MY HERO ACADEMIA: WORLD HEROES' MISSION Interview: Ryan Stegman On His Return To The Franchise (Exclusive)

Comic book artist Ryan Stegman (Venom) talks to us about returning to the My Hero Academia franchise to create a bespoke piece of artwork for World Heroes' Mission, his artistic process, and much more!

To celebrate the release of My Hero Academia: World Heroes’ Mission, Funimation teamed up with comic book artist Ryan Stegman to create a bespoke vision of Deku that effortlessly captures the comic book DNA of the My Hero Academia universe in his signature superhero style. 

Last week, we were fortunate enough to get an early sneak peek at the artwork and to chat with Stegman about his return to the franchise after previously illustrating a special-edition French cover. In our interview, the internationally acclaimed comic book artist talks about how he approached the piece, his love of the franchise, and the insane amount of work that goes into something like this.

Stegman also weighs in on possibly doing more My Hero Academia art down the line, explaining the impact manga and anime have had on a career that has seen him illustrate many of the Marvel Universe's greatest characters. Those include Spider-Man and Venom, and the artist also talks to us about them and his new creator-owned series Vanish (you can find more on that here).

We'll have more from the artist for you soon, but the full interview about My Hero Academia can be found below. If you can't wait for more Marvel talk, though, then make sure you watch the video.

My Hero Academia: World Heroes' Mission is out now in UK cinemas!

I know you’ve done work for this franchise before for a French book that came out a few years ago, but was wondering if you could start by talking about how you came to be involved with this project? 

I did the cover for Ki-oon which is the French edition of My Hero Academia which came about because, apparently, the artist and creator is a fan of my work. I’m not sure I believe it [Laughs], but think it could be possible because he does seem to have American influences. I did that because of course I wanted to work on My Hero Academia. It’s a global phenomenon and my kids are super into it. I was into it as I’ve read some of the volumes and watched a little bit of the anime, but ended up getting into it from that point on watching a bunch and my kids are all caught up on the manga. Basically, I did that piece, and then a couple of years passed and Funimation was looking to do something. They contacted me and must have seen that piece because we went from there. 

Anime has such a distinct style, so did you find that played into your process approaching this piece or did you want to tackle it the same way you would any other artwork? 

Well, I did approach it like any other artwork because I think the idea was to get my style on My Hero Academia. But I’m heavily influenced by manga already. Like, heavily. Some of my favourite stuff growing up was Akira; that’s where I learned how to do action scenes. Battle Angel Alita I was huge into. Gunsmith Cats was another big one for me. I was really into anime at a young age almost equally with the American comics I was reading. If I went and did a manga comic, it would look completely different to what they do, but there are major influences in my work so it’s not a bridge that’s too far for me to get across to do something like that. 

I know you mentioned your kids having an interest in My Hero Academia, but how did your fandom of the franchise develop?

I think it was that my son started reading it because he reads every Shōnen manga that comes out. I’d heard about it and I have friends who work in comics who are all into the same stuff I’m into and one of them was saying how cool this show was. I went and watched a couple of episodes and said, ‘Okay, maybe I’ll read that.’ I bought some of the volumes and then got to share that experience with my son. Then, we started watching the series and it ballooned from there. It’s one of those things where you sort of hear a couple of things and it drifts into your life, and then you give it a shot. 

People will know you for your comic book work and fans are so used to seeing those come out weekly and monthly, I don’t know if everyone appreciates how much work goes into a piece like this. Can you talk through what your process was and how long it took you from start to finish?

I’ll get in a groove with what I’m working on. Right now, I’m working on my creator-owned project called Vanish. I’m not into issue #2 and am almost done with that, so I’ve been drawing these pages and I know how to do that thing. Inevitably, when I do something like this where you don’t draw these characters every day and I’d never drawn Flect Turn prior to this, you start the piece and realise, ‘Oh, this is going to take a lot longer. I need to get the feel for this character.’ It was one of those things…Flect Turn and Deku have a lot more knick-knacks on their costumes than you might think. I can draw Spider-Man at this point with my eyes closed, but these characters have pouches and some of the stuff on Deku’s outfit is kind of crazy. Flect Turn has those…I don’t even know how to describe those things flying around! Basically, I start with the layout and then I have to come up with the poses and add the knick-knacks that are all over them.

It takes a while. A layout like that for this piece would normally take me two hours. Maybe an hour if I know the character. This took a good half day to get down and then I sent in the layout and one of the things when you’re working with a licensor and there are several people in the chain of command, you have to really nail that down. We did. They had some changes and I was able to go in and make those quickly. Once those were done, I went straight into pencils and just drew it. That was the whole process. They really didn’t have many notes once I’d actually pencilled it because we’d made all the changes early. I’d say the actual drawing probably took me another day, so all in all, about a day and a half to draw this. Then, the inker takes about a day or two to ink it and the colourist will need a day. So, the whole process probably takes…that’s three and a half days working on that, but there’s a lot of emailing and discussion in between. It’s a whole thing. 

I know the piece hasn’t been revealed yet, so I’m not sure who actually joined you as inker and colourist. Who was that team and what was it like collaborating with them on the piece?

JP Meyer is the inker I work with pretty much exclusively at this point. He did all of my Venom stuff. He’s working with me on Vanish, the creator-owned book. Sonia Oback coloured the piece and she will be colouring Vanish also. We’re kind of a team that I really enjoy working with. I know I’ll get the best quality work out of them, so yeah, as usual, it was great. They’re both very professional and very good at their jobs. 


This is such an amazing piece of artwork that I can’t wait for people to see, but what did you enjoy most about creating this battle between these two characters?

I absolutely love to draw two characters fighting each other [Laughs]. A lot of times, editors will send me, like for a Marvel cover, some ideas that are conceptual and I do enjoy a good conceptual cover, but unfortunately, my strengths are action-based. I will always try to get down to the nitty-gritty of who will be fighting who in this piece. That’s what I want to do. Once we got to that with this one, I was able to do it and that’s the most fun for me: figuring out a new way to do the same thing that I’ve done a million times before. I don’t think you would ever find two covers of mine that are very similar because I’ve always enjoyed finding a new way to have two characters fighting each other. 

You’ve spent such a long time entrenched in the Marvel world and are well aware of what fans can be like and the expectations that come with certain characters. Did you have any reservations or nervousness about this My Hero Academia franchise?

You know, I didn’t. I did that piece for Ki-oon as I said, and the reception was just incredible. People loved it and I think they understand that because my style isn’t necessarily what they’re used to, they’ll give it a certain amount of leeway. They get that it’s supposed to be My Hero Academia in my style. The reception on the last one was so great, I’m really not concerned. I think that they’ll love it. 

What did you most enjoy about this movie? 

Well, unfortunately, I was sent a screener, but it was just two days ago and I haven’t had a chance to watch it yet because I’ve been working my butt off every day getting this piece and Vanish done [Laughs]. I’m putting in the fourteen-hour days right now, so it’s on my to-do list and I’m hoping to find some time tonight to watch. Again, though, I’ll be doing a live stream and all this stuff, so my workday doesn’t end until late tonight, so hopefully, I can make time. If I don’t tonight, I will tomorrow, because I’m very excited to see it. We watched the other two movies just to lead up to it, but my kids are dying to watch it. I just can’t yet! 

I know you’ve said you’ve been inspired by other artists while working on Venom and Amazing Spider-Man, so was it freeing to do this piece without seeing the film and having any preconceived notions in your head?

Yeah, I had seen the trailer so I knew some of the things, but I think there's a freedom in doing this in that I go into a project like this and I’m like, ‘Well, I don’t draw like how the anime or manga looks’ so I know right off the bat that my strength will be to lean into what I do best. I felt very free in that sense. I didn’t feel like I had to be a slave to anyone else’s vision. I just wanted to get their costumes right and draw them in my style because that’s what the project is all about. It’s seeing how somebody else interprets the world of My Hero Academia. 

I know you’ve got a lot of work on your plate between Vanish and the other work we talked about, but are you hopeful you could return to this franchise down the line? Or are there any other anime or manga franchises you’d like to lend your style to?

I would love to do more with My Hero Academia. Anytime I get offered anything related to this, my ears perk up. I know Marvel has done some collaborations with them, so if they do more of that, I’d love to be part of it. This is sort of my cool card with my kids that I get to play. I have a niece that’s super into it to, so I say ‘I’m drawing Venom and it’s the best-selling comic in the world right now,’ they’re just like, ‘Cool, dad.’ I say I’m doing My Hero Academia and they’re rushing to my table to see what it looks like and what I’m doing. Selfishly, that’s the number one reason I like doing it, so anytime that comes up, I will definitely take them up on it. Outside of that, I’m a huge, huge fan of Evangelion. I think it’s one of my favourite TV series ever of any genre. I don’t know how well I would draw that as I’m not big on drawing robots, but they’re pretty organic, so I could probably do something cool with that too. Any time this stuff comes up, I’d definitely give it a shot because My Hero Academia is clearly the best option for me as it’s superhero-based. All this stuff is fun to explore and see what you’re capable of. 

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