Artist Ryan Stegman Breaks Down Latest My Hero Academia Collaboration

There is no denying the popularity of My Hero Academia. While media is flooded with so many superhero stories nowadays, My Hero Academia builds off established tropes and styles to create a wholly unique story. My Hero Academia's latest movie, My Hero Academia: World Heroes' Mission, expands the anime's world even further. In the third MHA film, Deku and fellow heroes must go up against a terrorist group trying to eradicate all Quirk users.

To further hype up the MHA film, which is now playing in theaters, and the franchise's connections to the comic book world, comic artist Ryan Stegman collaborated with My Hero Academia for a promotional poster featuring Deku and a new villain, Flect Turn. Stegman is no stranger to the world of heroes and villains, having illustrated the likes of Venom, Spider-Man, She-Hulk, and more. In honor of his latest hero creation, Stegman sat with CBR for an exclusive interview and discussed his connections to superheroes and anime.

CBR: You often work in the comic medium, so what about this collaboration with My Hero Academia and anime and manga appealed to you so much?

Ryan Stegman: I've said it before, but I've always been into manga. One of the first things when I first got into comic books, I was getting into manga, so this was when I was between 13 and 15. I started reading Wizard Magazine, and they started talking about some of my favorite artists and how they were manga-influenced, and I wanted to go read some of it. I got into Battle Angel Alita and Gunsmith Cats and all these things. I've continued being a fan for all these years.

My Hero Academia came onto my radar. I now have a 10-year-old and a seven-year-old, and I introduced them to My Hero Academia, and they took the ball and ran with it. They absolutely love it. It's been a thing that we've been able to share, even if they've gone further in the series than I have. They read the manga and everything. It just has a special place for me as like this bonding thing that as my kids have transitioned from being essentially too little for this stuff to now we're sharing this stuff that I love.

You often deal with the superhero genre at large, so for you, what does My Hero Academia add to the genre?

It's exposing manga fans to the superhero genre -- is the long and short of it. I think that it's very similar to a comic book like Invincible or even the entire Marvel universe, where Jack Kirby -- they have multiple books doing it -- but they were creating this whole universe in one thing. That's really what My Hero Academia does so well. It's exactly those types of things in one book and easily digestible for people.

This collaboration specifically is about My Hero Academia: World Heroes' Mission. What about the film to you stood out the most?

It very much felt like a summer comic book event, but as a film. I've done a couple of those summer comic book events. We worked really hard to make it work. I was doing Venom, and then we were doing Absolute Carnage and King in Black. We wanted to make sure that people could just jump in and read that book, but also enjoy it, but then hint at the larger things that were going on. I'm not caught up on My Hero Academia completely, but I was able to jump right into the movie, and get the full story and still enjoy it, even though I wasn't up to speed as far as everything else was, so it's like a perfect execution of that type of story.

From an artist's perspective, what about the art of My Hero Academia stands out to you, and how did you want to reimagine that in this collaboration with your own style?

It's interesting that the artist of the series clearly has American influences, so it's fun to see his interpretation of how we draw. All Might, for example, always has a lot of spot black shadows on him with hatching, and he's the only character that does. He's always got the eyes squinted, and you can't see his eyes. He's got the big toothy grin, just like how we do in American comics. I always think that's really neat to see the interpretation of what we do because manga is generally very specific in what it looks like, but he definitely has his own thing that he kind of is using influences from us, where normally I feel like it's us being influenced by manga. It's one of the first times I've seen them being influenced by us.

Kind of touching on that specificity with anime and manga, the art styles often stay the same as the artists are usually the same throughout the storyline, but in the case of comic characters in America, we see that art style can change over the years. What was it like giving Deku and Flect Turn a new art style compared to what a lot of fans of My Hero Academia have grown very used to when it comes to these characters?

That was something that was important to me. I wanted it to look like I drew it, and that's kind of difficult when it's so stylized. I think that a lot of times a lot of the fans would want it to look like how it always looks. At the same time, I always think it's fun to see things like that in other styles. I think I have a fairly distinctive style, so my goal was to really lean into how I draw. I want people to see it and enjoy it for being My Hero Academia, but also for it being a Ryan Stegman drawing that has all the hallmarks of what I do.

As you're saying, your kids are enjoying My Hero as well. Are there any characters that you or your kids would love to see done in your style or a character you'd like to tackle from this franchise in the future?

Bakugo. I haven't drawn anything with Bakugo yet, which is just an oversight on my part. I think that I should probably just do that for fun at some point. Todoroki, too. I have a lot of love for that character, so both of them would be really fun.

Shifting gears a bit to your broader work, what about the superhero genre appeals to you as an artist so much?

That's a good question. I haven't thought about that. As an artist, I like drawing people fighting. I love drawing the human form, so when they're fighting each other, you get to draw them sort of like the ultimate... It's figure drawing at its best. That might be it.

Then story-wise, you find your character, and you fall in love with them. My favorite character is Spider-Man. I think that I gravitate to his attitude of he's gonna do right, no matter what, and I feel it's very similar to Deku, actually. I guess that would be it. I don't know that I was initially excited about the superheroes or the drawing or what, but it got its hooks in me.

Speaking about the human form, when it comes to these superheroes and stuff like that, is there any character that's been a particular challenge when it comes to bringing them to life on the page for you?

Sometimes you go into a drawing thinking a character is going to be difficult, and they end up being really fun for you. Or vice versa. I've had some difficulty with Iron Man in the past because he's a robot essentially. It's a little stiffer than most of the stuff that I like to draw, but at the same time, I didn't know that I would enjoy drawing the character Cable so much, because he has so much stuff on him, but then you find out how fun it can be. I guess the answer is Iron Man has been difficult at times, but I think I've got it down now because I've had to do it so much.

Outside of My Hero Academia and outside of the characters you've already tackled, is there a superhero or villain you would love to bring to life with your art style?

That I haven't already done?

That you haven't already done, and why this specific character? 

I've done commissions of Joker, but I've never done published work, so Batman and Joker obviously are two that I would be very interested in working on. I would love to do a published piece like this My Hero Academia one with All Might as well. I think that would be really fun to see just because I would lean in to the art they do already.

Wrapping this up, you mentioned when you were getting into comics, you got into manga. Is there another anime or manga you'd want to collaborate on?

Off the top of my head, I would say Battle Angel Alita and it's just because that one is one that I got super into. I really love the artist's work on there. I think I could do a really good job on that. I think it'd be really fun.

To catch up on Deku's adventures before the events of World Heroes' Mission, My Hero Academia is currently streaming on Funimation.

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