Shooting the Comic Breeze: Interview with Josh Adams

GameStop, Inc.

JAWhile standing in awe in comic legend Neal Adams’ line at a convention, I noticed an equally long line for someone with the same last name. I wondered who this was, so I segwayed into this guy’s line. After a few minutes and trading quips, I learned he was Josh Adams and quite the Lost fan. We traded theories on the island, discussed comics, and the tribulations of being a freelance artists.

Whitney Grace (WG): Being the son of a comic book legend makes it obvious about how you were introduced to the medium.  What was it like growing up with a well-known dad and did he raise with you and your brothers with comic books on his knee?

Josh Adams (JA): When I was growing up my father wasn’t really doing much in the comic business, honestly. He was publishing Continuity Comics but that was only a small part of what he was doing with his studio. So in reality, I actually grew up with a father who spent most of his working time doing advertising work and that was the world I grew up in. Obviously comics were still a big part of our lives. Dad always bought every new comic that came out each week and he’d go through them to see what was going on and check out which artists and writers were making waves. I’d often sit with him looking at the comics and I’d take my pics of which ones I wanted to read most; usually the kids comics. So comics were and weren’t there as I grew up. It wasn’t until I was in my very early teen years that I even understood the importance of my father’s career in comics.

WG: What were your favorite superheroes growing up?

JA: I didn’t necessarily have many favorite superheroes growing up, quite honestly. I was a child of the 90’s and superheroes were very quickly becoming a thing that wasn’t for kids. Even the X-Men cartoon was too heady for most kids. I found little quirky things in the comics world that I could latch on to: X-Babies, Groo, and Bone. I enjoyed books by creators that understood kids read these books, but also didn’t compromise their story for the sake of kids. As I got older I really latched on to comics like Hellblazer and even Nightwing. I felt like those books were stories about a hero rather than just a hero fighting a villain because that’s what they do.

EHfT0Ga6WG: When did you start to draw and why did you decide to make that your career?

JA: I’ve drawn my whole life. It’s one of those aspects of my life that regardless of circumstance would still be present. In high school I wanted to try other things, all of them crazy or bizarre and at the end of the day, I always had drawing.

WG: What were some of your first big projects and since an artists’ talent is always evolving would you have approached them differently knowing now what you didn’t know then?

JA: he first project I ever worked on was for professional wrestler Rob Van Dam, Twisted Perception. We became friends some ten years ago and Rob was working on his own comic project. Unfortunately because of my college schedule I couldn’t handle the workload of the project and stepped down. Either way I still count it as my first project and I appreciate Rob putting his faith in me way back then.

WG: What do you or others consider to be your “breakout” project?

JA: I don’t know if I’ve “broken out” yet. I think I’ve built a really wonderful fan base and they’re all just waiting for me to put out that one project that really hits another level. If I HAD to name a project though, I’d say Doctor Who. As it stands I really feel like I still have something to prove on that title so I’m looking forward to an opportunity to work with Titan Comics on their new Doctor Who line.

WG: You worked on a lot of popular SyFy Channel series, including Stargate SG-1, Warehouse 13, and Eureka.  Why were you needed on those shows?

JA: My involvement in those shows is greatly exaggerated. I would love to say that I was sitting there with the writers and directors with pad and pen in hand sculpting their brilliance onto paper. The reality is that I was on the other side of the country in New York City at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in the Syfy offices sitting with very skilled creatives in the graphics department putting together concepts to promote the shows. It’s not nearly as glamorous, but also consider I got my start as an intern there at seventeen years old and then worked at a freelancer there all through college. It was a big deal for me and it truly beat folding sweaters at the clothing store in the mall.

WG: What are some of the differences working on TV shows versus print media? What about each do you like?

JA: Comparing comics with any other art field is crazy. I don’t mean that in a derogatory way, it’s just that when I draw comics, I do it because I am passionate about it. I live in New York City, support a family, and am trying to plan for our future and if I were to sit back and run the numbers it would be blatantly obvious that I am not doing comics for the money. That’s why I am not spending my time trying to get work at Marvel or DC, because it’s just doesn’t check the necessary boxes for me. I’d never rule out working for the big two (I have in the past,) but I am thankful that my work in other fields have made it possible for me to be more selective about what comics work I do take on. It’s just so different and for so many reasons. I could do a whole interview on it in detail.

WG: Having worked on projects for both Marvel and DC, what are some differences in how the studios approach working on projects?  What is similar?

JA: I think the bigger difference is between working for the Big Two and working for smaller publishers. I can’t say I have a preference for either, but it is different. Marvel and DC are part of big companies, they have so much to worry about corporate and legal so that they try to make sure they are a well-oiled machine. They have their processes and they stick to them. Working for a smaller publisher is more about finding a spot to fit in.

WG: In your own words, explain the difference between Marvel and DC.

JA: I’d love to say these are my own words, but I don’t even remember if I got this from someone else. Credit to whoever originally summarized it this way: DC is all about superheroes who have to be people, while Marvel is about people who have to deal with also being superheroes. What I mean by that is that Marvel characters, at their core are people and therefore vastly easier to relate to. Batman, to me, is easiest character for people to connect to at DC and even then it’s been a long time since he has been written in a way that makes me WANT to connect with his stories.

WG: Would you explain your experience and views working on Batman Odyssey?

JA: I had a very cool opportunity getting to work on Batman Odyssey with my father. It was cool for so many reasons. Not many people realize this but growing up, my dad didn’t really do comics. I was born in the late 80’s and dad was mostly out of the comic biz. He was really focusing on advertising at the time so while I knew my dad did comics, I never witnessed him doing drawing something like Batman. Flash forward to me heading to college, I’ve decided I want to do comics and I am really hitting the tough part of learning about comics and my pop has just signed a deal with DC Comics to a Batman series. I’m struggling to complete each page I do and for the first time in my life I am seeing my pop really flex his comic muscles on some amazing Batman pages. It was intimidating to say the least. The series is progressing and we’re getting to the final issues and Dad has had some really talented people come on the book to ink some of it. They’re names I’ve looked up to my whole life. I was spending a lot of time in the studio and one day dad dropped a page on my desk and he asked me, “How’d you like to ink it?” I think I broke into a sweat at that very moment. It was multiple levels of amazing and learned a lot on it. It was also a comfort that no matter how good or bad my inks were, the issue after mine was going to be inked by Kevin Nowlan so I knew his issue would be the one that is remembered over mine. So no pressure.

DoctorWho5WG: What did you like about working on Doctor Who comics and with IDW?

JA: Doctor Who was such a fun project because the TV series is one of those unique shows that I feel appeals to any age with fifty years of history touching so many generations and reach new audiences with each passing season. I talk to people of all ages at conventions about their love for Doctor Who and anything that can bridge some many demographics like that is really something special. I remember being in Montreal when I just started working on Doctor Who and a three year old child saw my pages on my table and pointed at them screaming “Doctor, Doctor, Doctor!” He was so enamored with them he gave me one of this little Doctor Who toys to keep. It was such a touching experience that to this day I keep that Doctor Who toy with me in my bag on every trip I go on.

WG: Who is your favorite doctor?

JA: Matt Smith is my Doctor. He’s the one I got to draw in the comics and he was the one that brought me back into the series as an adult. I love so many of the Doctors and they all have their special places in my heart, but Smith is definitely my Doctor.

WG: If offered the chance to be the doctor’s companion, would you accept? What villain would you like to face in battle with the doctor?

JA: I guess. It’s dangerous and not everyone comes back. I don’t know if I am brave enough. That said if I had to face a classic Doctor Who monster I suppose it’d have to be the Adipose? Maybe the Judoon? I like the goofy ones. I wouldn’t want to face the really scary ones.

WG: Having been in the entertainment industry as a freelance artist, you probably have experienced your share of good stories along with the bad.  Would you please explain some of the challenges you have faced as a freelance artist?

JA: The biggest challenge with working as a freelance artist as many might guess is making ends meet. It’s not like a regular job. You don’t get a check every week or every other week. You don’t get health insurance. Your ability to get your next gig is always based on the quality of the gig before that. The best way I explain it is: it’s like interviewing for a job, getting the job and then getting fired from the job every single project. That said, it’s the career I chose and I am able to make it work.

WG: When combining your writing talent with your drawing talent, does that make you more marketable and add another level of challenges?

SherlockJA: In comics an artist is a commodity. My inbox is constantly getting filled with writer’s looking for an artist. As a writer, I am mostly an annoyance because what people need is art. On average an artist can only draw one book a month while you’d be hard pressed to find many writers’ content just writing one book a month. You can see pretty quickly that if that is the case an artist who also writes isn’t in many cases a good thing. Obviously, these are not facts, it’s merely my observations and they could be outright wrong. I’d love to do more projects that I get to write and those are the opportunities that I am actively pursuing. I don’t limit that to just comics as well. I am working on a small film project with some friends that I scripted and even have a few a handful of chapters written in the first draft of short story I am writing. At the end of the day I really don’t have too much concern for the business end of things and am content at letting the business people have things the way they feel is best. I’m just going to continue doing the things I am passionate about.

WG: What is some advice you can give people about being freelance workers so they can leave their naivete at the door?

JA: You will always be naive. No matter how prepared you are, you will never be truly prepared. You will make friends in this business, but you will not keep friends by doing business with them. Nothing goes as planned. Never be afraid to ask for help.

WG: Is it helpful to have family and friends in the industry to guide you as well as having a basic legal knowledge?

JA: Yes. Ask advice of anyone who knows more than you on the subject. Get legal advice whenever possible. Study. There are tons of free seminars out there as well as information readily available on the Internet.

WG: Where do you want to go next with your career?

JA: At this point in my career I am taking things as they come and I’m looking forward to doing the projects I want to do. I’m working on a few things that I am writing and while I want to say those are the things that are next for me, I can never be certain. We’ll see.

WG: Other than the Doctor Who books, is there anything you would like to plug?

JA: I am doing a short story for the comic series Headlocked and later this year a book I illustrated called Redux.

WG: Are you a man or a Muppet?

JA: I’ll never be sure.

WG: How much do you like Lost?  Also care to share your theory on what the island was?

JA: I loved Lost. I understand some of the complaints about the series, but that’s mostly because the setting became more compelling than the real focus of the story, the characters. The Island was simply a setting for the writers in the room, the Island was just an elevator. The story was about a group of people who needed each other. Very early in the season they established the motto for the show “live together or die alone,” and that was the point of the story. The island was never purgatory, the survivors of the crash were always alive when they were on the island. The only time we saw “purgatory” was during the “sideways flashes” in the final season. If the writers wanted the Island to be anything more than a setting, a tool, a means to an ends then they would have told you what it was in the show.

WG: Lastly, do you have anything to declare?

JA: Yes, once my daughter almost accidentally smuggled a bag of apples from Canada into the US. I turned them over to airport security, before it became an international incident. Also, I really love tangerine jelly beans and if anyone wants to give me some at conventions, I’d really love it.

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