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First Published: 14 May 2008
Last Updated: 14 May 2008

The Potted Frank Quitely...

Scottish graphic artist Vincent Deighan, the man behind the pseudonym Frank Quitely, is the creator of the underground comix title Electric Soup and The Greens (a parody of D C Thomson's 'The Broons'). Among many other prpjects he has also drawn for 2000AD and illustrated Neil Gaiman's Sandman: Endless Nights and D C Comics' All-Star Superman, Vertigo's We3, and The Batman: The Scottish Connection.

Buy The Books
All inks to amazon.co.uk

The Batman: The Scottish Connection
Bite Club
Flex Mentallo
JLA: Earth 2
Sandman: Endless Nights
All-Star Superman
We3

2000AD
Missionary Man
Shimura
(Frank has of course also drawn several Judge Dredd stories which appear in various collections)

X-Men
X-Men (in publication order)
New X-Men: E is for Extinction
New X-Men Volume 2
X-Men: Imperial
X-Men: New Worlds

Quite Frankly, Frank Quitely...

Frank QuitelyWhen top Scottish comics creator made an appearance at Scotland's National Library in April 2008, Brian D Morgan was on hand to report what he had to say about his approach to drawing comics for downtheubes...

At his 2008 talk in Scotland's National Library, Frank Quitely assured his place as one of comic's creative personalities as well as a unique and talented artist. He discussed his early influences, his collaborations and gave interesting insight to the creative process that results in the unique storytelling his work can bring.

"My first major influence was Dudley D. Watkins," he revealed. "He was the guy behind The Broons and Oor Wullie. In the background of his work, there was always stuff going on and that really appealed to me."

Quitely echoes this in heavily descriptive panels that give a vibrancy and life than fans can relate to. "I don't want loads of people standing static in the background or cutting awkward poses," he explained. "I like having the people in the background doing different things. So in a restaurant scene, I'll have someone in the background looking bored whist listening to someone or two people arguing to give it more life. This is because that's what real life is like and it gives the story more depth."

Electric Soup #2
Cover to Electric Soup #2 by Frank Quitely, featuring Psycho Santa. The spirit of Electric Soup lives on today in Alan Grant's Wasted comic.

Talking about his early life, Quitely (real name, Vincent Deighan) revealed he created his pseudonym Frank Quitely (Quite Frankly) to disguise his work for Electric Soup's The Greens, which was a tip of the hat to Dudley D. Watkins' The Broons. "I changed my name so my mum and Dad couldn't see me writing this stuff at the time because I was scared of their reaction".

In Quitely's The Greens, there was a far more black humour vibe to the storytelling so his name change was probably a good move for the then young illustrator, but his work diplayed a strong talent, as both artist and storyteller. (Episodes of The Greens were reprinted in Alan Grant's Northern Lightz title).

"I had gone to art school and became more involved in the illustrative side of art, much to the despair of my teachers," Frank said. "So I tried my best to get some work doing illustrative work, because I knew, roughly, there would be a job in that waiting for me." This was around the time that Quitely was beginning to get involved with Dave Alexander in Electric Soup that was published by John Brown publishing after successful self-distribution on the Glasgow comic circuit.

Quitely went into detail about his collaboration in creating We3 with Grant Morrison, including the fact that he almost didn't work on the book.

"I was shown maybe three or four different Vertigo scripts and didn't really take to We3," he revealed. "I saw all these other things that could have suited me more in my own opinion, but Grant kept on at me and it took someone else to take it on and not meet Grant's requirements. So I took it on with him, but I didn't know what I was getting myself into as he challenged me more than I think I ever have been in developing a comic since we last worked on Flex Mentallo."

WE3 spread by Frank Quitely
A spread from WE3 - click here for a larger version

We3 has now been optioned as a major motion picture but there have been no definite plans about which studio will make a film about the three animal killing machines, but it would probably go down a storm with the public and fans alike. It has been one of the best pieces of work that both Quitely and Morrison have created, although looking into their attempt to challenge all the other storytellers and artists out there, they still have more to give and look to continue this in All-Star Superman. Quitely talked again about taking the design and storytelling to a much higher level.

"Looking at other comics we tried to change this [We3], to give it a feel of boosting the comic factor. You can do things in comics that you couldn't possibly achieve in film, such as the pace. The reader of a comic sets the pace for themselves, whereas in film the action hurtles or goes along at its own tempo, so we took advantage of this to create something genuinely unique. If you look at most scenes in the book, there's segmentation of panels through the surroundings to add to the dynamic and flow of the story, but this is also used to convey a sense of depth"

Quitely then spoke at length about how comics allow him to practice his unique form of storytelling, and how this cannot be replicated in other mediums. "I try to make the reader go from left to right as that's what normal westernised comics work like," he said of his layout of a panel. "For example, if I was creating a panel with someone saying to you �I have some bad news for you' I would not put the reaction on the left or leave space for a balloon that would do that, as the reaction would come first and destroy the storytelling.

"[Panel layout] is an over looked part of comic books but I tend to use my art in this way to help the flow of a story because that is what is better for the reader"

The talk in the National Library of Scotland was a vibrant insight into Quitely's way of working and his own ideal way of life. "I love drawing comic books, I really do but if I had my way I would have the kind of life where I set the pace for myself," he revealed, "like one day I will work with paint, the next with clay or potter about my garden. I think that's everyone's ideal way of life, to do what they want and be happy. But in terms of my ideal thing to work on in literature or comics it would probably be a big book of drawings, paintings and have a big stream of consciousness feel to it, with no narrative."

He said this all with his positive jovial attitude that endears so many people to both himself and the uniquely detailed and sometimes humorous work he produces.

All Star Superman #1 cover
All Star Superman #10 cover
Two covers for All-Star Superman.

In talking about the Eisner award winningAll-Star Superman he has been working on for the past year or two with Grant Morrison and Jamie Grant he spoke of his initial ideas for the character.

"Superman has been great," he enthused. "When I was first asked to get onto the project I had to think about how to make it different from the other designs that came before. So I gave him a bit of a Desperate Dan chin!" he laughed.

"I didn't want him to look like anyone else's but I wanted to make him look like his earlier incarnations which were all about nobility and his pride. Also I think the way comics work is good for Superman as I can play about with strobe images to convey Clarks transition to Superman or vice versa, for example. It suits the way I work but Superman is also a big ask for any artist." Was there anything he didn't like about drawing the DC icon? "Cityscapes! I hate cityscapes and the worst thing is Superman lives in Metropolis so there is a huge amount of that kind of art in Superman."

The Eisner award winning All-Star Superman has received critical acclaim as the best continuing series, as well as being an established fan favourite. Although Frank is only signed for 12 issues of the comic, and is completing his run soon, I'm sure this man won't have any trouble finding gainful employment if his track record is anything to go by.

Brian D Morgan is a freelance journalist that has worked with a number of publications in Britain and abroad including the Scotsman, SFX, the Edinburgh Evening News, Xfm radio and the Comics Journal in America. You can read his blog at: briandmorgan22.blogspot.com

Buy The Books
All inks to amazon.co.uk

The Batman: The Scottish Connection
Bite Club
Flex Mentallo
JLA: Earth 2
Sandman: Endless Nights
All-Star Superman
We3

2000AD
Missionary Man
Shimura
(Frank has of course also drawn several Judge Dredd stories which appear in various collections)

X-Men
X-Men (in publication order)
New X-Men: E is for Extinction
New X-Men Volume 2
X-Men: Imperial
X-Men: New Worlds

 

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