doing the Doctor Manhattan mini-series, asking, would you like to just do all the covers, like all the covers for all the books, and I really wanted to do interiors. People say, How come you don't do interiors anymore? I do the work that people offer me and nobody really ever offers me interiors and this was a four issue mini-series with J.Michael Straczynski. I knew this was going to be something worth putting pencil to paper for and I was nervous the whole time and I wasn't even thinking about any potential backlash, so when that arrived that was a nightmare. So really it was a case of nerves, I spent 2012 shaking and drinking. It was good to get back in the game, and I'm looking forward to trying to do more interior stuff in the years to come.
You can check out more of Hughes work at his website, Justsayah.com where you can purchase art, view galleries and find out about upcoming appearances. You can also find him on Twitter @AH_AdamHughes.
Hughes' Spider-Gwen variant cover can be purchased from my fine local retailer, Conquest Comics in Bayville New Jersey or on their website. The Spider-Gwen cover comes in three different flavors, full color, half color, and black and white. Hughes will be appearing at Conquest Comics this Saturday February 28th from 12-2 and 4-5 to sign copies and do sketches.
Jared Cornelius is some guy from the Jersey coast who had a great time chatting with a talented artist. If you'd like to chat about talented artists, contact him on Twitter @John_Laryngitis.