Originally published in April of 2001. Sometimes when I got somebody to agree to an interview I’d ask the staff and maybe some friends if they had questions they’d like answered. If I they came up with questions I liked, I’d use them and normally share the credit with them for the interview. Sidra Roberts also did interviews at Collector Times often filling in for me when I wanted a break. Lonni Holland is a long time friend. I’ve since met Stuart and his wife Kathryn and usually have a short (but delightful) chat with them when I see them at conventions. They are wonderful people.
An Interview With Stuart Immonen
This interview was conducted by three people: Sidra Roberts, Lonni Holland and Jamie Coville. Stuart Immonen has been a sought after penciler for many years now doing work on Superman, Legion of Superheroes, ShockRockets and more. This combined interview goes down history lane from his beginnings to what he’s doing today.
Jamie: How did you become interested in art?
Stuart Immonen: I’ve always had an interest in drawing, literally as far back as I remember. I’ve also been reading comics for most of my life. I suppose it’s natural that the two would eventually come together in some form, although I did nothing to pursue a career in the industry until I was nearly in my twenties.
Jamie: This is your thirteenth year in the business. Congratulations. Where did you get your formal training?
Stuart Immonen: I have no formal training. I pursued a degree in Fine Arts at York University in Toronto, Ontario for one year following high school, but the curriculum and I didn’t see eye to eye, so I left. In hindsight, I probably would have been happier in a vocational environment, with lots of applied studio time. I’ve learned as I’ve gone along, and, I think, am still learning.
Jamie: What made you want to draw comicbooks?
Stuart Immonen: It seemed to be the thing to do in the summer of 1988. There was a wealth of independent black and white material on the stands. Writer Kathryn Kuder and I thought we had something of value to contribute. We formed One Horse Leadworks and self-published two titles; Playground, a punk murder-mystery of sorts, and Headcheese, and anthology showcasing local Toronto creators. After three issues, Playground was picked up by Caliber Press, who published an epilogue.
Jamie: How did you get the job of drawing Legion of Superheroes for DC?
Stuart Immonen: This is detailed on my website. I submitted samples of my work for a number of years to DC. In early ’93 Neal Pozner saw Ron Boyd and I in his office and liked our samples. I got a 10 page Martian Manhunter story out of him for Showcase, which landed me a fill-in on Legion. Regular artist Jason Pearson was leaving Legion,and incoming editor KC Carlson asked me to come on board.
Jamie: Had you ever read Legion of Superheroes before drawing it?
Stuart Immonen: Never. I had no idea who anyone was.
Jamie: Did you get tired of drawing all those various characters for Legion of Superheroes?
Stuart Immonen: No, the variety kept it interesting. We ran into trouble when we tried to ease out of the post-hero Giffen material into more action-oriented stories. We tried to do things only half-way, and fumbled a bit. Legionnaires was far more successful. Similarly, Legion Lost has been the shot in the arm that the titles badly needed.
Jamie: Everyone has his or her favorite Legion character. Who was your favorite Legionnaire?
Stuart Immonen: I suppose Ultra Boy.
Jamie: What led to your Superman assignment?
Stuart Immonen: This is also mentioned on my site. I did a two issue fill-in for Superman, which went over well. When my contract was up on Legion, I wanted to do something different, and Barry Kitson just happened to be leaving Adventures of Superman. I got the offer and accepted.
Jamie: How did you like working on Superman?
Stuart Immonen: Very well. I did it for nearly four years. I enjoyed the expanded collaborative process that the closely-knit titles provided. I enjoyed working with the four editors I had. I enjoyed writing. I enjoyed drawing.
Jamie: There are a lot of very successful Canadian artists in the industry but many of them move to the states to be close to the big companies. Has staying in Ontario made things harder for you and how?
Stuart Immonen: I don’t know of very many who have moved since the use of couriers became prevalent. Now with fax and internet added, I don’t think physical distance is any kind of barrier.
Jamie: So here you are in southern Ontario and there Kurt is in the Pacific north-west. I know you meet at cons but how does the physical separation affect your work? Or are your phone bills just outrageous :)?
Stuart Immonen: The phone bills are, on occasion, enormous. But we communicate frequently by email, which is less expensive. In all the time I’ve been drawing professionally, I have yet to meet a client before working for them. That is to say, I’ve never know it to be any other way, so I find it difficult to tell whether it affects my work or not. Kurt has many other collaborators, and is no closer to any of them than he is to me. I’m sure he feels the same way. It’s just the way it is, and I expect the way it will continue to be.
Jamie: There was a double page spread in Shockrockets 2 which was computer produced. How much computer generated stuff do you use and what software are you using for it?
Stuart Immonen: There was a short sequence in ShockRockets 2 which I produced entirely on computer, but the only reason we chose to include it in the story is because we came up with a reason to include it first. This was not an attempt at escaping the drudgery of background drawing, nor was it a control issue. We had an experimental idea, and figured out a way to integrate it. That being said, you can’t escape the influence of computers in mainstream comics– they’re virtually all coloured, separated, or lettered using computers. I would think that, perhaps apart from Alan Moore, they are all written on computers. It’s inescapable. Most of the time the confluence works. Sometimes it doesn’t.
Jamie: Speaking of computers… that’s quite a nice website you have. Did you do all of the design work yourself? And if you did have you considered doing any of your animation using Flash?
Stuart Immonen: Thank you. Yes, I designed, coded and uploaded the whole thing. I have a passing interest in Flash, and to my mind, it’s a useful tool for things like animations, but Flash navigation is problematic and more often than not, distracting. I’m working on a few other sites now, including Cryptic Press’ realmsend.com.
Jamie: Immonen Illustrations, Inc. has a nice ring to it. Is it all just you so far, and are you planning to add others like Deodato Studios did?
Stuart Immonen: I have had a few interns, but I’ve found that I dislike the company, and am unsatisfied with their work. Clearly, it’s all my fault. I have had a writing partner in Kathryn since the One Horse days and have a studio assistant who has nothing to do with drawing. I don’t think it’ll every grow beyond that. The company was formed for purely legal reasons.
Jamie: According to your bio you live in Obscurity, Ontario with your 2 footed and 4 footed friends. Four footed?? Dogs? Cats? Horses? Fellow apes?
Stuart Immonen: Ha ha ha. Two cats, Emmett and Ernest, and a rat named Sweetie are the four-foot types. The two’s are my family.
Jamie: Rumor has it that Blockbuster’s computer just can’t seem to get your name right. Exactly how do you pronounce your name?
Stuart Immonen: ???? It’s pronounced EE-moe-nen
Jamie: I must say that you and the other apes are looking pretty healthy for a bunch of dead guys. Care to make any comment on Wizards rather premature report of the death of Gorilla?
Stuart Immonen: mmmm. no. There’s still Gorilla material coming out, but the company is basically a non-entity at this point. Tellos will continue to be published by Image, and there may be more from Kurt and myself after Superstar, and Section Zero may yet proceed, but that’s it. For the most part, we made good on the promises we made, even after it became clear that we would all have to do other work to support Gorilla projects, and then that we would eventually have to abandon the idea of Gorilla altogether. I’m pleased with the comics we did. There may yet be more.
Jamie: Shockrockets is finished and Superstar is on the way. When can we expect the first issue?
Stuart Immonen: It’s out! Superstar is a self-contained 48 page one-shot. Kurt and I have plans for more but nothing concrete at the moment.
Jamie: Is this another miniseries and would you like to tell us a bit about it?
Stuart Immonen: It’s really Kurt’s pet project; one he’s been trying to get off the ground for a long time,and one that’s been percolating for decades. I’m just the latest in a series of artists that have been associated with Superstar, but I’m the lucky one that helped finally get it in print.
Jamie: George Perez had a model of the Scarlett Witch’s MG, you had computer models of the Shockrockets ships. Any handy visual aids for Superstar?
Stuart Immonen: Just the usual morgue of photo reference. I have a resin model of Mark Hammill’s head which I use frequently, but I don’t think there’s much resemblance.
Jamie: Has Mark Waid’s contract with CrossGen had any affect on the running on Gorilla or is business in the jungle continuing as usual?
Stuart Immonen: see above.
Jamie: It’s just been announced that your doing a few issues of Thor. But you are careful to tell people your only doing 3 or maybe 6 issues. Do you have something specific planned after your work on Thor?
Stuart Immonen: I’ve just finished an issue of Rising Stars and one of Fantastic Four. Now I’m doing at least three issues of Thor, and as many as six as far as I know. Kurt and I have another project lined up for Marvel. A big one, but not one I’m prepared to talk about….
Immonen Illustrations, Inc.
http://www.interlog.com/~immonen [that link is now dead. Go here instead.]