If I’m being honest, I didn’t realise that I have been a Quitely fan since I was a kid. But having grown up reading Shimura and Missionary Man in the Megazine, it explains a lot about my fascination with his work. There’s an easy familiarity with it – like Alex Ross, like Neal Adams, both of whom have work featured as part of the Kelvingrove’s exhibition ‘Frank Quitely – The Art of Comics’ – that belies its simple brilliance.
Given the strength of the comic industry in Glasgow, the only surprise about this new exhibition at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum is that it’s taken so long to celebrate one of its favourite sons. Although, in fairness, this exhibition does more than just show us the scope of Frank Quitely’s prodigious talent: it takes us on a tour of Glasgow’s place in the history (and arguably birthplace) of sequential art, focusing on writers that have been key partnerships and major stylistic influences also.
The exhibition is framed, appropriately enough, with pieces from Jupiter’s Circle /Legacy, reminding us of the weight and possibility of history and continuity. And there is a real sense of scale here also: from tiny, Matchbox (well, raisin box) We3 sketches to massive, harrowing digital prints of Jonah Hex, it’s difficult not to feel absolutely absorbed by this exhibition.
I took my kids, aged 6 and 9, also. They enjoyed the fun stuff that kept them occupied – dressing up, tumblers, and…
J, 6: “Seeing Superman’s cape and drawing your own superheroes.”
D, 9: “The Birds of Prey danger picture, and drawing your own superheroes as well.”
I agree especially with the bigger lad, the giant prints were exceptional – Birds of Prey, We3, X-MEN E is for Extinction, Grant Morrison (“Look! Lex Luthor!”) and The Walking Dead (“That’s scary. [Pause] Can we play Walking Dead when we get home?”) to name just a few. And then there was Happy!, Flex Mentallo, Alan Moore… a staggering array, really.
And key to it all was context. Sketches from the likes of Frank Miller and Bill Finger; scripts from Millar, Morrison and more. Pencils, layouts, discarded covers and roughs of fights. And trade paperbacks to read freely while the kids draw – bonus.
If there are any faults, then it’s perhaps a lack of immediately engaging activities for the smaller super-fan. But this is a minor niggle, as even he was very quickly caught up in the scope and scale of the show.
You also get the chance to enjoy Quitely’s indiegogo-backed animation, ‘Nothing to Declare’, a dark festive tale (maybe not so suitable for the small folk, but you are suitably warned) with excellent documentary introduction also.
This is a thrill of an exhibition, comic fan or not. The Kelvingrove always puts on a good show, from Kylie to Dinosaurs, and this is no exception. Well worth the trip between now and the start of October – my kids are already hassling me about when we can go back.
A five-star show.
Frank Quitely: The Art of Comics runs at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum from 1st April until 1st October 2017, and you can puy tickets (and find out more about the exhibition) on the Glasgow Life website (CLICK HERE).