Superstar artist Adam Hughes arrived at Comic-Con International in San Diego his spotlight panel and stood before to a room packed with fans. Moderated by his longtime friend and Bigfanboy.com founder Mark Walters, Hughes took time out of his busy schedule to discuss his iconic works and time in the comic book industry.
Walters began the panel by asking Hughes about how he first broke in as an artist. Hughes said he was never particularly good in school and spent a lot of his time drawing instead of doing his work. “I have many arithmetic tests with TIE fighters shooting at the enterprise and an F.” Of his high school graduation, Hughes said, “I think they just threw the diploma at me.”
His first break was working in the ’80s during what Hughes referred to as the “black and white boom.” Black and white comic books were en vogue because of their substantially lower print costs, and after doing a quick pinup for the independent comic book “Eagle” Hughes began getting more and more work for other indie comics.
The first major company job he ever had was working for DC Comics on Justice League of America. He then joked with the audience about the fact that the team at the time was filled with second and third tier characters. “I used to call it the Copyright Retention League of America,” he laughed.
Though the majority of his work has been for DC, Hughes has also had the opportunity to work for Marvel Comics. During the ’90s, there was a trend of swimsuit issues. Every company seemed to have one, and Marvel was no exception, and it was in the Marvel swimsuit issues that Hughes did “the bulk of [his] work.” The audience laughed loudly when the artist described the work as drawing “She Hulk in a bikini and Wasp in a smaller bikini.”
In fact, it was Wasp who was the subject of one of his more controversial early pieces. Wasp was posed in a now-classic cheesecake pose and resting on some undisclosed, “very horizontal” part of Colossus’s anatomy.
Walters then directed the conversation toward the work that Hughes did on the “Star Trek” comic books. Hughes discussed his love for Star Trek and how it held him mesmerized when he was a child. Hughes grew up as an only child and joked that his mother would often sit him down to watch Star Trek because “she realized she could have a complete hour of uninterrupted smoking.” While working on the art for the comics, Hughes had the opportunity to “draw the doomsday machine, which is like bucket list, click.”
Though he did a considerable amount of work based upon the older “Star Trek” series, it was a moment concerning Captain Jean Luc Picard which stood out in Hughes’ mind. One day Hughes received a fax from Patrick Stewart about how the drawings of Picard depicted his head as, “too pointy.” Hughes attributed this error in drawing to the fact that Picard was French and in his mind he equated the French with the old “Saturday Night Live” Coneheads sketch. “I was drawing him like Beldar,” Hughes said.
Things then moved on to Hughes’s work on to perhaps Hughes’ most notable work, drawing “Wonder Woman” and “Catwoman.” Though he was initially nervous about his Amazonian assignment, Hughes began to feel more comfortable drawing Wonder Woman as time went by. “I started to gain confidence when myself and my art director were outliving all of the creative teams.” Whereas Wonder Woman must remain regal, “She’s a whore” Hughes said of drawing Catwoman. “I liked that Catwoman was trouble.”
The artist continued to draw “Catwoman” covers until the end of the pre-New 52 volume of the series and said he enjoyed working on the covers the most toward the end. “The last year and a half was fun because it was like having a complete lack of adult supervision… No one cares what you do when a book is circling the drain.
Hughes took a brief moment to discuss the state of his long-delayed “All-Star Wonder Woman” title which fans have been waiting years for. “It is dead,” he said. “DC has moved in a different direction. There is a police barricade up with someone in front saying ‘move on, move on, nothing to see here.'”
With that piece of business out of the way, Hughes was free to discuss his work on “Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan.” The project marked Hughes’ return to interior art after many years away, noting that his cover art made him “the king of medium shot pin ups.” He found the transition very difficult as there are many pieces of interiors like skylines rocks and trees to draw which he hadn’t done on that scale for years. “I don’t get offers for interiors. I get offers for breasts on covers.”
The subject of “Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan” added even more difficulty to the work for Hughes who is best known for drawing women. Hughes said when fans heard he would be working on a “Before Watchmen they would “assume Silk Specter. ‘No, he’s drawing the bald guy with no pants.'”
“Twenty to thirty penises on, I was like, ‘god I miss being a stereotype,'” Hughes said of his newly expanded artistic repertoire.