Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavut January 18, 2017 - 8:30 am

Marvel Comics artist hired for Nunavut Polarman film

Dan Day and Pangnirtung's Andrew Qappik to work on virtual reality project

Preliminary Polarman sketches provided to Pinnguaq's Ryan Oliver from Dan Day of Marvel Comics fame. (PHOTO COURTESY RYAN OLIVER)
Preliminary Polarman sketches provided to Pinnguaq's Ryan Oliver from Dan Day of Marvel Comics fame. (PHOTO COURTESY RYAN OLIVER)
In this Dan Day Polarman sketch, you can see Nakasuk School and the Anglican Cathedral in the background. (PHOTO COURTESY RYAN OLIVER)
In this Dan Day Polarman sketch, you can see Nakasuk School and the Anglican Cathedral in the background. (PHOTO COURTESY RYAN OLIVER)

Dan Day, famed Marvel Comics artist who has drawn Wolverine, Swamp Thing and Captain America, is about to add a new superhero to his resumé: Polarman.

Day is one of three artists contributing comic panels for a virtual reality film Pinnguaq is making about Iqaluit’s famous homegrown crime fighter and community helper.

Other artists include Pangnirtung’s Andrew Qappik—who says comic books enticed him into drawing when he was a kid—and Toronto graphic artist Leisha Riddell.

All in all, it’s a star-studded crew, says Pinnguaq’s Ryan Oliver, who will be in Iqaluit in February to shoot video of the capital to be used in the virtual reality project.

“So far, everything indicates it will be very rewarding. The people we are working with, and able to tell stories with, are fantastic, from the artists to Polarman. They’re really good stories and to be in a position to tell them is humbling and something we don’t take lightly,” Oliver said.

“[Polarman’s] been there every step of the way, helping to make creative decisions.”

Pinnguaq, a company with offices in Nunavut, B.C. and Ontario that makes apps, video games, virtual reality products and educational materials, just won $400,000 in Arctic Inspiration Prize money for developing a computer science-based curriculum for Nunavut schools which ties in game design, engineering and mental health.

Polarman, otherwise known as Derek Emmons, used to live in Iqaluit but his family recently relocated to Kingston, Ont., which is where Oliver caught up with him last spring to propose a virtual reality rendering of his Polarman story.

Since then, the film has become part of SESQUI, a cinematic and interactive art project created for Canada’s 150th birthday celebration this year—it’s sesquicentennial.

SESQUI, chosen by the federal government as their signature festival event for the year-long birthday party, will travel to communities across the country this year in a portable village of domes showcasing 360-degree films, virtual reality films, online activities and other live “immersive” events exploring the concepts of “home” and “Canadian identity.”

The festival’s main event is a documentary film called Horizon, shot in 40 days over a period of eight months using 360-degree cameras and GoPro units. The film, which you can preview here, contains footage of people, animals and places gathered from every province and territory last year including caribou migration in Nunavik and Hudson Bay belugas.

SESQUI organizers chose a number of projects to be part of their travelling road show and Polarman was one of them.

Oliver said Polarman was thrilled to have Day join the project because Polarman is a huge comic book and Dan Day fan.

Qappik is a fan of comics too.

Reached at his home in Pangnirtung Jan. 16, Qappik, a talented printmaker whose works are widely collected and whose designs inspired Nunavut’s flag, said he used to draw comic action heroes when he was young. His favourite was Jonah Hex, at least for a while.

“[Hex] was a western guy. He progressed and became a robot kind of figure,” Qappik said. “That was a downer.”

Qappik has drawn illustrations for children’s books and expects this will be a similar process of immersing yourself in a story and then producing images from it. But film is a new medium for him and he has no idea how it’s going to turn out.

He’s also never met Polarman, though he had seen him from time to time over the years while visiting Iqaluit.

“I had to think about it before I agreed,” Qappik said. “But then, I said ‘we’ll see where that goes.’ So I’ve started to work on that.”

So far, Oliver has produced a five-minute narrative edited from a question-and-answer session with Polarman. A script of that narrative, along with photographs and stories, have been forwarded to Day, Qappik and Riddell.

Using those materials for inspiration and background, the artists will then produce 30 comic book panels about Polarman’s adventures in Iqaluit.

When a viewer watches the five-minute film, they will first be asked to choose which artist they want to interpret the story. The film will then unfold with video scenes of Iqaluit embedded with the chosen artist’s comic panels and overlaid with Polarman’s narration.

“We want to combine fully immersive experiences—the ability to be in Iqaluit, for people who can’t afford to come and have never been, which will be the majority of the audience; to show them what Iqaluit looks like and to visualize this story being narrated,” Oliver said.

“This is a new medium and we’re doing a method of storytelling that has not been done because the technology has not existed before,” he said. “That’s been really rewarding—to figure out how to tell a story when a user has a 360-degree line of sight.”

Once finished, the film will be available not only at SESQUI but online. And you won’t even need a fancy headset to watch it; you can download an app and order simple products such as Google Cardboard, to watch it on your mobile phone.

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