Stephanie Hans has had one of the biggest years in comics. Her series DIE (Image Comics) with writer Kieron Gillen has been one of them most talked about new series in years. Her unique style has created one of the most visually stunning books being published today.
When I had the chance to pick her brain a little about this fantastic series, I jumped on it.
If you're like me, and the rest of us at The Comic Lounge, I'm sure you want more also.
Come see what Stephanie has to say about art, influences and of course, DIE.
COMIC LOUNGE: When did your love for comics begin?
HANS: As a child, growing up in a village , in the early eighties, there weren’t so many things to do. I loved to read. My mother used to take me with her to the local supermarket and leave me at the Comic aisle where I would read French comics until she was done. It was different times. People used to trust each other more. That was for the French comics part.
Now for the US comics part, it is a multi part story. they were quite rare when I was young but the iconic magazine STRANGE was publishing 3 Marvel story each month. From memory, I’d say New Mutants, Iron Man, and West Coast Avengers.. Then Bill Sienkiewicz happened and I was too young to like his awesomeness. I stopped reading them.
I reunited with US comics a long time later, around my mid 20’s. I met a group of friends who put some Alan Moore and Frank Miller in my hands. I completed this with some Neil Gaiman and was hooked.
COMIC LOUNGE: When you decided to be an artist were comics your first choice?
HANS: It really wasn’t! I went to art school more or less for illustration and when I had to write an essay about a subject that was important to me for my 2nd year graduation, I realized that first of all I was interested in created art for people, not something for galleries. Literally I wanted to create popular art. 2nd of all I wasn’t interested in create children’s book, I wanted to create illustration for adults. Something dark and graceful.
This is how I realized that comics would be my way. I never thought it would take me this far though. Or even that I would even be able to work for the US market. It was and still is a rarity that I cherish.
COMIC LOUNGE: Who are some artists that have been influential for you?
HANS: As mentioned before, Bill Sienkiewicz, Frank Miller but also David Mack, Lynn Varley, Bourgeon, Mario Alberti, Yukito Kishiro, and a lot of more traditional artists like Mucha, Angus McBride, Klimmt, Egon Schiele, Bob Pic, Frazetta and my all time idol, Bilibin.
COMIC LOUNGE: This past year, along with Kieron Gillen, you launched DIE. Which everyone here at Comic Lounge can't stop raving about. Was the idea for the book something you and Gillen came up with together?
HANS: We knew for a while that we wanted to work together on something. I love the freedom and trust we give each other when working on a book.
When we were still playing with the idea I confessed him that I was at heart a fantasy artist. This is how I started , but I think fantasy is best done by mature artists. I was not and did a lot of everything to learn more about art, and life before being really ready.
Kieron admitted that himself was an undercover fantasy writer.
There was an opportunity there.
Then one day, he sent me a pitch and I was sold.
COMIC LOUNGE: Your painted style really helps this book standout in a comics market with so many varying styles. What was your approach when coming up with the look of the book?
The first thing I did to make sure that the book stands out was to come with a strong cover concept . I have been a cover artist for a long time and I have a lot of ideas about what works in general, and what works at this moment, which is not always the same.
I knew from the beginning that I wanted to put a dice on the cover. It was bold and was bound to attract the eye, it also is a distinct way to make my art more conceptual in a way, I like also the possibilities it implies for me and the other creators.
As for the rest
My art has always been more an impressionist thing. I try to not overdo the designs or the scenery. It has to feel real, even uncomfortably so sometimes. I put a lot of work in the color treatment too. I assign color themes to scenes, reduce their numbers when there is action. It helps a lot to redirect the attention where we want it.
COMIC LOUNGE: The main characters are so unique in their own way, where did the inspiration for their designs come from?
HANS: They are unique in the way that they all come from real life experiences, some more than others. They come from my youth or Kieron’s, my friends, past or present.
As I said earlier, they had to make sense.
We talked a lot about Ash/Dominic. Their design was the one that has been the most remade. The first strong idea was to make Dominic a Metalhead. You see I had a few of them in my high school and always had a special tenderness for them, for the armor they tried to wrap around them, with their battle jackets covered with Van Halen prints and patches. Ash’s first design was inspired by Eddy the head, quite literally. And even though this design was a bit much, I kept the white hair and the horrifying red skin texture for when she uses her powers, around the eye and the arm.
The other ones came more naturally, from pop culture references of the nineties.
COMIC LOUNGE: The book is heavily influenced by tabletop gaming, are you a gamer yourself?
HANS: Not anymore.
I played for a few years with a group of friends, but after a while, we split and this experience, I deeply associated it with them and didn’t want to replace this sort of strange family which took care of me for a while.
I played RPG video games for longer, but that too came to an end with the rise of MMORPG. You see, I'm an overachiever and cannot leave a game before ending every single part of it. I just needed to stop before cutting myself from the world. Anyway, I don’t think I will ever feel the same thrill I had when playing FF7 for the first time, or LEGEND OF MANA or BALDUR’S GATE. I find the new games very beautiful but lacking magic and tragedy. That is just my humble opinion
COMIC LOUNGE: What can we expect from the series moving forward?
HANS: Well this is a Kieron Gillen’s book, so tragedies awaits , but it is also my book, so it will be made with as much beauty as I can muster.
COMIC LOUNGE: What is your preferred medium to work in, traditional or digital?
HANS: It depends on the work. I love to work traditionally on some covers but only do it when they are not too complicated and have time.
Overall it is not that longer, but I need to scan and redo a few things digitally.
Digital just allows me to be bolder. To try things. I love experimenting.
COMIC LOUNGE: Are there any other books you're working on that you can talk about?
HANS: Unfortunately DIE eats all my time, so beside a few extra covers here and there, I won’t appear anywhere else for now.
COMIC LOUNGE: What is the most rewarding thing about being an artist for you?
HANS: Love that you get from the readers, always