An interview with Steven Hughes
by Paul Lee
In the waking world, Steven Hughes is a calm, up-beat fellow who’s a professional comic artist and family man. But, when a drawing utensil is left to his machinations, a veritable demon of illustrations comes out into the realm of comic books. Death, madness, and destruction shoot out from his pen (not to mention a bodacious anti-heroine) and all hell breaks loose. Well, CHAOS! actually ensues as that is the company Hughes and writer/partner Brian Pulido have set up to fill the comicverse with nasty creatures and creations.
Evil Ernie is what Hughes is most famous for illustrating, and let me tell you, this is some outrageous and gore-riddled stuff. Along with Pulido, Hughes helped to put on paper one of the foulest and most demonic characters ever. Ernie makes D.C.’s Lobo look like a pasty-faced intergalactic boyscout. With his wild black mane, fiery eyes, rotting flesh, and a maniacal grin that would make the Evil Dead hide in their graves, Ernie sets forth to destroy the world. Ernie’s ally is none other that that well-endowed and fatally gorgeous (with a bod that Cindy would surely die for) Lady Death who wants to kill everyone on the Earth because she can. This is the stuff ultra-black humor is made for.
Ernie started as a homicidal maniac in 1989 who gets killed and then reanimated as a homicidal zombie. The most recent storyline from the past year with Ernie was the four part “The Resurrection,” which had Ernie shooting and tearing people to shreds while building his army of zombies. Lady Death does her part to help her minion Ernie to do his bloody best to destroy whatever life he comes in contact with.
Hughes and Pulido have also given Lady Death her own three-part limited series and expand upon her past life and decent into hell (literally). According to Hughes, Lady Death “is the hottest selling comic book in the country right now” and with her chromium-enhanced and buxom carcass on the cover, I can certainly see why.
With issue one and two gone from the shelves of likely every comic book store around the Boston area (and probably our ravenous U.S.), it looks like Evil Ernie and Lady Death are annihilating a path for themselves and CHAOS! into the bloated and often brain-dead realm of comics.
So, there I sat with Hughes in his Allston apartment discussing the life and death of Ernie, Lady Death and CHAOS!. Don’t think this is all there is to the CHAOS! world either, the super folk are on their way out of Hughes’ and Pulido’s warped minds and into comic book form.
“CHAOS! is premiering ‘The Lynch Mob’, the first of our super-hero ‘arm’ of CHAOS!. We can’t call it a universe because everybody has a universe,” Steven revealed of the new works. As I looked at the picture of a group of monstrous and unnerving fellas that are ‘The Lynch Mob’ I wondered if there would be a more outrageous and violent theme to these guys along the lines of Evil Ernie. “Oh yeah, all of CHAOS!’s stuff is a ‘little bit more’ that your average [comic].” I would like ‘a little bit more’ as a euphemism to be sure.
So with the theme of ultra-violence in comics, it seems that all of those concerned parents are afraid that their children are going to be warped by the colorfully bloody and skilled art of such people as Steven Hughes. I’m attempting to keep my opinions on this one locked in their tomb so I don’t go tearing this computer to shreds over it. Steven had a more calm and collected response to the issue.
“It’s escapism, it’s entertainment. Everybody is always looking for something to point the finger at to explain the cause why. If I am going to watch an action packed movie at a theater, I hope to see what I’m paying for. And, if you pay two-fifty to two-seventy five for a [comic] book you expect to see something. If you pluck down a buck, you get what you pay for. If you pluck down anything beyond two dollars, you’d better be entertained.”
No apologies or excuses, Hughes knows that his Evil Ernie and Lady Death works of warped and fantastic art are frightening but are just pictures on a page, not a script for psychopaths. The creations that come from Hughes talented hands go nicely with death metal music (like Carcass Heartwork album I’m soaking into my cells at the moment) and great glory and over-the-tomb-top horror movies like ReAnimator, one of the many bloody flicks that Hughes enjoys.
For a more novel approach to the comic book setting, Hughes and Pulido wanted to be more interesting than your usual fare. With this notion in mind, the two evil geniuses formed CHAOS!.
“When we decided to go and do CHAOS!, it was just right. We had a good market base and good audience support and we had a feeling that we could survive by making something that was more movie-like. You could open a CHAOS! book and feel you paid your ticket. It has more movie feel to it [than a comic book] since Brian is from a movie area. He would talk to me with his movie jargon about ‘panning this’ and camera talk and I caught on real quick.”
With the likes of Metallica wearing Evil Ernie T-shirts on MTV and the rocketing popularity of Ernie and Lady Death, it looks like Steven Hughes and Brian Pulido are on the road to success. If you’re tired of safe, redundant and weak comic books, then CHAOS! madness is for you. Remember, the best kind of listening to accompany a CHAOS! book is something maniacal, fast and heavy as sin. Read CHAOS! if you dare and flaunt it in front of all those stiff people if you can handle it.