After the drawing the high-profile Absolute Carnage event, how will artist Ryan Stegman try to top that? Well, he can't tell you - yet. But what he can say is that he's having fun doing it.
For the past few months Stegman has been on cover duty in comics, but he recently finished up a brief return to Venom with Donny Cates that'll be the lead story in Marvel's 2020 Free Comic Book Day offering Amazing Spider-Man & Venom. Is that a clue to what comes next for Stegman? Again, he can't tell you that - yet.
While his upcoming specific plans are off the table, Stegman was able to talk about what he's learned in recent years, the kind of work he wants to do (including branching out into creator-owned), and how his friendships and professional relationships with writer Donny Cates and inker J.P. Mayer have helped him grow as a creator.
This interview was arranged through ReedPOP, as Stegman drew this weekend's C2E2 poster and will be there all three days of the convention.
Newsarama: Ryan, what are you working on today - besides this interview, that is?
Ryan Stegman: Unfortunately I can't say! I've finished the upcoming Free Comic Book Day story that features Venom. I'm doing covers for several books. I've just started drawing some interiors for a new big thing, but I can't say anything about it.
It's killing me!
Nrama: We'll pry it from you eventually.
You recently drew your first big event, Absolute Carnage, and from all signs it was a success. How was the experience for you?
Stegman: Really freaking fun. It's so nice to work on something that people really seem to care about.That's all you can ask for. I got to go to a summit in New York to help beat out the story which was an eye-opening experience. I got to draw the most fun stuff I've ever gotten to draw in comics. It certainly felt like a culmination of years and years of hard work. And hey, it was stressful, but the good kind of stressful!
Nrama: After delivering with Absolute Carnage, do you have a firmer idea of the kind of comics you want to be doing going forward?
Stegman: No question. I feel like over the past couple years I've really come into my own. That's a combination of connecting with the material and just getting to place with my work where I have a great deal of confidence in what I'm doing. Donny Cates and I have a symbiotic relationship. We see things the same way. It's crazy.
Nrama: You mentioned Donny, and Absolute Carnage was the culmination of a long partnership with him, first established on Venom. You two seem to get along well - how does that affect the comics?
Stegman: I just feel completely included on everything we do. That's not always the case. I've had mostly good luck with writers along the way but I've never felt this included. Donny and I talk out story all the time and so I just feel completely invested. On the FCBD story we did, I actually co-plotted it and then worked from a Marvel-style script. Donny trusts me and I trust him and that's extremely freeing.
Nrama: Also on Venom you connected with J.P. Mayer, who has given your work a new dimension. Inking's often a misunderstood art - after going through such a major change, how would you explain it - and what J.P. is doing with your work?
Stegman: Part of that confidence I mentioned before is a direct result of working with J.P. When I was inking myself I just didn't have the time or the patience to finish my work the way I wanted. I had to rush through things. But J.P. inks me the way I would ink myself if I was skilled enough. It's exactly how I've always wanted my work to look but I just didn't know how to achieve it. Now I've got a right-hand man that can take the reins from a certain point and I don't have to worry about it anymore!
Nrama: To me, you have become one of the definitive Spider-verse artists, joining other modern ones like Mark Bagley and Humberto Ramos. From your perspective, do you feel you've done all you can do with Spider-Man?
Stegman: Of course not! I can never have enough Spider-Man in my life. He's my favorite. Forever and ever. I don't know what the cutoff point would be where I would feel like I'd done enough, but I sure haven't hit that point yet.
Nrama: You've been exclusive to Marvel for a decade now, and primarily done work for the Spider-office with Steve Wacker, Nick Lowe, and Devin Lewis. What's it like having that familiarity?
Stegman: It's funny, even when I was doing samples trying to break into the industry I was doing Spider-Man samples. It's just what I've always wanted to do. With other books there's always a familiarizing process. It takes me an issue or two to get my feet under me. But with Spider-books I always feel like I just jump right in and get it right away.
Nrama: On the flipside though, what are some other things you might want to work on in the future?
Stegman: On top of that list would be something creator-owned. I want to create new characters and new stories from the ground up. That's always been a major goal of mine.
Outside of that I'd love to draw some Thor at some point. And Batman. Because duh.
Nrama: Lastly, I hav to ask about your podcast - you're over 30 episodes in, doing this while drawing comics. What drives you to do it?
Stegman: Insanity? Most likely insanity.
But I also really loved letters pages as a kid, especially when the creators were engaging and that's what we are trying to do with Steg-Man and His Amazing Friends. Give people that letters page feel. Because a lot of the social media stuff is cool and all but I feel like sometimes it's a little insufficient. I wanted something a little more substantial.
Nrama: How has it affected your comics?
Stegman: I don't think it has! It does re-energize me a little bit. To hear from people that like what we do and get to interact with fans. But that's about it.
Nrama: And lastly, how important is it to have fun in comics?
Stegman: To me, that's everything. Comics have been a huge part of my life for a long time and it's a fun hobby for me.
When I was a kid I drew all the time because it was fun. So if you're not having fun you're probably not going to put out very good work in my opinion!