THE FRANK QUITELY INTERVIEW

September 9, 2003 Posted by admin

BY LORNA MILLER

authority2He’s known the world over by testosterone-loaded boys as a brilliant artist who disnae get his work in on time; but he’s the hardest working comic artist that I know. He makes a living drawing big guys and tough women with the skill of the best figure artists in the history of the medium. Characters so real you can almost feel the muscle on bone under the skin.

He’s a superhero artist who likes small press comics. He’s a husband and father of two gorgeous boys. He looks like a film star, and he’s a lovely person too. Does Frank Quitely have any faults at all?!? Well, he’s been known to get shit-faced and throw up in his pants. Phew, he’s human after all!

When did you first start drawing your own comic books? Did you read many comics as a kid?

When I was a bairn, early on in primary school I drew my own comics, they were called Monster Comics; I still have them. I also used to get a couple of weekly comics, The Beezer and The Beano. A friend across the road, who was protestant (I was jealous of him because he didn’t have to go to church on Sundays (laughs)), always got American comics and I would read those too. I also read my older sister’s comics, like Bunty, I liked a strip called The Four Marys. In my teens I drifted away from comics but I did read Mad Magazine. I would also get comics like Weird Science and Creepy World when I went to Millport on holiday.

Who have been your greatest artistic influences?

Dudley D. Watkins. He was the creator of The Broons and Oor Wullie, both Scottish newspaper strips. He also created Lord Snooty and Desperate Dan. He would draw six strips a week. He was a phenomenal hack!

I understand you’re also an avid cartoonist. How does drawing cartoons differ from creating comic book art?

Cartoons are usually a single image, so you create a composition with an array of props and everything is resting on that single image. With comics you’re trying to tell a fluid, moving story in a chain of static images.

Where did your first published work appear?

In 1989 in a small press adult humour anthology, called Electric Soup, which was based in Glasgow.

You then made the move to 2000 AD. Was this the route you had always planned to take? Which strips did you draw?

No, I never planned it, it just happened. I drew a Judge Dredd story in 1992 called Missionary. It was written by Gordon Rennie.

Had you met Grant Morrison and Mark Millar before working on Judge Dredd?

I canny remember! I met Grant around ’94 when I was working on Flex Mentallo for Vertigo. It was a mini-series written by Grant.

How do you think they differ as writers

Mark is good at the big brash stuff; Grant is good at nuance, awkward and embarrassing things and quiet moments.

When were you first approached by the US to produce artwork?

In ’93. My first American editor was Andy Helfer at DC. He has the sexiest voice in comics (sounds like the guy who does the movie trailers)! (laughs)

After your initial collaboration with Grant Morrison on Flex Mentallo, did the offers of regular work begin to pour in?

I wouldn’t say pour in, but I’ve not been without work since.

Do you think it is easier for guys to break into the comics industry?

Yeah, I’m sure if a female was showing a portfolio, no matter how good it was, it would be harder for her to be seriously considered as a potential artist.

Your mainstream popularity really seemed to hit an all-time high with your work on both JLA: Earth 2 and The Authority. Were you aware of the impact were having on the comic book industry and fans alike?

No.

Wizard recently voted you Best Artist of 2001 and Grant has often called you “the best comics artist in the world”. How do you feel about comic creators being celebrities?

Bring it on!!! Give me some!!! (laughs) I sit in my house on my own working. I never go online. The rare time that I do I see “he rocks” and “he sucks” in equal doses; it’s not much of a celebrity status.

How did you land The Authority gig?

Grant had recommended me to Mark, so he called up and asked me if I was interested. Scott Dunbier knew my work and expressed an interest.

Looking back at your time on The Authority, do you feel it was an enjoyable experience?

Yes, very enjoyable.

Can you talk at all about your reasons for leaving The Authority and working for Marvel?

Yeah, I can say a little. Wildstorm were really good to Mark and myself, but they got pressure from DC – they suffered from censorship. Mark and I wanted them to hold the schedule up to give me longer on the artwork, but they decided to get a fill-in artist which broke my momentum; I felt like I was finishing someone else’s story. A complicated incident led to an argument with someone from Wildstorm, so I left because I felt slightly let down by them and I had been made a better offer by Marvel.

How do you deal with Internet criticism that you’re a relatively slow artist and have been supported by fill-in artists on both The Authority and New X-Men?

I read very little of it. Some of the criticism I agree with, some I don’t, it’s just different opinions. At the moment we’re looking for a solution to this issue. The standard I’m working to I can do just over seven issues a year. Ideally I should be doing a six-issue arc in an ongoing series. It is better to do all the artwork before the first issue comes out, but sometimes schedules don’t allow for that.

Do you plan to stay on New X-Men for some time?

For a while and then I plan to do a creator-owned project.

Are you and Grant still planning to produce your oft-mentioned Silver Surfer project for Marvel Knights?

I would enjoy doing it at some point, but it’s not a priority.

Does the thought of developing creator-owned projects appeal to you?

Oh, yes.

Would you make more money?

I’m not sure, I might be able to make the same. (I ask Frank how much he earns per year and he tells me, but I’m no gauny spill the beans!)

If you weren’t a successful comic book artist, what would you be doing?

A driving job – like a van driver. I drove a small furniture removal van a few weeks ago and as soon as I got in I started swearing and smoking. I loved it! (laughs) I would like to make a living doing paintings or book illustration, or production drawings.

You went to art school, but left before you graduated. Where you chucked out or did you leave?

Er… the latter. I was chucked out after two years because I wasn’t doing any work. I loved the first year, but I started to feel disillusioned in the second and became distracted.

By what? Cigareets, whisky and wild, wild women?

Something like that. I felt cheated at art school. It wasn’t about drawing and painting the way I thought of it. So I left and became a jobbing artist, and looked for work anywhere I could get it. I did portraits, caricature, spot illustrations, price tickets and even pavement drawing!

(Frank and I then go on to chat and reminisce about the joys of being jobbing artists, since I’ve done similar work myself. We compare notes about our pavement drawing experiences and laugh some more – Lorna Miller)