ADAM HUGHES TALKS 'WONDER WOMAN,' 'TOMB RAIDER'
Warning: Mildly offensive language in the following story.
By this point, Adam Hughes has been painting them too long to be called the "new" cover artist for DC Comics' "Wonder Woman." And that's just the way he likes it.
"Yup!" Hughes told the Comic Wire on Monday. "I wanted to stay here as long as possible. Honestly, I figured DC would've fired my monkey ass by now, but I guess I have low friends in high places. This is my all-time favorite gig I've ever had."
Summing up exactly what it is that he likes so much about the Amazon princess isn't easy for Hughes.
"Geez, got a week? First off, she's an archetype; a walking, talking American classic. I get to do the covers for THE most recognizable superheroine in the world, and you'd be amazed at how that info impresses the hell out of the waitresses at Hooters. EVERYONE knows Wonder Woman, and I get to be part of a very cool tradition, one that's 60 years old and going strong. Wonder Woman has had a pretty rich history of powerful cover art, and that keeps me on my toes.
"Also, she's a great character. She's got a cool costume, great powers, and tons of personality for those who care to look for it. She's a world-class character! The only downside her about is no one's talented enough to render her as beautiful as she should be seen; she escapes everyone's attempt to convey her absolute grace and beauty. All of us have tried, but we all fall short. She's this great ideal none of us can ever achieve to pull off in our art, so she beggars the determination to try again, harder and harder, every month. She's the Great American novel of modern heroines!"
Hughes' take on Wonder Woman is a little different than how she's often depicted. For one thing, he's given her more of an ethnic look than she typically gets, especially noticeable on a superheroine jam cover done last year for "Wizard" magazine.
"It's a concerted effort on my part, totally," Hughes said. "I succeed sometimes, and sometimes I don't. For me personally, making her appear more Mediterranean is an attempt at exploring character. I mean, seriously: DC's big three (Superman, Batman, and WW) are all pale Caucasians with blue-black hair. Always have been. Since WW has had innumerable interpretations, I figured Western Civilization as we know it wouldn't crumble if I gave her a Roman profile and a suntan. I was in Spain a year or two ago, and I was dumbstruck by the natural beauty of Mediterranean women. Even the homely chicks were hot! Hoo-ah! Seriously, though -- I tried to study some of the characteristics of ladies from that part of the world, and bring them to my take on Wonder Woman."
And while DC Comics seems pleased with Hughes' work, some online Wonder Woman fans have grumbled that Hughes' Wonder Woman is just a touch too sexy.
"Yeah; I feel kinda bad about that," he said. "I know you can't please everybody all the time, so I just go for what works for me. I have to be the final judge of what works. I avoid ego-surfing on the Internet, as I try to avoid any negative waves that might get in the way while I'm working, but a friend pointed me to this discussion on-line about whether or not my WW covers constituted soft-core pornography. I checked it out, kept my eye on it, and then posted a polite response. My theory is, if you don't like my take on the character, then just sit back and relax. I plan on being around until DC's tired of me, but I'm not permanent. Wonder Woman was around 27 years before I was even born, and she'll outlive me as well. I'll end up, at best, a footnote in her long history. Eventually, other artists will come along and take over the reins. Some of THEM will be appreciated, and some won't. No ONE artist defines a character like Wonder Woman.
"Do I see Wonder Woman as sexual and/or sexy? No and yes, respectively. I don't see Diana as a sexual creature, partly because people like easy labels and a woman who is by nature a sexual creature usually gets labeled as such. They get called 'nymphomaniacs' or 'whorish'; that's womankind's burden, that any woman who is sexually aggressive is considered a slut. I don't want that for Diana. Besides, I see her as being made of sterner stuff. If she has yearnings, they're emotional, not merely sexual. She's better than that. She isn't a sexual prisoner of the weak, human flesh she's cast in. To me, that also gives her an aloof Hepburn quality that MAKES her sexy. She doesn't use her beauty and charisma to her advantage in any way, and that makes her even more desirable and attractive. I feel that portrayed properly, Wonder Woman would electrify a room just by entering it, and filling it with her presence. She has this innate, ineffable quality that palpably changes the world around her, even if she's not trying."
Almost entirely absent from Hughes' "Wonder Woman" covers -- except for a recent encounter with Clayface and next issue, which concludes the "Gods of Gotham" story arc -- has been the humor so much of his work is laced with.
"That's just a reflection of the storylines. I mean, I'm by nature a humor artist; I love drawing chucklers. And I love drawing Diana smiling, basking in the sunshine, loving life. That's her element. Joy is the predominant factor in WW's life, and I love to convey that. However, I have to represent the interiors faithfully. It wouldn't be fair to WW writer/artist Phil Jimenez if he wrote a sober tale of conflict and crisis, and I had WW picking posies on the cover. I just finished the cover to #170, and it's got a great, light feel to it. I'm not trying to get away from my humor, just trying to do Phil and the interior guys a solid by being a team player."
Hughes will be more of a one man band later this year, when he writes and illustrates his own "Tomb Raider" miniseries for Top Cow.
"I'd done some Tomb Raider illos for Eugene Wang over at 'Playstation Magazine,' and after I lamented to him for the upteenth time about how much I'd dig doing a Lara Croft comic, he passed it on to Top Cow Productions. And voila, we have a miniseries! God help me ...
"I'm writing a detailed script which [Tomb Raider owners] Eidos and Top Cow will then decide if they like. I'm doing a lot of research into the elements the plot explores, as I want the script to be as 'smart' as possible. Also, I want Lara Croft to come across as English as possible; researching Great Britain is turning out to be a real joy!"
At this point, though, don't look for much information as to what the book will actually be about.
"I'm not sure, as nothing's been officially approved. I guess I can talk about what I'm PROPOSING. I have to admit, I'm a little nervous. The plot I'm working on, I came up with back in October, but the newest trailers for the 'Tomb Raider' movie kind of have me a little scared that I'm treading on similar ground as the film."
And while there's no question Hughes is best-known as an artist, his writing work in the past, including on "Gen13: Ordinary Heroes" and "Gen13/Superman," has gotten good reviews. But aside from his upcoming Tomb Raider project, don't look for Hughes to show up with a writer credit on any other projects in the near future.
"Nope! If I write, I want it to be for ME, for a project I'M going to illustrate. I've no real interest at this time in writing scripts for other artists. Unless of course, some insane Hollywood type is reading this, and needs a film script. In that case, yes. Yes, I'm looking for more writing work."
The key to Hughes' writing success? He has no idea."I have no idea what I'm doing! It's all guesswork with a typewriter at this stage. I have no training as a writer, I can barely spell, and I have no idea how I ended up writing. It's a big, fat accident. That's the secret of my success: big, fat accidents. If I end up elected as President of the United States of America, or on the moon or something, just remember a big, fat accident put me there."
Hughes does know how he writes, though.
"I'm a bit more structured when I write, as I'm more conscious of the processes involved. Art is very unconscious and autonomic for me, and I have to force myself to actually THINK about what I'm doing sometimes. Since writing is terra incognita for me, I'm much more aware of the steps I'm taking. Consequently, I structure my approach more."
HOW THE WEST WAS WARPED:
MARIOTTE, SEVERIN RIDE WITH 'DESPERADOES'
Once upon a time in the west, Jeff Mariotte wrote a Western comic with a big handful of horror tossed in, called "Desperadoes."
His partner on that book -- artist John Cassaday -- has been busy with the ongoing "Planetary" since then, but "Desperadoes" carried on, as a series of miniseries from DC/WildStorm. This May, Mariotte gets back in the saddle again for a third go-round, with "Desperadoes: Quiet of the Grave."
"It's not ABSOLUTELY necessary to have read the first two, but it'll make more sense to readers who are at least familiar with the original miniseries, as reprinted in the 'A Moment's Sunlight' trade paperback," Mariotte told the Comic Wire on Tuesday. "The characters and their relationships are clearly defined in 'Quiet,' but knowing their backgrounds, and how they came to be in the position that they're in, will enhance the reading experience. I have consciously kept the relationships growing and changing, so the reader who knows the whole story will get more out of it. But the reader who picks up 'Quiet of the Grave' will not be hopelessly lost. This story takes place about six months after 'Epidemic!,' in the dead of summer, 1880, in the real Arizona/Mexico border town of Luttrell (now a ghost town that's gone through several name changes)."
Both "A Moment's Sunlight" and "Epidemic!" featured elements of supernatural horror to them, with it being especially explicit in "Epidemic!," and "Quiet of the Grave" will once again be a fusion of horror and Western elements.
"But it's a Western comic first," Mariotte said. "When I heard the -- extremely thrilling -- news that John Severin might be available to do a project for us, and that he'd consider doing a Western again, I had somewhere around 24 hours to come up with a proposal to show him, since we didn't think he'd stay on the market for long without being snapped up. I thought about what I liked best about his work -- and it's a long list. But what I came up with was his very naturalistic approach ... people who look like individuals, locations that look real, and so on. So I determined to do a story in which the fantastic elements were more in the background than they were in either of the two previous 'Desperadoes' projects. They're still there, although they are so understated in issue #1 that the reader might not even know that's what he or she has seen, until things become a little more clear. Even by issue #3, they're still at the mysterious stage -- I hope that some of the suspense of the miniseries is based around trying to figure out just what is going on, supernaturally speaking. At the same time, there's plenty of suspense from what the characters are doing to each other, but the horrific aspect looms over it all."
And while there hasn't been enough of them to call it a boom, but there certainly has been a boomlet in Western comics in recent years, after long dry stretch without any. Mariotte has some thoughts on the enduring appeal of the Western, as evident in recent years' "The Kents," "Jonah Hex" miniseries, "Sunset Riders" and "Desperadoes."
"I'd like to think it was the huge financial success of 'Desperadoes,' but I'm not that delusional. That said, I think the critical success of 'Desperadoes' played into it, as well as the interest generated by 'The Kents,' 'Jonah Hex,' and the few other Westerns that have come and gone. The West is, for Americans, archetypal material that goes in and out of favor but never disappears altogether. It's not just a place or an era, it's an idea hardwired into our collective national identity. So creative people will always come back to it, the same way they come back to superheroes and mysteries and romances and the farthest reaches of space."
X-MEN TEAM LINE-UPS II: THE CHARACTERS
Once fans of Marvel Comics' X-Men had gotten the official word on who the creator teams are on the titles after this May's coming creative shakeup, the next inevitable question was who amongst Marvel's myriad mutant characterss would make the cut.
On Wednesday, Marvel answered that question, via their Your Man @ Marvel in house "news" organ.
Featured in "New X-Men" (formerly simply "X-Men") by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely: Professor X, Cyclops, Beast, Jean Grey, Wolverine and the White Queen.
In Joe Casey's and Ian Churchill's "Uncanny X-Men:" Iceman, Archangel, Nightcrawler, Wolverine and Chamber.
On the new Chris Claremont/Salvador LaRocca "make sure you file this under X" monthly book "X-Treme X-Men:" Storm, Beast, Bishop, Psylocke, Thunderbird, new character Sage and Rogue.
And finally, the initial line-up of the new Pete Milligan/Mike Allred "X-Force:" Zeitgeist, U-Go Girl, The Anarchist, Battering Ram, Plazm, Gin Genie, La Nuit and Doop. (Why "initial?" In an extensive January 15 interview with the Comic Wire, Allred made it sound like some of these characters will likely not live to see their one year anniversary with the new corporate-sponsored team ...)
THE COMIC BRIEFS OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY
Here's what's news and press releases in CBR's Comic Brief since the last edition of the Comic Wire, with all of the pleasure and none of the guilt:
- Marvel Comics Solicitations for product shipping May, 2001 with covers
- DC Comics solicitations for product shipping May, 2001 with covers
- Harvey Awards committee grows by one