05 November 2014

Before Frank Quitely Was Quite Quitely

Frank Quitely is one of the most respected artists working in superhero comics today, known for his distinctive drawing style, dynamic compositions, and willingness to experiment with form.

Which makes his statements in this interview at Comics Beat more interesting:
When I started out, I didn’t know a lot about storytelling because I never got a formal training in comics. It ended up being kind of intuitive and my main thing was about trying to make it clear and interesting. You know, I wasn’t really thinking in terms of narrative flow, it was more just about clarity and trying to make it as good as possible. Gradually, over the years, I just became more interested in storytelling.

There was a DC editor I worked with named Dan Raspler – the Lobo editor amongst other things. He was my editor on JLA: Earth 2 and before I did JLA, I did a short Lobo story for them and it was the first mainstream DC thing I’d done; I’d been working for [the imprints] Vertigo and Paradox for a couple years.

I sent him the pencils and it was the best thing I’d done up to that point and I thought “he’s going to phone me back and tell me how good this is” and he didn’t phone for a week. I was really panicking by the time he phoned; he started the conversation with “dude, I don’t know how to tell you this…”

Basically what he said was my drawings were really lovely, but my storytelling was really boring. He went through and told me what I should be thinking about and that was kind of a real milestone. As it was, that book never came out for different reasons. For JLA: Earth 2, he made me fax a rough for every page because he wanted to see that I could do art that makes sense in rough with a sharpie, then I could do it properly. . . . That was a big leap for me.
DC Comics published JLA: Earth 2 back in 2000. That was one of many collaborations between Quitely and scripter and fellow Glaswegian Grant Morrison.

As for the “short Lobo story” that Quitely mentioned, that was Lobo: The Hand-to-Hand Job, also subtitled It’s a Man’s World, scripted by another Scotsman, Alan Grant. It was never printed. This webpage on unpublished comics says, “Although the publisher has never commented publicly on the comic, the disappearance of the project could be chalked up to the reported nakedness of Lobo for at least half the issue, as well as a scene involving sexual self-gratification by a league of asteroid miners.” Yes, that would do it.


Richard said...

There was a wonderful episode of the BBC arts series What Do Artists Do All Day? focused on Quitely that was probably the best portrait of a comics artist at work I've ever seen. The filmmaker really knew comics and there was neither condescension nor defensiveness in the film. It took for granted that a comics artist was simply a type of visual artist and worthy of consideration on that basis.

Oh, turns out it's on YouTube:


The rest of the series is worth watching as well!

J. L. Bell said...

I've heard good things about that show but haven't gotten around to watching it myself. Thanks for the link!