Thought Bubble 2014: 9th-16th November!


Frank Quitely Minterview by thoughtbubblefestival

Hey there Thought Bubblerinos, hope you’re all well? Good, glad to hear it. Today sees the next in our mini-series of mini-interviews (minterviews) with some of our excellent professional guests for this year. If the TB blog continues at this rate, then by (approximately) June 8th 2013 it will represent a repository of all known information in this, and any other, universe – rivalling the mighty wikipedia. Possibly. My maths skills are notoriously weak.

Today’s guest minterviewee is the sublimely talented Frank Quitely, multi-award winning comics illustrator who has worked on a myriad of titles including New X-Men, All-Star Superman, We3, Flex Mentallo, The Authority, and – most recently – Batman & Robin. His work is, quite frankly (pardon the wordplay), mindblowing, and we’re extremely pleased to be able to number him amongst our (uniformly brilliant) guests for this year. We had a talk, the results of which you can see just below… To the reading-mobile!

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Frank Quitely

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Hi Frank, thanks for talking to us today; first off, could you give a brief overview of how you first got into sequential art? 

I started in self-published comics. I was one of the founding members of a Scottish underground comic called Electric Soup. We published 17 issues in the 3 years we were together, during which time I developed a real love for comics and after sending unsolicited samples to all the publishers listed in Comics International I eventually got commissioned to work on a strip for the Judge Dredd Megazine.

You have a very distinctive illustrative style, rendering your work instantly recognisable – was this an intentional ploy to make you artwork stand out from the crowd, or simply a by-product your own individual way of drawing?

My style’s a mixture of my various influences filtered through my personal tastes and shaped by my strengths and limitations as an artist. As the years have rolled by I’ve concentrated less and less on ‘style’ and more and more on story-telling, to the point where my style is just a by-product, like my handwriting.

Has the evolution in digital art-techniques over recent years resulted in many changes to the way you work?

Yes, to some extent. The biggest change for me was moving from colouring on paper using tradition materials, to colouring digitally.  I sometimes do my thumbnails and lay-outs in photoshop and print them out  so I can trace over them, and occassionally I’ll do a spot illustration or a cover completely digitally, but mostly it’s the colouring.

You’ve worked on mainstream titles, such as New X-Men, and creator-owned properties, such as The Invisibles – is the creative process different when working with high-profile characters, most of whom have an extensively depicted history, as opposed to those that are relatively new, or obscure?

The creative process is always the same. When you work on a title or character that everyone knows loads of people say ‘I hate his ?Wolverine?‘ or ‘I hate his ?Superman?‘ or whatever, because it jars with their own favourite versions of the characters – no one ever says ‘I hate his ?We3 animals?‘ because they didn’t start reading it with any preconceptions or prejudices. From that point of view it’s always easier to work on new stuff, or your own stuff, but I enjoy the challenge of getting to do well-known characters and I generally don’t really care if some folk don’t like what I do, it’s personal taste, and I’ve got a pretty thick skin. But as I said, the creative process is just the same

Do you have any characters in particular that you enjoy portraying? Are there any you’ve yet to work on, but would relish an opportunity to do so?

I enjoy making new characters, like the mutant kids in New X-Men, or the circus freaks in Batman and Robin – 
actually, I’m really looking forward to drawing The Joker in the closing arc of Batman and Robin.

You’re perhaps best known for your collaborations with writer Grant Morrison – how did your initial partnership come about?

I had met Grant once or twice in Glasgow at comic-things and I knew something of his reputation. I didn’t know that he was a fan of my Greens strip in Electric Soup, though (well the drawings anyway – he never commented on the writing!). Then he phoned me up one day and asked me to draw Flex Mentallo, I asked what it was about, and when he started talking about it I was hooked. And when I started working on it I remember thinking that I wanted to keep working with this guy.

Are you ever tempted to return to both writing and illustrating – creating characters and telling story – or is it now the case that you feel your story-telling is best facilitated purely through your artwork?

Only for humour stuff.

I’m actually writing a script for a couple of guys who want to try to animate The Greens, which is a humour strip I used to write and draw when I started 20 years ago. I wouldn’t waste my time trying to write serious stuff because I don’t understand enough about how good writing works.<

Superhero comics in general seem to be gaining more recognition by the general public every day, do you think this is the cause of some of the massive upheavals that have been seen in many of the big comic publishers’ universes, or is it simply that existing comic fans are demanding more bang for their buck these days?

I think the superhero movies have had a hand in getting the general public more aware of superheroes, though I doubt that translates into new comic book readers. As for the upheavals in the universes, I suspect that’s more of a publisher-led marketing thing ather than something the fans are demanding.

Speaking of the current vogue for superhero films, do you think such adaptations ever have anything to add to the comic book stories – a medium with far fewer creative limitations than the silver screen – that they’re based on?

I think the main thing movies can bring is a sense of realism – but that’s a double-edged sword. It’s great seeing super powers done convincingly with the latest special effects, but if a costume looks slightly goofy on paper, it usually looks pathetically amusing on screen.

You’re appearing at this year’s Thought Bubble – do you enjoy attending comic conventions, either professionally or as a casual attendee?

I’ll let you know at the end!

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Many thanks to Frank for taking the time to talk to us, remember that this, and the other of our special guest minterviews, can currently be found in the Leeds International Film Festival catalogue (a steal at £7) wherein you can also find some information on Thought Bubble. Biblioriffic!

In some other news, our friends over at Manchester’s Tokyo 15 are having a signing this weekend (November 14th) with the massively awesome Naniiebim (artist on Mephistos). If, like us, you’re from the norf [sic] of this fair sceptred isle – thus meaning you can’t make it to the Anime League Club London’s mini-con – then you should definitely ch-check it out. Details on the flyer below.

… And there you have it, we’ll be back at the weekend with our final (guest) minterview before the festival starts! Exciting times…

- Clark

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