Alex Ross Spotlight: Jack Kirby and the Hulk

Hulk, Alex RossBy Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Alex Ross cites Jack Kirby as his primary artistic influence. In Marvelocity: The Marvel Comics Art of Alex Ross, he writes: “Jack is my ultimate artistic hero. There is no single influence that is more important to me than him, as he is to many other artists as well. He is the ultimate father of comics.”

One of Kirby’s most famous creations is, obviously, the Hulk. And in bringing the angry green giant to life, Kirby, according to Ross, also created an extremely unique physical form.

“The compressed body form [Kirby] created, it’s basically the world’s most muscular giant baby shape,” Ross said in Marvelocity. “That was unique and so effective, no other comics artist could compete with it. It was the embodiment of brute energy, which was also infantilized in a way anyone could relate to. Who didn’t, at some point in their childhood, feel persecuted or bullied or just to cooped up in some way that it just made you angry and want to smash everything?”

More recently, Ross expanded on the Hulk and Jack Kirby in a video on his YouTube channel…

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Alex Ross Spotlight: The Mask of Batman

Batman, eyes, Alex RossBy Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

What’s the right way to portray Batman’s eyes in a real-world scenario? Should the mask have eyeholes that are smaller, and come right up to the eyelids? Or is it the standard set by Tim Burton’s Batman movie, in which the eyeholes are larger, but black make-up around the eyes creates the illusion of a tighter fit?

For Alex Ross the answer, in a sense, is both.

“I wanted it to look like it was just like make up on a face,” Ross said via YouTube video. “That it wasn’t this three-dimensional thing jumping off a human being, but that it was as close to his skin, like as if a human being becoming Batman is just more of a transformation. It’s less about what’s plausible and more about what matches what the comics always did, which is they treat costumes as really just naked skin painted. And that’s what I thought artistically was desired about Batman, not the practicality of, ‘Well how well will that mask take a gunshot?’ Well, it ain’t gonna take a gunshot. It’s imaginary, in effect.”

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Alex Ross Spotlight: Lynda Carter and Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman, Alex RossBy Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

For a generation of fans and television viewers, actress Lynda Carter truly embodied the titular superhero on the classic Wonder Woman TV series, which ran from 1975 to 1979. So much so, in fact, that Alex Ross had trouble separating Carter from the character when developing his own take on Wonder Woman.

“What I identify Wonder Woman with (as does most of the public, if they think about it at all) is, frankly, Lynda Carter,” Ross said in Mythology: The DC Comics Art of Alex Ross. “She made the greatest single impression on the character in the 20th century – ironically more than any artist who drew her. In fact, Lynda Carter was so perfect, it was hard to come up with a good variation that wasn’t exactly her, but I had to.”

How much the public identifies Carter with Wonder Woman in the year 2023 is up for debate, especially now that Gal Gadot has played the role in a handful of major motion pictures. But Carter’s contribution to the character’s legacy, and just how perfect she was for the role, simply can’t be denied.

Years after the publication of Mythology, Ross would elaborate on Carter’s impact via a YouTube video…

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Alex Ross Spotlight: Spider-Man and The Electric Company

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

It all started with Spider-Man.

Alex Ross has that in common with a lot of comic book fans, who were drawn to Spidey as their first superhero. But for Ross, it wasn’t a comic book or a cartoon or a movie that introduced him to the character. It was The Electric Company, a PBS show meant to teach children about reading, that opened the door to Spider-Man, and by extension a lifetime love of comic books and superheroes.

“Spider-Man was the opening door,” Ross said in Marvelocity: The Marvel Comics Art of Alex Ross. “That was the first time I had seen him – or anyone had – in three dimensions, and in action. It was weird and stilted, but it was thrilling: There he was, the costume was vibrant, he was alive! I hadn’t seen the comics yet, but soon did, and that led to all the other characters: Cap and the rest of the Avengers, the Green Goblin, the Invaders. It was amazing to me.”

Ross would later elaborate on the importance of Spider-Man in his love of superheroes via a YouTube video

“If I had seen Superman or Batman or anybody else before then, I can’t recall it … But I was just knocked out. I thought he was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. And I wanted to dress up like him and I wanted to draw him. … Once I saw Spider-Man at the age of four my interest turned really sharply in that direction. And so for the remainder of my life I was drawing characters focusing around superhero themes.”

The Spider-Man costume in particular would impact Ross, and his perception of superheroes at large.

“It was just transformative – that completely covered body, no trace of exposed flesh, was the most exciting thing I’d ever seen,” he said in Marvelocity. “Spider-Man was the design for me, by which all others would be measured.”

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Alex Ross Spotlight: Living with Mistakes

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Every creative person lives with mistakes, or work they don’t necessarily look back on fondly. To an extent it seems counter-intuitive to think of Alex Ross in such a light, as he’s in such a league of his own among comic book and superhero artists. But indeed, the man is vulnerable to the same things any artist is. Case in point, in Mythology: The DC Comics Art of Alex Ross, he’s very critical of the lithography pictured at right. Gorgeous though it may be, Ross is quick to critique his rendering of Superman’s head.

In the latest video from his YouTube channel, Ross talks about living with certain insufficiencies and failures in his work. I’ve juxtaposed it with a video from two years ago, in which he talks about the importance of completing work. As a former journalist, I can very much identify with turning in work you’re not 100% satisfied with. But a deadline is a deadline, and sometimes the bullet simply has to be bitten.

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Alex Ross Spotlight: Marvels and History

By Rob Siebert
The 5th Turtle

It’s easy to compare Marvels to another seminal Alex Ross work at DC years later, Kingdom Come. The stories themselves aren’t that similar. But the main character in both is essentially an average Joe seeing all this colorful superhero stuff from the ground level.

The Norman McCay we meet in Kingdom Come is an old man. But in Marvels, we follow Phil Sheldon the late ’30s into the mid-’70s. So we see the majority of his life play out alongside the evolution of the world of Marvels.

Ross elabrorates…

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Alex Ross Spotlight: Very Early Marvel Art

By Rob Siebert
Not An Artist. At All.

You know what’s sad? Alex Ross drew better as a seven-year-old than I probably could as a 30-something-year-old.

Still, we all did this, right? Those of us who were into superheroes, anyway. We’d get a pencil and some crayons and go to town. I have vivid memories of sitting down and drawing Batman and Robin, the Power Rangers, the Ninja Turtles, etc. It’s just that Alex Ross took things several steps further.

That’s why he is who he is.

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Alex Ross Spotlight: The Legacy of Neal Adams

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

If you’re a comic book geek and haven’t heard the name Neal Adams, you haven’t been paying attention in class.

Alex Ross credits Adams as one of his early influences, and it’s easy to see why. Adams is widely credited with revolutionizing comic book art. Specifically in the late ’60s and early ’70s when he worked with writer Denny O’Neil on characters like Batman, Green Arrow, and Green Lantern.

As Ross tells it…

Alex Ross Spotlight: Wonder Woman’s Origin

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Today is a big day for our favorite Amazon princess. Wonder Woman #750 has all the makings of an amazing tribute to the character and her legacy. It promises tales from various points in her career, featuring epic talents like Greg Rucka, Gail Simone, Marguerite Bennett, Jesus Merino, among so many others.

For Alex Ross, the classic never dies. Not just in terms of their looks, but their origins. So it’s no surprise to hear his enthusiasm for Diana’s classic origin in the video below.

I’d also like to note this is the first time I’ve heard this sculpted-from-clay story referred to as a “virgin birth.” I don’t think he’s intentionally trying to evoke a comparison to the birth of Christ. But they do have that element in common…

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