ISSUE #15: Colors, Shapes & Hughes

My 2-Cents on Unsung Non-Variant/Non-Key Covers

 

Hello, CBSI. Welcome back for another artist-specific edition of Cover Tunes. After a particularly great experience at the newly minted Atlanta Comic Con, this past weekend (more on that in my up-coming Con Recon), I wanted to focus my attention on Adam Hughes who was one of the featured guest artists at the aforementioned Atlanta Comic Con.

My experience with him there is the main reason for my focus on him, here. Not only was he gracious and generous with his time for fans, he churned out some incredible sketches for people (see below for a few he did for a buddy of mine and for me).

An artist of Hughes’ stature could easily turn down low-end sketches and just do a few high-dollar commissions and no one would bat an eyelash. He certainly doesn’t need to do $40 head sketches of a character of one’s choice, that’s for sure. For two sessions of an hour and a half apiece, he does just that, though.

 

 

It is quite refreshing to see someone like Adam throw fans a bone and give them a piece of himself for such a low amount. Many other lesser-known artists refuse to do such work (if you are a regular reader of my various columns, you know to whom I refer). Adam does not exhibit that type of ego or self-absorbed nature. He’s there for the fans and gives them something pretty awesome to take home.

It bugged me to hear that a few folks complained about the simple nature of the quick sketches he was doing. I wanted to scream at them, “What the hell do you expect from Adam Hughes for $40? Arghhhh!” I, for one, was extremely appreciative. It shows that his love for what he does is still very much alive and well. Allison Sohn was also there with Adam and, while she wasn’t coloring at this particular con due to a small working area (sad face), she was equally as gracious and gregarious. It was a genuine pleasure to meet and hang with them both.

To be sure, there is very little I need to do to exonerate Hughes any further than he already has been. To say he is adored would be a gross understatement. To say that virtually every time his hand touches a piece of paper he creates pure gold would be yet another even grosser understatement. Hughes has become one of the juggernauts of our industry and that fame continues to grow with each new cover he publishes.

Hughes has become widely known as the master of modern “good girl” covers, a practice that has been alive and well all the way back to the Golden Age (sometimes now called “cheesecake” in the modern age which is a term I despise). As such, he has put his pen to virtually every hot girl character one can imagine and he does so in a manner that mixes the demure with the sexy.

His understanding of form and movement, though, is what sets his mastery apart from the hacks that just draw sex covers (of which there are a myriad). The comic medium has often been the forum for overly sexified and overtly exaggerated women. While there is clearly an accentuation on such things by Hughes, there is retained a certain class which I believe is the allure to his work over those others.

Adam began working in the late 1980’s on a rather lengthy run of Justice League America (#31-#52) as well as lesser known titles and the work he was producing in those years through the early 90’s is a slightly different animal from what we would expect from him, today.

In 1992/1993 he did some work on Classic X-Men and Vampirella and THIS is where the germination of what Hughes would quickly become known for was taking root. Shortly thereafter, in the early 2000’s, he solidified his fame with incredibly impressive runs on Wonder Woman and Catwoman with a sprinkling of Zatanna and Power Girl mixed in.

Since then, there really has been little looking back for Adam.

Regardless of decade, one aspect of his work that pervades all of his covers, however, is clean and elegant line work. The primary difference between his early stuff and that which he now publishes is mainly the coloring. With modern coloring, Hughes’ work has a new life.

It is nearly impossible to NOT look at.

It is quite simply gorgeous. As a result of his alluring style, though, many of Adam’s most sought after covers are high dollar variants and even many of his best regular covers have gotten up into the stratosphere. There are some, though, that one can sneakily snag under the radar that are amazing values, at the moment.

Here is a brief reminder of Hughes covers I have already featured in past issues of Cover Tunes that I think are still worth going out and grabbing:

 

 

Catwoman #80

 

Fairest #6

 

X-Men Classic #79

 

Voodoo #3

 

With all of that, let’s look at a few unsung and inexpensive covers from Hughes from various stages of his illustrious career along with a few brief remarks on each.

 

1. Classic Star Wars: Return of the Jedi #1 (1994) PUBLISHED: Dark Horse Comics – October, 1994 ARTIST: Adam Hughes

 

EARLY YEARS: WORKINGS OF A MASTER

This one is on the Rtail-end of Adam’s early style, but it is indicative of the transition he was making in-and-around this time. There’s not a ton to say about this cover other than that it has become a classic image among Star Wars fans and it captures the scene it is depicting impeccably well.

The layout is fantastic and the many layers create great depth. As mentioned, the elegant line work really shines, here, as it does on the majority of Adam’s work from 1989-1994. Given that this is a Carrie Fisher cover, it has seen a little rise since her passing, but it is still easily obtainable out of dollar bins and never for more than $5-$10.

 

2. Wonder Woman #154 (1987 2nd Series)
PUBLISHED: DC Comics – March, 2000
ARTIST: Adam Hughes

 

THE EARLY 2000’s: UNBRIDLED FAME

Okay, full disclosure, my favorite Wonder Woman cover is this #154. It is among my favorite Hughes covers of all time, actually, and it is still a HUGE bargain. Like, an enormous bargain… Read as, a gargantuan bargain. As in, WHAT THE WHAT? Why is this such a low-value book?

A year or two ago, one could have still gotten this one easily for less than $10. Now, it’s a tough get below $20, but it IS STILL possible at $8-$12 with shrewd hunting. This one won’t be as easy to snag as others on my lists, but it is well worth the hunt, in my opinion.

It rivals (and is quite similar to) the Legion of Super-Heroes #23 1:10 Supergirl variant and that one, as we all know, is quite possibly THE grail of modern comics. Raws in near mint of that one are impossible to get under $400-$500. Thus, why not this one at a tiny fraction of that?  

Ushering in the 2000’s and, really, cementing in Hughes’s fame is this run of Wonder Woman from 1999-2003 (#139-#197). The entire run is nothing short of breathtaking. I could probably feature almost every cover from it (much like the Catwoman run I mentioned in Cover Tunes #14).

Each one has its merits. Very few have any demerits. A few of them like #184 have gone off into the no-man’s-land of pricing, but this one is still within the bounds of most budgets. It is a prize in my collection and it is poised to explode, eventually.

 

3. Hero Comics “2011” (2009 Series)
PUBLISHED: IDW Publishing – August, 2011
ARTIST: Adam Hughes

 

THE TWENTY-TENS: WHEN THINGS GO POP

Whoa man, this one is just gorgeous and, until recently, totally unknown to me. It definitely doesn’t pop up very often, but when it does it is cheap. So, as we jump ahead a decade, here, we see Hughes in a new way. By this time, the coloring of his covers has been dialed up and it really make things pop… (ahem).

Finally, Adam’s lovely linework gets a chance to really shine in a very modern way inasmuch as sometimes, like in the case of this Hero cover, one is not sure if they’re looking at a photo or a piece of art (see Catwoman #74 for a similar effect). This is the look we have all come to expect and salivate over in the modern era of Hughes covers.

Only 12,688 copies of this were printed which is probably why I was unaware of it until I found one in Atlanta. Again, this is a pretty tiny print run on a gorgeous Hughes. Thus, you may have some challenges finding one, but well worth it when you do.

 

4. Barb Wire #1 (2015 Series)
PUBLISHED: Dark Horse Comics – July, 2015
ARTIST: Adam Hughes

 

THE TWENTY-TEENS: THE TIMES WE LIVE IN

This one is just super-sexy and tough. It is a bit more obscure than many of his other modern-age covers in that title itself had a fairly tiny print run of 17,614 and that number is reduced by 10% since this was a returnable book.

Suffice it to say, there are only about 15,000 of it AND that print run was split between 2 different covers. Ouch! That’s pretty darn rare for a regular Hughes cover. All of the covers in this run of 8 issues are equally as hot (#7 is downright dirty-hot) and all can be gotten relatively cheaply even though the print runs are small.

This one stands apart for me in that it functions like a virgin cover with the trade dress incorporated into the composition. Inasmuch, that trade dress being neon lights adds a unique lighting source from behind Barb which pulls her forward and back-lights her in a really sexy and sort of gritty back-alley kind of way which is perfect for this character. I just love it. Her pose just says, “I’m a badass and I’m hot.” What else could one want from a Hughes cover?

NOTE FOR VARIANT HUNTERS: There was also a BAM variant which was a black and white version without the neon backdrop. I’m not sure if this factors into the 15,000 print run, but it is out there as an alternative if you prefer such things. For me, the color “A” cover, above, is the way to go. Just my 2 cents.

 

5. Tony Stark: Iron Man #3 (2018 Series)
PUBLISHED: Marvel Comics – August 15th, 2018
ARTIST: Adam Hughes

 

THE (NEAR) FUTURE

Make no bones about it, Hughes is on fire, right now. His new Superman #1 cover AND his new Captain America #1 cover are both freaking fantastic, but what is more fantastic (you all know I’m cheesy) is his upcoming Fantastic Four cover which will adorn Tony Stark: Iron Man #3. It is technically a variant, but it is a “B” cover and should be obtainable for cover price on release day and is cover price on the Bay, as we speak.

I had the pleasure of seeing the original art up close and personal in Atlanta, last weekend, and it was mind-blowingly beautiful. I can’t wait for this puppy coming in mid-August. I’d pre-order it now. With the hype surrounding the return of FF and, coupled with that, a Hughes cover adorning it, how can one go wrong? It has great depth in its simplicity.

Every character is rendered extremely well and the uniformity of the color really gives this cover cohesion. I am all about it. I think it is Adam’s best work from the year. (Note: There is no trade dress depicted, here, as final art has not yet been released).

 

***

That about does it for another issue and it was a long one. I hope you stayed with me until the end, here. Before I close, though, I wanted to mention that while speaking with Adam about a variety of topics, he was most excited to be doing interiors, again. He has recently completed work on Man of Steel #5 and has more coming in other titles, this year, which I promised I would not divulge. I am very much looking forward to that.

So, with that, I leave you for another week. Happy hunting and thanks for reading.

 

 

 

 

 

15 comments

  • I started collecting Hughes stuff back in the mid 90s when I first started collecting. The first appearance of Ghost with his signature on it got me started. Books like Voodoo really pulled me in. It’s awesome that you got him to do a series of sketches for you.

  • $40 is a steal for a 1 of a kind sketch from that level of an artist. If you want more than that, you pay more, as with about all artists.

  • CountZeroInterrupt

    My understanding is that he got burned on a convention commission years ago. A guy came in with a long yarn about driving from several states away to get a commission for his young son who was a big fan. AH spent long hours overnight working on the piece (I think it was Wonder Woman). The following week he saw it up on eBay. Since then, the ONLY thing you can get from him at a con is these quick profile sketches. It’s not a matter of what you’d be willing to pay, he just doesn’t do those kinds of commissions anymore. Sucks that some lying profiteer ruined it for the rest of us…

    • He does do them. They just cost more than they used to. The last prices I saw advertised were for the Lake Como Con in Italy. The prices were as follows:
      8×8 $1,800
      6×9 $1,500
      5×8 $1,200

      This is for color. Grayscale was $100-300 less.
      So $40 for a head sketch is a bargain and a half.

      • CountZeroInterrupt

        Yikes! I mean I’d pay it if I had the money. Still, I’ve seen him at several shows state-side and if he offers sketches at all they are like the ones above. I wonder how he decides which shows he’ll offer those at.

    • Mike Morello

      I had heard the unfortunate story. People are so shady. I’m just thrilled to have gotten what he gave me.

    • Same thing happened with Amanda Conner. I would get a free sketch from her every year until some dummy ruined it for everyone.

  • Lebednik

    he does so many great covers. Great article.

  • Great Article! X-Men 600 is also an amazing cover that can be had for under $5!

  • Awesome article. Rarely does he have a dud…all the covers shown are great but to me, the catwoman run is the best of the best. I feel the seductive way he draws women fits selina perfectly. Catwoman is the end all, be all for Hughes work in my book.

  • Another tid bit about that Classic Star Wars #1 is that it is one of the rare covers where you see Slave Leia.

    When Disney acquired Star Wars, one of the 1st things they did was discontinue the use of Slave Leia in any media. They said we would never see the Leia character in her slave bikini in any type of media.

    So with this being the case, that particular comic becomes even more important in my opinion and should be seeing more love!

    What do you guys think?

    • Mike Morello

      I totally agree and it is originally why I purchased my copy. I think that is probably the real reason it has seen a bit of a rise over the past year or so. Carrie’s passing is also a part of it as is the fact that it is a solid Hughes. It definitely has a lot going for it.

  • I’ve always like Hughes. I see where some critics of his art are coming from but I think their criticism is over-wrought often. I also like that Hughes seems to actually like appearing at conventions and shows and seems to usually enjoy his fan interactions. He gets enough work that he technically doesn’t need to do appearances and conventions but I get the feeling he does it because he seems to enjoy which I respect in any artist who has risen to level he has.

  • Couldn’t agree more on the Catwoman 80, WW 154 and the Classic Star Wars covers. I also think Vampirella 2,3 and WW 188 are underrated AH covers too.

  • Mike, I love the attention you gave to Hughes’ artwork. What a pleasure it is to view those covers again. In regards to the Barb Wire cover, you probably saw that the print runs on her following final issues were exceptionally smaller. Comichron lists a print run for #5 at 4698. I picked up extra copies of #6 and #7 just because I expected a lower print run, some of which I am now going to get graded.

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