L.A. Comic Con: Conversation with Comic Artists Ryan Stegman and Chris Burnham
Comic Book Artists Ryan Stegman (Venom
, Superior Spider-Man
, Uncanny Avengers
) and Chris Burnham (Die!Die!Die!
, Batman Inc., Nameless
) took the Main Stage at the 2018 Los Angeles Comic Con to discuss their careers and what it is like to work in the comic industry. The panel, hosted by Ming Chen and Mike Zapcic (Comic Book Men
), covered a number of topics, mainly through questions from audience members.
Asked what their first published work in comic books, Stegman answered that he did a miniseries called Midnight Kiss
from a British publisher. He talked a bit about his start in comics. When he was a teenager, he would put his artwork online and a publisher, CFD Productions, contacted him to work on an interaction computer project. However, his first published comic was Midnight Kiss.
Burnham’s first comic was called Moonstone Monsters: Sea Creatures
(which was about killer frog monsters). Asked if they bought many copies of their first published work, Stegman said that it was hard to find the comic since it was from a British publisher. However, eventually, after visiting many comic book stores, he found one carrying the title. He bought one of the three they had in stock.
They were asked if there was a moment when they knew that they wanted to draw comics for a career. When Stegman was 15 years old, he was visiting the doctor’s with his dad and a friend of his dad. Next to the doctor’s office was a comic store. When they went in, Stegman saw Spawn
#46 on the shelf. When he asked his father to buy it, his dad initially said no, but his friend threaten to buy Ryan all of the comics in the store unless his father bought him the issue of Spawn
. Stegman’s dad relented and then Ryan became obsessed with the issue and immediately knew that he wanted to do. Burnham’s interest began at an early age when his aunt bought him How to Draw Comics The Marvel Way
by Stan Lee and John Buscema. Previously, his had liked Marvel cartoons but found that he could stare and study the drawings much easier in the How to…
book and comics than in a moving animated show.
The artists discussed how to draw action in a way that is dynamic but also clear. Burnham said that he starts trying to make the action as clear as possible, and then at that stage, you can throw some other details in the panel to make it look more chaotic and energetic. He said that the Japanese series Fist of the North Star
is an excellent resource for drawing action.
A fan asked Stegman what he would do if he had the symbiote. He answered that he would try to be a good guy but he would definitely use it to grow wings, which is only a recent development that Venom has done in the comics. Ming asked Stegman his thoughts on the Venom
movie, Stegman admitted that he didn’t love it. He claimed that since he is a huge fan and creator for the character, that it probably would have been hard to make a movie that would satisfy him. He would think about the art and character too much during the movie.
Burnham said that he is a big fan of fights that have dialog. Both discussed that it works better to have dialog during the fight than to have it separated because it is less visually interesting to have characters stand and talk, compared to exchanging words and fists at the same time. Burnham added that it works well when a character can use a punch as an exclamation point on a worded dig.
The discussion turned how the artists adapt scripts. In particular, a fan asked Burnham if he found it difficult to decipher a Grant Morrison script (Burnham penciled Batman Inc.,
written by Morrison). Burnham said that while there are heady ideas within Morrison’s work, it is still just words on paper (or a screen). He added that he has read practically all of Morrison’s comics, so he is familiar with the themes and style that Morrison often utilizes. There may be a bit more time involved for the artist because Morrison will often include references to movies or paintings that elicit a mood that he is trying to achieve. Also, Morrison likes for his artists to be a collaborator/director to produce the vision rather than someone just to carrying out his vision. However, overall, Burnham does not find Morrison’s writing that difficult to follow. Stegman said that a lot of very good writers think visually and that when he gets a script like that, it helps with his art. He added that this doesn’t necessarily mean the writer is better, but it does make his job easier.
Another audience members asked for advice if someone wants to be a writer-artists (rather than one or the other). Stegman said that the best advice is to just do it. If you want to be a writer, then write. If you want to be artists, then draw. If you want to do both, work on both sides. Do it and put it out there until it starts clicking. Burnham said that if you are a beginner, it is probably go to start small – on a short story rather than a series that contains numerous arcs. He said that part of the reason for this is that you can get work done faster. Additionally, the learning curve is very steep. Therefore when you get to page 8 of your book, you will be a lot better and you will want to redo the early work. On a big project, you will constantly be wanting to redo your earlier work and will never finish. It is better to finish a short work and then take the things you learn onto the next project.