Following my conversation with Kieron Gillen on DIE, I knew I wanted to get some insight from the artist who helped to bring such a compelling title to life. French artist Stephanie Hans has helmed some fantastic work, including work for Marvel, Image Comics, Boom Studios, Dark Horse and many others. She graciously took some time to answer a handful of questions around her professional life as an artist, as well as her involvement with DIE. Enjoy!
What initially got you interested in being a comic book artist? Certainly you discovered a talent and passion for art, what led you to the profession you’re in now?
So I was always interested in art and illustration. When I got into art school, I realized that more than art in itself, I wanted to create something that could enter anybody’s life and be a part of it without a specific need of previous knowledge. Everybody can enjoy a comic book. You enjoy it as well at home where you read it carefully than sitting on the floor in the alley of a comic book store. It is a genuine love and also very deep one. People who love comics love them with passion. They help them in hard times and good times also, they shape them sometimes. They become the thing you share with the people you love or the thing you bond over with strangers.
This is what I love and wanted to be a part of.
What do you consider to be your breakout work? How did you come across the opportunity?
Definitely my first cover for Marvel : Firestar
It came after a long 2 years wait since I gave my portfolioto to C.B Cebulski and didn’t expect it to happen anymore. He wrote me around Christmas to ask if I would be interested in doing a cover for a week later. And I was.
It brought all the rest. After that one, I always had work on my table.
I think it’s in Sanderson’s Oathbringer where a character says “The most important step a man can take. It’s not the first one, is it? It’s the next one.“ Following your breakout work, how did you keep new projects coming? Did the work ever “dry up”?
The first couple of years were joyful, I was provided a steady stream of work by Marvel until I started on Journey into Mystery and The Dark Tower.
Those two series ended up at the same time and it became clear that Marvel didn’t have an immediate new plan for me. That moment was a tough lesson – Never put all your eggs in the same basket, and don’t get used to comfort.
I had a box filled of business cards from editors I met during cons, I opened it and sent mails to everyone.
Dynamite gave me a cover and boom – hired me on a new series.
It kept me on the shelves and that was the most important. I needed to show that I would always do my best to promote a book.
After a few months, Marvel came back to me for a cover of fearless defenders and then interiors.
Now, my work is known well enough for me not to need to look for opportunities. I refuse more work than I can take.
What’s been your experience in the industry as a female artist? Do you feel like you’ve been afforded opportunities equally?
I never really thought I was denied any chance.
I sometimes wondered if it would have been faster or easier as a male bit so far, even if I am not the most famous artist, I think I had an exemplary career..
How did you come across this uniquely amazing opportunity?
Kieron and I have partnered several times over the years. We worked together on Journey Into Mystery, Angela, The Wicked And The Divine.
He is someone who trusts his artists and I am an artist that needs to be trusted.
We got along well, work-wise, and then we became friends.
We always talked about finding the right opportunity to create a book together someday, and then in summer 2016, when I was traveling in Japan, he sent me an email with the first lines of DIE.
Your visual style is very striking – where are you drawing your aesthetic inspirations from, not only in your general style, but in how you approach DIE?
I always say i am a chaotic artist. As well as a chaotic person I presume.
I like to to pile up knowledge about anything just in case it can be useful.
I always thought fantasy was a discipline for mature artist because you need a lot of references to feed the starving monster that is the creation of a new universe with their own rules, architecture, language , clothes, hairstyles, agriculture, gestures, and all the small things that make a paracosm credible.
I have books from osprey (men at arms) for outfits, reference from old Istanbul for some places, and so on. I usually let myself go util it feels real. It is my only limit.
I need to believe in it, otherwise, who would?
I had asked Kieron this question at Comic Con and I’m curious of your take: In a recent interview with Shut up and Sit Down he said: “Geek culture won. It doesn’t need to fight its persecutors any more. As such, it means we can be a bit more honest with ourselves, and talk openly.” – what would be first on your agenda of things to talk openly about with the broader geek community?
I don’t know, I always was the geek one in a crowd of people who never knew what I was talking about. It is very new for me to be able to talk comics, or fantasy with almost everyone. I feel like I still need time to get used to it.
Which of the characters do you align most closely with, and why?
All of them at times.
I am the dictator, very often, but they all have a part of me in them. Even Chuck. I sometimes say I am so lucky that the universe would open the way in front of me if I really need to go somewhere. I also pretended other people weren’t real when I was younger because I was too shy to function.
Isabelle has maybe the least of myself because she is designed out of my best friend who is Korean adopted also. But she is an elitist and I cannot say I am not, at times.
Who’s an artist working in the industry right now that you’d love to work with?
I would love to collaborate with Bill Sienkievicz or John Howe. Both are huge influences for me.
Besides DIE, what’s a great comic you’ve read in the last year?
I re-read Gunnm and that was still as fantastic as it was the first time.