After the conclusion of the Mega Man: Fully Charged limited series a few weeks ago, we had the chance to catch up with artist Stefano Simeone to talk about his career and work with the comic. You can read this lengthy interview after the break, which also includes some never-before-seen artwork he shared with us!
Beware -- spoilers!
Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. What made you want to become a comic book artist?
Thank you! I wanted to be a comic artist because that media gives me the possibility to tell a story all on my own, without limits of budget, just you and your story.
What's your technical background? Did you go to art school or are you self-taught?
I did scientific studies at the secondary school, then I studied cinema at the university. Only when I was 22 I attended an art school in Rome, besides that I’m still learning on my own.
Who are some of your favorite artists and sources of inspiration inside the comic book industry?
Well, they change a lot. I learned to split between the artists I like (that are really different from my way to see a comic page) and the artists from which I can study some solutions. I usually look at the shots, and at the color palettes, but also in this case, it depends on the project I’m working on, so there are too many.
What kind of tools do you use when making illustrations or coloring?
In the last years, I've mainly used Clip Studio Paint on an Ipad pro. Before that, I worked on Photoshop with my cintiq pro, while I’m aging up I’m going smaller. I know it should be the opposite, but I love the feeling of control that a smaller device can give.
You landed in the comic book industry with the right foot by winning The Romics 2013 Award as the best Italian book with your debut book Semplice and the Boscarato 2013 Award as the best new author. Back then, did you ever dream of working on franchises like G.I. Joe, Star Wars or Mega Man?
Talking about Star Wars, you have done three covers for Star Wars Adventures and worked in The Last Jedi and Rogue One graphic novel adaptation. How was that experience?
Well, working on Star Wars, at my very first pages, was scaring me, touching something that is seen as “sacred”, you know? After that, I basically started thinking I was doing something on my own, and I started feeling free and relaxed. There are a lot of great artists you’ve to deal with, and that’s the most fascinating part.
What is your dream job as a comic book artist?
Right now, I’d love to do something all on my own in the US. Maybe a mini series or a series, that would be awesome. We’ll see.
Do you have any advice for aspiring comic book illustrators out there?
I could tell you the brush I use, the chair I sit, what distance is better from desk to screen, but believe me, I have two pieces of true advice. First, draw as it’s your work, even if you’re still an art student, 10, 12, 16 hours a day. Second, draw things you’re not comfortable with. If you can draw beautiful faces but ugly dogs, what you’ll do if your first work opportunity is a comic with dogs? My personal goal is to learn something new, also a small thing, every new page.
What’s next for you now that Mega Man Fully Charged has finished?
Well, I’m drawing FAB, a new comic in the launch line of StoryWorlds, a new publisher. Then, shortly, you’ll see me on something else from Boom! Studios.
How did you get involved in the Fully Charged comic? Were you approached by someone or did you sign on?
I just finished another comic project with IDW, Read Only Memories, written by Sina Grace, and I think Boom enjoyed my work there, because when I wrote them about something they answered me with Mega Man!
Were you familiar with Mega Man before getting hired for the job?
Yes, I played Mega Man in my childhood, so I instinctively remembered some iconic poses!
How long does it take to make a full issue of the Mega Man Fully Charged comic book?
I can talk only for myself so not the writing or the colors, I usually completed a issue in 5 weeks.
Mega Man fans are used to comic books or manga adaptations that are very faithful to the source material -- the Archie Comics or Hitoshi Ariga's manga comes to mind. The Mega Man Fully Charged TV Show was already a big departure from that style and the comic version is an even bigger departure with a more mature and grim art style. What kind of feedback have you received from fans? Were you expecting any kind of backslash due your unique and stylized art style?
Many people wrote to me that they were happy with my art. I read some reviews with sort of “that’s not Mega Man, I won’t read it!”, but luckily they were few (or basically I try to avoid people who give those kinds of sentences). I know it has been a shock for the MM fans, but that was the goal, doing something new with the character, something you have not imagined that could fit. After the first issue, people got used to the art style, so I can say I had good feedback.
How was the process of bringing the TV Show's cartoony style to the comic book, which has a more realistic character design and a darker style? Did you have creative freedom or were your designs subject to Capcom's approval?
Yeah, I obviously had to submit to Boom! and Capcom every design, but I always feel a lot of freedom. They usually told me the idea, some good references and then gave me freedom to play with ideas, also they went a lot far from before (I’m thinking about Skull Man or the War Mode Mega Man).
I know you are not in charge of the writing but I'm curious to know if any element of the comic book storyline was originally planned to appear in the TV Show. For example Wily or Zero?
Oh Sorry, I don’t know any details!
The appearance of Zero has been one of the biggest surprises of the comic. Can you explain the process and how much time did it take to make her look the way she does? What kind of inspiration did you take from previous Zero designs?
Ahah that’s funny! Basically I did I think 20 different designs, but then Capcom sent one that was absolutely stunning, so I used it with small tweaks, and I created the drone and the staff.
Were you surprised when Boom Studios spoiled the identity of Zero before the release of issue #4?
Not so much. I think we live a bit in a “spoiler slavery”, so we all want to know what happens, but you should also look at “how” it happens.
From all the variant covers drawn by other artists, which one is your favorite?
I loved them all, they were a lot different, but the one with the homage to Astro Boy was so brilliant and funny!
The first issue was a commercial success with 30.009 copies ordered. Do you know if the following issues were in the same ballpark? Was the book successful enough to expect a sequel?
I’m a comic artist, and I understand numbers between 1 and 22 (the pages of a MM issue). I don’t have any detail but I think they were good!
When you look back at your work in the comic, are you 100% satisfied or would you like to go back and redraw a few panels?
Every artist will say “I want to redraw EVERYTHING”, but I think this part of the personal evolution, you learn something new, you take confidence with a character...
The trade paperback is out in June. Do you know if BOOM! Studios are going to add extra content like unused designs or sketches?
I think yes, there’s a lot of material and I’m sure they’ll add something!
The Wily Machine in the last issue is quite different compared to the ones we see in the games. What was your thought process behind the design?
Wily is now in possession of Mega Man and Namagem schematics. Have you stopped to think what kind of Robot Master or antagonist he could hypothetically design in the near future?
I think now he can basically do everything and his limit will be only his imagination (and he has a lot of it)!
Your Skull Man design was quite impactful. If you have the chance to come back for a second mini series, which Robot Master from the classic series would you like to draw?
Who said Bass? Who?
Some comic book artists listen to and find music to pair with their panels. Any particular songs or artists you listened to during the creation of the comic? Or if the comic had a soundtrack, what would it sound like?
Vaporwave makes me fly :)
The Fully Charged TV show has a lot of different characters that didn't appear in the comic. Are there any that you wish you could have drawn? I think a lot of people would be very interested to see "Man Man" with your touch!
I’ve some early designs of War Mode Mega Man that I still enjoy. For others, the design of Elec Man should be fun!
What was your first impression of how the mini series ended?
I’m happy about the finale, because it shows a lot of family feelings and focuses on something we usually don’t see in an issue full of battles.