Axel-In-Charge: Navigating the "Civil War II" Landscape, Bringing DMC to Marvel
Allow me to be frank with you: today’s featured artist is quite good. In fact, he’s one of the top two comic book artists currently working. (Archive.)
270. Frank Quitely
I already used my “Quite frankly, Frank Quitely” joke in an earlier column, so I’m stuck without a pithy opener. Um… let’s just cut to the chase: Frank Quitely is awesome. There. That’s all you really need to know, but I’m going to continue on for quite a while anyway.
Frank Quitely (which, as evidenced above, is a play on “Quite frankly”– it’s not his real name–‘Vince Deighan’ is– and it’s also not Frank ‘Quietly’ unless you happen to be reading the silent issue of New X-Men) hails from Scotland and has drawn some of the greatest comic books ever made, usually when paired with writer Grant Morrison, another Scot. Something must be in the water up there, because they’re both brilliant.
Anyway, the comics. Yes. Quitely got his start in anthologies like Electric Soup and the Judge Dredd Megazine, moving on to work for Paradox Press and Dark Horse thereafter. His first major work, though no one would realize it at the time, was Flex Mentallo, written by Grant Morrison and published by Vertigo.Â I avow the series to be the greatest comic book ever made– the holy grail of the medium.Â He hadn’t quite refined his art yet, but he managed to convey the atmosphere and energy of several different comic book eras– Silver, Bronze, Grim & Gritty Ages, and into the future– without ever losing his own style.
After this, Frank drew a bunch of things I haven’t read yet– stuff like 2020 Visions with Jamie Delano,Â Batman: The Scottish Connection with Alan Grant,Â and his big break, The Authority, with Mark Millar. I’m sure they were all awesome, but I haven’t snatchedÂ them up yet. Any of you guys read ‘em? What’d you think?
Also during this period, he and G-Mozz gave us JLA: Earth 2, a graphic novel that reimagined the Crime Syndicate of Amerika. It’s also one of the best Justice League stories ever told, and gorgeously drawn by the man himself. A fascinating look at how good and evil work in the comic book world, it’s a devishly smart work. Pick it up if you haven’t.
Quitely drew the final issue ofÂ Morrison’s Invisibles before teaming up with the writer yet again for New X-Men.Â I first encountered Quitely’s work with this series, and I wasn’t originally sold on it. By the second issue (#115), however, I was blown away and totally on board. Really, it was mind-blowing stuff, and completely reignited my fading love of the comics medium. Thank God for Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. Unfortunately, Frank drew less than a quarter of the run. Had he done the whole thing, it would have been trulyÂ cemented as a magnum opus.
It’s also unfortunate that I don’t have my issues of it handy to scan, because then I could share with you the pages that captured my imaginaton and confirmed Quitely’s greatness for me. Let me try to explain. Frank Quitely often gets a bad rap from fandom because he draws “ugly people.” I can’t understand this argument, though. His people are beautifully ugly, if anything, and he has a grasp of anatomy that a lot of comic artists don’t. Yes, he has stylistic tics, but that just lets you know that a Quitely person isÂ a Quitely person. Also, Frank Quitely is able to convey motion in a static image better than any other artist in the business. His work is fluid and smooth and yet richly detailed, even when the linework is spare.
Alright, so after New X-Men came We3, another Morrison-penned comic that’s one of the greatest books to come out so far this century. No one could ever hope to draw such handsome animals-turned-cyborg-death-machines like Frank Quitely. He really brought the personality, heart, andÂ spirit of 1, 2, and 3 to the page. I mean, there’s a reason those guys are this site’s mascots. In this series, his sense of movement and majesty took over and he produced some of the greatest action sequences of all time, reworking the way in which the comics page functioned as he did so. I discuss this further in the We3 Reason linked above, but my God– the stuff leaves me breathless.
Quitely’s current project, as I’m sure we all know, is All Star Superman, written by– guess who?– yes, Grant Morrison again. These two are the perfect collaborators, because Quitely really brings Morrison’s imagination to life. ASS, as I affectionately refer to it, has become the greatest Superman story ever told, and it’s not even over. Quitely helps sell the Silver Age sheen of the series while still keeping it fresh and modern. His Superman is a hefty, magical figure, the most composed man alive, even in the face of his own death. The way in which Quitely differentiates Clark Kent and Superman is brilliant– the best portrayal since Christopher Reeve. ASS is the best comic on the stands, and a series which plays to Quitely’s strengths. Together with digital inker and colorist Jamie Grant (let’s not forget him, he’s brilliant), Frank’s giving us some of the best comic book art ever.
Now, yes, Frank Quitely is a slow artist, mostly because he’s a perfectionist. Me, I’d wait forÂ a Frank Quitely project forever and beyond, because it will always exceed my expectations. Praise be to Grant Morrison for wooing Frank back to comics time and again– when those two get together, you know that you’re getting a great comic book.
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