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Exclusive Interview with Cover Artist Adam Riches

profile photo, adam richesQ: When did you get interested in comics, and what’s the first comic book series you remember really liking?

Like most kids growing up in the early ‘90s, comics were very accessible due to so many factors: the record-breaking sales of Jim Lee’s X-Men, Rob Liefeld’s X-Force, Todd McFarlane’s Spider-Man (and the subsequent Image boom), the X-Men and Batman animated series, the live-action Batman films, plus tons of merchandising and licensed products, so it’s hard to know exactly what it was that first got me hooked, because I loved it all!

The first comic book series that I really liked…I don’t know if I can name just one! As a kid, I would get comics at the grocery store, pharmacy, book store, sometimes as random issues in multi-packs, etc. I mention this because what really made an initial impression on me was the characters and the art, simply because I didn’t have enough of any run to understand the continuity, I couldn’t get invested in the stories. So, I would just look through the same comics over and over, getting lost in the art. To try and answer your question though, some of the first books that I remember getting really excited over…X-Men Adventures (based on the Fox Kids TV series), G.I. Joe A Real American Hero, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Q: First published work?

My first published work was a pin-up page in Tales Of The TMNT #52, titled “A Cowboy, A Cowlick, and A Cowabunga!”.

Q: What other artists influenced and continue to influence you and your style?

I have too many influences to even try to list them all! I admire, and am inspired by, so many artists for so many different reasons; creativity, style, generosity, fearlessness, business acumen, resourcefulness, work ethic, passion, etc. etc. Without writing an essay qualifying each one, my personal artistic Mount Rushmore is: Drew Struzan, Peter Laird, Kevin Eastman, and Todd McFarlane. Though I could easily name hundreds more!

Q: Do you use computers, tablets and software, or are you old-school with pens and a scanner?

I work in a mix of both digital and traditional media, it largely depends on the type of work, the look I want to achieve, the deadline, etc. In a perfect world, it’s always nice to have a tangible piece of original art, so as much as possible I try to work traditional, but these days I’m about 50/50.

gi joe arah 225 grunt action figure cover
For the last few years I’ve been illustrating the packaging art for many of Hasbro’s G.I. Joe action figures. Because of this, IDW asked if I’d interested in doing a series of retro-inspired toy covers for the comic. Each cover was painted traditionally in acrylic, gouache, and Prismacolor pencils. After the painting is finished, I scan it, and draw the bubble digitally (in Photoshop) to help give it a sleek 3D appearance, separate from the art, as well as add all the logos and text.

Q: What are you reading nowadays?

Right now, I’m really digging IDW’s current run of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It’s a fresh take on the TMNT but culls from elements of all their history. Kevin, Tom, and Bobby have consistently written one of the best TMNT books ever in my opinion, and Mateus Santolouco’s art is nothing short of amazing.

X-Men ’92…Chad Bowers and my buddy Chris Sims are currently writing my dream X-Men book, and I can’t say enough good things about it. It’s like getting all the best parts of my childhood version of the X-Men back, but with the perfect blend of new characters, and tongue in cheek humor. I’m so happy it’s back as an ongoing!

IDW’s Back To The Future… generally licensed books can be pretty hit or miss, but with BTTF co-creator Bob Gale co-writing this book (with John Barber), they’ve managed to perfectly capture the tone of the films in comic form.

I could go on and on, so a few others I’m currently or recently enjoyed (in no particular order)…Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, The Fade Out, Bitch Planet, G.I. Joe A Real American Hero, Squarriors, Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl.

back to the future 6 7 8 vault collectibles
Pretty much from the second I’d heard IDW acquired the license to produce BTTF comics, I was dying to work on it, seeing as it’s my favorite movie of all time. So when I got the offer to paint these, I was over the moon! I tried to paint them in a style somewhat reminiscent of Drew Struzan (my favorite illustrator, and the artist who painted the original BTTF movie posters), which meant using all traditional media. In this case mostly airbrushed acrylic paints, and Prismacolor pencils. Because I was hired to paint this as a triptych, it was important that the covers obviously felt connected, but I also wanted to make sure each cover had its own unique look and feel. To achieve that, I did a variety of quick thumbnail sketches before it was ultimately decided on having the cover transition from a cool (#6) to warm palette (#8), creating both an interesting visual transition, but also helping each cover have its own identity. I shot hundreds of photos of a replica DeLorean Time Machine, and cross referenced them with movie stills to get the details as accurate as possible.

Q: Favorite comic book -> movie adaptation and TV show?

My all time favorite comic to film adaptation is probably the 1990 live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, it holds up remarkably well even all these years later. A close second is Batman Returns.

TV show…this is probably going to sound like a really funny answer to some people, but I’ve always had a soft spot for Swamp Thing: The Series (1990-93, USA Network). It’s campy and weird, and has aged horribly, but the theme song still gets me pumped up, and I got to visit the set as a kid at Universal Studios in Orlando (where it was filmed).

Q: Share some of your work: A first pencil sketch to a finished panel. Do you do all your own inking, coloring, and lettering?

As a cover artist, coming from an illustration background, my comics work is usually very rendered, so I do everything myself. Though, I’m certainly open to the idea of the occasional collaboration, especially with artists who’s style is very different to my own. I’m always curious to see what two unique styles can create when put together.

Q: What’s next for your career?

I’ve got several things in the works right now, but of what I can talk about…I’ve got some exclusive Back To The Future covers coming through Vault Collectibles, a cover coming up on ROM I’m really proud of, and I’m currently doing an ongoing cover run on Micronauts. Other than those, hopefully just to keep working on lots of cool projects, and maybe some creator owned stuff in the not-too-distant future!

Back to the Future #6, sketch in progress
Back to the Future #6, sketch in progress

Q: What’s one title you think is a good example of your art here at TFAW?

TFAW currently has most of my G.I. Joe A Real American Hero action figure covers available, and I’ve had a lot of great feedback on those.

Q: Where were you born, what did you study in college, what are the names of your pets, if you have any, and where do you live now?

I was born in Orange Park, FL (though we moved from there when I was still a baby), I graduated from Ringling College of Art and Design and studied illustration there. I’m currently based in the Tampa Bay, FL area.

Q: What was your first-ever comic book?

I’m pretty sure the first comic I ever received was The Spectacular Spider-Man #180 (Sept 1991). Sal Buscema’s striking cover image of Spider-Man and Green Goblin entangled in battle, is forever etched into my memory!

Q: Where can fans can follow your work?

You can get in touch with me, and keep up with all my work at AdamRiches.com or find me on Facebook as AdamRichesArt.

Are you a creative professional in the comic book or graphic novel industry? We’d like to interview you! Please send an email inquiry to davetaylor@tfaw.com as the first step.

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