Late Adam Hughes
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.
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…
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.
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
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."
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
It couldn't be...