Monday, June 14, 2010

Mythology: The Art Of Alex Ross

Serendipity is defined as 'an aptitude to make desirable discoveries by accident' or 'good luck; fortune'. I am a firm believer in serendipity.

You see, I have several 'coffee table' books about comics that I keep on ... well ... on a coffee table in my house. It is my little way of opening up the idea of comics to non-comics people who visit the house. I also thumb through them during long commercial breaks or when just relaxing.

For the last several months, the DC Comics Encyclopedia was on the table. I felt it was time to change things up, so the encyclopedia went on the shelf and I put Mythology: The DC Comics Art of Alex Ross down. I hadn't flipped through the book in a while and thought it would feel new to me. Before I did flip through it, I read a comment here by blog friend John Feer about the Cliff Chiang 'hot pants' commission. He reminded me about how Ross used that outfit in the mini-series Justice.

Suddenly Alex Ross had suddenly crept into my consciousness twice. And I didn't really have a post planned for today. The universe was trying to tell me something. It was time to look at the book again.

Now while I enjoy Ross' work very much, I am not his biggest fan. His work alone isn't enough to make me pick up a book. But when working on the right project, his work is perfect. Perfect.

The book does a great job of looking at Ross' career from his earliest childhood drawings to his influences in art to a very close look at all the major DC projects he had done at the time of the book's creation. If you are a fan of Ross, you need to have this book. Each chapter is chock full of goodies. For me, I especially love seeing the pencil sketches that eventually became to finished art as well as 'test sketches' of the characters. There are chapters based on the big three, then Captain Marvel, then JLA (these all looking at the oversized graphic novel he produced for the characters such as Superman:Peace on Earth), and then individual DC characters, and finally Kingdom Come.

I picked a few relevant pics for here to look at.

The title page in the book is of the Legion and prominently features Supergirl, looking as though she is reaching for the words 'The DC Comics Art of Alex Ross'. Again, it is the 'hot pants' costume.

It is a close-up of this Ross print of the Legion of Superheroes. Most people know that I am a huge Legion fan as well. I had not known about this print before seeing it in this book. If I did, I would probably have bought it. For me, this is the Legion of my youth sporting the 1970's outfits designed by Dave Cockrum and Mike Grell.

In particular, I am a huge fan of this version of Shrinking Violet's costume.

In the middle of the book, we see Ross' approach to many of the more famous DC characters. Ross had produced many 'character' posters for DC including this one of Supergirl. The posters are only of the upper half of the character; I had forgotten that it was a whole body shot. Again, I am a fan of the boots with this version of the costume rather than the ballerina slippers look.

Here is the text:
She's Superman's Kryptonian cousin and she has had many different outfit designs since her comics debut in Superman #123 (August 1958). All were variations of her famous kinsmen's. "This is the version of her costume I first saw in the mid-1970s. There's a sexiness to it that also considers her individuality, as a young woman who wants to fit in on Earth."

Ross' women always look somewhat older that I imagine the characters to be. This Supergirl looks like someone in her late-20s, so it is slightly off for me. Still, it is a very nice iconic pose for the Girl of Steel.

I am also a giant fan of Kingdom Come, so I appreciated the very in-depth look that series gets in here. From the design of the futuristic characters, to sketches and break-down of pages, to his designs of the 'next generation' characters, it really rounded out my appreciation of the book.

Here are true thumb-nail sketches of many of those 'next gen' characters as well as some of the main background characters.

Here is Ross' thumb nail of XTC, what I am presuming is the daughter of Supergirl and Brainiac 5 seen in the book and discussed on this blog way back when here.

Moreover, the chapter looks at a potential sequel that would involve Ross. His Kingdom varied a bit from the ultimate prequel that DC released with the same name.

It seems the few sketches he produced for that project were put to good use. Here is his Gog, the character who would eventually create Magog. It is the exact design for Gog used in Justice Society of America recently.

So if you are a big Alex Ross fan, I highly recommend the book. There isn't much in here for a Supergirl fan. But if you are a fan of DC Comics and in particular the 'big 7' and Kingdom Come, it is a real treasure.


Anonymous said...

Its a nice poster in every way, but the facial expression is very pensive and the character looks remarkably pale like she was just getting over a flu bug or something. On the other hand kudos to Ross for taking a step back from the whole "Supergirl is a Blonde Bombshell" meme.

John Feer

Adam Smasher said...

I've always enjoyed Ross' work but I never cared for the way he did women's faces. I don't find them very attractive (sorry, but I wont appologize for being a man and liking a pretty face)

Still, it sounds like a book I'd enjoy.

TalOs said...

For me a Majority of Ross's depictions of Supergirl just never looked right facial profile wise (same can be said for his Wonder Woman and Power Girl too) that is till he did JUSTICE where he had to paint over another artist's pencils and in doing so he ended up delivering truly breath taking depictions of not only Supergirl but Wonder Woman, Batgirl (Babs), and Donna Troy at that! B-D

Martin Gray said...

Is it because Alex Ross uses models that his faces look off? Silver Age Kara had two distinctive looks - Swan/Mooney and Oksner ... this looks like neither, simply some unapproachable, wan creature.

And I like the pixie boots, they were all Kara's own!

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