Glasgow is Frank about its place as the centre of the comic book universe

Frank Quitely with his image of Superman flying over Kelvingrove. Pic: SNS.
Frank Quitely with his image of Superman flying over Kelvingrove. Pic: SNS.
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Nearly 200 years ago Glasgow became the birthplace of the comic book and remains at the entre of the industry to this day.

To celebrate Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is opening a new exhibition called Frank Quitely; the Art of Comics.

The exhibition explores the work of the Glasgow artist (born Vince Deighan) who has worked on some of the world’s top comic book titles such as DC’s Superman and Batman and Marvel’s X-Men.

It will take visitors from the first days of comics, with the publication of the Glasgow Looking Glass in 1825, through popular mainstream comic strips like The Broons and Oor Wullie, the rebirth of comics in the 80s spearheaded by Frank Miller, to the present day as it also celebrates the careers of regular Quitely collaborators, and fellow Scots, Mark Millar and Grant Morrison.

Frank said: “When I was young I had the impression that people who had creative jobs or glamorous jobs were from somewhere else, I don’t remember knowing there were people in Glasgow who had done significant things.

“When I went to art college I just wanted a job that let me draw all day, it almost didn’t matter whether it illustrating children’s book, designing posters or painting fine art.

“When I first hooked up with the guys from Electric Soup something about the comic strip as a medium for communication really clicked with me.

“At first there was just the thrill of seeing something in print, then going to 2000AD seemed a step up because it was in colour, then working for Vertigo meant America which seemed a big deal and then the first time I was asked to draw Batman was huge because he is such a well known character.

“My career has been full of these milestone moments and I am hoping the exhibition will inspire others to follow there dreams, whether they are in the comic book industry or anything else.

“Scotland has always been a creative country, full of creative people, and I want people to think ‘well if he can do it then so can I”.

Self confessed comic book fan, the exhibition’s curator Martin Craig worked with Frank to go through two and half tonnes of his ‘archives’ to find material for the exhibition.

He said: “We are trying to present the hidden story that people from Glasgow are writing and producing these stories for these iconic characters.

“All Star Superman is essentially done by three guys from Glasgow, Frank as the artist, Grant Morrison as the writer and Jamie Grant as the colourist and I’m not sure many people knew that.

“The timing is perfect with so much interest in comic books and superheroes due to the movies, I have been asked if the museum is now promoting popular culture, but I think it runs deeper than that.

“We have Walter Scott’s Wavereley in the collection which is essentially the first globally read book and now we have comic books written in Glasgow being read all over the world.

“At the time people didn’t know Scott’s books were going to stand the test of time, that was just popular culture, but I’m sure many of these comic books will stand the test of time.

“History is just about distance so why not celebrate the creativity now when we can make the connection with those who created them.

“It was a great opportunity to go through Frank’s archive, but I had to ensure I remembered I was the curator of the exhibition and not just enjoy looking at the drawings.”

For Frank it was a chance to look back on his career and although he claims he has no favourite characters to work on he did find some projects brought back happy memories.

He said: “I am always concentrating on what is on the drawing board, literally under my nose, I don’t get a lot of down time and any I do have is generally family time.

“If I do pick up something to read at night it would never occur to me to go into my filing system, I would rather looking at something I’ve not seen before, although there were certainly some things I don’t remember drawing.

“I wouldn’t say I have a favourite character or title to work on, but there have been favourite projects for various reasons — for example the Sandman story I did with Neil Gaiman was fully painted so everything I did was on the page, without a colourist finishing it off, We3 was so experimental in the storytelling and the stories in All Star Superman had such an impact on the people who read them.”

The overriding message of the exhibition is that while you may not be able to fly like Superman, have Batman’s fancy gadgets or Wolverine’s healing ability there is nothing to stop you becoming what you want to be.

Martin said: “We have young people coming through into the industry now and modern technology means that something can be created in Glasgow and be sent anywhere in the world.

“Now we are looking to inspire the next generation, with the Internet if you have an idea then you can put it out there and find an audience.

“So if you have a hobby, an interest, or a passion then do it and do it to the best of your abilities, maybe one day you’ll have the job the equivalent of making Batman beat up the Joker, but at the very least you’ll have fun.”

Frank Quitely: The Art of Comics opens at Kelvingrove on Saturday (April 1) and runs until October 1.

Tickets cost £7 for adults, £5 for concessions, £3 for children under 16, with under 3s free, and a family ticket is £15.

More information is available online