Does Whatever an Artist Can: Immonen Talks "Ultimate Spider-Man"

Anything can happen in Peter Parker's world. The underage star of Marvel Comics' Ultimate Spider-Man has to deal with both teen angst and ceaseless supervillains on a daily basis, forcing the title's artist to be ready to depict anything at any time. For six issues now, Stuart Immonen has met and exceeded that challenge, and CBR News spoke with the artist about his work on the popular comic.

Coming aboard Ultimate Spider-Man, a book that had been drawn for 110 issues by Mark Bagley, could have been a daunting experience, but Immonen handled the assignment like any other. It's intimidating with respect to wanting to do a good job, but that's how I felt when I started on 'Superman,' or 'Thor', or any number of other series over the past 20-odd years, Stuart Immonen told CBR News. There is always going to be a transition period, I think, where both the creators and the readers get used to the change; I'll perhaps make adjustments to how I might approach certain creative obstacles, as no two collaborations are alike, and readers will either accept that things will be different or they won't.

In spite of the challenges he faced, Immonen dived right in and embraced his new gig. That's pretty much mandatory, as there is no pause in the schedule, Immonen said, adding that the monthly schedule offers him no additional difficulties. I'm not able to keep up Mark Bagley's superhuman effort, but I've done a book-a-month since forever, so I don't foresee any difficulties in that regard.

The concluding chapter of Immonen's first Ultimate Spider-Man arc, Death of a Goblin hits stores on December 28, and the artist promises the tale ends with a bang. The end is powerful, I think, but hopefully that will come across because of an emotional investment that the reader will have had, and not because of some gratuitous shock value scene, Immonen said. Some things happen off-panel in the final issue, actually, and I often find that's more dramatic.

For future arcs, including the imminent Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, Immonen will employ the same artistic and stylistic techniques he used in Death of a Goblin. The approach I'll take with the art is chiefly governed by the tone of the title, and not necessarily by individual issues or story arcs-- I think that would be too alarming for the readers, and force them out of the story, Immonen explained. That being said, however, there's always a place for taking a different approach visually. Mark and [series writer] Brian [Bendis] did this a while back for instance, telling a child's 'once upon a time' story within a story.

In my first couple of arcs, though, it's all been fairly straightforward storytelling, so there's been no reason to rethink the art to match. At the end of 'Nextwave', Warren split the team up into different dream sequences; it was at Editor Nick Lowe's suggestion that I draw each sequence in a different way. I think it worked out, for the most part. I guess what I'm saying is that if there's an opportunity for such a change, there's no reason not to take it.

'Ultimate Spider-Man' is a fun book; with fun dialogue providing a chance to draw the range of human emotion, and fun action scenes, Immonen continued. As I said, I've tried to match the tone of the series with my work. A naturalistic approach like that of 'Superman: Secret Identity' would work as well, in my opinion. Likewise, 'Nextwave' is too over-the-top cartoony, but there are elements of both styles in play on 'USM', believe it or not.

Immonen hopes Peter Parker and all the characters he draws in Ultimate Spider-Man appear to be fully fleshed-out beings capable of a wide range of thoughts, feelings and physical demands. I try to express in body language and facial expression what I think Brian is asking for, either explicitly, or in character dialogue, Immonen said. I would like the reader to really believe the characters are saying and feeling what is written in their thoughts and words.

Collaborating with Brian Bendis has proven to be an easy and enjoyable experience for Immonen. Brian's an artist, too, so it's a benefit to me that he thinks visually, Immonen stated. He's also open to full collaboration, which means that if I can't effectively transition the description as writ into images, and instead come up with an alternative solution, that's okay. I'd say that flexibility is paramount-- he has faith that I know what I'm doing, and I'm left to perform my part of the storytelling job without interference, which is a courtesy I also extend to him; I have little desire to ask him to shoehorn in some goofy idea I might have for the Ultimate Gibbon or something.

As Bendis and Bagley proved with their record setting run of 110 consecutive issues, Ultimate Spider-Man is a book on which creators tend to stick around for a very long time, and indeed Immonen sees himself on the title for the foreseeable future. Brian and Mark set an extraordinary standard, which I can't hope to match, at least not in the same time frame, Immonen said. However, if there's editorial will to keep me around, and sales support the choice, I'd love to stay. Actually, after half a year on the job, I feel like I'm only just settling in.


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