From Ruglen to Gotham...
Comic book king Frank Quitely explains why you’ll always find a piece of his home town in his fantastic worlds
What links the brooding menace of Gotham City and the bright optimism of Superman with Rutherglen library and Cathkin Braes?
The answer is Vincent Deighan. Under his pen name of Frank Quitely (a pun based on Quite Frankly), the Rutherglen man is one of the biggest superstar artists in American comics, illustrating pop culture icons like Batman, the X-Men and Superman.
And his inspirations sometimes come from close to home.
He said: “I’ve always drawn on anything I can for inspiration, from the way people sit on the bus from Rutherglen to seeing people waiting for a first date, or getting fed up in a cafe because the waiter is taking too long to get to them. So there’s scenes in the We3 comic that I based on Cathkin Braes, or bits of Millport turn up in Jupiter’s Legacy.
“As I’ve always lived in Scotland the imagery will come from there the most.”
Now a new exhibition at the Kelvingrove museum in Glasgow is dedicated to Vin, who stays in Cathkin.
A wander through the colourful showcases artwork, scripts and sketches from throughout Vin’s career, from his early work on the Electric Soup comedy strip in the late 80s to a letter from a DC Comics editor detailing how they felt he could improve his work, with some extra bonuses thrown in.
A host of interactive elements are there as well, with the chance to watch clips of Vin discussing how he collaborates with his writers to the cape that Christopher Reeve wore in Superman 3 being on display.
Having his work featured like this is something the artist never expected. Vin grew up on Limeside Avenue, and neither of his parents had any background in art.
He recalled: “I went to St Columbkille’s Primary.
“It was probably in primary one there that I realised I was good at drawing.
“I had always drawn, as long as I could remember, but then I realised I was the best in the class at it.
“I remember that my work was first exhibited at Rutherglen library for a school thing, and it was a painting of a knight in armour.
“The teacher gave me a tin of silver enamel to finish it, and I remember absolutely loving that.
“I just stuck with it over the years as it was my main hobby – I liked playing football but this was always the main thing.”
Vin attended secondary school in East Kilbride, where his dad was a PE teacher, and ended up studying at the
Glasgow School of Art for two years. It was after leaving there that he started working on Electric Soup, including a spoof of the Broons called the Greens.
From there, he started sending his portfolio to publishers, which landed him work on the Judge Dredd Megazine comic.
His work then earned him Stateside attention.
He recalls: “There had been British comic creators all working for DC and Marvel in particular, and DC Comics were being really proactive about finding talent from the UK.
“British creators typically went about comics in a different way than American writers and it seemed there was a real market for it, so I was invited to show my work portfolio to Karin Berger, who was the head of Vertigo Comics [owned by DC], and I ended up working on the Flex Mentallo comic for them.” Since then Vin has worked for both DC and Marvel Comics, on major superhero titles and creator owned content.
He has collaborated with Scottish comic royalty like Grant Morrison and Kick-Ass creator Mark Millar, brought Batman to Scotland in a one-off story (a map in the issue makes sure to have Rutherglen located on it) and even designed artwork for Robbie Williams, illustrating the singer’s 2005 album Intensive Care.
Arguably his best work, however, came with All Star Superman, a 12 issue series written by Grant Morrison and drawn by Vin.
The series has often been praised as one of the greatest Superman stories ever told, which is impressive going given the character has been around since 1938.
He said: “The quality of the stories are really human, and touch upon universal themes - I believe that if Grant had given the scripts to any other artist they would still be seen as classics.
“But he gave them to me, which was my tremendous luck!
“I’ve had people say it’s their favourite comic ever, or the first one they gave to their boyfriend or girlfriend, who didn’t read comics.
“Recently I was in Sao Paulo and a nervous young fan gave me a letter when he was getting the book signed.
“He told me to read it later, and it said that he had been suffering from a severe depression, and the two things he put down to saving his life were his girlfriend, and one particular issue of All Star, where there’s a scene where Superman saves a girl from jumping off a ledge.
“It’s a privilege to have worked on stories that had that big an impact on people.”
Art attack Vincent Deighan has illustrated a range of characters including X-Men , Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman