Frank Quitely and Mark Millar are on the same wavelength when it comes to creating comics. After working together on WildStorm’s “The Authority,” the pair remained friends even as they went their separate ways. Millar, of course, went on to greater heights at Marvel Comics even while developing a series of creator-owned projects under the Millarworld umbrella including “Wanted,” “Kick-Ass” and “Superior,” while Quitely joined forces with Grant Morrison to work on “New X-Men,” “All-Star Superman,” “Batman,” “Batman and Robin” and more.
When their paths crossed at Millar’s inaugural Kapow! Comic Con, Millar pitched Quitely on what would become their next project: “Jupiter’s Legacy.” The book, which debuts this week through Image Comics, documents the generation gap between a group of people who gained superpowers in the 1930s, and their kids, who seem to be as much a product of their parents’ influence as they are of the era they came of age in, exhibiting less interest in saving the day and more on cashing in on their fame.
Last week, Millar and Quitely released a six pack of teasers for the comic while simultaneously announcing a series of parties around the globe that will be hosted by people like Millar, Quitely and some of Millar’s other Milalrworld partners. Yesterday, CBR debuted the exclusive preview of the first issue, hitting stores tomorrow, and today Quitely discusses re-teaming with his friend, designing a worlds’ worth of characters and what piqued his interest in the project in the first place.
CBR News: How did the “Jupiter’s Legacy” conversation between you and Mark start? Was it an idea you came up with together or did one of you bring it up to the other?
Speaking of the production side of things, how did you and Mark decide which images would be used for the teaser poster campaign?
That was a really simple process. Mark sent me a list of characters with their respective quotes alongside. I chose one, or occasionally two, images per quote and sent them back. We seem to be on the same page with this.
What was the process like for coming up with all of the different costumes and characters in the book?
Mark had some well-considered ideas about the look he wanted for some of the characters, and was open to suggestions on others. He gave me a list of characters — detailed descriptions of some, spartan descriptions of others — and I went away and did some sketches and we sorted it all out from there.
When populating a book like this with so many background heroes, do you ever dip into your old sketchbooks for inspiration?
No, not as such. When I’m deciding how a character should look, I’m drawing in my sketchbook whilst thinking about the character as described in the script. When you’re given a description of the appearance and/or behavior of someone you haven’t seen before, and this is the case for all of us when we’re reading a book, or listening to someone telling us about someone they know or whatever, we start to form a mental image. When I do that as I’m drawing, I often get pulled in the direction of one or some of the many mental images I have in my memory and imagination. It could just be an archetype, for instance, like the sergeant major archetype, or it could be a particular actor or politician or whatever, or a teacher I had at school — and I’ll start basing my designs on these.
As the years roll by and I meet and see more people, the more reference I have in my memory and imagination. Even so, when I look through all my sketchbooks, I do see common threads all over the place.
Was there a character that gave any more trouble in designing than the others?
No, oddly enough. Mark either knew what he wanted and liked what I gave him, or was open to suggestion and liked what I gave him. That’s not to say that he didn’t ask for changes and make subsequent suggestions — he did. We just each did our bit, then stopped tinkering when we were both happy.
What are some of the important stylistic elements for this world filled with superheroes? It looks like hero costumes changed fashion, but I’m sure there are other examples of how the heroes’ existence has impacted the rest of society.
There are two main camps: There’s the old-school approach based in the traditional roots of the superhero aesthetic — stockings and capes and all that sort of thing — and the more contemporary notion of styling a costume to suit the function it should perform, bearing in mind the tendency for fashion to impose a unified theme.
Look at the soccer teams from the earlier half of the 20th Century, and they’re all wearing knitted shirts and knee length canvas shorts. Then, in the ’70s, it was tight cotton shirts and short shorts. Now it’s synthetic shirts and shorts with support-wear underneath. You can see these trends in terms of practicality, or raw materials, or fashion, but however you see them, the result is that in any field of activity, there’s a number of universal and unifying forces at work that stamp a general “look” on a group’s identity. That’s why Golden Age superheroes look alike, and Silver Age, etc., right up to now, where there’s been a slow shift to costumes that owe as much to hi-tehc sportswear as to the superhero tradition.
Rather than go for the optimistic idea that modern heroes would be uninhibited in their fashion choices, we went for the slightly more likely scenario where the trends in our label-conscious consumer society would see most of the present generation of heroes going for the top-of-the-range latest model of whatever brand was currently popular, leading to a kind of homogenized look which contrasts nicely with the homogenized look of the old guard.
Of course, trends in fashion do tend to be both evolutionary and reactive, so we needed costumes for the younger generation that had grown out of their parents’ tradition but also kicked against it. The older generation have a look that grew out of ideas of mythical godliness, monarchy, idealism, authority, altruism, the flag. The younger generation have a look that grew out of consumerism, pedigree, elitism, social status and label-culture.
Finally, you’re hosting one of the launch parties this week. Are you looking forward to the event? Have you heard any fan reaction since the announcement?
I’ve no idea what to expect from the night. I’m going to go down there with some of the guys from the studio and we’ll just see what happens! I haven’t checked any reaction yet — I’m too busy working! [Laughs]
Frank Quitely’s latest collaboration with Mark Millar, “Jupiter’s Legacy,” debuts from Image Comics on April 24.