Every year, in the countdown to the Lakes International Comic Art Festival, in partnership with downthetubes, we bring you a series of interviews with guests at the event. Over 70 are attending in 2018 in October (and that’s not including creators you’ll find in the Comics Clock Tower).
This Festival Focus for 2018 is Frank Quitely, who started his career in his native Glasgow, writing and drawing "The Greens" for the independently published Electric Soup.
This lead to fully painted strips for Judge Dredd Megazine, black and white shorts for Paradox Press, and coloured shorts for Vertigo.
He has worked on a number of one-shots, limited series, monthlies and graphic novels, notably Flex Mentallo, The Authority, New X Men, Sandman; Endless Nights, We3, All Star Superman and Jupiter's Legacy.
Still based in Glasgow, he has come full circle, and is back to writing and drawing his own independently published material.
Frank, What are you working on, comics-wise, right now, and when will it be published?
Frank: I'm working on an alternate cover for Issue One of Grant Morrison and Liam Sharp's ongoing Green Lantern, and planning a short story for an upcoming anthology.
Which comic project you've worked on are you most proud of?
Frank: I'm proud of the storytelling in We3 and Pax Americana, and of the painting in the "Destiny" short from Sandman: Endless Nights. And I'm proud of being a part of All Star Superman because those stories are special to a lot of people.
How do you plan your day as a creator? (Do you plan your day?)
Frank: I get the bus to the studio every morning, usually arriving just after 9 o'clock. Sometimes, I do a few emails before starting the work, sometimes I just go straight into the thumb nailing or drawing or colouring that I left the night before.
I tend to shape my day around how the work is going, so if it's going well I'll just work on through the day without stopping for lunch or dinner.
It's always pretty fluid. I work long hours, but it's not a rigid structure.
What's the best thing about being a comics creator?
Frank: The freedom.
I've done work for private clients, advertising agencies, book publishers, record labels, production companies and various others, and none of them give me the freedom I'm allowed in comics. And I've dabbled in animation as well, and although it was fun, and it was a learning curve, and I was working with very talented people, I missed the satisfaction of looking at a finished project and seeing only my own work. I was just a small cog in a big machine. I guess that's about control.
So Freedom and control. I sound like a dictator!
And the worst?
Frank: Every other area of publishing pays more than comics. That said, with popular titles there's the possibility of royalties, and with creator-owned titles there's the possibility of developing the IP.
What most distracts you from getting your work done?
Frank: Probably email. I only answer a quarter of the emails I receive, maybe not even as much, but it still accounts for a couple of hours a day.
That's why I have no social media presence at all - I'd never get any work done.
Do you think it's easier or harder for young comic creators to get published today?
Frank: I'm not best placed to comment, given that I started getting published in a different era, pre computers and pre internet. I think, and hope, that it's easier now.
I look around and see more independently published and online work than ever before, covering a wider spectrum of genres and styles, and produced by a more diverse group of creators in terms of gender, ethnicity and background. It seems like a really good time to be starting out.
Have you ever been to the Lake District before and if so what did you think of it? If you haven't, what are you expecting?
Frank: No, this'll be my first time, and I'm expecting to be wooed by the beauty of the landscape.
Which one comic creator would you most like to meet, and why?
Frank: Dudley D Watkins. I'd love to be able to go back in time and just sit and watch him draw "The Broons" for a while.
How do Festivals and other comics events help creators most, do you think?
Frank: Inspiration and networking. Every time I get back to the studio after being at a con, I feel inspired and enthused by the work of the other artists I've met.
What one piece of advice do you offer people looking to work in the comics industry?
Frank: Do your very best work all the time, whether you're getting paid for it or not. Every page is both an opportunity to improve and an example to others of what you can do.
Frank, thank you very much for your time and thoughts on creating comics. We look forward to seeing you in Kendal in October!
• The Lakes International Comic Art Festival will be back in Kendal 12th – 14th October 2018. Tickets for the Festival are on sale now from the web site: www.comicartfestival.com | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Podcast
Interview questions by John Freeman | Image in ident of Frank Quitely Luigi Novi/ Creative Commons Usage