STGCC 2015: Adam Hughes interview

As published in Issue #69 of F*** Magazine

Text:
THE AH! FACTOR
F*** talks to pinup artist extraordinaire Adam Hughes at STGCC

By Jedd Jong



Comic book fans everywhere know those familiar initials all too well – “AH!” Adam Hughes is in town for the annual Singapore Toy, Games and Comics Convention (STGCC), appearing as a special guest in Singapore for the very first time. Hughes is accompanied by his wife and manager Allison Sohn, also an illustrator.

Hailing from New Jersey, Hughes is a prolific comic book artist who has built a reputation for drawing some of the most drop-dead gorgeous women in all of comics. His work harks back to the golden age of pin-up art with its playful sexiness, while also coming across as lifelike, cinematic and vibrant.

Over the course of his storied career, Hughes has drawn for the likes of DC, Marvel, Dark Horse and Wildstorm, in addition to adult publications such as Playboy and Penthouse. His career highlights include prominent cover artist runs on Catwoman, Wonder Woman and Tomb Raider. Sideshow Collectibles has produced a series of statues based on Hughes’ designs and his original art is highly sought after in the comic art collecting community, running for a pretty penny.

While he initially seemed a little intense and wasn’t prone to smiling a lot, Hughes is engaging, enthusiastic and humorous during the interview, giving witty, well thought-out answers to our questions. Sitting down with F*** at STGCC, Hughes shares his thoughts on the evolution of the pinup, reveals his favourite female and male comic book characters, speaks about the successful partnership he has with his wife and provides insight into the unexpected challenges of being a career artist. He also recounts his fascinating brush with Hollywood in the form of working on the teaser poster for Joss Whedon’s ill-fated Wonder Woman movie.

How has the art of the pinup evolved from the days of Gil Elvgren and Alberto Vargas to today?

As far as a first question goes, pretty tough [laughs]. It’s changed because of the perception of women in society. With very few exceptions, all the great pinup artists were men, there were only a few women doing it, and they were depicting idealised versions of women. As time has gone on, women aren’t meant to just be attractive or just be the mother to your children, they’re their own people; they have their own place in society and can do anything they want. The pinup has changed to reflect women’s power, as far it’s not just them in cute situations. It’s not just them going “oh, a puppy is pulling down my bikini bottoms, ooh!”
That’s one of the things that interests me and challenges me as a pinup artist: I’m hired to draw strong, powerful women and I want to make them look attractive. Nobody ever talks about the fact that when I draw Superman or Captain America, I want to make them look attractive too. My main job is to portray a character and I don’t do as much pure “cheesecake pinup” as I used to, but I still try to inject an element of humour and good-natured sexuality of the pinup into the stuff that I do. I do think the way that it has changed is that it’s trying to be a little more…I don’t know if ‘respectful’ is the right word, but aware.
You’re not just drawing a thing that’s to be looked at, you’re drawing a person, definitely more nuanced, but also more aware that you’re drawing a character, you’re not just drawing something that’s meant to be looked at and appreciated for its beauty. When I draw Catwoman or Wonder Woman or any character, I go “what’s this character thinking? What’s this character feeling at the moment?” not just “how small is this character’s costume today?” It sounds like a strange dichotomy, but it’s the way I work.
You were once named “the greatest cheesecake artist” and in response, you said that instead of “embracing” the title, you were giving it a “warm handshake”. You do more cover art than interior work; would you call yourself a frustrated storyteller?

I’m not an especially frustrated storyteller, I’m only frustrated with the fact that I don’t get to tell stories as much as I want. That’s not because people don’t offer me comics to draw, it’s because I’m so slow. I would love to be one of those people that’s just so prolific and works on everything, I would love to tell a million stories, maybe I’ve only got 20 stories, I’ve only got enough time to tell 20. That’s the part that frustrates me. As far as telling stories in single images, I don’t have a problem with that because I’m allowed to, I’m allowed to use a cover to tell a story instead of just portraying a character in a pretty way.
What’s your opinion on diversity in comics today?

There’s not enough of it. However, I don’t feel that the correct solution is a hammer. When there’s a problem in the world, whether it’s in something as silly as comics or in the real world, the workplace, in education or something like that, a lot of times people tend to go way overboard in their response to it, as opposed to a measured response and an incisive response [that] will actually get the most results. There are two responses to any great social issue: ‘I’m going to sleep through it’ or ‘let’s have a revolution!’ Maybe there’s a response somewhere in between apathy and anarchy, where you can go ‘let’s try to make this better’.
I would love more diversity across the board in all media, but I’m not a fan of ‘artificial diversity’, where you go “let’s just make this more diverse for diversity’s sake.” I believe in everything, whether it’s diversity or characters, locations, storytelling, any aspect of a creative endeavour, I think that it should always be organic, it should always come from “what am I trying to say with this story?” If you’re trying to tell a story and for some strange reason, a character has to be a white guy, then he needs to be a white guy. You should only change it to some other thing if making the character, say, a female Asian, actually makes the story better. You shouldn’t be doing it because “we don’t have enough female Asians in comics,” but because you’re saying “this story would be good if it were a white guy, but it would be amazing if it were a female Asian” or something like that. That’s what I think about diversity.
Unfortunately, today is such a reactionary era that I just realised, while I’m talking to you, that I could get into a lot of trouble and I’m just going to have to take that if it comes my way. I just want it to be for the betterment of story, not to fulfil an agenda. Hopefully we get to a point where people stop looking at, say, the cast photo of a new Star Wars film and counting the white people and black people, counting the men and counting the women, [and instead] see how it plays out.
What issues have you encountered in finding a balance in depictions of comic book women such that they are alluring and sensual while also empowering and dignified?

I haven’t encountered any issues until lately. It’s just a subjective thing – what offends one person is somebody else’s idea of pure art. That spectrum used to be much broader. Nowadays it’s a little rigid – there are people out there, especially in the west, who are getting upset at the way I’ve done business for 20-30 years. It’s like “I haven’t changed, was what I’m doing wrong 20 years ago or is your perception of what’s right and wrong, has it changed?” Sometimes the sheer aspect of depicting someone in a glamorous manner is offensive and everyone should look like regular folk to them. Gosh, I wouldn’t have a job if that were true! For the time being, I’m still safe, but I still lock my doors at night.
Your most popular pieces feature the characters in a more light-hearted context, since many pinups tend to be more playful. What are your views on the “battle” of lighter and happier vs. darker and grittier portrayals of characters?

I think it’s a silly battle. I think it’s not an important battle. I think everything that’s meant to be fun should be fun; I don’t like it when light-hearted characters are made dark just for the sake of shock value. I think there’s an important aspect to the darker side of things as well. I think it’s a non-issue, not a real battle.
How do you overcome artist’s block?

I spend most of my time scratching my chin and looking at the blank sheet of paper than I do actually drawing. It’s either video games, I will sit there and go “I’m gonna go kill somebody digitally and I’m gonna pretend they’re artist’s block”. Either that or I vacuum. I know a lot of artists who go “I’m not getting anything productive done at the drawing table, I’m going to get something productive done elsewhere” – that way, at the end of the day when you didn’t get a darn thing drawn, you still feel like you were a useful part of society because my floors are spotless.
What is the nature of your creative and business partnership with your wife?

Extremely productive. We’re lucky, we both have a lot of the same interests [and] we both like a lot of different things and bring new stuff to each other. My work enables to her to have the freedom to pursue her art; her work enables me to have the freedom to just focus on my artwork. We just celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary and we’ve been together for just over 13 years – longest relationship for either one of us. We would walk if it wasn’t working, we’re tired of abuse [laughs]. It’s a great relationship, we get a lot more done, it’s much more enriched. If we were on our own, we’d be surviving, we’d be doing okay, but because we’re together, we thrive.
You’ve drawn some of comic’s most beautiful ladies and did a pinup for Fairest from Fables. Who do you think is the fairest of them all?

I would say Catwoman. If I were drawing all the characters at the same time, I would make sure Selina is the prettiest.
What makes Catwoman one of the characters you’re fondest of?

I love damaged goods. I think the reason why people like the Batman universe so much is everybody in the Batman universe is damaged goods. I’ve always said that everybody in Gotham City is awful and the only reason why Batman is the hero is because he’s the least awful person in Gotham. Selina Kyle should have it easy. She’s beautiful, she’s smart and she’s talented, and yet, there’s something inside her that drives her towards a life of crime and she wouldn’t turn away from it. It’s not just thrills, there’s something bent and broken in her, just as it is with Batman and the Joker and probably even Alfred. If you’ve ever watched Downton Abbey, 100 people have to take care of that house and Alfred is the one guy who has to dust, clean, make the food, clean the sheets and patch up the owner every night he comes home shot. I’d be miserable too. I think that’s why.
Which is your favourite live-action portrayal of Catwoman be it in movies or TV shows?

Oh, in Dark Knight Rises. About 20 minutes into Dark Knight Rises I went “Okay, I don’t care if Batman doesn’t show up, can we just have two hours of Anne Hathaway doing cool stuff?” because it was way better than any of the Batman stuff.
Who is your favourite male superhero?

My favourite male superhero is Captain America. I love Captain America. Last year I drew my first Captain America cover ever and I was nine years old while I was drawing it.
He’s very different from “damaged goods”.

Yeah. Nobody likes a perfect character, it’s finding the character flaws and finding how the character overcomes those flaws. Those character flaws are the same as the obstacles in their careers. It’s like for Captain America, one of his obstacles is the Red Skull and the Legion of Hydra. One of his other obstacles is he doesn’t really fit in – I love him and I would kill to do a World War II Captain America story but I love the idea of a guy who isn’t where he belongs anymore and there’s no going home.
As you get older, all of us are separated from where we were born, not just by distance, but also by time. If you go back to the school you went to, the town or village you’re from, it’s changed and you go “wow, that’s not the way I remember it.” When Cap first came back in 1964, World War II had only been over for 19 years – the only thing different was “well, the Beatles have long hair”. Everybody he knew was probably still alive and I love the fact that as more time goes by, he’s 70 years out of time and soon he’ll be 100 years out of time. He’s becoming Buck Rogers. I find the tragedy of that very appealing.
What is the hardest part of being in the comic book industry?

The hardest part – this is going to sound vague and slightly Zen – it’s all the stuff nobody prepared you for. When you turn your hobby into your job, there’s that initial “oh crap, I have to draw even when I don’t want to draw?” When we’re kids and we’re all doing our favourite creative things, whenever we want, we all wish there was no school so we could do our favourite creative thing every day. The minute someone tells you to do it and says “you have to have all this done by Friday”, it can really become a chore. “Wow, my hobby’s no longer as fun as it used to be.” When you’re a kid and you want to grow up and draw comics, it’s just like “I’m going to sit around all day in my underwear and watch cartoons and draw comics and it’s gonna be great” – [but] there’s a whole brochure of stuff that nobody tells you.
I always think back to nine or ten-year-old me, if I time-travelled and went back, what I would tell him – one, it would be lay off the pizza. Two, I would say “in the future, the same guy who plays Judge Dredd plays Dr. McCoy, and it’s awesome, everybody’s happy” and three, I would sit him down and go “here’s all the stuff you’re not going to be ready for when you break into the business.” The expectations put on you, weird things – this is going to sound like I’m complaining that my diamond shoes are too tight, but career management – nobody teaches you how to manage a career.
I look at genuinely famous people, like politicians or athletes or actors and actresses and I go “your life is no longer your own” and you hope that there’s somebody somewhere that says “here’s what happens the first time somebody takes your autograph and sells it on eBay, here’s what to do the first time somebody stalks you.”
Comics fame is really dubious, but there are issues. We will get stuff mailed to our house, with a letter from somebody saying “oh my god, I love your work, could you please sign this comic that I sent you” to send it back using some self-addressed stamped envelope. The first thing my wife and I do is go “how did they get our address?! Close the blinds and lock all the windows!” It’s weird stuff like that. We worry sometimes, what if some crazy fan who didn’t get a sketch gets upset and decides to do something about it? Gosh, it could happen anywhere!
Nobody tells you when you’re a kid “by the way, you’re going to have to pay your own taxes.” In America, you’re responsible for paying your own taxes, it’s what self-employed artists do. It took me the better part of 18 years to get my tax problems sorted out because I made so many mistakes early on. So much stuff; that’s the hardest part.  
What are your thoughts on old school (pen and paper or watercolours) and new school (programs like Illustrator and Photoshop)

I’ve got my feet in both worlds, because I draw on paper and then I scan it and colour it in the computer. I don’t care, to me, all that matters is the final product. If your best tool is digital, then do it. These purists say “it’s not really painting unless you’re using oil paints” and it’s like “well, for you, but for this other person over here, they sing with a stylus and Cintiq tablet.”
If you make art and you only use ketchup and mustard and you only make these glorious Iron Man paintings by just squirting condiments onto a board because that’s how you’re most comfortable, then do it. I used to try and paint for real all the time, and it never works. Very frustrating. The minute I started colouring digitally, everything gelled into place, because I think that art medium, they should be like your shoes and your car and the chair you sit in. They should be so comfortable, you’re not thinking about it. Imagine walking somewhere and thinking about your shoes every step of the way – you wouldn’t get where you’re going because you’d be going “oh, the left one’s a little tight, the right one’s squeaking” – you wouldn’t think about where you’re going.
As an artist, if you’re thinking about your tools while you’re working, you’re not spending time being creative. You’re thinking about the mechanics of drawing, which you should have worked out already. That’s why every artist should just draw all the time; to get to the point where your pencil or your stylus or your paintbrush is an extension of your hand and you’re not thinking “oh, this paper’s fighting me today” or “I don’t like this pencil” – you’re just sitting there and going “Batman is sad! He needs rain, rain will make him seem sadder.”
That’s why I don’t care about the medium at all. When I see a beautiful piece of artwork, I never seem to ask what the medium is anymore. I used to be concerned about that; now I just go “that is a beautiful, wonderful piece of art that tells a story.” Don’t care where it came from. Unless it’s like “oh my god, I need to steal that, let me find out how that person drew those clouds.”
What was it like working on the Wonder Woman poster for the Joss Whedon film that didn’t pan out back in 2005?



When Joss Whedon was making the Wonder Woman movie, I got a call from DC saying “you’re going to get a call from Joel Silver”, who was the producer of the Matrix films, the Lethal Weapon films. He was in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, he was the crazy director at the beginning and I was like “him, he’s calling my house?” So he called, and the character he played at the beginning of Roger Rabbit was way more normal than how he is in real life. I said to my wife, we were just dating at the time, “this guy’s a cartoon!” He then said “hold on, hold on, I’ve got Joss Whedon on the other line.” So, all of a sudden, I’m in a conference call with the producer of The Matrix and Joss Whedon, and I’m going “this is the weirdest day ever.”
I only had a weekend to work on it, I only had two days. They had no costume design, and I knew this film was not going to get made because they were both telling me what to draw and it was all different. Joel Silver’s going “make sure she’s buff, make sure she’s really strong!” and Joss Whedon’s saying “but not too buff!” I felt like a divorce attorney. When they announced that it didn’t go through [it made sense]. It was fun, I wish I could’ve drawn more of Wonder Woman, but there was no costume, there was no actress, and if I had an extra day or so, I could have made it something real special, but now it’s just “hey, I worked in Hollywood for eight seconds! Yay me!”

STGCC 2015 Day 2: Mega Picture Post

And here we go with Day 2! Let’s roll. 

The family that Star Wars-es together stays together

Yub nub!

Elektra

Black Bolt

Felicity, complete with Windows 8 Surface!

Selfie with CW!Ollie’s main squeeze

Darth Revan

Sabermarch’s wares

Dear Mistah J!

“Yub nub!” “Utinni!” 

Black Cat-scratch fever!

You will notice a running theme with Harleys and lil Mistah J.

“Hello Zepp”

Hot Toys’ Millennium Falcon interior diorama

Vacationpool!

Joking Snake – Batman and Metal Gear Solid mash-up!

Lil Ms. Marvel and Lil Hulk! D’aww.

Pitted as many Jokers against as many Red Hoods as I could

“All this fighting, it’s senseless”

Younglings in training at Fightsaber’s workshop

M. Bison says “YASS!!”

Actual levitation!

Attempt at a vaguely arty shot

“Girl I work out”

Bewitched, Bebladed and Bewildered 

Who watches the Watch_dogs? 

Mind-blowing Bumblebee.

Rul as Jason – destiny

“Now fight!”

Maro, who makes a most adorable Babs. 
Skyline Sirens 
“My name is Max. My world is fire and blood.”

Ready to believe you, Egon!

“MOM! DAD! UNCLE BEN!” 
In anticipation of the all-female Ghostbusters movie

Beardbusters!

Shaun’s really rad Arkham Knight 

Felicity being wistful

Kylo Ren, the mysterious villain of the upcoming Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

Neptys Ennoae as Wasp with Gwen as Ant-Man!

WASP AND BUMBLEBEE. This gave me so much satisfaction.

It’s not a comic con unless there’s at least one Slave Leia

M. Bison has his sights set on time travel – beware!

Doof Doof Doof! 
Ahh Jim Cheung’s smile. *Melts*

Ants at a picnic

More Ame-Comi Wondy action!

Old-school enthusiasm!

Conner!

Hi again Stella

Shaun the Jurassic Park ranger with Bessie the Dilophosaurus! Good girl Bessie! 

The Hooded Photobomber

“BLOOD BAG!”

Drag!Wonder Woman!

Slade has destructive designs on the Bat *flicks*

Epic showdown! Onlookers are most amused.

Back to back badasses

Bullets and bracelets!

The family that Avenges together…

Hey Sally!

Jaye as a Portal Turret, with her Companion Cube of Holding

Elevenapalooza!

Princess Kory in the house

Shiny shiny Ollie

Yes yes, I don’t know who these characters are and took the photo because Theresa and friend are attractive.

See son? That’s a professional. I have no idea what I’m doing.

Kai with Red Hood Beyond!

You wot m8?

Re:Spawn

Whovian selfie

11 photobomb 
“Come along Po…I mean Clara”

Everybody wants Clara!

Clara doesn’t know what to make of the Attack Eyebrows 

Adam Hughes, comics pinup artist extraordinaire

Orkabat Cos and Judith as Bishoujo Psylocke and Ms. Marvel respectively

I blurted out “look, a Dick!” without thinking. Way to go Jedd. 
SHAZAM!

Team Arrow and a Feline Photobomber

Theodora as Selina and Lil Bruce
Selina and her mini-me

What evil lurks in the hearts of men? 

Selfie with Aunty Shirley, everyone’s favourite neighbourhood cosplaying Aunty! 

Scarlet Witch

V8!

“Bruce why?”

Nothing to fear but fear itself

Frasier as Peggy Carter and Jenny as Skinny Steve

Selfie with my Batfam friends Sarah, Kie and YQ!

Dead Jason party – bring your own crowbar 
“I am a failure lol”

“Dick you’re irreplaceable!” – Bruce circa 1942 or thereabouts 

All will cower in fear of Darth Cass! 

Go away Wade.

“Drive me like one of your Italian cars”

Clara and the Stig – it’s a veritable BBC party in here!

Twinsies! 
“Dad Dad DAAAD Dad Daadddd” “Arrgh kids!”

Missy’s cookies tempt the Doctor

People mountain; people sea

Catwoman, Harley and Lil Bruce!

The thorn among the roses

KA as Spider-Woman 

YQ giving the Kotobukiya statue pose a go

Invinc is very pleased with the shuffling trick – exactly why it’s silly doesn’t show up in stills, you had to be there.
“You’ve been struck by a smooth criminal mon ami”

Very esoteric.

Ellie!

Pirates have shoulder parrots, Catwoman has shoulder kitteh.

WITNESS IMMORTAN JOE!

Batman and Gotham City at Takashimaya

Pretty much the final event of the year commemorating Batman’s 75th anniversary in Singapore took place at Ngee Ann City Takashimaya Shopping Centre. Presented by Pacific Licensing, there were mall appearances by Batman and Catwoman, a life-sized replica of the 1989 Batmobile on display and a cosplay competition organised by Movie Mania. This was a whole bunch of fun. The Batmobile is on display until 13 Dec so head on down and catch it before then!

Fellow blogger Tina Gan aka Red Dot Diva

The judges for the contest: Bernard Ang from GnB Comics, Reno Tan from Movie Mania and Wallace Tay from Pacific Licensing Studios

Yay, there was a Steph! This cosplayer came all the way from Hong Kong.

Shaun cutting a badass figure as Red Hood

Om nom nom!

Third place winner

Second place winner

First place winner

Batgirls love the Keaton.

STGCC 2014: Cameron Stewart Interview

STGCC 2014: CAMERON STEWART INTERVIEW
By Jedd Jong 9/9/14

As the new co-writer and artist on Batgirl, Cameron Stewart is currently the toast of DC. The redesign of Batgirl’s costume that he and Babs Tarr created has gained a massive fan following, as evident by the mountains of fan art and cosplay of the new look seen on various social media platforms. In Singapore for the Singapore Toy, Games and Comics Convention, Stewart discusses Batgirl and the upcoming Fight Club sequel comic, for which he is doing the interior art.

Do you feel the pressure of taking over the Batgirlbook from fan-favourite Gail Simone and did you speak to her after getting the job?

I did actually, I spoke to her shortly after I was offered the job, kind of reaching out and getting her blessing, it was kind of the incoming writer paying respect to the outgoing writer. I didn’t really ask her too many questions about the book itself but I just wanted to make sure it was a smooth transition, a nice handover and Gail was very nice and very complimentary. We have great respect for her and the contributions that she’s made to the character and we’re doing our best to…even though we’re often going to be doing our own thing that’s actually going to be quite, quite different than what she was doing, we still want to respect what she’s done, so we’re sort of moving on and building on top of what she’s done, taking it in a different direction.

Whenever a character that’s been around for a while gets re-designed, there are bound to be readers who aren’t onboard. How do you go about redesigning an iconic character like Batgirl?

For me it was just about looking back over the history of the character. Batgirl’s been around for almost 50 years, she was invented for the television show in the 60s and she’s had different incarnations and so for me, it was about getting to the heart of what was iconic for that character, I think that even now in 2014, Yvonne Craig is still the iconic vision of Batgirl that we have so it was really going back to that and realizing that there’s a reason why that’s the iconic version and why that’s had endurance. So it was a matter of going back to that, picking out what I like about that costume and sort of coming at it from the approach of “if this character was being created in 2014 for the first time, how do I take the elements that are so successful in this iconic version to update it and contemporize it and make it modern?”

Tell us more about the re-designed Batgirl costume.
I was offered the book, DC contacted and asked if I would be interested in taking over Batgirl as writer and as artist. They wanted to offer me the whole thing to do, just on my own. My very first question to them was “can I redesign the costume?” Me taking on the job was conditional on them, me getting to redraw the costume. Because the New 52 armoured thing…it’s not me, it’s not my taste, I didn’t really want to draw that. There’s nothing really wrong with it, it’s just not me. I was like “I’d like to draw something that’s more to my taste” and suited the vision I had for what I wanted to do with the story. I didn’t exactly know what I wanted to do with the story yet but I knew what I wanted the tone to be. The tone was definitely going to be something that was light and fun, upbeat and positive because everything prior to that had been very dark and grim, violent and in the rain.

Death of the Family

Yeah, exactly, that’s not me either. Particularly for something like Batgirl, I wanted it to be positive and happy. So the costume has to reflect that and so I thought that that black-and-gold armour-plated thing wasn’t the right look for it. And I wanted to make something that was convincing for a 21-year-old girl to make herself. It’s something that I felt like a 21-year-old girl would actually want to wear. So I went to a bunch of fashion blogs, going through [them] and looking for those elements that related to the Batgirl costume but were reflected in contemporary fashion. So I was able to go and find things like…I wanted to use a slim leather jacket, leggings and Doc Martens already made yellow boots, that was a thing that already existed and that was perfect, that was like “yes! There’s no way that I can’t use that.”

How did all the clasps come about?

I was looking for just kind of a different spin on the costume and to my knowledge, I don’t think anyone’s ever done snaps and I like the idea. As I was saying, in the story, she kind of loses everything in a fire and she has to start over. She moves to this new part of town that’s like the hip, trendy area of Gotham and she’s building the costume herself out of necessity, so I wanted things that were real-world. So I was noticing on the jackets like snaps, I just thought it would be a fun idea to have the cape just be something that she could put on and take it off immediately and almost be able to wear the jacket on its own without the cape on. It was a thing that I just had as a fun idea and it turns out that it’s one of the things that people really responded to, everyone loves that idea.

So once I had my first pass at the costume, then it became clear that because I’m also working on Fight Club too, that I didn’t have the time to do Batgirl entirely on my own. We started looking for another artist that I wanted to work with and I’d still sort of be the “showrunner” if you like, the person in control of everything without necessarily doing it all on my own. So I took the design that I’d done and once we settled on Babs Tarr as the artist, I gave her that design and I said “this is what I’m thinking of for the costume. What do you think of this?” and she was like “this is great – but – how about we do this?” and she took a second pass  at it and she kept it pretty much as I had it but she added all of these extra design elements to it. It was her that put the snaps on the gloves to mirror the ones on the shoulders and she added the seams on the jacket and the things around the collar, I had just a straight zipper but she added like a little belt around the collar with a snap there and the detailing on the belt, all of these things that I don’t necessarily know if I would have thought of by myself. Because she’s a woman and she knows better than I would what a woman would wear, she was able to kind of add these little details, these little touches of flair that really make it. Her contribution to the design is invaluable, I don’t think it would’ve been as good if she didn’t put in her own thing.

There’s an element that she could pull off the cape, turn the jacket inside-out and just wear it on the street…

Exactly, yeah. We run a tumblr site that’s got a lot of fanart and cosplay pictures and one of the things that we see is people posting fashion tips, like outfits that are inspired by the costume. Not cosplay, but it’s kind of like clothes that are inspired by that outfit and we kind of like that idea that it doesn’t necessarily have to be superheroic, that it can be something that’s just fashion that people could wear in a real-world setting.

There have been many fans speaking out about representation and diversity in comics and you have engaged in these discussions on social media platforms.

I have, yeah.

Is it easier for readers of both genders to accept men writing female characters?

Well you know…this is the thing that I really was concerned about when I was offered the book because Gail is extremely popular among women, she’s a very popular writer among women, she’s a very outspoken feminist voice and that is really necessary. When they offered it to me, I was very conscious of that. It was like I’m taking the book away…I’m going to be the guy who’s taking over the book that I wanted to aim at women, and what makes me qualified to do this? When it came time for me to find other people to work with, especially artists, it was absolutely vital for me that I worked with a woman so I was only looking at female artists to work with and I think that that’s kind of interesting because even though it’s myself and my partner Brendan writing it, we’re coming with the story and I’m doing the layout drawings but still, with Babs’ artwork and Jordie Bellaire on colours, our story is being filtered and ultimately presented for women, which I think is really a great thing and essential for this book.

As for the question of men writing female characters and vice versa, I think it’s valuable that men learn how to write women in comics and so while I am a man writing a book than I am intending for a female audience, I am fortunate that I’m very surrounded by a lot of amazing women in my life: I have my girlfriend, tons of smart women and I use all of them as a sounding board. So I’m giving them scripts, asking for advice and they’ve helped already, they’ve pointed out things and they go “don’t do this, this is not the way that woman would act” or “this is not a positive thing to say for a woman” and it’s made me very conscious of those things so I think it’s…I don’t necessarily feel that only women should write women or people of a certain ethnicity should only write characters of a certain ethnicity. Those groups are absolutely necessary and need to be in comics and I hope that there’s more and more opportunities for women and people of other ethnic groups to be part of the industry but I also think that it’s valuable that a white man such as myself is able to empathise and understand from another perspective. That helps me personally, not just as a writer, it’s better for me as a person to be able to step into that position and learn how to write this stuff.

Fight Club is in part a critique of consumerism and yet consumerism is very much a part of geek culture, so how do you reconcile that?

I don’t know, I don’t think that…are you talking about the Fight Club comic? I don’t know if that’s going to be like a comic book for collectors in a way that other comic books are. We’ve talked about doing variant covers and things like that so maybe it will be that way. With that project in particular, I’m trying not to think of anything like that. I’m only trying to execute Chuck’s vision for it and anything that happens after that…Fight Club has a history of being misinterpreted by its audience. There are a great number of people who are fans of Fight Club who think that Tyler Durden is the good guy and that’s totally wrong. You can never really know how an audience is going to interpret the work and whether they’re going to embrace it and whether they’ll respond to it in a way that’s “correct” or “incorrect” or whatever. We can only do what we want with it and hope that the message gets through. If it’s an anti-consumerist thing and people are buying ten copies to collect and share and trade and whatever I mean I don’t know, I don’t know what you can do about that.

What was your impression of Fight Club after seeing the film and what attracted you to the comic book sequel?

I saw the film first, like most people I think, and I loved it. I saw it in ’99 when it was released and was absolutely blown away by it. I saw in the credits or read in a magazine article that it was based on a novel and I went and bought the novel right away. I read the book and I loved the book as well. So that just set me on the path of being a Chuck Palahniuk fan. I kept up with his writing over the last 15 years. I haven’t read everything he’s written, but I’ve read probably about 80% of what he’s written, and so I’ve just been a really big fan of his and when Fight Club 2 was announced as a comic, I was interested. I didn’t even think that I would anything to do with it but I thought “that looks interesting.” Not ever would I have expected to hear it as an actual thing. I thought it would be interesting then I found out that it was going to be published by Dark Horse, or might have been published by Dark Horse, it wasn’t definite yet and I have a history with Dark Horse and so I started actively pursuing it and saying “I think I really want to do this book. I think it would be a really interesting thing, I’m a huge Palahniuk fan,” and I think too that it wasn’t like…you see this happen a lot where it’s like [on the cover of the book] “Stephen King”, but it won’t be Stephen King, it would be Stephen King and there would be another writer under it that Stephen King maybe had one conversation with and the writer went to write it. I wasn’t interested in doing that. When I found out that this was Chuck Palahniuk writing the book himself and that it would be me and Chuck, only, that’s what really excited me about it.

I thought that because Fight Club is such a huge pop cultural phenomenon, such a huge part of pop culture, that I just wanted to be a part of it you know, I thought this would be an amazing thing to have in my résumé, something I could do and it might be one of the bigger things that I do, even outside of the comic landscape. I mean, the work that I’m doing on Batgirl or anything else, the chances that it will cross over into so-called “mainstream” pop culture is kinda slim. But Fight Clubwill be. Fight Club will be in bookstores everywhere and it will be “the new Chuck Palahniuk book” and so I think in terms of exposure and the circulation that will have and the number of people that will see it, it’s probably going to be much bigger than anything else I’ve done.

Did you work closely with David Mack on this title?

Not really, no. David’s doing covers so we’re not working like super-closely together, maybe we’ll have a conversation about what covers might be and what the interior work is, but David’s David, he does his awesome work and I completely trust him to do what he’s going to do and have it be amazing. I moved to Portland, Oregon for the summer so that I could be near Chuck and everyone else on the team because everyone else is in Portland, so I went there for the summer and we were able to get together and have a bunch of creative meetings. Unfortunately, David was never there because he was travelling around and so on so we haven’t yet had that opportunity to sort of like actually sit down and discuss that. Maybe we will this weekend!

Is there the possibility that Fight Club 2 will be adapted into a film?

I don’t even know. The thing that’s interesting about Fight Club 2, having read the script, whatever you think a sequel to Fight Clubis going to be, whatever you have in your head, it’s wrong. It is not what it is. It’s something that I think almost can only be a comic. If they ever talk about making a movie out of it, it will probably have just a basic similarity to it because it really goes off in these very unusual directions. I can only say so much but it’s almost metafictional, it’s kind of a comic on the cultural response to Fight Club as much as it is a sequel to the book. I don’t even though if they can make a movie out of it.

What was it like travelling to Vietnam to research The Other Side?

Amazing, one of the best trips I’ve ever been on. I wanted to do that because I had no real concept of it and I felt like doing that book would be really important to be accurate with it and to get a personal experience with it that I wouldn’t have. I felt like just watching a bunch of Vietnam War movies and Google Image Search wouldn’t do it, so it was very important for me to actually travel there and have first-hand experience. It was incredible, I think it made the book a lot better than it actually would’ve been otherwise, it was great.








Thanks for the kind words about my Batgirl custom figure Mr. Stewart!