Stuart Immonen Interview

Artist Stuart Immonen illustrates the adventures of the Man of Steel in DC's Adventures of Superman and is the artist on DC's fall crossover, Final Night. He recently sat down with Worlds of Westfield Content Editor, Roger A. Ash, to talk about his work, past, present and future.

Westfield: For those unfamiliar with your work, what have you done and what are you working on?

Stuart Immonen: I've got a fairly varied history as far as my professional work in comics goes. I started out self publishing two books with my wife. One was called Playground; one was called Headcheese. Headcheese was an anthology of local artists from Toronto, Ontario and Playground was a book that my wife and I did which we published three issues of and eventually was picked up for one issue by Caliber Press. At that time, I also started working for Revolutionary Comics; they publish rock and roll biographies of which I did several and built up a substantial, if questionable, portfolio out of that work. After that I did an expanded story with some of the characters from Headcheese with writer Sheldon Inkol. Two issues of Nut Runners were published by Rip Off Press. Soon after that I was working for Innovation and I did a number of their books. I did an adaptation of Stephen King's Lawnmower Man movie which was unfortunately shelved and I believe will never, ever see print for reasons I can't discuss. That also served as a wonderful portfolio piece for getting work with DC. The first thing I did for DC was a 10-page Showcase story featuring Martian Manhunter. That was shown around the office and I was given a shot at doing a fill-in issue of Legion, issue #42, by then-editor Michael Eury. Michael Eury, and coincidentally, the penciller at that time, Jason Pearson, were leaving the book and KC Carlson was being hired on to take over the Legion books and he asked me to stick around on a regular basis. So I stayed with Legion for two years and in the summer of '94 I was offered to come on to Adventures of Superman after Barry Kitson had left. Right now I'm coming back to Superman after taking three issues off, due to working on DC's fall crossover called Final Night with Karl Kesel and Jose Marzan Jr., both part of the regular creative team of Adventures.

Westfield: From what I've read, it sounds like the Legion plays a major part in Final Night. What was it like working with those characters again?

Immonen: I really enjoyed it and, as a matter of fact, when I was working on Legion I never got to draw the Chris Sprouse-designed young characters very much, so to not only have the Legion that are represented in the current books, but to have Superman and the Legion together in one package was a big thrill. So I enjoyed that quite a bit. The way Karl has designed the book, the DC heroes are split up into small teams and there's practically a Legion character or two represented in every team. They're almost in every scene.

Westfield: Can you say anything else about Final Night?

Immonen: I think it's going to be a really unique project and something that DC hasn't attempted in the same sort of way just yet. Karl and I, on discussing what we wanted to do with the project, wanted to do an emotionally gripping story, not one that was based totally on fist fights. One of the ways we tried to do that was to employ no super villain at all in the story. We wanted to show how the heroes could be noble and honorable without having them regress into senseless violence. The villain of the story is a force of nature. It's going to be the first appearance in current continuity of the Sun Eater.

Westfield: Wasn't that originally a Legion villain?

Immonen: Oh yes, that's entirely right.

Westfield: Will Final Night have repercussions beyond the mini-series or will it stand alone?

Immonen: We want it to stand alone and we didn't want to have to require people to purchase a lot of side stories. However, with the appearance of the Sun Eater, the sun, basically, is turned off for the period of the mini-series, which is one month, so in that sense, it's going to be very cold and dark throughout the DC Universe in September. But beyond that, people don't have to read books they don't normally read. They'll be able to have the entire story in Final Night and it's more like a bonus for them if they read other books and see how their favorite characters deal with the cold and dark.

Westfield: You're also working on Adventures of Superman. Can you tell us anything about what's coming up in that?

Immonen: We're being pretty secretive about what's happening in Superman. We have a lot going on that's just on the verge of coming out right now. Superman and Lois have broken up recently and we're going to sort of pile it onto Clark as far as his responsibilities go at the Daily Planet and as far as his responsibilities go as Superman. When Lois goes, we really want to see how far we can torture Clark Kent emotionally [laughter].

Westfield: How much input do you have story-wise on the books you work on?

Immonen: Every nine months to a year we have summits concerning the Superman books to which pencillers, inkers, writers, editors, and sometimes colorists are invited to present their ideas. Everybody has a fair say in what they would like the characters to do and we decide by committee as to which ideas are best and how best to implement the ideas we do choose. In that respect, I've got about as much input as everybody. But whenever Karl has a new plot ready, he'll discuss it with me on the phone for a couple of hours before he actually sits down and writes it out. I very rarely want to change anything, it's all so good, but if I do have some questions, he'll take them into account. After the story is written, I don't have free reign in deciding to throw out scenes and so on, but I can change panel count or design a page to suit what I think Karl intended.

Westfield: What do you go through when you're working on an issue or a single page?

Immonen: The plots that I get are broken down into, say, a couple of sentences per panel or sometimes just one paragraph for an entire page. Generally it's up to me to determine panel count and page layout and make sure there's enough room for necessary dialog and make sure the story flows cohesively from one page to the next and from one panel to the next.

Westfield: Is there any person that you haven't worked with that you'd like to or any character you haven't had a chance to work on that you'd like to?

Immonen: Well, actually, I would enjoy doing the Flash quite a bit. Not only the character Flash, but I'd like to work with Mark Waid. I feel strongly, still, towards Legion characters and if I had a chance to draw them outside the mini-series, then I'd be happy to do that too. Maybe do an annual one year or a fill-in.

Westfield: Do you have any upcoming projects you'd like to mention?

Immonen: Apart from Final Night, I'll be doing a Spider-Man/Gen13 crossover, it's a Marvel/Image crossover obviously, but this one is Marvel produced. I'm looking forward to that, it's got Peter David writing it and I think it'll be a very nice book. I think that's coming out in November.

Westfield: Have you ever considered doing any solo projects?

Immonen: As a matter of fact, that actually does touch on something else that is confirmed that I'm doing. I'm doing one of the 10-page stories in Showcase '96 #12 featuring Sarge Steel and King Faraday, two old spy characters from DC, and I'm writing and penciling that. I would love to do more writing and exert a little more control over my environment. I do have a couple of proposals in with the people at DC and it remains to be seen how far they get. I do know the group editors are looking at one of them right now, so I have high hopes.