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Sun, April 6th, 2008 at 9:51pm PDT | Updated: April 7th, 2008 at 1:42pm

Comic Books
Jorge Khoury, Columnist

MEET FRANK QUITELY

The recently released "All-Star Superman" #10 by Morrison & Quitetly.

Frank Quitely studied Fine Art at Glasgow School of Art and has worked through every facet of illustration, from face-painting to advertising. Since breaking into the comics industry with his underground work on The Greens in “Electric Soup,” Quitely became known for his unique characterizations and elegant storytelling. In 1993, the artist started work on "Missionary Man" (written by Gordon Rennie) in the pages of “Judge Dredd Megazine.”

Quitely entered American comics working on short stories for DC editor Andy Helfer’s “Big Book” line through the companies’ Paradox: Big Books imprint. Although the limited series “Flex Mentallo: Man of Muscle Mystery” (written by Grant Morrison) is tragically out-of-print because of legalities, it was with that title that readers began to take notice of Quitely’s refreshing line work and imagination. His later work with Mark Millar on “The Authority” continued the progressive tone set by Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch’s early run with stories that were even more twisted than the original. For his next work, “The New X-Men,” Qitely reimagined the X-Men for a new generation of fans and won “Wizard” Magazine’s Best Artist of 2001. Aided by Grant Morrision’s scripts, he was able to give the mutant team a fresh look with the attitude to match. More of Quitely’s artwork can be seen in “JLA: Earth 2,” “The Invisibles,” “Flinch,” “Kingdom Come: The Offspring,” “Strange Adventures,” “Transmetropolitan,” “411,” “Weird War Tales,” “Heartthrobs,” “Gangland,” Blackheart (in Dark Horse Presents), “Batman: The Scottish Connection,” “20/20 Visions,” “We3” and “All-Star Superman” (written by Grant Morrison). He continues to make Scotland his home with his wife and three children.

[NOTE: The original version of this interview appeared in “True Brit” (from TwoMorrows Publishing). The interview was originally conducted in 2004. Thanks to Mr. Quitely for glancing over this new edit of our conversation.]

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Did your parents encourage you into the arts?

"Missionary Man" TPB by Gordon Rennie and Frank Quitely. Collects some of Quitely's early work for Fleetway.

Yes, they did. At the very least they were very, very enthusiastic and tolerant, even indulgent of my art. Neither of them were particularly artistic themselves. Both of them were very, very practical. They could do a lot with their hands, but neither of them was actually artistic. You would expect two teachers would have pushed their son further in the academic side of it and less so on the art side, but I think they just resigned themselves to the fact I was a whimsical child with a short attention span and the arts were the thing that was doing it for me. You see I performed kind of average in everything else, and I’m sure I could have done better. I mean, they did encourage me to study my academic subjects, they just weren’t too strict about it, thankfully, and they were very supportive about my art.

Were you rebellious growing up or were you the laid back-type?

Yes and no, I looked rebellious. I dressed as a rebellious artist, and I used to make my own clothes and make my own hats, make my own hairstyles and modify my own clothes. Yeah, I was quite a colorful teenager, growing up. I’m sure to people who didn’t know me, I’m sure I looked liked a real handful, but I wasn’t really. I wasn’t really a rebel to my core. [laughs] I just liked to look the part.

The classic "Flex Mentallo" by Morrison and Quitely.
Did you ever professionally design clothes and hats?

No, I sold some of my efforts, but the combination of being artistic and liking David Bowie and Iggy Pop and Frank Zappa and Lou Reed, and y’know, and the combination, I suppose, of being artistic and being a teenager, wanting to look different, wanting to make some kind of a statement, not having a lot of money to spend... all these things came together. I’ve got some painfully embarrassing photographs I could show you from my teenage years, but I never started out with the ambition of being a clothes designer; I was just enthusiastic about it.

What were the comics that got you into comics? What were the ones you remember best?

Unlike most comic artists who come from anywhere in Britain, I didn’t actually grow up reading “2000 AD,” and loving “2000 AD.” [chuckles] My earliest memories were of a Scottish newspaper strip. There were two strips, one was called “The Broons,” and the other was called “Oor Wullie.” They were written and drawn by the same artist, a guy called Dudley D. Watkins. I would say if I had to pick only one comic artist as being the single biggest influence on me, then Dudley D. Watkins would be the one. When I was very young I read “The Broons” and “Oor Wullie,” and I read “Rupert the Bear.”

Page three from "All-Star Superman #7" by Quitely with the digital inks and vivid colors of Jamie Grant.

In Scotland, we have quite a strong tradition of children’s comics, like “The Beano,” “The Topper” and “The Beezer;” I read comics like that, too. As I got a little bit older -- seven, eight, nine, ten -- I started reading comics like “Bullet,” which was an adventure comic -- war stories and crime stories -- and it always had at least one story about a kid from a working class background struggling against the middle class. I never saw “2000 AD” when I was younger, and I only saw a handful of American comics and very few European comics. I particularly liked “Conan the Barbarian,” for some reason.

How were you discovered by "2000 AD?"

Because of “Electric Soup,” I started going to comic marts and comic conventions. We would go and hire a table in the small press area and sell our latest issue. Comic shop owners and other people that read comics, and people that were organizing these marts, mostly local people, said to me I should do some sample pages. Just draw some pages of Judge Dredd or Batman or something and send them off to all the comic companies and see if I can get some work. And that’s exactly what I did. I did a four-page Batman sequence. No dialogue, it was just a kind of fight-and-chase scene. Never finished the fourth page (probably a warning sign to prospective publishers?). I just took it around, and I think I sent it to all the addresses of all the publishers that were at that time listed in “Comics International.” I sent them off to everybody. Most of them didn’t reply, and the few that did reply just sent me one of those “tick as appropriate” post cards -- y’know, “This is good, but it’s not what we’re looking for,” or “Good luck trying other publishers” kind of thing. I didn’t get any work that way, and I actually handed out the same photocopies the day I went down to a London convention. I suppose this would’ve been, ah... ’90 or ’91, or maybe ’92. Probably ’91 I would think, ’cause I think I had started working for Fleetway around about ’92. Andy Helfer, from DC, was probably the first person to actually express an interest. And David Bishop, who at the time was editing “Judge Dredd Megazine,” Dave Bishop was the first to actually commission me to do some work.

Did you enjoy working at Fleetway?

"Masters of the Universe" #3 variant cover by artist. Copyright: MVcreations.

When I started working for Fleetway, I was being given a script which actually had a point to it. I wasn’t having to think up the ideas and stuff was being described for me. It allowed me to concentrate fully on the images themselves. And, of course, in comparison to doing self-publish work, the money seemed very good. The other thing to remember, I had been an art student, and students are notoriously poor because we don’t actually earn money while we’re studying. I had been trying to be a freelance artist and I never made enough money to support myself, so I had never had a real job; I had part-time work in supermarkets and I had done some bar work serving drinks. I had never had a serious job; I had nothing to compare it to. So I actually felt that I was quite well paid for doing something I was really enjoying.

For all that I hadn’t been a big comic fan prior to starting, despite the fact that I didn’t have any real grounding or history in “2000 AD” or Judge Dredd, I was still very, very excited with the prospect that somebody would actually pay me if I keep turning out these pages. So it was very flattering, I suppose to have been taken on as a professional, and I never actually felt like a professional for a long, long time. It’s like when you get married; you don’t actually feel married… You don’t feel any different, you always feel like your pretending. It’s the same as starting comics; one minute I had been drawing comics for myself, the next minute they were appearing in a real comic and I was getting paid real money for it. I would go to conventions and people would want me to do sketches for them and they obviously treated me like a pro. The funny thing is that other comics professionals treated me like a fellow pro which also seemed really weird.

Did you gradually leave Fleetway to head over to DC?

The thing that happened was that I had started touting material around, I had sent stuff to all the major publishers and nobody wanted to give me any work. The same samples that I actually took to the Glasgow convention and the London convention, I got some interest from Andy Helfer, Dan Raspler, and David Bishop, and it just so happened that David Bishop was the first of the three of them to get back to me and commission something. As a result, I ended up working for a couple of years but alongside doing the Fleetway work, Andy Helfer had set me up with a couple of short stories for the Big Books. “The Big Book of Death” was the first one that I read; I did a three-page story in that. I think I ended up doing something in nine or ten of the Big Books.

Quitely's cover art helped launched the recent "Jonah Hex" series.

Dan Raspler wanted me to do something as well, but that really came about through Alan Grant. At one of the Glasgow conventions, after I had just started working at Fleetway, Alan Grant approached me and told me that he liked my work and if I ever wanted him to write something for me I was to just let him know. Obviously this was just a huge compliment because I knew who Alan Grant was and I had read some of the Lobo stories that he had written that Simon Bisley had drawn. I had some kind of understanding of what kind of character Alan was within the comic community. Basically, I just found it very flattering that he wanted to work with me and that he was willing to actually write something specific for me, something that I wanted to draw, and he had suggested Lobo. I had been reading some of the Simon Bisley “Lobos” that he’d written so the idea of drawing “Lobo” really appealed to me. And he wrote me a “Lobo” story which never saw the light of day. Between the Big Books and Vertigo, that’s how I got into DC.

Then there was a London convention, I think it might been ’92 or something, Karen Berger was interviewing British talent that she was interesting in and Art Young approached me about going to see Karen with an interview to showing her my portfolio and to see if there was anything I could do for Vertigo. She was very poignant, enthusiastic and supportive -- it’s a bit foggy exactly how everything happened between Karen liking my work and the fact that I had already started being introduced to DC. Maybe it’s because of the Big Books via Andy Helfer and through Alan Grant and Dan Raspler… between Karen liking my work and Grant Morrison wanting me to do something for him, this was how I got started with Vertigo. So because “Lobo” got shelved, “Flex Mentallo” was the first work I had published by DC that wasn’t one of the Paradox’s Big Books.

Since a lot of people haven’t read Flex, how would you describe it?

Frank's cover for the first collection of his X-Men run.

So many different people have given me their take on “Flex Mentallo.” To leave it very vague and open-ended, it’s about the relationships between fiction and reality, and how fiction is as real as your memories. It’s as real as your imagination. It’s as real as your dreams. And real life is interpreted through the way you see things, what you remember of things, where you escape to when you were young. People tend to think of things either being part of real life or part of fiction, as both completely separate from each other, and they’re not. There’s an area in the middle between them where they cross over, and this thing about where ideas come from and this relationship between what’s real and what’s not real is something that Grant tends to deal with a lot and in “Flex” he dealt with it using super-heroes and creators and the creative process and childhood and he mixed it all together.

To be honest, everyone I speak to has a different take on what “Flex” is. Obviously there’s Grant’s, sort of, commentary on comics in there, and it’s very obvious from reading it that Grant loves super-heroes and believes in the power of super-heroes. What I mean by that, he doesn’t just treat them as some colorful diversion, he just treats them as modern myths of modern gods. I suppose I shouldn’t be drawn into what’s really Grant’s take on it -- this is my take on Grant’s take. The first time Grant phoned me up to talk about “Flex” -- Grant gets very enthusiastic when he’s talking about his work -- and he was talking incredibly fast about lots of different things at one time and he was referencing eras in comics history and heroes from various different periods in comics history, most of which I didn’t know, and I didn’t get any of the references he was talking about. In his enthusiasm to explain as much as possible about what this was going to be and what it was going to do in the shortest space of time, I really came off the phone feeling that I didn’t actually know what I was getting involved in, I just knew that the guy who was writing it [chuckles] was incredibly enthusiastic about it and was convinced it was going to be a masterpiece -- which kind of happens every time Grant approaches me about something. It’s just that ever since working on “Flex” with him, I’m always much more confident about working on another project with him. Each time he approaches me about doing something together, he’s always fired with enthusiasm and “this is going to be the best thing since whenever.”

The artist's pencilwork from "New X-Men" #138, page 7.
How would you describe your approach to anatomy? To the look of your characters? I suppose you started with a more realistic style.

I don’t feel that I’ve found my style yet.

Your people don’t look like most other comic book characters.

I don’t know. Is that not the way Mike Mignola’s characters all look like Mike Mignola characters? Steve Dillon’s characters all look like Steve Dillon characters? Mine all look like mine. I think part of it is it’s like your handwriting: you can decide whether you’re gonna write slightly differently at the start of this page. You start writing “left-handed” to try to write it in a slightly different handwriting than your own handwriting, and by the time you get to the bottom of the page it’s going back to the way it used to be. I think for artists that don’t use photo reference, when you’re just drawing things from your imagination, you sketch out a figure (if you’re drawing a walking figure, a standing figure, a sitting or a leaping figure), you work it out as a little rough and then you draw it out very simply, and then you draw in rough where all the muscle groups are. It’s not as accurate as it would be if you had a model posed in front of you or if you had a piece of photo reference that was exactly the position you were after. So I think unless you happen to be some kind of genius for drawing the human figure without any reference, which I’m not and most comic books artists aren’t, then you have a shorthand formula for how to draw human figure in respect to whether it’s a fat person, a thin person or muscular person or whatever.

On my figures, they’re not particularly accurate, but it just so happens that for all that you lose in realism or accuracy, when you’re drawing from your imagination rather than from photo reference, I think that you actually gain something. I think what you lose in realism, you gain in something else. Sometimes when you look at the work of a comic artist who use a lot of photo reference, it can be very convincing but it’s very convincing in a very slightly false way. Where when you look at the work of an artist who does everything from their imaginations, it’s not nearly as real looking, but it seems more real because everything looks the same. You know the way when you’re reading “Preacher,” Steve Dillon draws -- I’m sure that he sometimes uses photo reference if he has to do a specific type of truck or a specific type of motorbike or whatever -- Steve Dillon tends to draw people and cows and motorbikes and cities just from his imagination, and everything has a very slight simplicity to it, but you believe it because it all looks the same environment, like it came from the same place. The same way that we’re watching “The Simpsons,” because it’s being done in the same style it all fits together. Some people do use photo reference very, very well. I suppose a prime example would be Alex Ross. What he does with photo reference is very, very impressive and he takes it to an absolute limit where he’s actually trying to make it look as real as possible in a very everyday way. Most of what Moebius does doesn’t involve any photo reference at all, and it’s very real as well, in a completely different way. Getting back to your question of how I would describe my style, I don’t know… I tend to use as little photo reference as possible.

A few years back, Quitely did this painting of Neil Gaiman's Endless gang for a poster that DC released.
What type of criticism would your art teacher giveyou when you were in school?

Yeah. When I was in art school, obviously a couple times a week there were life drawing classes where there would be a nude model posed in the center of the studio and we would all be standing around or sitting around with our easels or drawing boards either doing detailed laborious sketches or detailed drawings of the figure in front of us, or lots and lots of simple sketches. Obviously that helped with getting to know the human figure. When I was younger I used to copy right out of books with art from Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, two of my favorites for copying, which again gave me a slightly different thing; and I also had those how-to-draw books when I was younger where you start with a stick figure and then you built up to kind of oval to the head, oval for the ribcage, and oval for the pelvis and then you rough the shape muscles around it and you bring a figure to life that way. It’s a method to drawing a figure from your imagination; you don’t need to have something to copy. I have a method for drawing the human figure without having any reference to look at, and sometimes it works better than other times and it works for some readers better than it works for others. There are some people who really like my approach to drawing comics, and there are other people who really don’t. I don’t know. How would you describe my figure work?

Very surreal. [laughs] It’s very different from the norm. I always thought I saw a little bit of Moebius in it, and thought it was cool. I really liked your take on the X-Men -- very different from the traditional super-hero artist. I guess what appeals to me is it’s strangeness. Another thing I find fascinating about your art is folks do really seem to either love it or hate it. I find myself debating about your art to some, which is funny because I always find your art interesting. Most comics fans would probably prefer Bryan Hitch’s art because it’s very polished and clean super-hero work from the Neal Adams school, but your art seems to be a more required taste--a more finesse one. Your storytelling is also very clever and very different from the mainstream.

Over the past years, I’ve been concentrating more and more on storytelling to the detriment of my deadline. Every page of script that you get could be interpreted in so many different ways when you go to draw the page out. Over the last few years I’ve gradually spent more and more time exploring the different ways I could be laying out each page or each scene or how I like the layout, and to be honest it’s been playing havoc with my deadlines. What I’ve actually noticed is that more often than not I end up, after much deliberation, with something that’s much closer to my initial instinct. What I’m going to be doing in the future -- in an effort to try and improve my productivity -- I’m going to try and trust my instinct for the storytelling. Because these last few years I’ve been working longer and longer hours, and producing fewer and fewer pages because I’ve been allowing myself to get more and more drawn into how many different ways I can quickly layout a page and how I can chose the best elements of all of these and put them together in the best way. You don’t get paid by the hour when you’re drawing comic, you get paid by the page, and I really spend far too many hours on each page. For people who don’t like my work, they’re looking at it and saying I don’t see where the hours are? Because they just don’t like the drawing style. The hours are in all the preparation that’s been given to the storytelling before I actually start drawing on the boards themselves. I really need to, for financial reasons as much as anything… I really need to try and get away from that and try and trust my instinct, try to speed things up and have a bit more confidence in what my instincts are telling me.

"We3" artwork for the mini-series that Morrison and Quitely successfully brought to life.

What I’ve found was that after having done the “X-Men,” I was trying to do a mainstream book, I was trying to do the unordinary super-hero book, and I was trying to do seven issues a year -- which was what I told Joe Quesada I would manage -- but I was spending an insane amount of time working out how best to do the storytelling. I just feel it’s time for a change again. When I started doing ‘Missionary Man’, all I thought about storytelling was that as long as it was clear for the readers to see what was happening in each individual panel, and as long as they had a rough idea… as long as you could follow what was going on without the words, by the time the words went on top of it they would definitely be okay. When I started working in American comics -- when I started working with Dan Raspler in particular -- I started getting a lot more advice about how to improve my storytelling and over the years I just allowed myself to become more and more drawn into the complexity of storytelling and the subtlety of storytelling and the “how to try to make it as easy as possible to follow,” but still make it dynamic and still make interesting, still make it believable, still tell the story that I’m trying to tell. I really feel it’s time for a change. Every change I’ve tried to make throughout my career so far, I’ve tried to make it as slowly as possible, because it’s like the handwriting thing again. If you just try and change your handwriting completely, it’ll keep creeping back to what it was anyway.

Have you started this change with the “Books of Magick” covers? I was looking at your first piece and it looked very different from the stuff I’ve seen in the past.

One of the reasons it looks very different from what I’ve done in the past is that it’s fully painted. I used to do fully painted work when I worked for Fleetway; it was all fully painted work that relied very heavy on the lines. It wasn’t fully painted work like Simon Bisley’s painted work, there was a combination of line and painted surfaces.

"American Virgin" #1 cover art by Frank Quitely.
There’s nothing digital about that image.

No, there’s not. I’m very bare bones about the Photoshop so far. I do plan to learn a bit more in the future, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. The first painted work I did for the American market was the “Sandman: Endless Nights” book -- that’s sort of traditional drawing and painting, there’s no digital manipulation in there. Just because I’m painting instead of just drawing it, it obviously does look different from my normal comic work, the “Bite Club” covers and the “Books of Magick” covers… I just don’t know how different they are from the covers that I’ve drawn. I suppose that one of the things is that if you’re drawing a cover and someone else is going to color it -- whether it’s an “X-Men” cover or an “Authority” cover -- then you do a traditional drawing and you leave it to somebody else to color or you leave just a detailed color guide, but when you’re painting, it frees you to experiment with different effects which would take too long to describe in words if you were passing on to another colorist to color for you.

From now on, you don’t want to work with an inker; you would prefer to be more in control of your own artwork, don’t you?

Yeah. To be honest I just don’t like how other people ink my pencils. I have respect for who they are. I respect them for how more much experience they may have at inking. I’ve been inking my own stuff for “X” number of years and maybe some guy will come along that’s been inking twice as long, but I just don’t like other people inking over my stuff. Obviously the last three issues of the “X-Men” were digitally inked, which was good in some ways and not good in other ways. I left the “X-Men” having spent a year and a half or more doing these really, really tight penciled pages that I was spending a huge amount of time and thought and effort working on, and they were coming back inked by other people and colored by others, and I was never… I look at those “New X-Men” pages in the “X-Men” comic that I’ve got in print and I look at my own Xerox copies of the pencils and I prefer the pencils in black-and-white and that’s just me. There is no way of getting around that. That’s just somebody who doesn’t like other people inking and coloring his work.

Quitely's bloody cover for "Bite Club" #1.

And so when I left the “X-Men,” and went and did that short Destiny story for the “Sandman” book, ‘Endless Nights’, I got a very, very simple open script, and everything that went on those pages, the way those pages are printed, everything that’s on those pages is mine. In terms of the images there wasn’t somebody else coming and inking, there wasn’t somebody else coming in and coloring. They’re not perfect and there are things that I would go back and change if I had to do them again, but the little things about them I don’t like are due to my own shortcomings not due to somebody else’s shortcomings, not due to me not liking other people being involved. So it’s actually much easier for me to look at those pages then it is to look at “Flex” or “20/20 Visions” or “Batman” or “JLA” or “The Authority” or “The X-Men” or any of the other things that somebody else has colored or that somebody else has inked on with a lot of them.

You’ve said you had a friend this time around, someone more acquainted with your style than your past inkers?

Well, the process of digital inking for those who don’t know it involves taking the pencil page and scanning it in a computer using Photoshop or other software, manipulating it so that the lines come out dark enough and strong enough to ink, to print, without actually being inked. It’s like if you have a pencilled sketch and you take a Xerox copy, you lose some of the finest lines. So what’s you do is that you can make it much, much darker and you capture some of the finer lines, but the thicker lines become too thick and will join on to the other lines beside it. It’s a difficult balance to strike, I have a guy at the moment that’s digitally inking my pencils for “We3,” which is the creator-owned thing I’m doing with Grant Morrison from Vertigo. The guy is called Jamie Grant, he actually took over for me when I left Fleetway, he took over “Missionary Man,” but mostly he’s worked for small press and he worked for a games company for years and he’s come back to comics for now. Jamie is really professional with Photoshop and he’s got a method for taking my penciled pages and making my penciled pages ready for going straight to print. So basically they look almost like their inked, but it’s just the way we manipulated the scans. Obviously there’s slightly different quality of line from what you would have if it was traditionally inked. I prefer the look of it to be these tight pencils than having somebody else inking on top of them. I’m not fast enough to pencil and ink on a monthly schedule. At the moment I’m still not fast enough because I’m still spending a lot of time with the storytelling, I’m actually not fast enough to pencil on a monthly schedule, but hopefully the next year or two we’ll see me trusting my instinct a bit more and spending a little less time deliberating over the possibilities of how best layout the page; how best to tell the story. I’ll just trust my instinct a bit more and hopefully I’ll get those pages done.

Bizarro versus Superman! The artwork to the cover "All-Star Superman" #7.
Having worked with Mark Millar and Grant Morrison, are there any differences in their approach?

Mark is probably a little more specific than Grant. I think Mark, more than most writers, likes to tell the artist what to draw. In fairness, Mark’s usually got a pretty good eye for visuals, but Grant draws his stories out actually as thumbnails before writing them as scripts.

So you get thumbnails along with your scripts?

No. He never gives them, but sometimes he shows me the thumbnails that he has done for scripts that he’s written for me, and his thumbnails are very simple because he knows exactly what he’s seeing in his mind. He just sketches out very, very simple thumbnail pages just to give him an oversight of how the whole thing is going. But Grant can be very specific about what he wants as well, but he’s also got a lot of confidence in what I’ll come up with so he tends to cut me a lot more slack. More recently, the way I’ve been working with Grant since we been working on this creator-owned thing, we’ve been getting together beforehand with a simple bared-down version of the script that’s only got little bits of dialogue here and there. It’s almost like a first draft script and we sat down with it together and talk about it. Both of us actually do some thumbnails, and then Grant talks to me about the kind of things that he’s got in mind. We have a conversation about it to see what ideas I’m bring to it visually and how close my understanding is of what he wants, what he’s actually trying to get from me. And then I go away and lay out the pages and show him the layout and then he goes away and finishes the script while I’m away finishing the artwork, and then I come back with finished pages. Then after that he re-dialogues it to the way I’ve drawn the pages. It’s actually a much more organic way that I’m working just now with Grant. It’s like a halfway house between full script and the Marvel style script, where you just work from plot. Mark and Grant have a lot of similarities, but it just so happens at the moment, Grant and I on this most recent project drifted into a slightly new way of working together where it’s a little more like the sort-of Marvel style.

Time sure flies. The charming cover to "All-Star Superman" #1, a quiet prelude to the intensity inside by Messrs. Morrison and Quitely of Scotland.
How different is “We3” for you when your protagonists are a dog, a cat and a rabbit? Is this a comedy? How would you describe it? [NOTE: This interview was done before “We3” was released.]

No. It’s not a comedy. To describe it as a story about a cat, a dog and a rabbit… obviously I think the first thing it would conjure up in most people’s mind would be some kind of Disney-like story, which it absolutely isn’t. Neither is it a comedy. I’m really worried to try and pigeonhole it, just for fear that people won’t even pick it up if they thought it was just about a cat, a dog, and a rabbit…. I suppose it’s a kind of science-fiction/horror thing, for all that it sounds kinda fantastic. It’s a very short step to being completely believable. It’s roots are somewhat based on experiments that have actually been done at the moment with animals and genetics and prosthetics, and with medical, scientific, military applications and the kind of research, the kind of background of the story, it’s very nearly already happening and it’s very nearly true -- it’s just that one step further. It’s what maybe could believably be happening in the very near foreseeable future.

The point to the story, other than to shock and entertain -- and it is quite violent, and it is quite moving, and it’s quite harrowing at points, and it’s quite sad -- I think a lot of it comes down to the way higher species treat the lower species in general. It’s also about the chain of command amongst people. It’s a slightly damning look at just how shortsighted people can be in terms of thinking all progress is progress in respect to all the damage it does to other humans or to the environment or to animals or to whatever. As I say, I’ve only the first of three scripts.

"All-Star Superman" #5 by Quitely.
Is this more fun than drawing a school full of mutants?

It’s different fun. It’s more fun insofar as that it’s much more personal, it’s much more adult. I shy away from saying that it’s new, as such, because everyone seems to claim that what they’re working on is new… It’s certainly not going to have a whole lot in common with the majority of other comics that are going to be beside it on the shelves when it comes out. I hope that people will find it refreshing and different. But to add to some kind of prospective, generally speaking, whatever I happen to be working on at the time, it always seems like the most fun I’ve had. I really did love working on “The Authority,” I loved working on “The X-Men,” I loved working on the “Sandman” book, and I loved working on the first issue of “We3.”

[Postscript: Around the time of this interview, “All-Star Superman” was already in its early stages and one of the worst kept secrets in the industry. With the release of the first ten issues of this series, Quitely continues to deliver his quiet magic and artistry to Krypton’s most noble champion. Both he and Grant Morrison have restored much of luster that had seemingly gone from comic’s greatest champion. Each issue has been more than worth the wait; each story worth more than a Brazilian Moussaieff Red Diamond. When this series is completed with its twelfth issue, it is hard to say if there’ll ever be another Superman story that recaptures its sunshine.]

TAGS:  pop, frank quitely, all star superman, grant morrison

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