|Cover to “Ultimate Fantastic Four” #9|
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Later this month, Marvel Comics is set to release “Ultimate Fantastic Four” #9, the third in the five part series “Doom!” by Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen. Marvel Comics has provided CBR News with a look at Immonen’s art from that issue and we caught up with the artist to learn a bit more about his work on the title. Immonen provided a bit of an explanation as to what’s going on in the pages previewed with this article.
“Well, we the readers know that Doom has constructed these robotic insects that attack the Baxter Building, but the characters have no idea where these things have come from. You get to see the individual members of the team use their powers, sometimes instinctually, sometimes after a lot of thinking, ‘how the hell can I help?’ They start to fall into the roles we know in the regular Marvel Universe, but not precisely.
“The big payoff sequence deals with the extent of Johnny’s powers, which is played out in such a way that you think it’s built up as far as it’s going to go, and then it goes a little further, then even further. I hope I got that sense across in the art. It was certainly there in the script. You know in ‘Akira,’ when the big energy ball consumes Neo-Tokyo, and it goes on for, I think, 12 pages? That’s the sense I was striving for, but obviously on a very compressed scale.”
While working on the series, most of the communication regarding his work comes from his editors, while Ellis is busily away writing future chapters of the series.”
“I think Warren and I have exchanged a sum total of 100 words by email,” said Immonen when asked about his working relationship with writer Warren Ellis. “Mostly, ‘great stuff,’ ‘thanks for that’ and so on. I’m given to understand that even with the editors, he’s very businesslike, wants to get right to the point, which I respect. He’s a busy guy!
“I hear mostly from the editorial team. They’ve been jumping through hoops, trying to get the word out about the series, and they’ve been wildly complimentary about my work. I was trying something a little different, stylistically, and felt very hesitant about it at first, but as we got further in, and I realized there weren’t any complaints, I felt more secure in being able to pursue this look.”
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Immonen shared with us something of a “behind-the-scenes” look at what a script from Ellis is like and how he turns those directions into printed art.
“There are often ‘stage directions’ in a panel description that, of course, don’t wind up being in the story explicitly,” said Immonen. “After reading them, however, I always feel obligated to try and include them in some way. It’s difficult to explain without a concrete example. Something from #10: ‘[Reed’s] thought it through and This Is What Needs To Be Done.’ Now, the capitals are not included for the reader’s benefit– no one but me is going to see that, so it’s up to me to try and make it evident in the image, through gesture, facial expression, lighting, composition- any of the tools at my disposal. A lot of writers would just write, ‘Reed looks determined.’ They might get the same drawing, but it also might lack some quality. What Warren does is give me something extra to chew on, and hopefully I spit it back out in a way that the reader can understand.
“Of course, he swears like a sailor all over the place which I leave out.”
Even with the elaborate set-ups Ellis hands Immonen, the artist is still able to manage a quick production pace.
“Of course it depends on the given page, but on average, about 6 to 8 hours, which practically unchanged since I began working professionally,” said Immonen. “It’s one of those cartooning mantras; ‘you have to do a page a day’ which I’ve taken to heart. Although the style is less outwardly elaborate than other work I’ve done, there are other considerations, which come into play as a result. It’s actually more difficult to draw simply than to fill up a drawing with a lot of shading and linework. There’s nothing to hide behind, so each line matters that much more.”
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Immonen’s had a diverse and varied career in comics, having worked extensively for DC Comics on “Adventures of Superman,” “Action Comics” and a number of other titles, he’s also worked with writer Kurt Busiek on the creator-owned “Shockrockets” and “Superstar.”
“I actually got my first mainstream gigs at Marvel, and have worked on a lot of single issue for them over the years, but there never seemed to be any long-term projects available. It’s just the way it’s worked out so far. On ‘Ultimate Fantastic Four,’ I’ve developed a strong relationship with [Editors] Ralph Macchio and Nick Lowe, and they’ve been very enthusiastic about the job I’ve been doing, and have put their money where their mouths are, so to speak, by promoting the series, and trying to find me an appropriate follow-up job.
“I’ve been lucky to have had similar relationships at DC, with KC Carlson and Joey Cavalieri primarily. I take it as an indication of their faith in the work that I’ve been asked to change very little in the last 15 years.”
Before we let Immonen go, we had one final, silly question for the artist – On drawing the Thing: all those rocks and what not, pain in the butt or total fun?
“I love drawing the Thing!
“I’ve simplified his look a little, just like everything in the series, but he’s a blast to draw. You can get such great emotion out of him, really exaggerated. As for the rocks, people have asked me if there’s a pattern I follow, putting every line down in the same place in every drawing– no way! On the face, there’s a line formation – Nick Lowe calls it the ‘wishbone’– which I always do, but except for that, it’s a free-for-all.”