Tuesday, August 22, 2017

STGCC 2017: Interview with Arthur Adams (and Ann Nocenti)

Art Adams is coming to town with his comic artist wife, Joyce Chin.

Here is his bio from the STGCC website:

Arthur Adams, a self-taught artist, became a fan favorite when, at the age of 19, he left his job making pizzas for the masses to pencil the critically-acclaimed Longshot limited series, written by Ann Nocenti and published in 1985 by Marvel Comics. He has been in high demand as an artist since.

Adams' highly distinctive and detailed artwork gained him considerable popularity amongst fans and editors, if not his inkers, and he's enjoyed being a cover artist, and the artist and sometime writer for miniseries, specials, and annuals. These days, in order to spare inkers the pain, his work is largely shot directly from pencils or inked by himself, with some exceptions.

In his career, Arthur has worked on many titles, Batman, Superman, Spiderman, X men, Godzilla, Vampirella, Rocketeer, the Authority, Danger Girl, Excalibur, and the Hulk, to name a few. He also launched his creator owned, written, and drawn series Monkeyman and O'Brian in 1993 with Dark Horse Comics "Legend" imprint. He also had a ten-issue run on an anthology series featuring the character Jonnie Future. The eight page Jonnie Future stories appeared in Tom Strong's Terrific Tales (2002–2004). More recently, Arthur has been working on Ultimate X for Marvel Comics with writer Jeph Loeb, and issue one launched in 2010.

Adams has provided cover images for issues of the Justice League of America, Appleseed, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Green Lantern, Hulk, Avengers, X Men, Red Sonja, Superman, Batman, and Vampirella, among other titles. In addition to his work in comic books, he has also produced popular commercial art, such as numerous illustrations for trading cards, posters, shirts, and various other comics-related merchandise. Outside the field of comics, he has also provided illustrations for various magazines, movies, video games, and worked in toy design, packaging art, and even a series of X-Men-themed Campbell Soup cans.

Arthur lives in Northern California in the woods somewhere, like his hero, Bigfoot. When told he should have a "Web" site he went outside and tried to spin his own web. It was funny and sad all at once. We got him back inside and gave him his medicine.

I managed to speak to Art on the phone on a Saturday morning (it was Friday evening in California). The phone was on speaker mode as Art was drawing and answering my questions at the same time. A hard working artist, his quick wit and humourous side came through loud and clear over the phone.

Q: You were an army brat, and you are not the only one in the comic industry eg. Kelly Sue DeConnick and Ed Brubaker also grew up in military bases. What is it with the army and comic books?

A: I didn’t know that about the other army brats in comics. My dad was in the air force and the first two comic books I had was given to me by my father. He came back from a long period of being away and he brought back these two giant comic books, which he didn’t even buy. They were some comics an airman had left behind on the plane. My dad was in charge of keeping the plane clean so that it can be used the next day. So he gave them to me and I love them!

Q: What comics did you get?

A: Giant Superhero Holiday Grab Bag and Marvel Special Edition: The Spectacular Spiderman, both from 1975. These were the treasury editions and the Spiderman one had him versus the Sinister Six and also reprinted the first appearance of the Lizard.
I wish all my comics were like that in that size!



Q: You breakout work was Longshot in 1985. I remember picking up #1 and it was a breath of fresh air with its kinetics and crazy details. In hindsight, did you expect it to be so popular and successful when Ann Nocenti offered it to you? (I can’t believe all the other artists who rejected it…)

A: I was very fortunate when Annie asked me to do draw Longshot. I wanted to draw comics so badly that I would have drawn anything offered to me at that time. So you will never really know how things would have turned out.

Q: Do you get any royalties from Marvel for co-creating the character?

A: Not much, just some.

Q: Some writers have described Longshot as proto-Image with inks by Whilce Portacio and an uncredited Scott Williams, and even helping to popularize cheesecake art in comics in recent times. How do you pled?

A: I have never heard that before (laugh). I was more influenced by Dave Stevens and his Rocketeer. And he was influenced by Bettie Page and all those wonderful artists like Frank Frazetta.

Q: It’s water under the bridge now, but why didn’t you join Image and went with Dark Horse for the Legend imprint instead back in the early 1990s?

A: I thought about doing that, going to Image. But when I had wanted to do my own creator owned book, I was already friends with the artists at Dark Horse. I knew Walt Simonson, Frank Miller, Mike Mignola and John Byrne who were all doing stuff for Dark Horse. So it was a matter of wanting to hang out with people we already knew. And I got along with the Dark Horse people like Mike Richardson.

Q: I bought the Gumby Summer Fun Special #1 published by Comico back in 1987 and it was lots of fun. Are you still a fan of Gumby?

A: Well I’m not a huge Gumby fan. I was a fan of the first Gumby comic writer, Bob Burden (who wrote The Flaming Carrot Comics) and I wanted to work with him. Gumby was silly fun, so I don’t mind a career drawing him. It will be easy to draw.

But I am not sure how much cheesecake art I can put into Gumby.

Q: Why the obsession with monsters and B-movies?

A: I just love these monsters as a child. I just didn’t grow up and they became part of my career. I still like King Kong and Godzilla. The idea of radiation baking a big monster on a jungle island, that appeals to me. Also the good thing when drawing monsters is that even if it’s ugly, no one knows. You make a mistake with the monsters, no one will know. They are monsters.
Yeah I saw the new King Kong film and also the recent American and Japanese Godzilla films. I like them. They are well done.

Q: That old DC-Marvel team-up book, The Uncanny X-Men and The New Teen Titans (1982) drawn by Walt Simonson was described by you as “the bible of how to draw comics”. You have drawn the X-Men many times over. Ever want to work on the Teen Titans? (other than that pinup you did of Starfire)

A: It’s the bible of how to draw a teen superhero comic book. There were so many characters in that book. To draw Teen Titans? Not particularly. That’s because I only like the George Perez-Marv Wolfman period. The team was different by the time I can draw them and you have these other characters that I don’t care about so much. I suppose I’m more of a Marvel kid.

Q: You are known for being slow in drawing. Have you gotten faster over the years?

A: Oh no. I think I’ve gotten even slower. All the details are still there. Even more in fact.

Q: Reading your earlier interviews, your desire and determination to be a comic book artist could be seen at a very early age. (you published your first story at 19) Do you think that is what’s important for someone to break into the comic industry – guts and drive? (other than talent and luck, of course)

A: It’s a combination of factors. I truly wanted to do it, to draw comics. But there were others who really wanted to draw comics, they were not given the opportunity. So I got lucky that I started out on Longshot.

It’s a complicated story but Louise Simonson had just ended her editing career at Marvel and went freelance. She had started editing Longshot while still on staff and Ann and I were worried whether Louise would continue with us. She did, as a freelance editor. Now, we were worried how fast I could draw to complete the series. If a fulltime editor had been handling the book, there might be more pressure on me to complete it faster and it might not have come out the same or turned out as well as it should. So who knows, that might be my last book for Marvel. Luckily because of Louise being a freelance editor, that gave me time to learn. During the two years it took me to draw Longshot, I also spoke to other artists and I learned a lot of stuff.

Q: There are quite a few comic professional couples working in the industry today. What are the pros and cons of being married to a fellow professional?

A: We both understand each other when we have deadlines. Joyce is better at it, she draws faster. Those who are not couples in the industry, they may not be as understanding as much, so there could some problems.

The bad thing is that neither of us are good housekeepers (laugh). The house is a disaster, a mess!

Q: What do you look forward to in Singapore? What food you and Joyce are dying to try?

A: Chicken rice! I like all kinds of food. I heard there are good and fresh seafood in Singapore so we are pretty excited. When I was dating Joyce, her mom didn’t like me. She was not thrilled her daughter was dating a white boy. So she tested me by getting me to try new food. I met the challenge. Even chicken feet.

We welcome Art and Joyce to the food paradise that is Singapore.
(Thanks to Joyce Chin for helping to arrange for the interview)

x x x

A Chat with Ann Nocenti

To make things more complete (and I’m a big Longshot fan), I reached out to Ann Nocenti to tap her memories of the early 1980s…

Ann is the famed writer and editor at Marvel who co-created Longshot with Art. She also wrote X-Men, the New Mutants and Daredevil, creating the explosive Typhoid Mary with John Romita Jr. She took a break from writing and editing comics and went into journalism. And now she is back creating a new series for Karen Berger’s new line of comics with Dark Horse. Art by David Aja. We are looking forward to that.

Q: I read that Longshot was a result of your readings and studies of existentialism and media theories. Looking back, would you have done Longshot differently?

A: I have certainly matured as a writer... When I look back at that comic, I think it was too complicated perhaps, too much story, too many characters-- but maybe that is also what made it fun-- the over-the-top zaniness of both the writing and the art. Arthur and I were both young, enthusiastic, thrilled to be making a comic, and I think that enthusiasm from both of us is there in the pages.

Q: Did you expect the character to have such longevity?

A: Not really, but I think it was Arthur's artwork that gave it longevity -- fans were amazed at the power and detail of his work, and he influenced many artists to come.

Q: Do you still follow the comics featuring Longshot, Mojo and Spiral? (and Typhoid Mary for that matter)

A: I don't follow the comics. I am usually overwhelmed with other things I need to read for various projects. I am just happy to know they are all still leading fun (or villainous) lives!

Q: Your run of Daredevil explores various societal issues. Typhoid Mary is particularly memorable. What is the impetus of creating and writing the character?

A: My run on Daredevil was influenced by living in New York City -- many of the stories came from things I experienced on the streets. Typhoid was one of the few elements that came from another place -- I think maybe frustration with how women were portrayed in comics, and she was a kind of satire on that -- she was all the female stereotypes in one crazy bundle. Also, Johnny Romita Jr. and I wanted to create a villain that could attack both Daredevil and Matt Murdock.

Q: You went into journalism and filmmaking in the 1990s. Why the departure from comics?

A: I've always been a restless type, and my stories, especially in Daredevil, had some journalistic aspects to them. So I think I was headed into pure journalism and documentary filmmaking all along.

Q: You have returned to comics in recent years. What brought that about and how has the comic industry changed from your point of view?

A: More women in comics! That is the best and most welcome change.

Q: The new project with Karen Berger is exciting news. Can you tell us more about that, the new series that you are writing? (The Seeds drawn by David Aja)

A: Well, every panel is a spoiler in that comic, so it is difficult to talk about without ruining the mystery, but it is an eco-thriller, in the not too distant future.




We should get Ann to Singapore one day.

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