Frank Quitely: 'The majority of changes I've seen over 30 years of working in comics have been absolutely positive'

This article is from 2018

Frank Quitely: 'The majority of changes I've seen over 30 years of working in comics have been absolutely positive'

credit: Sinead Grainger

Speaking to us from his studio space in Glasgow, Frank Quitely fills us in on his upcoming appearance at Edinburgh International Book Festival and a few highlights of is 30-year career

The internationally renowned Frank Quietly is a pseudonym – or perhaps alter ego – for Glasgow artist Vincent Deighan. Comics have changed a lot since the artist, known for his work on Batman, Superman, X-Men and recently, Jupiter's Legacy with fellow Glaswegian creator Mark Millar (coming to our screens via Netflix in 2021), first got started 30-years-ago. Happily, he says 'the majority of changes I've seen over 30 years of working in comics have been absolutely positive'.

In a practical sense, he's seen computers go from barely there to something that changed the way comic work is drawn, lettered, coloured and delivered. Now it's even changing the way work is published. For example, self publishing used to be a bit on an under the counter kind of thing and now 'self publishing is one of the main things people tend to aim for. It used to be you self published so you could do what you wanted but there wasn't much money in it or you worked on licensed characters to make you trade and then if you were lucky you moved on to what you wanted.' Now, largely thanks to how easy it is to create and share work digitally, people are much more likely to start out with self publishing.

'Another big change is the gender balance in comics,' he says. 'When I started out, there were very, very few women working in creating comics. Their women who were working in comics tended to be working in editorial roles, which was great, I worked with a bunch of female editors particularly at Vertigo… Nowadays, there are even more women working in editorial but there are at a lot more found doing the writing, colouring lettering and drawing.'

He's also noticed there are far more women attending comic conventions, which have changed a lot over the years too and become about a lot more than comics themselves. As well as heading to Boston Comic Con this summer, Quitely will be at the Edinburgh International Book Festival with his new book from BHP Comics, Frank Quietly: Drawings + Sketches. The book came about after his 2017 exhibition at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery, The Art of Comics, curated by Martin Craig.

Frank Quitely: 'The majority of changes I've seen over 30 years of working in comics have been absolutely positive'

GoMA curator Craig worked closely with Quitely to create the show – a process that was both interesting and at times surreal for the artist, who'd created and saved a huge amount of work over the years, 'some stored in a planning chest but lots in poly bags.' And each bag was a real mix of thumbnails, sketches and even finished pieces. 'Martin was assumed and a bit horrified', when being introduced to the filing system.

For comic artists, there are a few factors that contribute to a slightly haphazard way of storing past work. For a start, as Quitely mentioned, he's been working long hours for six to seven days a week for the majority of his career, leaving little time for introspection or organisation. The sheer volume of work a comic requires is another factor, another is the speed at which it needs turned around and the fourth is a hangover from the (thankfully now somewhat defunct) idea that comics might not be 'real art'.

On a personal level, Quitely found himself reassessing the way he looked at his own work. Especially when he spotted a bag he designed for Glasgow Art Shop before he started in comics – previously stored in a drawer of his mother's sideboard – being carefully carried and placed into a glass case by a museum staff member wearing white gloves.

Feedback from the exhibition showed Quitely that people were interested in the show even if they weren't huge comic fans and when Sha Nazir of BHP Comics approached him about putting a book together it seemed like a good fit. 'People love seeing a bit of the process,' Quitely said. 'It's like the behind the scenes programmes on TV… When I visit other artist's studios, I want to see all the sketches and bits and pieces and photos they've taken of a painting in all the stages before it's finished.'

For a peek at Quitely's process and a look at some of the sketches, pages and drawings behind the finished work, catch him at Edinburgh International Book Festival, where he plans to chat about whatever the audience wants to hear about most.

Spark Theatre on George Street, 25 Aug, 8.45pm, £12 (£10).

Frank Quitely

Universally renowned for being the man who has drawn Batman, Superman and X-Men, Glasgow’s Frank Quitely has a talent that’s heralded by writers, artists and fans. Having just published a book featuring over 100 never-before-seen drawings, Quitely is here to discuss his career to date and where he thinks the ever-evolving…