Say the name “Scarlet Spider” to a longtime Marvel reader and you’re bound to get a range of reactions. But come the new year, Marvel is hoping all the reactions will be positive and numerous when the new Scarlet Spider series launches on January11. As recently confirmed in Marvel’s Point One one-shot, the new Scarlet Spider is none other than Kaine, the Peter Parker clone recently cured during the Spider Island event. Unlike many of Marvel’s series set in New York, Scarlet Spider will enjoy the unique cityscape of Houston, Texas — one of many factors that has me looking forward to reading it. Before the series gets started though, series artist Ryan Stegman stepped away from his drawing table to take part in this Q&A. In addition to this interview, CBR also is offering a preview of the first issue. After reading this (and enjoying the preview), be sure to check out the recent installment of Comic Book Resources’ “Axel-in-Charge,” where Alonso interviewed Stegman.
Tim O’Shea: How did Marvel approach you about joining the Scarlet Spider creative team? Was getting to work with [series writer] Chris Yost a deciding factor in joining the project?
Ryan Stegman: I had been working on an issue of Amazing Spider-Man and I made it clear as I could to editorial that this is the type of stuff I wanted to be doing. I practically begged. And Steve Wacker said that he would love to have me back and but that ASM was booked up artist-wise for the foreseeable future. I couldn’t argue this, because the artists that they have are fantastic. So one day, out of the blue he called me up and told me about this idea and I was sold. No offense to Chris, but that wasn’t a selling point because I think I was hired before him! Chris turned out to be the icing on the cake.
O’Shea: Can you take folks through designing the new costume?
Stegman: I spent a lot of time thinking about it and thinking about it. I really knew that I wanted something very classic, with very few bells and whistles. I wanted it to read instantly and from a distance. I tried some stuff and sent it over to Skottie Young and he told me he hated it. Haha. But he had the same ideas as me for what we were looking for and so he helped me to refine it and really get rid of all the unnecessary crap that I wanted to put on it.
I also thought it was important to get rid of the hoodie because that’s Ben Reilly’s costume. I’ve taken a lot of heat for it, and I understand everyone’s attachment to it. But I want Kaine to be a different character…More edgy and frightening looking.
O’Shea: Are you inking yourself on the book (if not, who is)? You recently tweeted about experimenting with inking with a Cintiq. Are you hoping to eventually work on Cintiq for your pages, or how?
Stegman: No, I am not inking myself. I’ve been working with an inker since I worked on She-Hulks named Mikey Babinski. He’s a friend of mine and we’ve really developed a great working relationship. I have inked myself before, but I don’t have the patience for it! I can only really work in a much scratchier style or I find it to be no fun. So I’m glad to have someone that does that heavy lifting for me.
I do part of my work on the Cintiq. Layouts and I add my perspective digitally, then print that out onto the Marvel board in light blue and draw over it. I don’t foresee a future where I would draw completely digitally. For one thing, I like selling original art! And for another, I just can’t quite get the control that I need to have on it. It’s close, but not quite there yet.
O’Shea: Not every artist goes through Marvel’s Artist’s Training Program (as you recently discussed with Axel). What kind of lessons did you learn from Klaus Janson, for example?
Stegman: I learned so much in those few days! I learned a lot about storytelling and the business in general. But the biggest thing that Klaus imparted on me was to never take storytelling for granted. You need to make active decisions when laying out your pages. I guess before working with Klaus and Howard [Chaykin] I didn’t realize how much one could really get into that aspect and since then I’ve been obsessed. There’s plenty more that I learned, but that’s the most concrete thing.
O’Shea: Scarlet Spider is set in Houston. Creatively, what kind of visual opportunities does playing in a different cityscape provide?
Stegman: I have to study Houston and find out the feel of it. When I draw New York, I have a certain aesthetic that I go for. It’s generally kind of dirty and cramped. But Houston is much more wide open. So I just try to use the right reference and understand the city and hope it gives off the right feel. I am much more in tune with making Houston accurate. New York you can kind of put a bunch of pieces together and it just feels like New York. But with Houston, I’m paying attention to everything, right down to how they paint their crosswalks.
O’Shea: Not suprisingly, you read the Clone Saga in preparation for this new assignment, did it inspire you somewhat with some ideas to work into the present day project?
Stegman: Oh, yes. Chris and I are always firing emails back and forth to each other with ideas that we have. Just the other day I became obsessed with Ben Reilly’s impact webbing and told Chris that I’d love for that to be something that Kaine has. And it might end up being so!
Reading that stuff helps me to really understand Kaine as a character too. I think that now more than ever I realize how much baggage he has. So it really helps put me in the mindset of, “This is not Peter Parker … at all.”
O’Shea: Rather than give everything away, I was wondering if you care to discuss the Scarlet Spider supporting cast in general terms?
Stegman: We will be creating a lot of the supporting cast and villains from scratch. Which could not be more exciting for me. Today I was working on a character and I thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool if he could make fire snakes?” and then I drew it. Because this is his first appearance! Nobody can say no, because nobody knows who the hell he is yet. And stuff like that is SOOOOO liberating artistically.
O’Shea: Looking at some of the pencils that CBR previewed for the project, one asset (among the many) is the unique way you layout the web lines (such as here) and how the Scarlet Spider uses them. I don’t think I’ve seen another artist be so unique with the lines. When and how did you realize that was an aspect you wanted to play with and exploit dynamically?
Stegman: The first time I saw Todd McFarlane draw webbing I knew that I wanted to draw webbing. Haha. It’s so cool. But beyond that, movement and energy are two things that I am very conscious of in my work. And the webbing just provides me with the opportunity to add movement and energy to the art. When done right, it really breathes. Plus, by putting webbing in the foreground you can create a lot of depth and cool compositions. I intend to keep pushing this stuff. I love it.
O’Shea: It’s clear in reading your discussion with Axel that this title has allowed you to challenge yourself creatively, can you talk about the thrill and challenge of that?
Stegman: As I mentioned earlier, the most challenging and rewarding part is that we get to create so much of it. But beyond that, I feel that this book really plays to my strengths and so I am getting to use all of the tools in my toolbox. And at the same time, I’m trying to add new tools. Drawing a spider-character is an interesting challenge in his own right because there are SO MANY poses you can put him in, given his flexibility. So figuring out new and exciting things to do is always fun.
O’Shea: Do you find Twitter to be an easy means to interact with readers?
Stegman: I love Twitter for that. I think back to my 15 year old self and wonder if my head would have exploded if Twitter existed. Because at that age, all I ever wanted to do was hear directly from my favorite creators. But I had to wait until Wizard Magazine came out. Then the internet came along and I would spend all day in the Wizard chat room on AOL and creators would pop in occasionally and it was the greatest.
Now I’m on the other side of that, and getting to talk to readers is the best. I’m a very extroverted person so it’s very unnatural for me to stay at home and work by myself. But Twitter allows me to talk to people and get it out of my system. I’ve even made friends with quite a few readers on there. Now, when I go to conventions, I get approached all the time, “I’m so-and-so from Twitter” and immediately the ice is broken. You know stuff about each other. So conversations get rolling as though we have known each other for a long time.
O’Shea: Were you able to get an Xbox on Black Friday?
Stegman: Haha. YES! I got one online. It should be arriving today, in fact. I honestly have no idea when I’m going to play it though. I have a 9 month old son and a job where I work 7 days a week. But hopefully I can make some time to play the Kinect dance games or something with my wife.
O’Shea: One looking in the rearview question, do you have a favorite scene from your work on Fear Itself: Hulk Vs. Dracula?
Stegman: In issue 2, the spread at the beginning of the issue was a big moment for me. I felt like I really captured the action that I had been going for in my work all along. Like I always wanted massive action scenes, but when I’d finish them they’d never live up to my expectations. But that one totally did. And it was the Hulk smashing monsters. Nothing better than that.
O’Shea: Any questions you’d like to toss out to Robot 6 readers?
Stegman: My question to Robot 6 readers is: Will you buy Scarlet Spider? PLEASE?!!!