Monkeying around with Art Adams

In his comics career, Art Adams has drawn characters ranging from Longshot, the X-Men and the Fantastic Four to Godzilla and Gumby and Pokey. Over the years, his artwork gained him numerous fans. He is one of the seven founding members of the Legend imprint published by Dark Horse. His Legend creations, Axwell Tiberius and Ann O'Brien, better known as Monkeyman and O'Brien, marked Adams' first attempt at writing and have appeared in Dark Horse Presents and as the back-up story in Hellboy: Seed of Destruction, which was reprinted recently as the Monkeyman and O'Brien Special. This month, Monkeyman and O'Brien begin an ongoing series, and some of Adams' other work is collected in the Art Adams' Creature Features trade paperback also from Dark Horse. Worlds of Westfield Content Editor Roger A. Ash recently spoke with Adams about the projects.

Westfield: For those unfamiliar with Monkeyman and O'Brien, how would you describe the series?

Art Adams: It's got a lot of pages. [laughter] How to describe the series? I should have made up something simpler, that's the problem. Monkeyman is a ten-foot-tall scientific genius gorilla from another dimension who accidentally comes to Ann O'Brien's world and in the process, there's some kind of big, weird explosion from another dimension and Ann O'Brien gets soaked in some strange, extra-dimensional radiation which causes her to grow to seven feet tall and become incredibly strong. Then they have adventures and stuff!

Westfield: Cool. Is O'Brien a reference to stop-motion animation pioneer Willis O'Brien?

Adams: Very good! Absolutely.

Westfield: And getting really obscure, is Ann a reference to the Fay Wray character from King Kong?

Adams: Uhhhh, it could be. [laughter] I guess there's no legal reason why it couldn't be. I don't know. But it could be. [laughter] Yes, it is.

Westfield: There's been quite a bit of time between the appearances of Monkeyman and O'Brien in Hellboy: Seed of Destruction and the start of this new series. Why the delay?

Adams: Ummmm, I slept late. [laughter] I really don't know. I've been working on it all the time. I had to take a couple little jobs in-between. Well, I guess I didn't have to. [laughter] I did a couple little things I probably shouldn't have done, but it's coming along now.

Westfield: What can you tell us about the new series?

Adams: There are going to be three books out this year. The first one is titled Attack of the Shrewmanoid, which you got a little preview of on the last page of the Monkeyman and O'Brien Special that just came out this last February. The second issue is Invasion of the Froglodites where earth is invaded by weird frog people from another planet. The third one is called Into the Terminus where Monkeyman and O'Brien go into the weird interdimensional area which separates all other dimensions in an effort to find a way for Monkeyman to return to his home planet.

Westfield: You said there will be three issues this year. Is this going to be a series of mini-series or an ongoing series?

Adams: It's hard to describe and I think I'm driving Lou Bank and everyone in marketing at Dark Horse crazy. I think of it as a continuing series, but because of the way, or the slow pace at which I produce the stuff, it's easier for them to put it out as several issues. My plan is that this issue #1 that's coming out in July is the only issue #1 there will ever be. So it'll be issue 1, 2, and 3 that'll be coming out this year. As soon as possible, I hope to get issues 4 and 5 out. There may be two issues out early next year or, who knows, maybe even at the end of this year 'cause things are going pretty well these days. And I'll just keep going that way. They may call it a series of mini-series, but I think of it as a series. A sporadically published series.

Westfield: The Shrewmanoid is the villain in the first issue. What can you tell us about him?

Adams: The Shrewmanoid is a very strange little man who has a very high opinion of himself. He thinks he's the best thing that's ever been and he thinks Ann O'Brien is the best thing that's ever been and he thinks they should be a couple. Oh, and he wants to take over the world too.

Westfield: Don't they all?

Adams: Well, sure. In my book they all do.

Westfield: Ann's sister, Oniko, and a partial gorilla head were also caught in the experiment that brought Monkeyman to this dimension. Will they be back?

Adams: Yes, they will be back. They are the featured characters in issues 4 and 5. Although, there's little bits of what's going on with them sprinkled throughout the first three issues.

Westfield: You said that Monkeyman and O'Brien will be returning to the weird interdimensional area. Will there continue to be stories there? I believe the only other dimensional story so far was the one in the San Diego Comicon comic.

Adams: That's true, which is unfortunate. It just goes to show how slow I've been. But yes, they will bounce back and forth all over the place. They'll have adventures on earth, they'll have adventures in other dimensions, they'll have adventures on other planets. It goes everywhere. Actually, most of Invasion of the Froglodites takes place in orbit around the earth.

Westfield: Monkeyman and O'Brien is very different from anything else being done today. Why did you decide to do this instead of something else?

Adams: Someone called up and asked, "Hey, why don't you make up something for yourself?" And I said "OK. But I don't know if I can." And a half hour later I had Monkeyman and O'Brien. Then I talked to a bunch of my friends about them, I was all excited about it, and then I realized, oh my God. I've made up Angel and Ape. [laughter] I guess it is different than a lot of things that are being done now, but to my mind, it's based very much in Fifties monster movies and early Sixties Marvel monster and some super hero comics. It's based on all the stuff I loved when I was a kid. There's gonna be some Burroughs' kind of stuff too. It'll just be wacky.

Westfield: So you came up with this basically to do anything you felt like doing with it?

Adams: Exactly so. When this friend of mine suggested that I make up something, I said, well of course I should go back and think about the things I loved when I was a kid, because that's pretty much what I still love now. Naturally that was King Kong and dinosaurs and monsters. So that's what I'm doing.

Westfield: Monkeyman and O'Brien was the first project you wrote. Was that a difficult transition to make?

Adams: Apparently it still is. I think that's one of the reasons it's been going so slow. I'm pretty happy with my writing. I think my writing is ok, I don't think I'm a genius or anything. I'm not much worse than most other guys. It's been strange. I don't know how difficult it's been. It's mostly difficult when I think about doing it. When I'm getting worked up to script a particular issue, I get all upset about not being able to write and then I sit down and do it and it seems to work out just fine.


Westfield: You've become known for drawing monsters, dinosaurs and such. Where does this fascination come from?

Adams: When I was a little boy, I loved dinosaurs. I had tons and tons of dinosaur books, watched all the dinosaur shows that I could possibly see. I thought, "I know. I love dinosaurs, I'll be a paleontologist." So I sat around drawing dinosaurs all the time. Then I found out paleontologists had to go outside. [laughter] They had to go out into the desert and dig for bones. They didn't really spend that much time drawing dinosaurs. So I said, "Where else are there monsters and dinosaurs? Comics. I guess I'll do comics."

Westfield: This month also sees the release of the Art Adams' Creature Features trade paperback. What can you tell us about that?

Adams: Art Adams' Creature Features is Dark Horse reprinting the Godzilla Color Special from a decade or two ago and the Creature From the Black Lagoon movie adaptation that I did. Also included is a four-page illustration of something called Alan Moore's Songbook, which features a Godzilla-looking kind of guy, and all the evidence the world will ever need that Art Adams should never letter his own stuff. [laughter] Then there's the first Monkeyman and O'Brien four-pager that you mentioned that was printed for the San Diego Convention and there's the Monkeyman and O'Brien four-pager which I guess I'll eventually have to explain. Both were try-out Monkeyman and O'Brien stories to see if I really liked drawing these things I made up. The second one is called Trapped in the Lair of the Shrewmaniod, from the Dark Horse Insider. Unfortunately, that story clearly can't take place in the same universe as Attack of the Shrewmaniod, because both stories say this is the first time they ever met. I guess I'll have to have alternate dimensions in the near future.

Westfield: Do you have any other upcoming projects?

Adams: I better not! [laughter] Monkeyman and O'Brien is it for the foreseeable future. The last thing that I did for anybody that isn't Monkeyman and O'Brien is a pin-up for Homage of Fairchild for a calendar.

Westfield: Any closing comments?

Adams: Buy my comic!