If there is a way to flip through Cover Run: The DC Comics Art of Adam Hughes without a sheepish grin, then I salute you. Artist Adam Hughes' Eisner Award-winning ability to draw impossibly sexy superheroines and villainesses is unparalleled in a genre full of improbably proportioned and outfitted women. Hughes is unabashed in his appreciation of the female form, no matter how curvaceously distorted that form can sometimes appear (see his Power Girl covers). It’s pinup art with the occasional dash of Art Nouveau, and this DC-centric collection gives fans a flushed look at his early work all the way through his latest cover for a Blackest Night tie-in and Wonder Woman #600, which releases next week.
The book is organized in chronological order with full pages devoted to the covers where Hughes provides the most commentary opposite pages where he lays bare preliminary sketches, failed attempts, and alternate takes. Thumbnails of more covers are also included where the runs maybe weren’t of particular note (Valor?) or were too great in number to allow full pages. Looking back at his covers for Justice League America and Legionnaires, I’m reminded of what a capable comics artist Hughes is when he is using more traditional methods. It has a very playful, goofy, expressive vibe to it (with a touch of Kevin Maguire, especially on those JLA covers). I only wish there were also a collection of all his interiors and in this style.
It quickly shifts to perhaps Hughes’ favorite subject: Wonder Woman. His extended stint covering the adventures of the Amazonian Princess made his artwork synonymous with the character, a pairing so natural that it’s maybe second only to George Perez’s run. What’s fun about this collection is that Hughes does not shy from being his own critic. About the striking cover to Wonder Woman #141 (above right), where Diana and Superman share a moment, he admits, “At this stage of the run, I’m still not sure about how to handle the more metallic parts of Diana’s uniform…Adam is slow on many levels.” What gives me pause on this cover isn’t any perceived flaw in her chest-plate or even the star-spangled Underoos. It’s that slight crinkle in Wonder Woman’s eyebrow as she pulls Superman close; a hint of emotion in a character often portrayed as statuesque. When wearing her battle armor, she keeps her guard up, but Hughes gives her room to also let loose with a full range of smiles, from coy to beaming. You can watch Hughes’ artwork evolve in this section along with his Photoshop prowess, growing closer and closer to some sort of unrealistic realism.
But what kind of Adam Hughes collection would this be without the famous Power Girl #1 cover (above left), which Hughes claims is the “best cover I’ve ever produced for DC (or anyone)”? The pencils on the opposite page, however, are what drew me in. Not only are they more relaxed, but Power Girl looks happy and human rather than coolly regarding the reader as she does on the finished cover. I'll take a moment to reiterate how great it would be to see him do interiors, preferably in pencil and ink. His sense of humor comes through not only in the commentary and introduction but especially in these looser sketches.
After getting his walking papers from Wonder Woman, Hughes moved on to yet another iconic run, Catwoman, and his attention to expression is on full display. Selina Kyle howls and gnashes her teeth; she flees the scene with madcap mania; and she looks back longingly at the reader on the cover to her last issue. Yes, she poses and struts, too, but when you’re clad in a mixture of latex and leather, why not? That’s the fun in a book like this: you get to have your cheesecake and eat it too.