'Absolute Carnage' and 'Venom' Artist Ryan Stegman on His Greatest Influences
Get the superstar creator's view on his landmark team-up with Donny Cates, his most beloved books, and his favorite artists!
He's the series artist on what's already being called one of the milestone runs in Venom history, and this August, he's picking up the pencil to craft another symbiote story in what's certain to be one of the biggest blockbuster events in years. (One that's going to outsell X-MEN #1. Probably.)
He's Ryan Stegman, and he's really good at drawing.
After turning Venom’s world upside down a year ago, Stegman and writer Donny Cates are about to put the Sinister Symbiote through hell again. Only this time Carnage has come calling, and everyone who’s ever worn a symbiote is dead in his sights! He’s skirted the periphery of the Marvel Universe for months, but Cletus Kasady is making his terrifying return to New York in the blistering 60-page epic ABSOLUTE CARNAGE #1.
Somehow, between working on VENOM and ABSOLUTE CARNAGE, Stegman found time to make his own terrifying return to New York when he stopped by Marvel HQ to chat with Marvel.com. We asked him questions about art and artists, and he gave us answers about art and artists and breakfast.
What do you enjoy most about working on VENOM? Does it somehow feel different than other work you've done at Marvel?
It does feel different, that’s accurate. It feels like kind of a creative synergy. I mean, I’ve experienced it with other guys before but never like the whole team on the same page, like we are. I don’t know, there’s like an extension… Like Donny sends the script and I completely, fully can see it in my head. I don’t know if we’re on the same wavelength or maybe he’s just that good, you know, but we’ll go with being on the same wavelength because I don’t want his head to get too big. [Laughs]
Do you feel like you and Donny have something unique in common?
We might. I feel like we both are pretty gregarious guys who maybe have a dark side or something that we both can also relate to Eddie Brock. We hit it off immediately when we started talking on the phone. I mean, the job was offered, Donny called me to tell me what he had in store, and we talked. It was like I’d been talking to a close friend and we hardly knew each other.
That’s a really interesting thing about comics—working intimately with people you might not meet or get to know in person for months or years.
[Before starting on VENOM,] I had met Donny once at a show, but we had barely talked. We talked enough but we just didn’t have any interactions after that for a while, so it was kind of interesting.
The visual style that you bring to VENOM fits so perfectly for this big, scary, muscular character. Is that something that you find yourself leaning into on purpose, or is it just something that comes naturally? Is there something about Venom that you feel was just made for you to draw?
That’s the funny thing about it is that... Yes.
I didn’t know, I wouldn’t have said, if you give me a list of characters, “Oh yeah, I’d do a good Venom because I’ll do good sort of horrific, dark stuff.” But somehow, I started doing it and it was like, “Oh yeah, that’s exactly what I should be doing.” I guess it just worked. It’s exploring a new aspect of myself. I’m like, “Oh, maybe I’m more attuned to horror than I thought.”
There are a lot of horror elements to the book, but there are also a lot of cosmic elements. Is Marvel Cosmic something you had prior experience with? Is that something you've always loved? Is it a more recent interest?
Oh no, some of my favorite stuff is cosmic. I would have never guessed that VENOM would become a cosmic book, but I think that that’s another thing about Donny: he has to tell the biggest story possible. We’ve literally gone as far into the cosmic realm as you could have. We essentially said that Knull has been there before anything, you know?
I love it. My favorite comic book stories, they’re big ideas—they just have tons of big ideas. That’s essentially what this is. It’s just big idea after big idea.
When you think of the comics that have inspired you the most, what are three that immediately come to mind?
Spider-Man. Todd McFarlane’s SPIDER-MAN was my entry into comics. Let’s see… I love Jack Kirby’s FANTASTIC FOUR. Like I said, the big ideas, they’re just relentless. Let’s see, what else… Marvel Knights. Joe [Quesada] and Kevin Smith’s DAREDEVIL. That whole Marvel Knights thing was… I mean, I loved the INHUMANS that Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee did. All that stuff. But yeah, the Daredevil one was particularly impactful for me, possibly because it’s around the right age where I was.
Expanding from that, what other creators have impacted you?
Like I said, when it hits you at the right time, it hits you… The most influential in my life and career would be McFarlane, Capullo, Quesada, Joe Madureira, J. Scott Campbell, Jim Lee—that sort of era. All those guys.
Do you have time to read books nowadays?
What I just kind of do is I read a comic every time I’m eating breakfast. That ends up being seven a week or so. Sometimes I read them at night, and that adds to that. I mean... I love it.
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