Where were you when Superman died?
Longtime fans will remember “Superman” #75, the 1992 Dan Jurgens classic that pushed the then-unthinkable idea that even the Man of Steel could pay the ultimate price of his never-ending battle. But when the first issue of “All Star Superman” hit stores in 2005, the creative team of Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely and Jamie Grant set up a new and intriguing story of Superman’s final days. Poisoned by excessive solar radiation as a result of Lex Luthor’s genius machinations, the Last Son of Krypton began to settle his affairs, revealing his dual identity to Lois Lane, spending time with Pa Kent in Smallville’s past, and, of course, performing twelve fantastic super-feats before succumbing to the illness ravaging his body. This week sees the concluding chapter of “All Star Superman” as an ongoing series, and CBR News caught up with artist Frank Quitely to discuss the hugely popular DC Comics title.
Asked about making his mark on one of comics’ greatest characters with Morrison, whom the artist had also worked with on “JLA: Earth 2,” “New X-Men,” “We3,” and other projects, Quitely said he believed strongly in the project from the very beginning. “I knew before I started that Grant had planned a 12-issue run, and pretty much everything that he wanted to say about Superman he was going to say in those 12 issues,” the artist told CBR. “So I was confident that it was going to be good.”
Quitely’s primary goal was not dissimilar from that of the All Star line’s stated purpose: make Superman accessible and as excellent as possible. “From the start, and for me that’s the discussions I had with Grant before even starting the character sketches, what I was hoping to achieve [with ‘All Star Superman’] was what I aim to achieve on every project I start, whether it’s a short, or a mini, or something as long as this, and that’s to tell the story I’m given in a way that’s easy to follow and visually interesting, so that it works well for the reader. Now that it’s finished and I’ve seen the story as a whole, I hope I’ve accomplished the task of helping to tell the best Superman story that I’ve read. I feel even more lucky to have been involved with this now than I did at the start.”
Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely enjoy working together, but do not rely on the sort of shorthand that many writer/artist teams report developing over the course of their collaborations. “For the most part, everything Grant wants, he puts in the script, and I try to give him what he asks for and anything else I can to help things along,” the artist said. “Sometimes, though, we’ll have a conversation about a particular scene in addition to what’s in the script, partly to save him writing pages of extra info and partly to make sure I’ve got it.”
“All Star Superman” was also the latest in a series of team-ups with colorist and digital artist Jamie Grant. “Jamie and I have worked together quite often over the years: jamming on self-published stuff; CD covers; ‘We3;’ ‘All Star Superman;’ and now ‘Wasted,’ Jamie’s latest small-press venture,” Quitely said. “He’s a talented and versatile artist in his own right, but as a colorist he’s a great guy to work with because he understands what I’m trying to do with the storytelling, and he helps accentuate it with his coloring.”
With their run on “All Star Superman” ending this week and Quitely working on various covers and “Wasted” humor strips until his next high profile project is ready to be announced, he could not say for certain whether his upcoming work would feature Grant’s brilliant hues. But future collaborations seem likely. “Jamie runs the studio where I work, alongside Dom Reagan (‘Omega Men,’ ‘Infinity Inc.’), and a bunch of other artists, so whatever happens I reckon Jamie and I will be working together again pretty soon–in ‘Wasted,’ in a couple of other self-published ventures we’re planning, and in mainstream comics.”
Together, the “All Star Superman” team has been responsible for crafting a world of adventure, action, and fantasy, reminiscent of Silver Age stories but pushing fiercely at the bounds of future possibilities.
Over the course of the series, Quitely has executed many unusual and memorable scenes, including Luthor remote controlling a genetically-engineered suicide bomber from his prison cell; Jimmy Olsen’s Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat; the emergence of tragic hero Zibarro from the mixed-up Bizarro World; and, of course, Superman punching a sun in the face.
“I like getting to draw unusual material for two main reasons,” Quitely explained. “It’s an enjoyable challenge drawing something you can’t find reference for, and you’ve got the added bonus that people can’t tell you it’s wrong if it’s something impossible in the first place–like, ‘that’s not what the other side of a black hole would look like.'”
|Also by Frank Quitely and Grant Morrison, “JLA: Earth 2” and “WE3”|
A more subtle visual device in “All Star Superman” is Kal-El’s deterioration as the solar poisoning takes its toll on his super-physique. “His body does get slightly less robust as the story progresses, and his face in particular,” Quitely said. “He gets a little more gaunt; slightly more hollow around the cheeks; and slightly darker round his eyes, but for the most part it’s fairly subtle. When Grant wanted it more obvious, he’d put it in the script. So for instance, [Superman] was looking pretty ropey in issue #8 when he was stuck in Bizzaro’s world. And similarly, he was really starting to come apart at the seams at the start of issue #10.”
After twelve issues of Herculean super-labors, Supermen of Tomorrow, sub-universes and mini-sun-eaters, which moments stand out in the mind of the artist who brought each scene to life? Quitely has quite a list. “The meal on the Titanic which should have been the best date ever, but wasn’t; Clark interviewing Lex in prison; ‘the Unknown Superman’ sharing those precious moments with Pa Kent; the scabby-touch, doppleganger-style Bizzaros; poor, lonely Zibarro; Bar-El; Earth Q; Clark’s death; and Superman’s death.
“In terms of issues, if I had to narrow it down, I’d say issues #6, #10, and #12 were my favorites.”
“All Star Superman” #12 is on sale now from DC Comics.