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Following 111 ½ issues of Mark Bagley, Stuart Immonen takes up the art chores for Ultimate Spider-Man this month.  In addition to picking up the torch on this book, Stuart also touches on his webcomic work, Marvel Comics Presents and the state of the cult-hit comic, Nextwave.


Broken Frontier - Prior to this project, were you a Spider-Man fan?  
Stuart Immonen - Sure, when I was ten or eleven years old, I loved Spider-Man, specifically the 1967 animated version, and the newspaper strip. I actually hesitated at buying the comic, worried that it might not be as good as the TV show-- little did I know. Nevertheless, I did eventually start buying the comics-- Amazing, Spectacular, Marvel Team-Up and Marvel Tales.
One of the first jobs I had for Marvel was drawing Spider-Man. It was a single illustration-- a pin-up, essentially-- for the licensing department. Spider-Man and the Black Cat on a rooftop. I'm not sure if they actually used it for anything, but it was a bit of a thrill for me! Apart for a few other pin-ups and covers it was some years until I actually drew Spider-Man in a story context-- this would have been What If Peter Parker Had To Invent Spider-Man? written and inked by Terry Austin (another thrill, actually) just before What If? was cancelled.
Otherwise, I haven't had much opportunity. But I don't think I would have been up to the task before now. Not as well-prepared in terms of skill, really.
BF - What has your collaboration with [writer] Brian Bendis been like?
SI - Brian and the editorial crew have been incredibly supportive, welcoming me into what has basically been a closed shop up until now. Mark [Bagley], also, has phoned and made sure I felt at home, and has been generous with his time. Professionally, Brian is always on top of the scripts and when I have chosen to tweak panel counts and deviate from stage directions and camera angles, he hasn't said boo. It's all very above board.
BF - Coming into your run, what is your goal as to how Ultimate Spider-Man should appear visually?
SI - Well, [editor] Ralph Macchio called me up early on to advise me on how young Peter should look, and I'm trying to keep him gangly and awkward and teen-age-y. The Spider-Man sequences tend to be almost balletic as opposed to contorted-- I just enjoy doing that more, and I think it may be a unique approach. The action scenes also lend themselves to being slightly more "cartooned", but I'm trying to walk on the naturalistic side of the Nextwave fence, if you know what I mean.
Of course, all this may change in a year-- I'm really just getting my feet wet at this point. It takes time to settle into a character, not to mention finding your place in a creative team.
BF - The Ultimate Universe tends to lend itself to re-imagining characters...are there any of the Spider-Man cast that you'd really enjoy the opportunity to create a new visual design for?
SI - So much has been done already, and it's a lot to keep track of-- I haven't taken a moment to think into the future... as a kid, I had a fondness for some of the odder characters; Rocket Racer and the Big Wheel; Will O' The Wisp; the Gibbon... yikes, I guess I'm showing my age. 
BF - There's been a lot of discussion about the Bagley run on Ultimate Spider-Man...do you see yourself being in a similar position at Ultimate Spider-Man #222?
SI - ah.... like I said, there's a lot on my plate right now-- it's difficult to see six issue ahead, much less a hundred and six. I'm not as fast as Mark, not nearly. It would take me more than nine years to get that far... that being said, if the readers and the editors and Brian still wanted me around at that point, well, why not? I could (and might have to) retire gracefully then.
BF - You've had regular ongoing work on Superman at DC and now Spider-Man at Marvel.  What other comic book icons would you like the opportunity to put your mark on?
SI - I've been fortunate to have already worked on all the "big" names I would ever care to-- I'd love to do more Fantastic Four at some point, but I'd also like to find more time to devote to personal projects. I keep my non-Marvel work going as much as I'm able, but it would be great to sink a solid year or two into those ideas that have been simmering for a while.
BF - You'll also be working on Patsy Walker/Hellcat for Marvel Comics Presents...what teases can you provide to this story?
SI - When Kathryn [Immonen] and I initially talked about Patsy, it was in terms of wanting to do something like Joss Whedon's Angel; a supernatural bust-up, but funny and sexy and a little melancholy. Patsy Walker's history, going right back to the teen comics from the fifties, is terribly tragic, but she has the most upbeat personality-- we've attempted to reconcile the Happy-Go-Lucky Hellcat with the Girl Who Could Be You, and make it fun and bite-sized and energetic and a little sad, too. Kathryn says "If I'd gone to high school with Patsy, I'd have hated her guts... except I would have been too busy yearning to be her best friend."
BF - Given that the Nextwave collections are rolling out, have you heard any indications as to if the title might be revisited at some point?
SI - Not really. [Writer] Warren [Ellis], as usual, is juggling a half-dozen things, and those are just the comics. I don't know how sales have been on the collections, but I'm happy with the format-- they are handsome books, on good paper, with publication design that directly references what I did with the covers. Unlike some other projects I've been involved with, Nextwave was a joy from the beginning. I wish I could say definitively that there were going to be more soon, but both Warren and I are currently caught up doing other things.
BF - Webcomics are something that both you and your partner Kathryn have been actively involved in...what current projects to you have online?
SI - Well, Moving Pictures runs every Friday on www.immonen.ca; it has a very measured pace, and there's not a lot of action, so it's maybe not entirely suited to weekly serialization, but the story has been waiting to get finished for a few years now; the only way I was ever going to get it drawn was if I started, and made it public. It will likely run for at least another year, so there's time for people to catch up.
The Misery Loves comics are archived on www.clickwheel.net -- I have a few in various stages that I'd like to finish, but I haven't built up the momentum yet.
The other project is Never As Bad As You Think (www.artiseptic.com), which will probably go offline now that we've put it in print.
BF - Any other projects or announcements from you that fans should be watching for?
SI - Ah, no, I think Ultimate Spider-Man, Marvel Comics Presents and Moving Pictures will be keeping me busy for a while yet. I'd need a few more arms to do any more.

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