Doctor Octopus isn't the only person slipping into Spider-Man's skin these day.
With the launch of Marvel Comics' "Superior Spider-Man" title, the franchise welcomed artist Ryan Stegman to the launch to help give Dr. Octopus's heroic rebirth a sinister sheen. Already versed in web-slinging from his time on the spinoff "Scarlet Spider," Stegman lobbied for the gig despite the waves of strong and occasionally outrageous fan reaction to the story.
With "Superior Spider-Man" #2 in stores this week, CBR News spoke to the artist about his take on the series. Below, Stegman describes how drawing the core Spider-Man title was a dream gig he didn't realize was a dream gig, what differences he's finding from "Scarlet Spider" both because of locale and collaborators, how he views Spidey's legendary supporting cast and what he's looking to do when he returns to the book after his first three-issue stint.
CBR News: Ryan, it seemed like you weren't online as much as usual in the weeks leading up to "Superior Spider-Man" #1while many people were busy freaking out over the story. Were you hunkered down at the drawing board ignoring what was being said?
Ryan Stegman: Oh, I read it all! [Laughs] I had my Twitter set up to search for "ASM700" in Tweetdeck. The Tweets were just coming in non-stop, so I kept reading everything. Then I'd start to get scared. I realized that this was going to actually come out. Working in a vacuum in your basement, you don't realize how many people are going to have an opinion on this thing.
What was the pressure on this gig like? A lot of people first saw your work on "Scarlet Spider," but were you a Spider-Man kid growing up?
Oh, yeah. This is what I've wanted to do forever. If I go back -- and someday I'm going to have to dig up my old samples, because I have some of them -- you'll see that the pages I did when I decided I wanted to be a comic book artist were always Spider-Man. I don't really remember that being a conscious decision, but it was definitely a thing where when I started working on him, it was a different feeling. First I did an "Amazing Spider-Man" issue, and then I did "Scarlet Spider," and it was strange because normally, it takes a while to get warmed up on a book. You have to get comfortable with the characters. But for some reason, I felt able to jump right in with Spider-Man. Then I realized, "Oh, it's because I drew him all the time!" [Laughs] I never would have vocalized "This is my favorite character" or anything, but that's how it was.
I think that everybody has an aim, and I knew for a long time that mine was Spider-Man. I mean, I flat out told them before I got the offer that this is what I wanted to do. I was going onto "Fantastic Four" and knew it was only three issues. I thought, "What am I going to do after that?" because I was leaving a book that I loved in "Scarlet Spider." Marvel didn't know for sure, so I told them I wanted Spider-Man, and they gave it to me.
Is there a real difference for you in drawing the main Spider-Man book in New York as opposed to doing something like "Scarlet Spider" which had a lot of the same kinds of action and character work built in?
New York always has its own texture as a city because it's old. When I was doing "Scarlet Spider," it was set in Houston, and everything there doesn't feel as used as much. I went there and walked around downtown to get a feel for it, and I've been to New York a bunch of times. So in "Scarlet Spider," the approach was definitely more about making the city cleaner from a style perspective. The buildings I drew were more boxy and modern. The way I draw New York is that all the buildings have character. They're much more worn out a lot of the time. You try and get that right.
The other difference between "Scarlet Spider" and "Superior Spider-Man" is that Kane was a bulkier character. Just drawing him swinging around was a different kind of thing because of that. And all of his supporting cast was brand new. Christ [Yost] and I pretty much created them from the ground up. But with Spider-Man, you've got these very established characters like J. Jonah Jameson or Mary Jane or these people that so many great artists in the past have drawn, and you try to do those artists justice.
Is there a difference in how you're drawing Spidey since Doc Ock is in the pilot seat?
Absolutely, though it's not so much when he's behind the mask. In the costume, Doc Ock still has all of Peter's memories in his head, so in an action sequence, when he's making split-second decisions, I feel like he's going to be drawing from Peter's experiences as Spider-Man. He doesn't have to learn how to be Spider-Man from the ground up, so any time he doesn't have a lot of time to react and think, he's going to react as Peter would have.
But when he's out of costume being "Peter Parker," I try to give him a very arrogant look. He's always got his chest puffed out and is smirking at everybody and being the general jerk that Otto Octavius is. He is the way he is because he's not self aware, so he wouldn't know that he's acting any different than Peter Parker does. He'd have the same mannerisms he had before, even though he's in Peter's body.
With Issue #2, we're starting to see a bit more how this character will function and we're seeing more supporting cast interacting with him like Jonah. Did you go to Dan Slott and say, "I really want to do this character," or try to work in elements of Spider-Man you'd been itching to draw?
So far, I haven't. I'm drawing the first three issues, and that was ready to go when I came on. Dan had already crafted the whole story, so I couldn't really add anything at that point. For the future issues, Dan and I have been on the phone quite a bit, and that's where I'll get to put my stamp on it. But the first three were pretty airtight when I came on.
How has it been working into the established rotation of Spidey artists with Humberto Ramos and Giuseppe Camuncoli?
It's been neat. We have a Google Drive account where we can all see what each other are doing. The other day, I was going over Giuseppe's pages and seeing how he drew characters that I got to create the look of in issues #2 and 3. Seeing how he took them on was great. Really, I just come in, get the script and get to business. And since I'm starting out the run with Doc Ock, I probably haven't had to look at their stuff yet the way they're looking at mine right now. But when I come back, that's when I'll start having to portray the things they've created.
Like another thing I've noticed is that Humberto in the later issues has started to do something cool with the eyes on the costume, which I promptly stole. [Laughter] It was neat. He's added a little thicker border around the edge. Those are the types of things we can all share.
What exactly are you drawing when you come back on the other side of these issues involving the Vulture and some other villains? What kind of stuff have you been asking for?
Oh, there's so much stuff, man. [Laughter] But I guess the diplomatic answer, without giving anything away, is that I like drawing the classic villains and getting to put my own stamp on them. I'm much more comfortable artistically making the villains my own. Mary Jane has a very specific look that's been established, and so does J. Jonah Jameson. The villains do too, but it seems like guys over the years have put their own spin on the bad guys more. I feel I'm allowed to take more artistic license and let them be as ugly as I want. That's something I enjoy. I don't like good-looking villains. I like them to be hideous, so I want to work on making them unique in the future.
"Superior Spider-Man" #2 ships this Wednesday from Marvel Comics.