Illustrating SPIDER-MAN's Controversial, SUPERIOR New Era


Whether you’re eagerly anticipating Superior Spider-Man or holding out hope that it’s all a bad dream, the series — part of the ongoing Marvel NOW! relaunch initiative — becomes a reality for readers this week, with issue #1 on sale now.

As is well-known (and has been well-debated among Spidey fans), the titular Superior Spider-Man is actually the devious mind of Doctor Octopus controlling Peter Parker’s body, while the real hero is presumed dead. Yet things aren’t quite as bleak as that may suggest: In late December's eventful Amazing Spider-Man #700 — the last issue (for now) of that book — mingling memories inspired Otto Octavius to at least slightly change his ways, aiming to better Peter Parker in both the superhero and civilian departments.

The creative team behind Superior Spider-Man is long-time Spidey scribe Dan Slott and artist Ryan Stegman, who recently capped the previous volume of Fantastic Four with writer Jonathan Hickman. (In future arcs, former Amazing Spider-Man artists Humberto Ramos and Giuseppe Camuncoli are scheduled to join the book.) Stegman, who launched Scarlet Spider last year with Chris Yost and worked with Slott on a 2011 issue of Amazing Spider-Man, talked with us about taking on the biggest project of his career thus far, facing scorned Spider-fans and visually defining the controversial new era of Marvel’s most famous superhero. Courtesy of Marvel, we're also debuting new interior pages from Superior Spider-Man #2 and #3.

Interior art from  

Superior Spider-Man


Newsarama: Ryan, it goes without saying (though hey, let's say it) that the recent Amazing Spider-Man events and subsequent shift to Superior Spider-Man has been controversial among a vocal section of fans. Now you're entering it in a big way as the initial artist of Superior. What's your take on the reaction? How much of the more colorful fan commentary have you personally received online? And what would you advise to fans who may still be skeptical about trying the new series out?

Ryan Stegman: Personally, I love the reaction. It really fires me up to work on something that people care so passionately about. To know that, good or bad, people are going to pick this up is thrilling.

Most of the negative fan response that I get is via my blog or DeviantArt or Twitter, and they’re always hilariously backhanded. Nobody has attacked me for my art or anything, but they’ll say something like, “Oh, I would totally buy this for your art if I didn’t hate the story.” [Laughs] I enjoy the creative ways fans get their jabs in.

Interior art from

Superior Spider-Man


But the truth is, any of the negativity that I’ve read is generally based on a lack of any real knowledge of what is going to happen. I’m confident that when people read this, they’ll realize it’s not at all what they were expecting. And that’s my sales pitch on the book, really. If you think you know what’s up, you don’t. So give it a shot because it’s awesome.

Nrama: We talked about your work on Scarlet Spider a year ago, and discussed how the physicality of Kaine had to be different than Peter Parker — presumably, the same is true with Superior Spider-Man; even if it is Peter Parker's body, it's a different situation. How much have you put into making Superior's physicality distinct? New poses, a new way of carrying himself — basically, what work has gone into visually defining a new Spidey?

Stegman: Actually, I think that I don’t do much differently in the Spider-Man poses during action sequencing. It’s just exactly what I would do if it were Peter.

But it’s in his daily life without the mask that you’ll see a lot of different behaviors and acting. I’m skirting the line here, trying not to give anything away. But yeah, Spidey with the mask, same as ever. Spidey without… Much different!

Interior art from

Superior Spider-Man


Nrama: Obviously, there are also some readily apparent changes in the new Spidey, with alterations in costume and several new touches. That process originated with Ed McGuinness, but have you also had input on the redesign?

Stegman: The only input I’ve had on the redesign is interpreting it my own way! When I was given the design, I liked everything about it. It’s edgier and it’s just slightly different. One thing I changed personally is the eyes. I just made them way bigger than what Ed had stipulated. The reason being, I think that big Spidey eyes are the coolest thing visually, and I wasn’t going to pass on the opportunity to do something that cool. So I just have gone with it and nobody’s told me to stop!

Nrama: Now that it's public knowledge that Doctor Octopus is in the driver's seat of Superior Spider-Man, tell us — how big of a Doc Ock fan have you been over the years? And do you think at this point, he's surpassed Green Goblin for the top Spider-Man enemy?


: I love Doc Ock. I’ve always thought he was a fascinating character. And more than that, I’ve always wanted to draw him. I did several sets of samples back in the day using Ock as the villain just so I could have that opportunity. And now I get to get paid to draw it!

And if Ock isn’t the top enemy now, he will definitely be from this point forward. He stole Parker’s body! That’s about as diabolical as it gets.

Nrama: Dan Slott has characterized the Superior Spider-Man series as "dark and weird." How have you approached that end of the book? Does it compare to anything in your past work?


: My art was already getting a little dark and weird. [Laughs.] I’m constantly trying new things and trying to get better. So I’ve been pushing in this cartoonier direction and I also started inking myself about four books ago. So my style started to get scratchier and darker as I experimented and that’s certainly carried over into this book. It’s not as scratchy as my Fantastic Four work, but it’s got the same flavor.

Nrama: Speaking of Slott — you worked with him back in 2011 on an issue of Amazing Spider-Man, but this is your first ongoing project together. What elements make you two a good team? It seems like you guys have similar sensibilities, and you're obviously going through a very unique experience together right now (dealing with rabid angry Spidey fans).

Stegman: Dan is awesome to work with. He is extremely collaborative and we talk a lot about things we’re trying to do with the book. I really need that when I work on a book. I don’t need a say in the writing or anything, but I need the writer to be just as excited to work on the book as I am. And I’m very excitable. And Dan is probably even more excited if that’s possible. So it works out well.


I also think that Dan and I probably like the same type of comics. I like big action and character. I like dark moments but I also like levity. And Dan brings that all to the table. If I were a writer, I’d probably write similar books to Dan.

Nrama: It's been established that quirky characters like the Living Brain and the Big Wheel will appear in the book, along with the regular Spidey supporting cast. Other than the title character, who have you really enjoyed drawing? Has anything surprised you in that regard? And is there anyone you're hoping to get to draw that hasn't showed up yet? 

Stegman: The Shocker was a lot of fun to draw. Actually, I should say I enjoyed having drawn Shocker, but the process of drawing him is a pain. There’s also a villain in the third issue that I can’t say just yet that I think is the most fun character I may have drawn outside of Spider-Man in my career. I love Spidey’s rogues because most of them you can make extremely ugly and I love myself an ugly villain. I get really irritated when a villain appears in a book and is really good looking. So I went about as far as I could in making this mystery villain highly unattractive.


As for who I’d like to draw… Pretty much any of the villains. I just love getting to put my stamp on these iconic characters.

Nrama: We've talked about pretty much every project you've done for the past three years or so, and incrementally, each one has been bigger than the next. And now you're the artist of a much-publicized new Spider-Man book. How unique has this experience been so far (with the first issue not even out yet) than anything else in your career? What does it feel like to be involved in something like this?

Superior Spider-Man

#3 cover.

Stegman: It’s completely insane! Completely. The other day it started to really hit me. When I did She-Hulks, it barely got discussed before it came out. This book, there are pages and pages of forum threads discussing it. I have Twitter searches set up for people talking about it, and there are constantly new tweets about it. And the book’s not even out yet!

It’s hard to see it for what it is while it’s happening, because I’m working in my basement, same as I always have. But every once in a while I’ll get a strange moment of clarity where I realize how different things are and it’s exhilarating and terrifying all at the same time.

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