If you don’t know the name Nate Stockman, you will very soon. After cutting his teeth on books like Anti-Hero and Reyn, Nate got his shot at Marvel and isn’t looking back. He took over art duties on Spidey, alongside writer Robbie Thompson, and has drawn rave reviews for his energetic, vibrant and kinetic cartooning style. We had the pleasure of getting to know Nate through the podcast, and it’s a thrill to see him move up the profession so quickly.
So, drawing Marvel’s premier character – Spider-Man – no pressure, right?
Yeah, it’s only Spider-Man, who cares about him right? What’s he ever done for anyone! I feel dirty even saying that. I’m sorry Spidey – I love you. We’re still pals, right?
Spider-Man has always been a total dream gig so to get it right off the bat with my first Marvel job was just incredible. And to have it be classic teen Peter with all the classic villains and supporting cast around him was the cherry on top. I mean I got to draw the entire original Sinister Six in my first issue and then J. Jonah Jameson literally shouting at Peter to bring him pictures of Spider-Man in the next. It was surreal to be drawing all these famous Spider-tropes but I absolutely loved every minute of it.
I did feel a huge amount of pressure but at the same time I went in with the confidence of knowing who each character is. How they should look and act. And having a huge genuine affection for the entire cast of that book. That really helped settle the nerves. I knew I’d be able to give it my best shot because of that.
In all honesty, you’re making it look easy. It’s stunning to me that what you’re putting down on the page is your first ever “Big 2” superhero work. Clearly, you’ve got an affinity for these characters. Have you always been a Marvel zombie?
Thanks so much! I knew I had to try up my game on this book. I had to make sure I took my shot and did my best work. I have to thank the Spidey series writer Robbie Thompson and editor Darren Shan for their help there, too. Robbie’s scripts are a total joy to work on and really mesh well with what I like about comics. Big, fun, energetic stories with heart to them. And Darren has helped point me in the right direction artistically since the beginning; chipping in with suggestions and encouragement to strengthen the storytelling. The whole team worked hard to bring out the best in each other.
Speaking of your roots, give us your origin story.
Like all the best origins, mine is mired in tragedy.
I was in my senior year. Captain of the county champion lacrosse team. Dating Betsy Hooper, the hottest girl in school. I was about to graduate on a full athletic scholarship. The world was my oyster until one fateful afternoon on a school trip to a boring science lab.
I had to make an appearance or I’d fail the class and risk losing my scholarship. The lab stuff was so dorky so I slipped into a back room with Betsy to make out. What a mistake that would turn out to be. It was going well (I was also the county champion in kissing) but suddenly I was accosted by a glowing man wearing what I’d come to realize was a Green Lantern t-shirt. I used my incredible natural strength to hold him off. I was desperately trying to shield Betsy from his rantings of “black nights” and “yellow rings.” Unfortunately, before I could deliver the killing blow the irradiated nerd bit me. My fate was sealed.
Over the following days my athletic prowess all but disappeared. I felt compelled to cancel my subscriptions to GQ and Playboy and instead in a hushed tone I would embarrassingly ask for a copy of Spider-Man to be added in their stead; keeping it wrapped in a brown bag to hide my shame. This would go on for several weeks, but upon realizing the cashier was spelling Spider-Man without the hyphen on my bag I became enraged and vowed never to set foot in the corner store again. What was I becoming?
Hands greasy, and short of breath I would begin entering specialty comic book stores. Places I was unaware existed such a short time ago. Once Betsy found out about my dirty secret she left me; telling people I had died in a fire rather than acknowledge the shame of what I was now – a comic nerd.
I tried to resist but the temptation of the seductive adventures of Spider-Man, The X-Men and the Justice League proved too much and I’d soon backslide into my poly-bagged prison. Bagging and boarding replaced drinking and partying as I fell deeper into despair. My once bright future now as dark as the room in which I hid myself away.
After a particularly bleak summer I became inspired by the sassy, can-do attitude of my new love interest Jubilation Lee. I searched deep inside myself. I could either embrace my curse or let it devour me. Picking up a pencil I decided to write a list of possible future paths for me now that my athletic scholarships had gone the way of Devil Dinosaur. Instead of words I found my hand drawing a man. A man with a glowing eye and a sweet metal arm. A man called Cable. Cable was followed swiftly by images of Spiral, Nightcrawler, and Spider-Man.
I was so enamored with this newfound ability I vowed on the spot to become a comic book artist.
I often wonder where my path would have gone had I not been bitten that day. Would I be athletic and handsome still? Surely. Would I have married Betsy and/or many other beautiful women? Undoubtedly. But would I be truly happy? The kind of happiness only a 3.5-star review can bring you? I think not.
What a journey! If it makes you feel any better, Betsy ended up marrying Daimon Hellstrom and her life has been hellacious. Now let’s jump back to reality. Were you formally trained as an illustrator, and did you always plan on getting into comics or were you interested in other types of illustration work?
I trained as an animator which I really enjoyed. I always had in the back of my mind that comics were for me though. But studying animation really helped me understand the fundamentals of storytelling and character acting which serve very well in sequential storytelling.
I first became of aware of your work on Reyn, but you had a series with Jay Faerber – Anti-Hero – before that, correct? How did you land those gigs?
I got hooked up with Jay on Anti-Hero through the series colorist Paul Little who recommended me for the job. Paul had worked with Jay on some Dynamo 5 backups and I had worked with Paul on some pitches and things so when Jay said he was looking for an artist to pitch a series with he put my name forward. I was a big fan of Jay’s work so I was very intimidated to work with him to say the least. Thankfully he turned out not to be monstrous at all. In fact, he was a fantastic collaborator and it was a ton of fun working with him.
After Anti-Hero I did a fill in on the Image series I Love Trouble. Again, I was recommended by Paul who was coloring that series, too. It was written by Kel Symons. We enjoyed working together and after that series wrapped we bounced a couple of pitch ideas around. One of which became Reyn.
It’s been said Reyn was actually better than Saga, The Walking Dead and the Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four combined. I can’t say for sure who said that – possibly me –or even if it’s true at all. Who knows what’s true anymore these days? Either way Anti-Hero and Reyn are both available in all good comic stores. Even some bad ones, too, possibly.
Since you’re in the early innings of your career, what kinds of projects are on your bucket list? Do you envision making a run at creator-owned comics? Are there specific characters within the Marvel and DC universes that you want a shot at drawing?
I have two major bucket list projects. The first being Spidey which is ticked off (but let’s be clear, I’d never say no to more Spider stuff). The other huge one is the Legion of Superheroes. The Legion is my favorite super team by a clear mile so I’d love the chance to contribute to that series someday. An Earth One style OGN or something would be perfect. I really like that format.
I’ve tons of other stuff I’d be ecstatic to draw too: Superman, Flash, X-Men, Generation X. I got to draw Dr. Strange, Clea and Doctor Doom in the excellent Sorcerers Supreme book (Issue 5 in stores now!), which was pretty cool. I’d love to do creator-owned work again in the future, too. I really enjoyed the work I did at Image and building something from the ground up is really rewarding.
Superman. Flash. The X-Men. Generation X. Which one of these things is doing its own thing? Seriously, talk to me about your love for Generation X? Is that a Bachalo thing? Or just the “right team, right age?”
Haha, yeah it’s mostly (Chris) Bachalo. He blew my mind on that book. I’d never seen anything like it. His character designs are incredible. Chamber, Husk, Skin, Mondo. They were all so unique and weird. I loved it. Bachalo is still blowing my mind on Dr. Strange today. He’s been consistently brilliant.
There was definitely an aspect of “right team, right age,” too. I did gravitate towards ‘teen’ books at that age. I loved Impulse, Legion, Generation X, Gen 13, Superboy, Robin and Young Justice.
In addition to your published work, as you know, I’m a massive fan of your commissions. Are conventions and commissions still a big part of supplementing your income? What conventions are you planning on doing this year?
Thanks! And cheers for being a good customer of my commissions. It’s especially fun to do some of the animated style ones I’ve done for you. I never ended up working in the animation industry after studying it in college so it’s cool to scratch that itch a bit. I like mixing it up a bit in commission work. Doing styles and techniques I wouldn’t get to do in monthly comics. Like the animated stuff or some of the more time-consuming grey tone work.
I haven’t done a lot of conventions yet but I’m trying to get out a bit more. I did Thought Bubble last year which was fantastic fun. Hoping to do that again this year and possibly NYCC as well if I can swing it.
Commission work is absolutely a good source of my income, especially if I’m in-between gigs. It’s a great way to stay sharp and pay your rent. I’m very appreciative of everyone who spends their hard-earned cash on a piece from me.
As you noted, you’ve got an affinity for different styles. Who are your artistic heroes and inspirations? I see a lot of Bruce Timm in your animated commission work, but more of a Keith Giffen motif in your published work. Am I off base there?
On the animated style side Bruce Timm is a big one, for sure. I like James Tucker and Genndy Tartakovsky a lot too. I really like Shane Glines’ work on the new Justice League Action, as well.
From the comic world, I have a ton of artists that I admire. I really like energetic styles that skew more “cartoony” for want of a better word. I love Sal Buscema, John McCrea, Ryan Ottley, Stuart Immonen, Jason Pearson, Chris Bachalo, Art Adams, Erik Larsen, Ryan Stegman, Chris Sprouse, Olivier Coipel, Matteo Scalera, Jordi Bernet. And of course, the “Emperor (self-appointed) of Irish comics” Declan Shalvey. If I don’t list him as an influence he’ll personally see to it that I’m banished from comics.
That’s just off the top of my head. There’s a load more that I’m likely forgetting. I never would have cited Giffen as an influence but now that you say it I can see it. I have read and very much enjoyed a lot of his work so I’m sure some of it’s seeped in!
What are your tools of the trade?
I work traditionally so my tools of the trade are simple pencils, pens and an enchanted fur which allows limited future sight. That’s very helpful for layouts. I’ll edit a little in Photoshop – generally resizing giant heads – but the bulk of the work is done by hand.
Are you now exclusive to Marvel? If so, what can fans look forward to seeing you work on in the coming months?
I’m not exclusive to Marvel, although if they want to go steady I’ll happily wear their jacket and class ring. As long as they’re respectful and don’t keep me out too late.
The Marvel folks have been brilliant to work with. I have to shout out Rickey Purdin, The talent guru. I was working with him for several months doing sample work which he’d critique and help bring me up to snuff. He’s a great guy and really knows his stuff.
I just got done working on Issue 5 of Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows, filling in for the “industry’s best artist” Ryan Stegman (his words). I got the job because I was next in line alphabetically. That’s how it works. That issue is out March 22nd and it’s written by Gerry Conway. That’s cool, isn’t it?
Absolutely. Although Stegman I no better than the 17th best Spider-artist, for the record (his words). How can fans keep in touch with you and your work?
I’m most active on Twitter @stockmannate. I have a Deviant-Art page too, but I haven’t updated in ages which is stockmanart.deviantart.com. But Twitter is where I’ll check in the most. Follow me for uneducated rants and the occasional picture of Spider-Man.
Fantastic. Well Nate, as excited as I am to see you doing big things, I do secretly hope there’s a one month window where you find yourself in between gigs. I’ve got a few more team commissions I need you to knock out of the park. In all seriousness, thanks for sitting down for a chat. I sincerely hope you make it over to NYCC this year so we can throw back a Guinness and lament the days when we both used to dominate lacrosse. Cheers!