I won’t be at Comic-Con until Saturday, but in the spirit of the event, today I’ve got a special treat! An interview with comic book artist Ryan Stegman! Ryan is an insanely talented guy who’s been working at Marvel for a while, and he just jumped onto Fantastic Four as the new monthly artist. I’ve been in touch with Ryan on Twitter for about a year now, and he’s an incredibly nice guy. I’m sure his schedule is crazy, but he was still nice enough to answer some questions for me. So without further adieu…
What are some things you do for fun when you’re not drawing?
Watch sports, talk about sports, run, drink (booze), and hang out with my lovely wife and son. Oh, and eat. I love to eat.
Who’s your favorite comic book character and/or superhero, and are there any other mainstream characters you’d love to work on?
Spider-Man. Then Hulk, then Thor. I guess there are a lot of heroes that I’d love to work on that I don’t really know I’d like to work on, y’know? Because sometimes you don’t realize it until you do some work on them. I always knew I loved Spider-Man, but I don’t think I would have realized how much fun it could be to work on the Hulk until I did it. Thor is one that I have enjoyed reading so much, but I haven’t really had much of a crack at him yet.
Do you remember what your first comic book was? Do you still have it?
I believe my mom bought me an X-Men book at a 7-11 when I was about 6 or 7. I have no recollection of who drew it, but I think it had the Brethren in it. And I also think it had a character asking another character if they wanted to go “neck”. I learned what necking was and what brethren meant from that book.
I don’t still have it, but I’d love to see it. It’s become so jumbled in my head that I’m sure I’m mashing up a bunch of things into one comic. But it would be a nostalgic moment, that’s for sure.
How did you get into drawing comics? Was art always something you wanted to pursue?
I always, always, always wanted to draw for a living. My sister and I drew all the time as kids and it was just what I did. I wanted to be a Disney animator for the longest time, I thought, because I was massively into Disney animation as a kid. In fact, I think animation was one of the first things I ever became a snob about. I knew what was good and what was bad.
As I got older, I held onto that dream. But then in high school, I was re-introduced to comics and it all knocked me over. “Oh, THAT’S something I could do with drawing”. And I became obsessed with it right then and there, and never let it go.
Who are some of your influences, both in comics and outside?
In comics I’m influenced by a lot of the cartoonier artists of the 90s. I love Todd McFarlane, Greg Capullo, J. Scott Campbell, Joe Madureira etc. The list goes on and on. As for outside of comics, I guess I’d say I’m influenced by my parents, but who isn’t? And the Beastie Boys. Ha. But sort of seriously.
You’re coming off a six-issue run on Scarlet Spider. What was your favorite part about starting that series off?
Oh man, it was great. I got to design the new costume, and essentially create characters and environment from the ground up. I guess if I had to pinpoint a moment, it would be when I went to Houston when issue one came out. The support there was overwhelming and it just really made me feel like I was doing something significant.
Can you tell us about your inspiration and the process for designing the new Scarlet Spider costume?
I wanted something menacing, but also that fit into the Spider-Family. Red and black are always a great color scheme. And I wanted something simple and classic that could withstand the test of time. And that’s basically it. It’s not much more complex than that.
(Head to Comics Alliance for more on the process, including a bunch of Ryan’s costume ideas and sketches.)
You’re moving on to Fantastic Four now. Is there any difference in how you approach more established characters like FF, versus a newer one like Scarlet Spider?
Yes. I try to adhere to what other artists before me have done on FF. There have been so many greats that have done it. With Scarlet Spider it was all me, but FF is so much bigger. So I just try to be respectful of those that came before me.
Are there any storytelling problems you come up against regularly?
I have a tendency to want to “over-establish”. Meaning, I am so overly careful about environment that I can forget to get up close and show faces etc. And I also want to make the establishing shot the biggest panel, and that’s not necessary. Obviously since I’m conscious of it, I am adjusting it. But it was something that plagued me for a long time. The key is to be smart with what you show.
You said recently that action scenes are your bread and butter. Do you prefer when writers give you a Marvel Style script and let you go crazy, or do you prefer some structure?
I guess I’ve only really had structured scenes, so for now I prefer it because I don’t know any better. But I think working with a writer that accepts that you are going to change up some stuff is great. With [Christopher] Yost on Scarlet Spider, I would take his direction as a suggestion and sometimes tweak things. But he is a very visual thinker, so it didn’t happen often.
I think the key to it all is to just make sure you’re adding to what the writer writes and not subtracting. If you do that, generally everyone is happy.
I’m a huge fan of your art. I’ve noticed your style has become a bit more cartoony lately. Is that a conscious effort or is it just happening naturally?
Definitely naturally. I love cartoony art. I guess that one of the things that is occurring is that I am using less photo reference on figures. Actually, I’m using none. I used to take photos of poses and that would tend to skew my stuff towards realism. But now I pull it all out of my head, and apparently my head is cartoony!
Do you listen to music when you draw? If so, who?
Yes, I listen to all kinds of stuff. Currently I’m obsessed with Jack White’s album “Blunderbuss.” But I go through phases. Generally it’s a lot of hip hop and lots of classic rock. I’m a Beatle freak.
Any advice for those looking to break into comics or any other pearls of wisdom?
If you want to break into comics, just work really hard and get really good at drawing. There is no shortcut. Networking is only necessary if you have skills to apply. I feel like a lot of guys get really networked but aren’t good enough and they don’t understand why their networking hasn’t paid off. You can’t look at it that way. If you’re good, you’ll get the jobs. So GET GOOD!
Thanks so much to Ryan for taking the time to do this interview. As you can see for yourself, he’s an extremely talented guy and is well on his way to becoming one of comic’s superstars. Be on the lookout for upcoming issues of Fantastic Four, check out his Tumblr for sketches and updates, and be sure to follow him on Twitter!