Interview with Frank Quitely From pen name to big name - December 2020
From Pen name to big name, Frank Quitely takes us through his career. From underground to television sets.
Frank Quitely is a name known throughout the comic book scene. Having worked on some of the biggest titles to hit shelves I had the absolute pleasure to speak to the man behind the name. Please join me below in an exclusive interview with the one and only Frank Quitely
by Paul Welsh
Source: The Herald
[Paul] The pen name of course comes from the days of electric soup. Can you talk to me about not only the name but the comic in general, what are your personal highlights from those days? The Greens had me in hysterics. I understand they are a parody but how did that idea hit the table?
[FQ] Well, Electric soup I had a pal who worked in the art store on queen street and a DJ called Jazz (Laughs) I don't even know his real name. Eh, so my friend, it was quite in the shop and he was doodling a wee cartoon face beside the till and this guy jazz said to him, “you know there's a print shop on Parnie street that are looking for artists”. So, my friend Jerry told me, so I went round to this print shop. J&T graphics it was. I went round to this print shop with my portfolio. Because I had left art school and I was looking for any king of work that was creative. Anything, and I thought this was a printers who was looking for an artist. So, I had this idea that I was going to go and talk them into giving me a job and it turned out it was a just a couple of guys in the print shop that had decided to start their own kind of “Scottish version” of “Viz”, but this was going to be more comic strip than editorial. Obviously Viz was very much a magazine as well as a comic. So, I went round with like monoprints, life drawings and oil paintings in this portfolio case and they were like, “god naw we're looking for cartoonists” they wanted someone to do stuff for free on a Viz style comic and because I thought I had the time I had a crack at it. He said, “Can you go away and write and draw your own single- or double-page strip of whatever you think’s funny”. I was thinking what would I do? Then I remembered when I was at high school, every now and again there would be a photocopy of either “The Broons” or “Oor Wullie” and somebody had tippexed out all the word balloons and put their own wee script. I remember (Laughs) I remember one line, the only line I can remember, and it was Wullie, Soapy Soutar and Wee Eck and one of them, I can’t remember which one the three of them were walking and one of them is saying “Let’s go shag Daphne Broon” (Laughs) and I remember like there would only be one photocopy of this in the school getting passed around and I remember at the time. Being a teenager being quite shocked by it, but I loved it. I thought it was really funny. I do remember being quite shocked thinking who would do that. That was really daring. So, I decided to do a funny Broons story. I liked the Broons, everybody likes the Broons, so I did drew a Broons story. The first ever “The Greens” that appeared in “Electric Soup” was originally drawn as a Broons strip. I took it in, and Tommy Sommerville, Tom and Jim were the two guys and Dave Alexander of course they were the guys that started Electric soup. This was before issue 1 we were just getting it together. So, I took this Broons strip in and they loved it, but they were like you'll need to redraw it as the Greens. Change the names and change the hair styles. I was like, why? He said copyright you can’t do a Broons story. I was like, but everyone will know it’s not the real Broons. It’s not as well drawn, and this isn't the Sunday Post its Electric Soup. Anyway, he was like, nah this isn't how it works you'll need to redo it. It took me ages and I didn't really want to redraw it, but I went away and redid it as The Greens and that was us. Up and running so that's how that started.
[Paul] Did it go as well as you imagined? You did 17 issues, was there many issues where you said That you were more happy with than others?
[FQ] No, Electric Soup is a real mixed bag, you know? Obviously personal taste wise certain stuff appeals to me more than other stuff I was an art student and I suppose I was quite PC, by the standards of the day which of course is not PC anymore, but not all of it appealed to me. Art wise and writing wise but even with my own stuff I felt like it was a bit of a hit and miss sometimes there was bits and pieces that I did that I thought was quite good and of course bits that was just the best I could do because I wasn't an experienced writer, artist or comedian. It went on for 17 issues and we got picked up by John Brown on issue 7 so when issue 8 came out that was the first one that was, you know? Coloured cover and we all made a wee royalty from that. Prior that with each issue we would make enough money to pay for the printing and we'd go out for a curry and a bevy you know? I think by the time John Brown took us over we were all getting something like £40 a page. For writing, drawing, lettering, and doing the letter tone or zipper tone or whatever they call it. Yeah, it just never quite took off. It never became a big thing. People remember it as a local thing, you know.
[Paul] When I was at college, I met a gent who had been collecting way longer than I have. He was a bit older and he told me about it, and he made reference to it as an underground comic that only the elite Scottish collectors had. So that made me want to read it.
[FQ] I wouldn't call it the elite.
[Paul] Too be fair, there aren't that many listings of the full set on eBay.
[FQ] No, no it's quite rare aye.
[Paul] So is that what caused the build-up to the pen name?
[FQ] Aw, right. Well, the reason that came about, I wanted a pen name to sort of hide behind and partially because everyone else had a pen name and partly because I didn't think my parents would like it and wouldn't want me associated with it. (Laughs) and for a couple of years I had the name in my mind, it’s a spoonerism of quite frankly but it also sounds like a name and I just wanted to use that for something at some point and Electric Soup was that opportunity to use the Frank Quitely name.
[Paul] So you moved onto 2000AD first am I correct?
[FQ] The way I got into 2000AD or the Judge Dredd Megazine was because we were doing our own comic, we would go to the comic marts and conventions to sell our stuff and people kept saying you know? comic shop owners or people who were working professionally in comics were saying you should do samples and send them off, but the thing is erm. It was quite a small close-knit comic scene in Glasgow at the time. Gary Erskine was already working professionally and Colin MacNeil you know and Robbie Morrison and Jim Alexander there was a whole bunch of guys that all knew Alan Grant and John Wagner and Alex Ronald. I can’t keep naming names because I don’t want to leave people out. There was people that was already like working for 2000AD or working for Deadline and it kind of made it seem doable and I ended up doing some samples. I did some samples of Batman. I did 4 pages, and I didn’t have a script this was before the internet so I just did a kind of fight and chase kind of scene but by the time I got to the 4th page I could not believe how long it took me I was like “I’m not finishing this” and I actually photocopied 3 and a 3rd pages of this Batman thing I had been doing. I mean I didn’t even finish you know. Which was nuts I mean would you ever send a sample that you hadn’t finished? It totally sends out the wrong message, but I did, and I sent it to, there was loads of comic book companies at the time and comics international the trades magazine and comics world they had a list of publishers and I sent it off these 4 black and white photocopies to all these different publishers. It was actually Steve McManus from 2000AD that got back to me and got me to do a couple of sample pages and told me he really liked them but unfortunately, he couldn’t give me any work because we’ve got loads of artists working for us that are waiting for work but I’m going to pass you over to Dave Bishop at the Megazine and then he got me to do sample pages. Then after that he gave me a Missionary Man script and by this point, I had stuck with the Frank Quitely name so I did a 7 page Missionary Man script that was written by Gordan Rennie and he said if you finish it and you like it I’ll give you another one and I did the 1st 7 pages and I sent them to him and he thought they were great and he got me to do a cover so that when the first script came out in the Megazine it had a cover and then he gave me another one and then he gave me a 42 page script. Like a 6 parter and he said he’ll keep giving me work until the Americans come for me. I remember saying to him I’m not interested in working for them I’m just happy to be doing paid work as long as you keep giving me scripts and he said believe me when the Americans come for you they’ll over you a bigger pay grade and more variety to what you could be doing and sure enough that’s the way it worked out, but I had caught the bug for drawing comics with Electric Soup and then working for the Megazine I was left to my own devices. I was doing everything but the lettering you know? I totally loved it and with both of them the excitement of having something coming out in print was such a feeling of achievement. Especially seeing it in a shop you know.
[Paul] Would you say that 2000AD mould the future or where you still taking shape? Has your style changed at all?
[FQ] Nah its all been a gradual change erm. I didn’t really know what I was doing with Electric Soup and erm The Greens was obviously heavily inspired by The Broons and the movie spoofs were inspired by mad magazine. With Electric Soup there was a couple of the guys were really into comics. There was a guy Rob McCallum. Rob lives in Canada now. He’s a storyboard artist. He works on big Hollywood movies and he was right into comics. He introduced me to Akira, Blueberry, The Incal and erm Ronin, Dark Knight, Hard Boiled, Hellboy, Watchmen. He just gave me a bunch of books that he just thought were the best out at the time. I remember getting the first issue of Hard Boiled. You know Frank Miller and Geof Darrow and waiting for the second issue to come out and it was either the second of the third issue that took ages to come out. There was a problem at customs you know? But erm I remember when I was doing Electric Soup, I remember having this feeling that you could do anything with comics. There was no budget restrictions no special effects restrictions you know. It was just whatever your talent and imagine could do and if you were willing to spend the time you literally do anything and that excited me in a way that being a graphic designer or being a film director wouldn’t have. I really thought comics were just the best thing you could do unfortunately they weren’t brilliantly paid, and they took ages, or I took ages. When I was working for the Megazine I was colouring as well, and I just felt like I had total control of everything. Unfortunately, because I hadn’t been trained as a comic book artist, I had talent and lot of enthusiasm, but I didn’t have a lot of knowledge. When I look back on my original work a lot of the story telling is pretty poor or not nearly as good as it could be or not nearly as good as it would be if I redo the pages.
By the time I had been over at DC for a while, you know those Paradox books? You know the big books of hoaxes and death and all that kind of stuff. I did a bunch of those. I did about 10 short black and whites and I did Flex Mentallo at Vertigo and then I met, no actually I had met Alan Grant before Alan like Grant Morrison, Grant had been keeping an eye on me. I didn’t know this at the time, but when I was doing Electric Soup and then when I was working at the Megazine and he asked me to do Flex Mentallo with him. He told me years later, I mean obviously there was lots of comics I was looking at and I had read comics when I was younger and during my teens, I only ever read Mad Magazine. So, like Weird science and Tales of Suspense. You know those black and white reprints? But I hadn’t been, I wouldn’t describe myself as a fan boy. I wasn’t following monthly comics you know? I was just into American comics, European comics, and a few Japanese comics but I wasn’t an out and out superhero fan boy. There was loads of stuff that I didn’t know. So, Grant told me years later that when he asked me to do Flex Mentallo that was one of the things he liked. I mean he liked the way I drew but he liked the fact that I didn’t really know. He wanted to kind of parody and pay homage to various things in comic book history and he reckons that If he got and out and out superhero artist to do it, they would make it too obvious. You know? Too obvious what was being parodied or what we were paying homage too. The thing is he was sending me scrips and I would need to phone him up and be like “Who’s Billy Batson?” because he’d write “A kid like Billy Batson” and I would phone him up and ask and he would be like “Draw a guy with a Dennis the Menace Jumper and neat hair cut” (Laughs)
After I had worked with Grant on Flex, I got offered a Lobo story from Alan Grant. Alan, I remember was at a comic convention in Glasgow and Alan said. “If you ever want me to write you a Lobo story just let me know”. I mean it was just a total… I mean a big step in my career and at the time I had been doing Shimura with Robbie Morrison at the Megazine and it was all laser knifes, guns and hoverbikes and I wanted something that didn’t have any tech. so I said “Could you write me a story that’s just a lot of fisticuffs”. You know just some hand to hand fighting and he wrote me a one shot called “The Hand-to-Hand Job” (Laughs) and it was, actually it might be the best Lobo story I’ve ever read but it never got published. I did all the pencilling for it and sent it in, and I thought it was the best thing I had ever done. The editor there was a guy called Dan Raspler and I thought he was going to get back to me the next day to tell me how great it was. A week had passed and eventually he phoned me, and his opening line was. “Dude I don’t know how to tell you this” and my heart just sank. It was like your drawings are great, but your storytelling really sucks. He said, “I’ve written a letter and you’ll get it soon”. and it goes through the 24 pages. Page by page and it was like “This is a new scene, start with an establishing shot”. You know. Now that we have that establishing shot, we don’t need the background in every panel. It’s just other things like This is a fight we’ve already established the two guys throwing punches at each other you don’t need to have both the guys for every panel you can zoom in and have a fist connecting with a jaw. It was just really simple stuff I just hadn’t considered. I went through this letter with all these points, the letter was actually in a glass case at the Kelvingrove exhibition I included it because it was a total turning point in my career and it was from that moment that the story telling became more important to me than the quality of the drawings. Up till that point I thought of storytelling as you. You drew what was described in the script and you try and make it clear so people could understand it even if the words weren’t there. After that letter from Dan storytelling became a thing that had to work in a sequence. It just became more important to me. Over the next 10 years at least I became more and more interested in it that it started slowing me down. I was delving too deep into all the different ways that I could. I would read a script and I would then do thumbnails. I would do 10 thumbnails per panel. It was just nuts. It was almost like an OCD thing.
The Lobo thing didn’t come out, but Alan and I did get to work on a Batman thing, The Scottish connection. That was just another big step for me because up till that point people would say you know. Aunties or taxi drivers when I’d saw I draw comics they would ask what comics do I draw and I’d say Missionary Man or Flex Mentallo but when you can say Batman it was like I felt like I had arrived. Its funny because what had happened. Alan had been reading a book called The Hiram Key and it was about or explored a link between the stone masons, or the union of stone masons from the Babylonian times right through to modern day freemasonry and Alan had this idea where Batman didn’t put his costume on. It was a Bruce Wayne story. Bruce goes on holiday to Scotland and stumbled upon a mystery and he solved it without throwing a punch. It was to do with Rosslyn Chapel which is one of the most carved ornate buildings in Europe. It’s got a type of maize and cactus that’s only found in the Americas, you know in the carvings? And I think it started 150 years before Columbus set sales for the Americas. Alan had worked out this conspiracy theory that Bruce Wayne solves on his time off. All because he was so into this book on freemasonry. He had been writing Shadow of the Bat for years you know. Regular Batman stories and he’s just came up with something different and he was dead excited about it but what happened was. He kept sending it in, to I presume Dennis O’Neill. But they kept sending it back saying. “We need to have him in costume” or “We need to have a bad guy” and “Batman needs to punch the bad guy” (Laughs) and eventually Alan had to rewrite it so many times that it was further away from what he originally wanted that he was now more bored with it and what he ended up with was something he was totally unhappy with. Very wisely he didn’t tell me that. He just said he had a batman book that I can draw, and I was really excited about it and I did the best job I could. When it was finished, I gave it to my mum to read and the next time I saw her. I asked her what she thought of it and she said “Vincent your drawings were very good but the story was rubbish” (Laughs) and of course I went straight onto the phone and told Alan Grant and he burst out laughing and he was like “You tell your mum she’s right it is rubbish” and he told me it was great at the start but I had rewritten it 10 times changing it every time and taking it further away from what I wanted so.
[Paul] That was the first ever Batman comic I ever read.
[FQ] That’s crazy.
[Paul] I had seen the Keaton movies and when it comes to comics, I was a big Archie fan. Well, no I’m a massive Archie fan. When I was younger, I was pretty much exclusively Archie when it came to comics. Then the moving Library or Library on Wheels I don’t recall the name came to my area and my school at the time told the whole class they had to get something from that bus. When it was my turn to go, I saw that Batman, there he was big Scotland flag. Scottish connections I was like “that’s it. That’s my book”. So that was my first taste of superhero and like you said good guy punching bad guy. Its amazing hearing the inside scoop on that comic and hearing he was unhappy but I still have that soft spot. Its still really high up the list for me.
[FQ] Aww (laughs) Well I’m glad it was a total treat for me. You know the first time working on batman and working with Alan Grant who I really liked I had been reading his Lobo stuff particularly the stuff that was drawn by Simon Bisley and actually there was brilliant one. There was a brilliant Lobo 4 part that Alan co-wrote with John Wagner and it was called Unamerican Gladiators and it was totally brilliant. I would actually love to get that again. I had been reading a lot of Alans work at the time. I loved his Anderson stuff and I had been following most of his Lobo stuff and then this Batman book. It was such a treat.
I feel like we’ve wandered all over the place here where are we at?
[Paul] By all means let’s keep wandering. Ok so let us talk a bit about your work with Grant. It’s some of the best stuff to ever hit the shelves. Excuse me for being a fan boy. Let’s go to the beginning. Grant had been keeping an eye on you where do we go from here?
[FQ] So Grant and I would meet a café on Sauchiehall street called Equi it was a wee Italian greasy spoon type café and we used to meet in there on a Saturday morning and I would show him the next few pages of flex that I had drawn, and he would love them, and we would the just sit and talk about all sorts of things. It was an exciting time you know. That was me working for DC comics now after underground and then Megazine. I hadn’t read a lot of Grants stuff. I actually think Flex, the script for issue one I think that might have been the first thing I have read from Grant. Unless it was Big Dave. Which I think was round about the same time. I knew that Grant had this reputation and I think he had just done Arkham Asylum. So I knew Grant was a big deal and he had a good reputation and all the rest of it and I remember when I got the script in. I mean I had been working at the Megazine with Robbie Morrison and Gordon Rennie and I was getting 7-page scripts. That was your average. Even if it was a longer story it was usually just 7 and then I got this 24-page script in for the first issue of Flex. Of course, it was very layered, and it wasn’t a simple liner story, and it was alluding to a lot of other things. I remember I didn’t get it all, but I remember loving. I loved working on it. I knew there was serval other things in the script that were alluding to other things and I just wasn’t really getting the references. When it came out it was never collected because the Charles Atlas company filed a case against it because of Hero of the Beach and Gamble a Stamp that was the two things they took issue with, so it was never collected. For like 10 years or something like that or more and I remember shortly before it got collected, I had gone to a convention in Toronto. Fan Expo and there were 3 different guys in my signing queue who had asked if Flex would ever come out as a collection because they had all missed it in back issue bins or whatever and I had said give me your name and address I’ve got some in the house and I’ll try and remember to stick them in an envelope for you. So, I took these 3 guys names and addresses and when I got back home those names sat on my drawing table for the next two years. (laughs) I just didn’t get round to sending them. The same way I don’t get around to answering Emails. I’m just disorganised that way. I got invited back to Toronto 2 years later and I had the 4 issues of Flex in 3 different envelopes with the names of the three guys and I didn’t know if I would recognise them and sure enough. I had them with me each day I was at the con and one of the guys said to me. “I don’t know if you remember me, I was here a couple of years ago talking about Flex” and I asked him his name. he said Ken, I don’t remember what his second name was and I said “hold on a sec” and I went into my bag and pulled out this envelope with his name and address on it and I said “I’m sorry I meant to send you this and I didn’t get round to it” and he was gob smacked. He was totally gob smacked. He kept looking over his shoulder like it was some sort of trick or something and he was really delighted. The next day another guy. Oh god what was his name he had an Indian name. Like Ahmed anyway. He said the same thing “I was here a couple of years ago” and I was like “are you Ahmed?” and when he said yeah I went into my bag and pulled his envelope out and he was just blown away and I mean tears in his eyes blown away. The third day I was there this guy waited in my queue and it was a big queue Fan Expo is huge I mean its just signings your just there signing 4 items or 6 items each depending on the size of your queue you know. It was hundreds of people. It’s a good hour in the queue. This guy comes up to me and he didn’t have anything to sign. He says, “I’m not a comic fan but I’m Ahmed’s cousin” He just wanted to wait in the queue just to speak to me he just wanted to talk. Just to tell me that I had no idea how much that meant to him. He told me he went back home, and he told everybody in his family he told his neighbours. Like my favourite artist remembered me. He had this stuff in an envelope for me. It was like a wake up call for me. Like how much these moments mean to some people and I mean it’s only a signature so most people in the queue have a Brian Bolland Book and a Dave Gibbons book that they want signed as well it’s not that big of a deal to some but to a few people it really is. It’s almost like having a magic power. The way you can make people feel good just by giving them a minute. I don’t even know how we got onto this…
[Paul] I’m glad we did. Its incredible. The comic community is amazing. Especially when a creator is up for giving back you know?
[FQ] I think like, it’s a different thing being known in comics. It’s different from being a footballer or an actor or a Rockstar or something because these people are proper famous. They are probably always on their guard. I mean people probably are. You probably don’t have any privacy if you are those things. Whereas comic book people. Like artists and writers. You’re only ever known at a convention. The rest of the time you’re just in your house. Doing your work and only stopping to make the dinner. It’s such an unglamourous lifestyle then you go to a comic con and there’s people telling you that you’re their favourite. I suppose. I don’t know I’ve gone to cons and there has been actors there and actors are such an unusual breed of people. They are so different from comic folk.
[Paul] So jumping back to Flex before we go off topic again. (Laughs) Taking a look back on the work you both did together. Are there any personal highlights? I think we’ll jump straight into with JLA: Earth 2.
[FQ] Earth 2. Thinking back on Earth 2, I think. Like everything else I had down. I got the script I read it through and did the best I could but my overriding memory of earth 2 is I didn’t see any of the colouring until the sent me the whole unbound book and I sat with my wife in the living room just going through these pages. My wife has no interest in comics but the 2 of us just sat going through these pages gasping over how good the colouring was. That’s my overriding memory of Earth 2. It was a total high point it was Laura Depuy that did the colouring. It was sensational I was so pleased because at the opposite end of the spectrum when I did Flex Mentallo. Coming from Electric Soup and the Megazine I never had someone colour my work before. Anything that was coloured I coloured it. Neither Grant or myself knew who the colourist was going to be on Flex and neither of us had any contact. It was a guy called Tom McGraw that coloured it. He was chosen because he was doing the Legion of Superheroes, I think it was and he was good at that sort of thing but right from the start Grant and I had talked about how only the superhero pages should look like a superhero comic the rest of it should look like a Vertigo comic. It should have a real world look I mean its set in Glasgow and I was really disappointed with the colouring. It came back with emerald green trees and stuff. It just wasn’t as realistic as I wanted it to be. When it came back out again, we asked Peter Doherty to recolour it. He did an amazing job and I actually watched one of the kayfabe guys you know Ed and Jim. Totally love those guys. Their stuff is so enthusiastic, and their work is so unpretentious. They talk about wizard magazine and Chris Ware with the same enthusiasm. They did a thing about Flex and I listened to them talk about Flex and one of the things that came up was. “Why did they recolour it?” its so grubby and grim. If I ever end up speaking to these guys, I’ll tell them. That’s the way Grant and I wanted it in the first place. I do understand when people don’t like when creators go back and change things. I do get it. They way it came out when Peter coloured it was much closer to what Grant and I wanted in the first place. I have digressed again but this was on the total other end of the spectrum I didn’t see anything of Earth 2 until the whole lot of it landed on my lap and it was gorgeous it was great.
[Paul] You did the New X-men. This particular comic stuck in my mind a lot when I was growing up having had a horrible coincidence. 9/11 of course.
[FQ] The 9/11 thing was something that was utterly coincidental, and Garth Ennis had a similar thing with one of his comics, he included a plane flying into a building shortly before it. It was just you know that kind of thing. We had a tidal wave in The Authority, and you know if a tidal wave devastated a city. It would just be a coincidence.
New X-men was really exciting because we were getting to do our own thing with it. We change the team; we changed the costumes and the whole tone of it. At first it was a real marmite kind of thing. People who knew my work and Grant’s work found themselves buying New X-men and enjoying it but people who had been following the X-men for years and were used to spandex just thought it was a couple of jerks from vertigo that didn’t know how to do superheroes. It was really unpopular with some of the hardcore fans. At least at first. I believe that most people came around to it because the stories were good, and the characterisation was good. It wasn’t universally popular at all when we started it. Over the years people talk about Grant’s run I mean I only drew 10 issues over a 2-year period or something. Whereas Grant wrote about 50 or there abouts so people do look back on it as something of a highlight. Again, similar to I’m getting to draw Batman I’m now getting to draw the X-men. I mean we used to joke about that back at electric soup. One day we’ll be drawing the X-men and we’d all laugh. I hadn’t been following the X-men. When I was doing Electric Soup, I did pick up some issues of Uncanny when Jim Lee was drawing it. Jim lee and Scott Williams and I loved it. Jim was just streets ahead of me. I mean I was drawing The Greens and he was drawing the X-men. It was so slick and powerful. It was really really good. Then eventually I ended up drawing them and it was so different looking. I totally understand what the fans, the hardcore fans why they didn’t like it. People look back on it more fondly now.
[Paul] And We3, any personal highlights from there?
[FQ] We 3 was. Aw man. Grant and I had been doing New X-men. Right from the start I obviously couldn’t do a monthly book. So, I would just work on new X-men as my full-time thing for the next few years. I did the first 3 and then I did another few further down the line and then I did the silent one. I was just doing them as and when I could. I had no plan for how long I was going to keep doing it. Then I got offered that destiny Chapter in Sandman Endless nights and the story was that Karen Berger had spoken to Neil Gaimen and said what would it take for you to come back and do another Sandman. He said that he would come back and do another Sandman if you can guarantee me my dream team. I wasn’t on the list. It was Miguelanxo Prado, Milo Manara, P. Craig Russell, Glenn Fabry, Bill Sienkiewicz, Barron Storey, Dave McKean, and Mobius, But I don’t know if it was Mobius or his people, but he wasn’t in good health at the time, and they asked for a short story and make it splash pages give us something that’s simple and lyrical. So, Neil wrote this short story for the Destiny Chapter it was just 8 pages. Mobius health just didn’t allow him to do it, so they needed someone else. I can’t remember if it was Karen or Shelly Bond that phoned me about it. I had spoke to both of them about it on different phone calls I just don’t remember who called me first. I think it was Shelly that told me I could do it in paint and I hadn’t done anything fully painted since my Megazine days so I said to Grant “I’m going to hop off X-men” and I did it and I loved it and I would love to do more fully painted stuff I just haven’t got round to it. That feel like another digression because you didn’t ask about Sandman. (Laughs)
[Paul] I’m not here to interrupt you. We were talking about We 3.
[FQ] Oh yeah right. While I was doing the Sandman book Grant had said to me that while he was still doing the New X-men he was working behind the scenes on creator owned stuff and Karen Berger had said to him when you’re done with X-men come back to Vertigo and do all your creator owned stuff you’ve been talking about and he said to me that’s he’s got these creator owned books. I was desperate to do creator owned stuff, so I was like what have we got? He says I’ve got this thing called Vinamarama or Vinmanarama or something he said it’s basically an Islamic Bollywood things like a sitcom or something. I said this doesn’t sound very good and he said I’ve got this other thing called Sea Guy. So, I asked about Sea Guy and he said he’s this guy that lives in the sea. Which didn’t sound very good either. He said the one I really wanted to do is We 3 its about a cat, a dog and a rabbit and they wear suits of armour. I burst out laughing and I was like “Naw, what’s it really about?” and he just deadpan looked at me and said its about a cat, a dog and a rabbit and they wear suits of armour. They escaped from the military who are now after then and I was sitting nodding my head thinking it sounded like a lame idea. The more he talked about it the more I came round. Always the case with Grant the more he talks the more I’m just dying to draw it. I got the first script in and I loved it. I just couldn’t wait to draw it. Another one that was just a total treat. It was brilliant.
[Paul] Can we discuss All-Star Superman for a moment? Particularly 1 page. I loved the Superman run but there is one page that has stayed with me since I first saw it. I believe it was issue 10. The suicide prevention page. What was the thought process behind this? It is the first ever time I have seen Superman really save someone. Sure, we have seen him bring planes down safely and fight evil aliens, but this was one to one. It’s so humane it’s so touching how he just reminds this young person that people care.
[FQ] I read the script and erm, to me it’s not uncommon to read and script and be left with goosebumps or a lump in your throat or you know? Be moved in some way or to find something funny whatever you know? It’s one of the love things about getting a new script and reading it for the first time. You’re getting whatever feeling that the writer wants to give the readers. It’s such a lovely and meaningful part in the story and I apricated it when I read it and then I treated it like any other page, you know? I did some thumbnails on the margins of the script and did a page layout, pencilled it up and erm, I was in Hope Street studios at the time and Jamie Grant was colouring it so I was always on hand to go in and say, “that looks great Jamie” or “could you change this bit?” or whatever and it was just a nice point in a good story.
Then after it came out people started mentioning this page. You know? Like people talking to me and I was reading things online about it and I think every single comic convention I’ve gone to since then I think every single time somebody brings that up, you know? When they are at the table getting things signed and I went to CCXP which is a comic convention it’s the biggest convention in the world. I’ve been twice now, and I think last year they were well over 200,000. Like San Diego and New York are both close to that number but I think CCXP was way over. It’s a huge con and so well organised and the isles between the stands are very wide and it’s just a brilliant con, but I went there 3 or 4 years ago for the first time with my wife and I went back last year with my wife and 3 kids only a couple of months after getting to go to Toronto it was amazing. The first time I went to CCXP there was a young guy, I’m guessing he was late teens early twenties, and he was with his girlfriend. He had tears in his eyes, and he came to get his All-Star Superman signed and his girlfriend told me this really means a lot to him and gave me a letter and said, “read this later” and I took it back to my hotel room and basically, he had been suicidal, and he cites that page and his girlfriend as being the two reasons he’s still here and it was just. Oh man. I just read his letter and tears rolling down my face it was just so moving. You know? I’m choking up just thinking about him you know. And when I went back last year. He was at my signing again and he was talkative this time. He told me that he had moved on and he just wanted to thank me again you know? And the thing is it was Grant.
[Paul] Incredible. It’s an amazing page you guys did. I don’t even have words for how perfect the page is. Batman and Robin. You got to introduce us to a new member of the Bat family. How did that feel for you? From reading the script to drawing him.
[FQ] Grant told me about Batman and Robin he told me he was going to write I think 15 issues and it was 5 3 issue arks and he wanted me to do the bookends. He wanted me on the first 3 and the last 3 and he said the first 3 you will love. He said the bad guys are kind of like a circus or a freak show. They have a bearded lady and a conjoined guy. It was 3 guys joined at the shoulder blades and they do martial arts, but they can tumble around like a scorpion or a spider and it sounded brilliant. The last 3 had The Joker. What happened was I ended up getting sciatica and it knocked me off work for months and I couldn’t do the last 3.
It’s funny though because at the time I was in hope street studios and Gary Erskine was in the studio next to mine and I had sciatica. I had been working too many hours. It was the first time I got it and I had been ignoring the fact I had this numbness in my leg and my back. I didn’t know what it was. I just thought it was because I was sitting too long. Well, it was because I was sitting too long but I didn’t realise how serious it was and I ended up off work for ages. Gary had been to a con somewhere and he came into my room when he came back, and he was already laughing when he told me he had to apologise. I said why? And he said he was sitting at the bar with a bunch of different artist and writers, and they were all chatting, and somebody said. “Are you in the same studio as Frank?” he said he was, and somebody said. “How is he?” and he told them. “Oh, he’s not good, he’s not good at all he’s off work just now he’s got health problems. When he was asked what was up, he told them I had cystitis. (Laughs) somebody asked how I got that and he said. “He’s just sitting too long, he’s been sitting for really long hours and he ended up with cystitis”. There was this long silence, and somebody went. “I thought that was more of a woman’s problem?” everybody else was agreeing. “So, did I” and Gary was like “The nerve that runs down the back of your leg?”. Somebody (Laughs) Somebody told him it wasn’t cystitis it was sciatica. He was killing himself laughing while apologising. Anyway, I’m sorry back to Batman and Robin.
So, my regret about Batman and Robin is I didn’t get to do The Joker issues but what I loved about it of course was those characters in the first 3 issues. Also, it’s funny because Grant as Grant often does, he gave me his own sketches of all the different characters and told me that’s roughly what he has in mind. Take it from there. The only one he didn’t give me was Professor Pyg. I was like you haven’t gave me anything for Professor Pyg. You didn’t give me a character design and he was like. “it’s so easy do you know Henry Higgins from My Fair Lady?” of course one of my favourite films. He told me. “Imagine Henry wearing a butcher’s apron and a pigs mask.” Aye got it. I did one sketch and that was it. Then a year down the line or something and my 2 boys are playing the Arkham game and there’s Professor Pyg.
I particularly enjoyed the double page spread where he does this kind of lap dance while Robin is tied to a chair. It’s super creepy and he’s got these power tools. There was a drill and a circular saw so I kind of treated the drill as a cane and the saw as a parasol for his dance. I really enjoyed working on Batman and Robin. Like All-Star Superman because I wanted to do more creator owned things it wasn’t a first choice, but once Grant started talking about it, he very quickly talked me round because it sounded really good.
[Paul] you did some singular issues with Grant, so I’ll call this the Honourable mentions. The Invisibles, Batman and Pax Americana.
[FQ] 2 significant things about the Invisibles. By a really big margin it was my favourite comic. When it was being published. One of two comics I waited for every month. The other was Preacher and Preacher I loved because I knew what to expect with every issue and The Invisibles I loved because I didn’t know what to expect. It always delivered. They were so different from each other they couldn’t have been more different, but they were both just brilliant. The invisibles was my favourite. I was always slightly crushed that Grant never asked me to draw an issue of it. I would never have asked him to. I was always doing something anyway. I wasn’t stuck for work, but it was my favourite comic. Then the day came when he was winding it down. We’re going to be counting down. Down to number 1 which will be the last issue and I want you to draw that one. I was just like. “Yasssss”. They other significance is for time reasons I was going to have to get someone else to ink it. I never wanted anyone to ever ink my stuff when I started working at DC and I felt like I had to because I was just too slow to do everything myself. I had already started speaking to Mark about taking over The Authority and I knew like with New X-men Mark and I had an uphill battle winning the fans over because I was a big fan of The Authority and even, I thought of it like this is Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch’s book and if anybody else had stepped in to do the next volume. I think I would have been standing back with my arms folded. I wouldn’t be rushing forward to get it. So, I know this was going to be a tricky one. I knew if I was going to try and take on a monthly schedule, I’d have to take on an inker, so I decided when I was doing The Invisibles, I had to take one on and it was John Stokes and then the Inker for The Authority was Trevor Scott, and he had a real wild storm slickness. It did somewhat change the look of my work. I think it made it feel like a wild storm book. Trevor is a real good inker.
Batman 700 gosh this was me being completely out of touch with what was going on. The editor got in touch with me to do this short story. I can’t remember how many pages it was. Maybe 7 and I got the script and started working on it. 2 pages a week. The usual and I got an email from them saying. Where are the pages? I can’t remember if I was on the fourth or fifth page. I know I was a couple short of the end of the story. I thought it was funny and quite out of the blue. It was only a few weeks ago he sent me the script and I do 2 pages a week. You know? So, I checked my inbox and looked at the few emails we had exchanged and there was no mention of a deadline, so I phoned him up and asked him how soon he needed them, and he said today. I told him there was no mention of a deadline and he just said its for issue 700. That didn’t mean anything to me so I asked what issue we were on and he was like can you finish it for the weekend, and I said no. I was going to a con and he had to get someone else to finish it he didn’t mention a deadline because he thought everyone in comics knew that issue 700 was coming up. Which I didn’t again minor regret as it was a nice wee story.
Then Pax Americana. That was Grant doing a wee tiny Watchmen like thing and he really sold me on the idea. He said it was only 40 pages you know. I’ve worked on quite a lot of scripts from Grant, and they are not all the same. He does change things up normally and this was way different from the way we normally work. It was a more wordier script he gives me and because he was doing other things at the same time he would only send me a couple of pages. Sometimes he would even just phone me up and tell me what I could draw. So, it was really unusual process. There was a couple of pages like with We 3 were the script just said, “Vin we need to meet up and talk about this.” The cat strobing through the different panels and the dog jumping through the trunk. There was so many points in We 3, like the CCTV footage. Those tiny wee frames. There were some parts that weren’t in the script it was just we need to get together and talk about this and there were a few pages like that in Pax. There was one page that had to be change because the way Grant explained it on the phone and the way I laid it out I thought worked perfectly or either he forgot to mention, or I forgot to write it down but either way I had to change it to make it look like the way he would have wrote it if he had wrote a script. Then there was a big double page spread. Examining a crime scene, there was a night time and morning time where Peacemaker was leaving and an evening bit where peacemakers girlfriend was there and she gets killed and its all played out in one physical space with 3 distinct time zones happening in that space. That’s pretty significant because like those pages in We 3 and like that page in the Authority were the bad guy suddenly gets transported physically from the hillside where he’s fighting to a beach and its drawing like process you know. You see the blue lines. These are all examples of things you can kind of only do in comics.
[Paul] Comics are amazing. I love comics. (Laughs) You Worked with Len Wein on an issue of DC Universe: Legacies. What was Len like? How did working with him compare to others? I do not imagine that he would throw around his status, but he was already a sure-fire hall of famer by the time you guys worked together. Such an incredible talent.
[FQ] Unfortunately I never actually got to speak to him. Often as is the case. Mark Waid on Offspring and Neil Gaiman on Sandman. You just get sent a script and you work on it. I have got a close friendship and working relationship with Robbie Morrison, with Grant Morrison, with Alan Grant, with Mark Millar but you know. With Len it was just a case of they got in touch with me and asked me to do these shorts and I got a script and I loved it. What was significant for me is that it was my one and only time in my career that I received a Marvel like script. It was just written out as a story. He did do this little forward slash every now and then when he would imagine where a panel border would be. It was basically a pro story with dialogue. Well no. There is description as well. He will describe the setting you know. In a slightly different way than you would in pros writing. It was in between. A comic script and a pro story. It was a Marvel type script. I didn’t have Panel 1 Panel 2 and when I got it first, I thought it was a great wee story, but I don’t know how long that would be. I had to read it a few times to get my head around it but once I did, I loved it. I could work that way again. I loved it.
[Paul] out of everything. All of those panels we just discussed. Do you have anything you would consider as your magnum opus?
[FQ] No. There is moments in Jupiter’s, We 3 and Pax that highlight how unique comics is and things you cant do in film or television. You know? We 3 is probably the most experimental. All-Star Superman is certainly the ting that I’ve worked on that has touched the most people. On an emotional level if you like. The short Sandman story I have a soft spot for because I coloured it myself but no I don’t have specific page or work. I’ve never produced a page and felt like everything on the page does it for me. There is always something. If I got another chance to do it, it would be different.
[Paul] before we start to wrap up, I want to ask a couple of questions about the future. Are there any characters you would like to work on?
[FQ] Where I’m at right now, I’m writing my own stuff and I’m wanting to publish my own stuff that I’ve written, drawn and coloured. So that’s non superhero. That said. There are characters that I haven’t drawn or haven’t drawn much that still appeal to me. I’ve done one Daredevil piece and Daredevil is a character that I really really love. So maybe at some point I would consider doing a Daredevil book. Having said that. That’s New York city backgrounds in every panel so. If I could do Daredevil in the South Pole or the desert. Daredevil in space would suit me better. I’ve always had a soft spot for the Hulk. I’ve never followed a Hulk comic I just remember Hulk from when I was a wee boy when Jack Kirby was drawing him, and I loved the way he looked. I loved the TV show as well, but I always found it so strange because he wasn’t the Hulk often enough. Obviously, the Hulk very Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hide. There is a real Scottish connection there. I did the thing for your shop with the Hulk. It’s just a classic image of the Hulk staring at his hands and I just stuck a copy of Jekyll and Hide in his hands. Yeah, I would quite like to do a Hulk thing at some point. Yeah, I think Hulk and Daredevil and the two that I would fancy the most. You know I’ve also got a bit of a soft spot for Spidey, maybe even for The Punisher. It’s really weird that’s 4 Marvel I’ve just mentioned and over the years I’ve definitely read more DC than Marvel.
[Paul]. Is there anything you can tell us about The Jupiter’s Legacy Netflix adaption?
[FQ] That is really exciting. When Mark and I first talked about it. Its funny Mark did a convention in London I think 2 years on the trot. It was call Kapow and he knew that I didn’t go to conventions as much and because he was involved with this, he wanted to talk me into going. So, he asked me to go for a drink with him because there was something, he wanted to talk to me about. So, he talks me into the con and then he says. You did we 3 and you loved it because it was creator owned but then you did All-Star Superman. Why haven’t you done more creator owned? After We 3 I wanted to do more creator owned stuff. I mean New Line Cinema picked We 3 up. It was optioned for a while, but they didn’t do anything with it. So, I wanted to do more creator owned stuff, but Grant talked me into Superman. I know Grant gets superheroes. I mean he really gets them and he really loves them in a way that most people don’t and he told me that All-Star Superman was 12 issues that worked as 12 individual stories but it also works as one big story and it was his love letter to Superman and when he started describing it I thought it sounded really good and then I got the first script in. It was brilliant. Then the second and third and it just went on like that. I kept expecting. Surely one of these isn’t going to be as good as the rest but it never happened. It turned out really popular I mean critically and with fans. I’m really glad I did it. At the time of doing Superman the dollar exchange rate was really bad, so I was really struggling financially so I said to make that I can’t really afford to do creator owned stuff. There was always a higher pay for drawing Batman or Superman. Financially its more difficult to do your own stuff. Then mark said, “so if I give you your normal pay grade to do creator owned would you fancy it?” I said yes but as long as its not a team book and ideally, I don’t want to do more superheroes. He started laughing and he said “this is a superhero epic with a huge cast over generations” but he sent me the outline of it and the first script and all the rest of it and it was good. I wanted to do it. When I started it, I was doing Pax Americana as well and between the 2 of them. Oh man. Pax was so complicated, and it took ages and Jupiter’s was just. There was just loads of it.
Now that it’s getting made, I was speaking to Mark on the phone the other day about it and there had been some hiccups behind the scenes but its all getting ironed out and he’s delighted. He keeps asking me round to his house to watch some of the rough cuts. I haven’t managed to go yet. He’s really excited with it he said it looks brilliant. I’m really looking forward to it.
We actually got invited to a set visit last October in Toronto. My Wife and my 3 kids we all got flown out to Toronto. We got put up in a nice hotel and got taken to the sets. We saw the halls of justice and the farmhouse. It was just incredible. I had never been on a set before and I met the special effects people and went to the costume department it was just brilliant. Totally brilliant.
[Paul] I am quite excited myself I wont lie. To wrap us up today sadly I would like to finish on The Broons. Who is your favourite character?
[FQ] Daphne. Daphne is my favourite. I like them all.
[Paul] Are there any stories that spring to mind?
[FQ] Gosh Aye, loads of stories that are just classics for me. There is 2 in particular that are just stand outs. One of them is. Daphne comes home from a date and she’s looking good. She’s got her hair all up and she’s wearing a corset. The jacket, the skirt and the high heels but she’s looking good, and they are asking how the date was and she tells them it was great, but her feet are killing her. So, she kicks off the heels and all off and then the corset and her several bellies fall out and she takes the pins out of her hair and she looks more like Ozzy Osbourne now. Then the door knocks and its her date and she’s standing there looking like a sack of spuds and he’s this thin guy in a striped suit with this look of shock on his face. He’s got shiny teeth and big broad shoulders and she’s embarrassed saying “I can’t believe you’ve seen me like this”. Then he’s like “if only I’d known” and he pulls off his wig and he’s got this wee baldy head and he takes off his jacket and he’s got no shoulders at all. He takes his teeth out and he’s like “These wallies are killing my gums.” He’s just a wee skinny baldy gumsy man. The two of them are a perfect match. I love that sort of thing.
[Paul] Do you think The Broons could work as a modern-day comic. A 24- or 32-page 1 storied comic.
[FQ] Erm. Certainly, you could write a Broon story. I wrote a Greens story for a half an hour TV show and another guy wrote one and then we wrote one together. So, we both went away after talking about it and wrote our own story then came back and read each other’s stories and worked on one together. It’s totally doable to take The Broons and make a longer story. You could imagine having an annual that was one big story right the way through rather than a bunch of short. It would be so different. There is something about the one-page format. The Broons very typically has this one page set up. Usually, a misunderstand and a funny resolution. That’s almost the way it always goes. Like they go round to do so and so’s garden and he lives at number 9 and they go and do all the garden and spend the whole day working only to discover that its actually number 6 just with a missing screw and they’ve done the wrong garden, or somebody misunderstanding or mishears something. You know there is a format to The Broons. It’s always that misunderstanding that give you the humour. In the same way with Scooby Doo. When I was a kid it was always the janitor, or the head teacher and they would pull the mask off kind of thing. There is a total format for The Broons and if you made it a 2 pager or an 8 pager even a 22-page it’s coming to become a story. More like a full family version of Tin-Tin. It could work but not in the same way. I think one of the reasons The Broons appeals to most people at least in Scotland is because it’s a single page. Like the kind of page people would read when they were kids. Its really quick its really simple and its familiar. There is usually a smile or a chuckle at the end of it. Most people don’t want a 22-page comic. Most people want to watch the telly after their dinner they don’t want to pick up a comic. For all the comics are very much a mainstream media, going to comic shops. Buying your comic having a shelf at home with some graphic novels that’s a relatively fridge interest and most people that are into comics aren’t into single page stories that more of a general public kind of thing. I’m sorry this isn’t a satisfying answer. Yes, it would work but it would be different.
[Paul] No it’s a perfect answer actually you’ve gave me my encore question. Say they do it. They announce a different take on The Broons with a longer story. Would you do it if it were offered to you?
[FQ] Maybe. I’ll tell you why. Because for all that The Broons are still loved in our country. They’re not as big a part of our culture as they used to be. They aren’t as relevant anymore. I think probably their heyday was when most people had a wireless and not a television. When newspapers and the Sunday papers where more of a thing and were everybody in the family would read the Oor Wullie or The Broons in the Sunday paper. Also, there was a time when The Broons where relevant and over the years they became nostalgic and old fashioned. I guess when they were done it was a simpler version of how life was back then. There was never any swearing or violence. There was never death or bereavement. It was simple family humour. There was no bad guys nothing scary happened but it used to feel contemporary. Over the years it become old fashioned. I haven’t seen The Broons for a while, but I don’t know if they have mobile phones now. Can they find a parking space outside the close? That’s the world now everybody is on their phones and the streets are full of cars. I can’t imagine The Broons looking like that. I think maybe if I got offered and I had the time maybe I would take a stab at it, but nobody is offering, and I don’t have the time. (Laughs) so I guess I don’t need to worry.
[Paul] As gutted as I am because this has been a real pleasure. That’s us. I can’t thank you enough for today, this has been cracking. Oh man. I was told once we get talking, we wouldn’t stop I didn’t expect this. This was much better than I actually imagined.
[FQ] Listen seriously we have been talking for ages and that’s a hell of a lot of typing for you. Listen Thanks very much I apricate it. You’re very patient.
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