The Late Adam Hughes

     It's one o'clock. The day had a promising start. I entered the convention with the first wave at 10:30 and made my way immediately to the artist's alley. The only reason I was there so early was to get a choice spot at Adam Hughes table. I saw the paper place card with his name on it and got in line behind two even earlier fans. Hughes hadn't made it to his table as of yet, but not to worry, it was still early.

      Fifteen minutes passed. A half-hour gone and the later fans that hadn't purchased tickets in advance, which promised the buyer a 30-minute head start, were being let in. By noon, the hall was full, the advance admission by now irrelevant, and no Adam.

      I was still third in line, the two fans in front of me clinging stubbornly to their positions. We eyed each other like three dogs under the dinner table.

Adam Hughes was not yet the comic fan favorite he was to become. Not quite. It was March 1994, and although he had been around for a while, first as the Maze Agency artist, then at DC, as the regular penciler on Justice League America, he was just now breaking out as a cover art specialist. His covers were an eye-catching combination of sexiness and wit. They usually featured a gorgeous woman somewhere in he foreground, but at the same time, there was always a good-natured quality to them that set his covers apart from the sleaze that often shared the comic rack with them.

      By the time two hours had passed, I was simmering. Every passerby seemed to have this smirk that called, "Pitiful, middle-aged fanboy!" in my direction.

      Finally, some two hours and more after the show opened, a somewhat disheveled Adam Hughes sauntered casually to the table. As he unpacked his sketchbooks and drawing materials, he apologetically tagged his tardiness to a cold. He looked up at the first guy in line, got his sketch request and began to draw…

     If you have ever entertained thoughts of being a comic artist, it is a humbling experience to watch Hughes draw. I've spent the better part of my life, and much of my college education, drawing. And if I spent another 100 years with a pencil in my hand, I couldn't draw like Adam Hughes. His sketches are formed fully-grown, like Athena, with a bare minimum of preliminary or unnecessary lines. All muscles are in the correct places, each pose is natural, and almost preternaturally, the PERFECT expression is on every face.

      All the while, as he makes an arm appear here, a head over there, Hughes talks. He is, to say the very least, an animated talker. He waves his arms, he mugs, he plays to the small crowd as his continues with his non-stop banter. Hughes' rumpled look leaves his audience unprepared for his rapid-fire wit and wide-ranging conversation. His subjects swung widely from his acquisition of a new handgun, to a detailed, admiring critique and reenactment of illustrator Drew Struzan's "Raiders of the Lost Ark" movie poster, to a past visit to a local men's club called Cheetah's.

      Don't ask.

      The result of this very entertaining conversation, is that each sketch took Hughes about an hour to do. Very little time was actually spent with pencil on paper, but since most of his sketch is developed first in his mind, that hardly seems necessary. Hughes is one of those unique artists, like Frazetta or Jack Davis, who are visual retentive savants. They only need to see something once and it is cataloged forever.

      He was well into his second sketch, when I felt someone pushing past me to get to him. I was in no mood, so as I turned to confront this line-jumper, he thrust his hand by me as he offered it to Hughes with, "Hi, Adam, I'm Howard Chaykin. You and Golden are the only artists whose work I'll allow in my house." For the first time that day, Hughes was momentarily speechless, before he humbly mumbled thanks to Chaykin, who left as quickly as he appeared.

      Finally, my turn had come. "What'll it be?" At the time of this convention, Hughes was in he midst of a run of covers that would propel him to the forefront of modern cover artists, the "Vampirella" series from Harris. "How about Vampirella?" I replied. Hughes thought for a moment, then began to draw.

      It was nearing 3:00 PM and mine was only his third sketch of the day, so he worked more diligently, more quietly, on this one. I watched with the same amazement I had all day. "Where did you study art?" I asked. "Didn't. Never took a class. I might take a life-drawing class this fall though." I was stunned. "Don't. Don't do anything that could change your style."

About twenty minutes later, Hughes sat back and held up the drawing. "How's that?" I smiled,"Great. Just great!" He looked at it again, a bit longer this time. "You know, I really like this one. I think I'll use this pose again." I nodded and thanked him. Happy that he had produced a wonderful drawing for me, I was also sure that had no intention of revisiting that particular backside view of the lady vampire.

Six months later, "Vengeance of Vampirella" #7 was published.

 No! It couldn't be...    

"Every picture tells a story, don't it?"
                -Rod Stewart

SiSince the debut of this site, we have received a number of emails regarding the dark-haired beauty that used to be featured so prominently on our homepage. It occured to us that this particular piece of artwork had a story behind it. In fact, nearly "every picture HAS a story, don't it?"This series will tell those stories. If you have a piece of art with a tale you would like to share, please contact us.

by Ken Quattro