Year of the Artist, Day 255: Stuart Immonen, Part 4 - <i>Never As Bad As You Think</i> and <i>Moving Pictures</i>

Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today's artist is Stuart Immonen, and the comics are Never As Bad As You Think and Moving Pictures, the first of which was published by Boom! and is cover dated December 2008 and the second of which was published by Top Shelf and is cover dated April 2010. Enjoy!

As Immonen continued to work for Marvel, he and wife Kathryn Immonen were working on webcomics, which eventually got published as these two books, both of which are very neat. They showcase Immonen's new, hard-edged style, even more so than on Nextwave, so let's take a look!

Obviously, Immonen is using even sharper lines here, as we get spiky hair, pointed knees, and skinnier characters that look awfully brittle. Immonen uses cartoon-style smoke billowing from the dude's bicycle in Panel 1 to imply that he's going really fast, which makes the comic a bit goofier. Immonen colored this himself, and in Panel 2, he casts everything in silhouette and uses white paint to add dimension to the sign, the dog, and the dude on the bike. This is a fairly funny comic, so of course Immonen goes a bit overboard with the crash, but he still draws it very well. He skips the background in Panel 3 to keep us focused on the crash. He's still using shading nicely, which makes this more modern, even though it has a bit of an old-school feel to it.

Immonen, as we can see, still does very nice work with facial expressions, even as he's drawing more simplistic faces. Just the movement of the black dots of the eyes across the face, the movement of the eyebrows, and the differences in the mouths is enough to speak volumes. Immonen doesn't use too much body language, but even that is solid. It's just amazing how well he can express feelings by a head tilt, a raised eyebrow, and where the black dots are on the face. This is why artists are awesome.

More hard edges from Immonen, but we still get nice hatching on Hannah's hair, making it a bit silkier than it might be otherwise. Immonen, once again, does good work with minimalism - he adds bullet holes to the speed limit sign with just a few jagged lines and black dots, and he shows the distress on the doorman's face with a short slanted line segment and a somewhat elongated dot. Immonen knows it's not the amount of lines, but what you do with them that counts!

We get some good physical comedy here, and notice that Immonen, despite the sharpness of the lines, hasn't lost any skill in depicting movement, as the slip in Panel 2 is very well done. Again, he shows how well he can do facial expressions with just two dots, a "V" nose, and a triangular mouth, as we get the young lady's surprise brilliantly. Once again, his characters are really skinny and pointy, but that helps sell the humor and broad strokes of the story much better. This is fairly broad humor, and Immonen makes the characters bold and simplistic to complement his wife's humorous writing nicely.

Immonen continued in this vein in Moving Pictures, which has a much different tone than Never As Bad As You Think (I mean, Moving Pictures stars a Nazi, so of course the tone is going to be different).

As this book is set in 1940s France, Immonen uses a lot of photographic reference material, integrating it nicely into the book. He also uses blacks very effectively in the comic, as he uses a silhouette for the flag so that it's not mixed into the background. The "simplicity" of the line work still gives us a very good idea of all the people in the scene, even if we can't see their faces. This is an establishing shot, of course, and it does a marvelous job showing the bustle around the train station.

Ila is putting Jane on a train so she can leave France and go back to Canada, and Immonen gives us this nice scene. Like Never As Bad As You Think, he keeps things minimalistic in the faces, but he's good enough to show a wide range of emotions in both girls' faces. In order to make them stand out, he throws everyone else into silhouette, and his big black chunks are discernible but irrelevant to the conversation. In Panel 4, he puts Ila and Jane into silhouette to show the dark times coming, as Jane is fearful that "they'll stomp all over" Ila. We saw a few words in the first panel, but here we see more of the lettering. I don't know if Stuart or Kathryn lettered the book, but those are beautiful letters, aren't they?

The comic is about artwork, which Ila is trying to hide from the Nazis and Rolf Hauptmann is trying to track down for Hitler. So we get several pages of this kind of splash, where Immonen uses photos of famous art, draws them in wonderfully, and places silhouettes of Ila and Rolf sitting at a table in the foreground. This is another example of Immonen being extremely versatile - even though he's using photos, he pencils in the works of art, and they stand in stark contrast to the hard edges of the "regular" artwork. The stark white he uses around the bottom of the artwork makes Ila and Rolf stand out even more, which is a clever touch. He does this for several works, and they're all beautiful pages.

Ila and Rolf are having an affair, and we see them together here. Immonen uses more blacks here to show the sun shining into the apartment. He backlights things simply by using big chunks of black, which works quite well. Notice that he gives Rolf slightly thicker eyebrows, one of the few concessions to more complicated facial features he makes in the book. And, as usual, Ila's head tilt and the lengthening of her eyes in Panel 5 are enough to show her contentment at that very moment. Immonen continues to be excellent at subtle movements.

This is another photo-referenced drawing, of course, but Immonen still makes it his own. He gets rid of holding lines in the foreground and as we move toward the vanishing point, giving the deserted town an even more ghostly feel. He uses horizontal lines in the sky to imply clouds, which also makes the scene more "his" and less a simple light boxed drawing. The few details on the streets are enough to show that it's cobblestone, and as we get farther into the background, Immonen uses short vertical lines more and more, becoming more impressionistic (which is logical; we see fewer details as we get farther away). It's a wonderful way to use photographs but still make sure the art is consistent with everything else in the book.

Both of these comics are really good, but of course they didn't pay the bills! For that, Immonen needed to keep drawing superhero comics, so for our final day tomorrow, we'll check out one of his very high-profile recent comics. Remember, you can find plenty of high-profile work in the archives!

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