Comics Creators

What is it about Frank Quitely's art?


With the AMA coming I thought this would be an interesting topic.

Frank Quitely is one of my favorite artists. He’s one of your favorite artists. He’s one of everyone’s favorite artists.

In all, however, he has a really odd and unusual style to be one of the hottest artists of a generation, at least compared to Adams in the 70s, Byrne or Miller in the 80s, Lee and McFarlane in the 90s, and so on. His style is non-traditional and eccentric in a lot of ways (OK, so were Adams and McFarlane at the times), yet he is among the 3 or 5 most popular artists. And sure it doesn’t hurt that he really only works with Grant Morrison and Mark Millar who sell loads of books either way, but he helped make their reputations, too.

Anyway, can you discuss what about his style speaks to you? Feel free to use examples if you like.


His style certainly took some time to bed in with many fans. I was mentioning not too long back that a lot of people had a negative reaction to his X-Men work when he first had that huge exposure (I know he had Flex and Authority before that but that was a ‘mainstream’ book and the best seller of the day).

I liked it from very early on (not that I’m claiming any great ability in that regard because I foolishly hated Bill Sienkiewicz’ art when I first saw in in New Mutants) when I saw ads for his work in a Scottish 'zine called Electric Soup. For me it was the clean lines and the great expressions on the characters.

Since then it’s been his innovative way of breaking down the page, we all know the famous We3 transition between panels.


Yeah, I think what draws me to his work is the way his pages are “weighted”. I’m not a designer but I work in a design-heavy field and have come to really value white or negative space. Nobody is better than Quitely at using this. His style is frequently described as minimalist, but he uses every inch of the page just like someone like Hitch might–it’s just he uses it different ways.

There’s also a stillness to his work. There is the old example that to draw a ball being thrown in the air you have to change it slightly from a circle to an oval. I feel like he keeps it a circle but still manages to convey the momentum. He showcases action well from panel to panel but taken individually his panels seem to capture a moment frozen in time. In a page like this it’s the craziest action imaginable but there is also something tranquil about it. It’s quite surreal but very, very effective.

(I think his brief Batman run is my favorite of his works, as it so far afield from what you expect from a Batman book…I say this with the disclaimer that I am waiting for trade with Jupiter)


I totally agree with everything said so far, especially the design aspects and the ‘frozen moment’ quality of his work.

But for me it’s the smaller details of the storytelling - the ones I only notice on a second or third read - that often make his work so attractive. Not just small details in terms of (say) textures or facial expressions, but often there are entire sub-stories or sequences of events that play out in panel backgrounds that are never drawn out explicitly by the text, but which underpin stories and add extra depth to them once you notice them.

I remember particularly loads of examples in All-Star Superman in which Superman was subtly saving people from injury or disaster even when he was disguised as Clark Kent and doing something completely different at the time. Or whole separate little vignettes were playing out in scene backgrounds.

He’s an artist with a deceptively simple and ‘clean’ style, but once you start looking at his pages in detail it’s clear just how much thought and craft goes into them.

This is the kind of thing I was thinking of (I can’t find some of the ones I was thinking about online):



I love his sound effects. There were some ace ones in the Baman run.


For me it’s the fact that he puts storytelling first. He takes a lot from Otomo, and is great at conveying movement even though he doesn’t draw any speed lines.

I agree with the above though, he packs his art with little details that play off in the background.

There are plenty more things about it but when taken as a package he’s my favourite artist.


Another attractive quality is that he more often than not chooses the realistic pose over the more artificial pin-up image. His figures in movement aren’t always pretty, but they often perfectly represent how a person might look if you took a snapshot of them midway through the action. It again shows the amount of thought that goes into each panel.

Some of those action scenes in Batman and Robin that showed just a couple of seconds of action over multiple panels (in one case about 25 panels on a single page) almost flow like animation cels.


For me the thing that puts him over the top is that his artwork is distinctive and he’s clearly just going with his own style. Too many artists today draw like each other, to the extent that it gets hard to tell one from the other. Not enough guys work to adapt their very own distinctive look, knowing it maybe makes them less commercial and not suitable for every project, but on the other hand you know one of their books very clearly. Same with writers to a lesser extent. It’s what differentiates someone from being a professional who draws for a living and someone who is an artist.


To that effect he has taken his influences from less obvious directions. There are clear ones there but they are Dudley D Watkins or Windsor McCay or Moebius and not Neal Adams or John Romita or more recently Jim Lee which can make things look very familiar.

I think that was also a factor in the 80s and 90s ‘British Invasion’ of writers in US comics, they had influences but they weren’t necessarily Stan Lee or Roy Thomas which marked them out as very fresh voices in the genre they were working in.


Yes, his mix of influences is certainly fairly unique. It can be uncanny sometimes to see The Broons strips and see elements of Quitely in them.


We can’t forget how great his characters are at acting, both facially and with posture. It’s been said before but I don’t think anybody has more convincingly drawn the differences between Clark and Superman.


Yep, I found this image when doing a search for the FX pics above that really shows it.


Yeah, I love that.


I agree that quitely’s one of the best when it comes to posture. The proud confidence of Chloe’s son when she shows up in JL#5 & the cocky confidence displayed by Damien in Batman mean he can handle kids as well as adults.


Every now and then I have dreams where the characters all look as if they’ve been drawn by either Frank Quietly or Jamie McKelvie (and occasionally as if they are the offspring of the two, which is more disconcerting than you’d expect)

I think that reflects Jim’s point above; his style is distinctive and bold. You can’t mistake him for someone else, and he has that capability to get his perception of familiar characters into your brain. Somewhere out there in the wide multiverse, there’s a version of Morrison’s New X-Men where Quitely did ALL the art, and it’d be awesome to see.

I like Quietly/McKelvie World by the way.


Haha, I have always said that if I won the lottery I’d hire Quitely to draw all of the NewX-men issues that he didn’t do the first time around. He probably wouldn’t do it but we can all dream.


I think Quitely is this great mix of Moebius’ deceptively simple/detailed art with the 3D feel of John Romita Jr. and an amazing sense of storytelling. He is easily one of my top 3 favorite artists working today maybe even #1.


Who else would get into your top 3 then? I’m curious.


Looking at Quitely’s work you instantly see a whole lot of love that’s gone into it. Appliances in the background are carefully drawn. Individual bricks in a breaking wall are drawn. Each figure has its own considered weight and balance and sense of motion. He’s not unique in that, but he’s very consistent.

Aside all of that though, I really love the dorky style he brings to superheroes. The knock-knees, slouches, double chins and baggy shorts are just brilliant, combined with the wide variety of odd body types both for men and women. That’s what sets him above say, Arthur Adams, in my book - that loveable uncoolness he brings to his work.


Right now probably Craig Thompson and Sean Murphy.