Art Adams has drawn virtually every major character in the American comics industry, from Marvel to DC to even Invincible, Godzilla, and Gumby; but now he’s working on literally his biggest project yet. The West Coast-based artist is working feverishly on the final details for the massive 8-part interlocking cover for Marvel’s current event series Original Sin. Adams, who had been hoping to do a piece this size since he was just a fan, jokes that it’s almost as big and sturdy as a door but says it’s given him room to throw more than a few easter eggs in for eagle-eyed readers.
Adams draws this as one of a select few artists who work almost exclusively on covers, with their work so in-demand – both by publishers and comic collectors – that doing these one-off illustrations is the only way to keep up. Newsarama talked to Adams about the challenge and rewards of doing these Original Sin covers, as well as digging into his own ambitions of what comics he’d like to do if he had the chance – from a team-up book to returning to creator-owned work.
Newsarama: Art, my first question to you is an easy one – what are you working on today?
Art Adams: The connecting cover for Original Sin – at the moment I’m working on the portions that’ll be the covers for #6, #7 and #8.
Nrama: You recently took this incomplete cover to a convention and showed it off for your table. How big is this inter-locking cover, since it’s for eight books?
Adams: Well, it originally started out on one board – the biggest I could find. But due to some issues of my own making, I needed to extend it out; at the moment it’s 44” x 33”.
Nrama: Is this the biggest piece of art you’ve ever done?
Adams: The biggest, on its own. The only other one that comes close is an X-Men poster I did a very long time ago.
Nrama: What do you plan on doing with it once it’s complete and marvel’s printed it? Will it go up for sale?
Adams: I don’t quite know yet. It’s drawn on heavy paper; it’s a real sturdy piece of material. We could make it into a door! [laughs]
Nrama: [laughs] I’ve lost track trying to count all the characters you’ve drawn here – would you say this is the most complex piece you’ve ever done as well?
Adams: When Tom Brevoort asked me to do these connecting coves, I jumped at the chance. It’s something I’ve wanted to do since the beginning of my career in comics. I remember a piece by Ed Hannigan – 12 connecting covers, I believe – on a Who’s Who type thing for Marvel, and I wanted to do something like that ever since.
You mentioned trying to figure out the number of characters; that’s one of the reasons I had to extend the board. The decision was made to add even more characters than I originally had on the layout.
Nrama: With all these characters, did you get to pick out some of your own favorites to fit in or were they all mandated by Marvel?
Adams: There’s a few I snuck in. The ones more towards the center were ones requested by Marvel; the things more toward the outward edges I have some leeway. There’s characters from the Champions on one side, and a favorite moment of mine from the early Defenders on the other side. Some of those characters are also part of the Avengers, so it was easy to justify including them.
Nrama: Breaking it down, what aspect of doing this massive illustration has been the most enjoyable?
Adams: It’s kind of a funny cover because it’s hard to describe it as anything but a mess. [laughs]
Nrama: I wouldn’t say that.
Adams: Well, it’s been a surprise that how well it’s coming out even though it’s a mess. If had been just the panels or just the characters, I think I could have come up with something more elegant; because it’s both the characters and the panels, it’s a bit of a challenge. I still have a little bit to go on it.
Nrama: In this day and age, I imagine some people are surprised that you didn’t do some of this digitally.
Adams: I’m not opposed to other people doing things digitally; the only reason I don’t is because I don’t know how. I’m a control freak, and I haven’t learn to have the control with a computer as I do on the traditional drawing board.
Nrama: Next I wanted to switch gears and talk about your overall go as one of Marvel’s go-to cover artists. You’ve seemingly always had a unique role at Marvel, from Longshot to being the special artist of annuals and one-shots for Marvel’s X-Men, and on through to here. What’s it like now being the one called upon to deliver covers on these high profile books?
Adams: I wish I could be less obsessive about my art and be able do interior art at a faster pace. But as it stands, it makes more sense to just be doing covers. And I really like doing covers; Marvel gives me a variety of characters to work with.
Nrama: Are these some characters you want to draw, or have drawn, that you like more than others?
Adams: I never think about it that way. Because Marvel is asking me to do covers, my main thought is always just to show characters they’re asking for in the best possible light and help Marvel sell comics. That’s pretty much what I see my job as.
Nrama: So no wish list?
Adams: My wish list is basically everything; I like drawing. It’s actually a bit of a challenge for my wife, as one of the things we like to do is sell the original art I produce. She sometimes has to remind me that a drawing of Wolverine would sell more than a drawing of Groot. I love Groot, and I’m perfectly happy to draw Groot.
Nrama: Well hey, give it a month! Like your comics colleague Adam Hughes, I hear you keep quite busy doing commissions for private collectors – some which are never seen by comics fans in a published book. What’s it like in those cases of being hired for a private commission and it not being part of a published project and not being seen by the comics readership at large?
Adams: I hadn’t really thought about it like that. Most of the stuff I do still tend to make it online, as there’s a pretty good community of original art collectors. I don’t think about it not being seen.
Nrama: Your last major work on interior comics was Ultimate Comics: X in 2010 and 2011; since then you’ve done some anthology work, and a segment of All-New X-Men #25 – but do you have your next sequential art project picked out? Is that something you want to do more of?
Adams: I hope to get to some of my creator-owned stuff. But besides that, my secret fantasy as a kid was to draw the old book Marvel Team-Up with Spider-Man teaming up with a different character each book. The closest thing to that these days is something like AvX and A+X.
Nrama: That’s an interesting prospect.
Adams: But that’s unlikely, but it would be good. I’d love to be fast enough to do that. Maybe someday Marvel and I could figure it out.
Nrama: In recent years I’ve seen a new wave of artists inspired by your work like Nick Bradshaw and Mark Brooks, like happened in the mid-90s. As someone who yourself were inspired by Walt Simonson and Michael Golden in your early years, what’s it like seeing your influence in younger artists starting out?
Adams: It’s pretty funny – I don’t see it in them. Maybe I have a blindspot, but I like the works of both Nick Bradshaw and Mark Brooks. That’d you’d say that is pretty awesome for me, as I’m very much a fan of both of those fellows.
It’s also very funny, earlier on, people would say I was influencing people just a year or two younger than me. I was influenced by Michael Golden, Walt Simonson, Barry Smith, Frank Frazetta, Jack Kirby, and others; it’s a long list. I certainly understood it might happen, and it’s pretty awesome that it did.
Nrama: Another thing I wanted to ask you about is your comedic art; you’re best known for your superhero work, but I love the more comedic side you’ve shown in Gumby, those X-Babies shorts awhile back, and elsewhere. Is that something you hope to do more of in the future?
Adams: For me, I like to find a way that has everything. My favorite movies have excitement, adventure, comedy, and everything. Indiana Jones, for instance, has a bunch of things.
You mentioned Gumby, which was a lot of fun. It’d be nice to do more of that someday. I recently did a piece for Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo, and that was a lot of fun.
Nrama: Another under-seen facet of yours I’d like to see more of is Jonni Future, from Alan Moore’s ABC Comics line. Your co-creator on that, Steve Moore, passed away earlier this year. Did you keep in touch with him after Jonni Future ended, and what are your thoughts on his passing?
Adams: We only chatted once or twice. He was in England, and I’m here in California – it’s so far apart that with the time difference it was hard to catch up. Both of the times I chatted with him were pretty brief unfortunately, and both about work. But yes, Jonni Future was a lot of fun. It’s unlikely in the near future, but perhaps foreseeable down the road.