Bringing it to a Close - Frank Quitely on All-Star Superman

Frank Quitely on All-Star Superman

Superman, it seems, is the hardest character to crack. The Man of Steel not only created the superhero archetype, the success of Action Comics #1 was also vital in establishing the comicbook market in America. But for all the history and prestige of Krypton's Last Son, there are shockingly few stories that withstand the test of time as definitive Superman stories.

All Star Superman is the book meant to change that. Drawing concepts from the breadth of the character's history, frequent collaborators Frank Quitely and Grant Morrison brought their magic touch to the twelve issue series. It resulted was an unmitigated success. Winning Eisners both for Best New Series of 2006 and Best Continuing Series 2007, the series met as warm a reception with critics as fans.

The series draws to a close with this week's twelfth issue. Super-science, grand-scale heroics, and formidable villainy all came together in this story of the twelve labors of Superman. It looked great, it read great, and now, finally, there is a book you can hand someone when they ask, “What's so great about Superman?”

Frank Quitely's calculated page design and refined line work brought a consistent elegance to everything from sun-eating monsters to wedgie-giving coworkers, and assured the series' shine would last in years to come. We spoke with Frank Quitely about his reflections on the series, his highlights, and what the future holds for the artist.

Newsarama: We've discussed your collaborations with writer Grant Morrison before, but now that All Star Superman is done, can you share anything you learned about the strengths of your team-up? This was a long-running series, and took in more than a few awards. How do you think you've brought out the best of his work, and vice-versa?

Frank Quitely: At the risk of over-simplifying it, both of us always try to do the very best work we can, irrespective of who we're working with.

When we work together, it just clicks. Grant knows how to tell a story, how to direct an artist; I know how to tell a story visually and how to take directions. It's always a very rewarding experience for me.

NRAMA: What were your creative goals on this book? Visually, what were you trying to say or capture about Superman and his universe that hadn't been said before?

FQ: My creative goals were pretty straightforward: take these phenomenal scripts and try to do them justice. What I draw has to be true to the story the writer's trying to tell, easy for the reader to follow, and interesting to look at, in that order.

I'm not aware of anything at all about Superman that hasn't been said before, so that really didn't come into it for me. I was just doing my thing.

NRAMA: Were you a particularly big Superman fan before you embarked on this iconic project? What's your favorite iteration of the character?

FQ: I don't necessarily have a favorite iteration of him, but he is a character I like a lot. Superman and Batman were always two of my favorites.

NRAMA: What is the characteristic that you think is most important, and overlooked in capturing the original superhero?

FQ: Gentleness, maybe. He's like the perfect dad! Imagine being omnipotent and enlightened - that's an attractive combination.

NRAMA: There were so many aspects of this book that clicked so well with readers. From the Siegel and Shuster moment of #10, Zibarro, and the Sun Eater- really every issue packed something original and unique. Was there a favorite, far-out image of this series? What image or issue challenged you the most?

FQ: There are too many far-out images to pick only one, but the most challenging was probably the bottle city of Kandor, the description of which was about 5 pages long.

NRAMA: From a story-standpoint, what was your favorite of the Labors?

FQ: It's easier to say that from a story-standpoint my favorite issues are #6, #10 and #12.

NRAMA: The characters and characterization were spot on throughout the book, and all "acted" perfectly. Was there a favorite character to draw? You seemed to really enjoy Lex's smarmy attitude.

FQ: Yeah Lex is great to draw: he's smarmy and pompous and volatile and overbearing, all of which is fun... and he's bald - all artists love drawing bald characters.

NRAMA: Bald characters help you save ink, I guess.

For a time, there was a sort of mini-controversy over the delays in production over this book. It balanced out, though, and the series shipped bi-monthly, as promised. As a creator, how much more can you bring to a project when you aren't pressed against a tight deadline? Where does it show in the work?

FQ: How long's a piece of string? I don't know a single artist from any sphere who couldn't produce much better work than they currently produce if they had as much time as they wanted. I'm not just talking about the final, superficial look of the work - but the pre-planning and the process itself.

If we could all just be paid a bit more money for producing a bit less product (laughing) - that's a universal dream isn't it - I want more money for doing less work.

I know it doesn't sound like much of a business plan, but surely if there were fewer comic books around but the standard was generally higher...blah, blah, blah.

NRAMA: I have to wonder if hungry comic-fans would trade quality for quantity. The All-Star line of action figures come out this week. What is it like, as an artist, to see your imagery captured in physical form? Do they feel "right," to you?

FQ: I haven't seen them yet. They sent photos of the sculptures, I can't remember if they were clay, or just unpainted, but they looked great.

They looked like 3D versions of my drawings, but neater, and more symmetrical. I'm looking forward to seeing the finished product.

NRAMA: This book was obviously a huge critical, and commercial, success. As an artist, what sorts of freedoms are afforded to you after such a home run? What are your plans for the next project?

FQ: I've been looking at my options for a few months now, and I've spoken to various different publishers, in the US and in Europe, and the success of this book (and we3, etc.) has certainly helped create opportunities for me. There are a number of projects that I'd like to be working on, but after talking to a lot of different editors I've decided to stay at DC.

I can't say what the project is yet, but I'm working on designs for it just now.

NRAMA: Fans eagerly await details. Just announced was your involvement in Final Crisis: Secret Files, what can you tell us about that project?

FQ: I'm only doing definitely one for the cover so far, but that might change. It depends on how soon i can start my next project.

NRAMA: Any thoughts on All Star Superman collaborator Grant Morrison's ambitious Final Crisis thus far?

FQ: I've only read the first two so far, but it's brilliant. Really enjoying it.

All Star Superman #12 is due in stores September 17th. Final Crisis: Secret Files is due December 24th

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