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This weekend marks Toronto Comics Art Festival 2011 (TCAF), where among the many great storytellers appearing, Stuart Immonen celebrates his “return to his eclectic collection of work” with the premiere of Centifolia II (and the return of the out-of-print Centifolia I). To mark the debut/return of Centifolia, I contacted Immonen for this hellaciously enjoyable interview. This exchange was a blast for me, particularly given that Immonen indulged numerous follow-up questions in our email exchanges. A great many storytellers are immensely funny people, but I genuinely think Immonen possesses a rare wit and wealth of knowledge that reveals itself not only in this interview, but more importantly, it informs his work. I wish I was attending TCAF, for numerous reasons, but the fact that “there will even be a limited (100) slipcase edition [available at TCAF] that includes a special S&N print and custom slipcase design” is the ultimate “damn I wish I was going” talking point for me. Need more convincing how great these books are? AdHouse’s Chris Pitzer (the publisher of Immonen’s Centifolia) offers consumers nine-page previews of Volume I and Volume II for everyone’s enjoyment.
Tim O’Shea: When one hears that the book is culled from your sketchbooks, it might seem a bit misleading. Not every sketchbook sports pages with fully designed logos (“9 Nuts and Why I Hate Them” for example).
Stuart Immonen: Well, I think that’s probably due to the term “sketchbook” being more often used to describe a collection of finished pinup drawings and not so much actual sketching– i.e. ideas in development, visual note-taking, idle doodling and so on. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the former– I love being able to enjoy and study the completed work of my favourite artists, but I’m also interested in process; the journey of how an artist gets to the final piece, and that’s what Centifolia tries to be.
Some of my most well-thumbed artist’s books fall into this category: Tardi’s Chiures De Gomme, Chris Ware’s Acme Novelty Datebooks, Ashley Wood’s Sencilla Fanta… even Dupuy and Berberian’s Maybe Later qualifies.So… I’m interested in pulling back the curtain and showing readers a little of how I work.
Stuart Immonen is a comic artist’s comic artist.
Although he might argue with me there, his name has cropped up numerous times in years of conversations with comic creators as a highwater mark for artists working on superheroes, with his yeoman-like work ethic and ability to get to the top of the charts without compromising himself or his work. Immonen’s art blazes a trail between realism and exaggeration, and the cartoonist really hit his stride in the public eye with the 2006 series Nextwave. Immonen had been on some top-sellers before, including the Red/Blue Superman, the alt-realty Superman: Secret Identity and earlier stints on both Avengers and Fantastic Four, but it was his work on Nextwave and the genre-bending style that allowed him to show a more diverse skillset. Marvel and its star writer Brian Michael Bendis took notice, bringing him on-board for Ultimate Spider-Man, New Avengers and, well, New Avengers again with the series’ recent relaunch.
But one of the things that gets me is Immonen’s devotion to his own creations with wife and fellow comicker Kathryn. They got their start in the world of cartooning with their own self-published series, and jumped back into it a few years back with several webcomics and printed books. Last year, Top Shelf released their webcomic strip Moving Pictures, and the duo has plans for a new creator-owned original graphic novel for next year.