Spotlight On: Adam Hughes
The comic industry was hit hard with the premature death of one of it's most influential creators, Dwayne McDuffie recently. As a result, many fans and creators ( Comic Vine included) took to a variety of different venues (Twitter, blogs, etc.) to show appreciation for his life and work and to celebrate his accomplishments and impact on the industry. This outpour of support led to a movement which had started on Twitter by both Top Cow's Ron Marz and Marvel's Tom Brevoort to celebrate and show appreciation for creators while they are still alive- something I felt was an absolutely awesome idea that we should all take part in; especially since many of us are often so quick to criticize a creator and their work. That's why I decided to take this opportunity to discuss one of my favorite comic artists, Adam Hughes.
When I first met self taught artist Adam Hughes I admit, I gushed. I can recall marveling at his work on Wonder Woman and Catwoman for DC Comics long before meeting him- but when I came face to face with the man (who is far too humble and modest for his own good) I grew even more enamored with his work and talent because he is, quite frankly, a fantastic and wonderful human being. Following a video review of Hughes' New York Times best selling book Cover Run; which is part autobiographical and part art portfolio; he contacted me and asked if I would moderate his spotlight panel at Wonder Con. I admit I was nervous at first- unsure of whether or not I could do Hughes justice- but nevertheless, I agreed. While a huge fan of his work, and sure, I thought he was a great guy, I didn't actually know all that much about Hughes. The more I read and learned about him, however, the more I grew to appreciate his work and him as a creator. == TEASER ==
Going into Hughes' WonderCon spotlight panel, the issue of Wonder Woman's pants was at the top of my list. I figured he would be the perfect person to ask considering his work on Wonder Woman's series which spanned from 1998 to 2003 and which happens to be some of his most recognizable work at DC Comics. What he revealed was that he too submitted his own version of Wonder Woman's costume redesign to DC Comics for the re-launch of her series. While he did not describe what his redesign looked like, or how he felt about the decision to give her pants, he did say that the change was good for DC's sales- something we can all agree on. When asked about the release date of his long awaited All Star Wonder Woman- it's still sitting on the shelf and is a project all Wonder Woman fans will have to keep waiting for.
Adam Hughes is known for his sexy pin-up style- which, if you have browsed through his book Cover Run, you already are well aware. His ability to capture women as both powerful and still very sexy is beyond impressive, and is something that not very many artists can do. Among the interesting (and not often discussed) bits of information about Mr. Hughes career that came up during the panel was his tenure at Penthouse COMIX. Penthouse, which he cites as not his best work, is not something Adam regrets. In fact, Penthouse can be considered what helped launch a very successful career at DC Comics, but I think he can explain it better than I can. Below is an excerpt from Adam's spotlight panel from WonderCon.
Sara: You worked on Penthouse Comics, correct?
AH: Yes, but I was young and I needed the money.
Sara: [Laughter] As an illustrator, did you feel that the lack of censorship was liberating, or do you feel that drawing characters like Wonder Woman and Catwoman for DC as more subtly sexy is more satisfying artistically.
AH: Column B. I firmly believe that drawing a fully clothed, beautiful woman is more sensuous than a completely naked, laying on a table getting ready to go in for a CAT scan. I firmly think that it's what you hint and suggest- that is more attractive- and that goes for both men and women. When you go into full nudity, and swing for the fences with the nudity, it can be titillating at first, but after a while you get kind of tired and kind of spent and decide 'Hey, you know what, I am just going to go watch the ball game.' I think that you need to have the mystery, and that layer to be peeled away so that the interest remains there. When I was working on the Penthouse stuff I was soul sick the entire time. How many people here have had someone actually name the price? Like, 'OK I will sell my soul to you for that dollar amount.' They said to me, 'We're gonna pay you FIVE TIMES what Marvel and DC would pay you for that page,' and I said. [feign sobbing] 'I'll do it...I'm a filthy whore and I will do it.' And I am working on the whole thing, feeling like one of those underage sex workers [feigns sobbing] and I am drawing and I am crying.' And I felt like crap the whole time. My career at the time was only about seven years old, and I was already thinking 'Marvel and DC aren't going to want to work with a pornographer. When I look back at it I think, Oh I was so
scared you know? But I was really lucky. Today I can say I am a New York Times best selling author. Fifteen years ago I thought Penthouse could have been the end of everything. But if you look at my Penthouse work, you can see that it wasn't at all my best work. I would rather draw a beautiful, strong superheroine in most of her costume.
It isn't often that an artist is able to take our breath away. I think that in order to do that, the artist's skill and style must be unparalleled- unique, and he or she must be able to capture moments and mere flickers of emotions in the most exceptional way. Adam Hughes does this- and his incredible talent has led to some of the most exquisite covers at DC Comics. Adam has managed to take our breath away with every Wonder Woman cover and every illustration of Catwoman, Supergirl and Zatanna. His ability to capture female sexuality without sacrificing feminine strength is a rare quality; but one that seems effortless for him. To say his style is "pin-up" would not even begin to describe the scope of his tremendous skill and talent. Adam can make anyone look sexy- sure- but he does more than that. Adam's characters ooze personality off the pages, and that is a very hard thing to do.
Big thanks to Sora The Key for filming the panel and sending me the footage which allowed me to transcribe some of Mr. Hughes' responses!
For me, the most amazing artists of females in comics are good ole Adam mentioned here, but also Ed Benes and Guillem March. I'd mention others that are absolutely breathtaking but those ones are the main ones I can think of off the top of my head.
Awesome spotlight Sara. I too think it's a great idea to really celebrate great creators in life more than in death. So many deserve to know the impact they make.
Wow, what an honor to be on Mr. Hughes' panel! To be asked to do that, I can only imagine how stoked you were!
This was a great article. You are absolutely right, it is difficult to accurately describe Mr. Hughes' style other than to say it is exquisite. Pin-up doesn't even begin to give his illustrations justice. Yes, I have seen his work on Penthouse Comix, but the first really awesome work I saw of his was in Dark Horse Presents. He drew some "cyber-babes" in black and white which influenced me quite a bit.
Also, yes, we as comic fans often gripe and moan ( I am guilty ) about certain creators, instead of saying, "Hey, this guy or girl's work is really great". Highlighting him like this was a great idea and enjoyed the article.
Adam Hughes for the win!
I like his work a lot, but he isn't one of my favorite favorites, (it is possible I am blind I admit) but I have seen him in interviews, and videos, and the way he carried himself was really likable, I think. He seemed rather self depreciating and modest. It was nice to see someone with such huge talent and so popular, have that aura. I really like and still laugh about how he managed to sneak Friends into that Wonder Woman cover. His expressions on characters is probably my favorite thing about his art. Oh, and the big massive DC women Celebration thing as well, and also how he fought to get Selina in.
" Awesome spotlight Sara. I too think it's a great idea to really celebrate great creators in life more than in death. So many deserve to know the impact they make.I too agree with this, and after reading it I just wanted to give Mr. Hughes a handshake and a thumbs up.I also completely agree with Adam about what makes a women look beautiful and sensuous is not just in putting as much skin out there as one can, but wrapping it properly like the present it is. :)"
LOL, smooth talker eh?
" How many of us think that his Catwoman (at the top of the page) was inspired by Babs in her catsuit? I mean, look the face... seriously. "
I am pretty sure the actual inspiration is Audrey Hepburn from "Breakfast at Tiffany's" but hey I could be wrong.
" @Silkcuts said:OkayWe can compare Travis and Hughes since both are classic pencil and ink as the medium of choice. Ross is paint, different art medium "Wasn't making any comparisons, just giving honorable mentions. "
I agree with the honorable mentions then.
Great article! Adam Hughes is (without a doubt) one of the best! I love the way that his ladies always look strong, not over-endowed on top or ready to break at the waist. He definitely deserves this spotlight... and I wish I'd been there to support you as chair-lady :)
I loveeeeeeeeeeeee Adam Hughes. He manages to make women gorgeous and sexy without having to put them in scandalous clothing to do so. He draws realistic women (you never see his characters look like they suffer from anorexia or having enormously mis-proportioned breasts aka Barbie Syndrome). His work is utterly gorgeous and is truly, truly art. I'm somebody who tends to favor art over writing and I'll pick up a book just because Hughes has done the art.
Hughes is primarily seen as a "good girl" or "pin up" artist who happens to apply his trade in comic rather than mainstream magazines. I'm not sure how many people are still reading Esquire, so it's not too surprising. Alberto Vargas might have been drawing covers for Catwoman, too had he been born 70 years later. Hughes has penciled issues of books, I know but when I was still deep into the comic scene he wasn't doing that anymore. I read he reversed that practice for All-Star Wonder Woman, but that one was eventually cancelled or at least, on hiatus. His style must take a lot more time than the average artists, plus the chores of writing, too. He is among my favorites, but I wish there was more of his art to appreciate. I'd hate to see him suddenly pass like Dave Stevens.
I've always been a big fan of Adam Hughes' artwork - he is one of the few artists that draws superheroines as having actual muscle structure, in poses that show off their athletic ability. Many comic artists focus on the sexy poses with tilted pelvises, opened lips, bared cleavage, arched backs and etc, and forget that many of the female superheroes are phenomenal athletes who train just as hard as the boys in in order to hang with them in battle.
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