Alex Ross Spotlight: Superhero Costumes as “Skin”

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

See, I could have gone with a headline about “naked superheroes.” But that might have led us to some rather flamboyant pornography. Not that I’ve ever seen such things…

Is Alex Ross actually talking about naked people? Of course not. He’s discussing superhero costumes, and how artists essentially draw them as human skin. It’s not about the practicality of the costume, but the use of what is essentially “the human form in its purest state.”

He elaborates, “That’s the kind of entertainment you’re absorbing when you follow comics. It’s sort of like a pure id of humanity. … It’s just stripping the human avatar down to its most fundamental component.”

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Alex Ross Spotlight: Marvels X

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

In the wake of Marvels X #1, I’ve been reading up on all things Earth X. In looking for more info and background on this alternate Marvel Universe, who better to look to than the man himself?

Here’s Alex Ross on the Earth X prequel 15 years in the making…

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Alex Ross Spotlight: Interpreting Superheroes in the “Real World”

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

It’s been written that seeing an Alex Ross take on a comic book character is like, “finally meeting someone you’d only ever heard about.”

As anyone familiar with his work knows, Ross is truly in a league of his own in terms of making these characters look real, yet keeping that awe-inspiring flamboyance that captured our hearts in the first place.

Ross has talked about at times using specific likenesses (actors, etc.) as the basis for certain characters. He famously used his father to portray Norman McCay in Kingdom Come. In the same book, Gregory Peck was apparently Ross’ inspiration in rendering an older Bruce Wayne. And as he discusses in the video below, his take on Mister Fantastic was at one time based on how Russell Johnson (the Professor) looked on Gilligan’s Island.

But even when drawing in such a realistic style, is that the way to go? As time went on, Ross would change his mind on the matter…

These days, with superhero movies more prevalent than ever, Ross finds himself in a unique position as filmmakers try to literally bring these stories to life on the big screen. While certain liberties are often taken to make them look more real, Ross remains as reverent as ever for the way these characters were originally designed…

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Alex Ross on YouTube: Marvels 25th Anniversary

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

I continue to be a frequent viewer of the Alex Ross YouTube channel. While many of the videos are only two or three minutes, I say the art by itself is worth the click.

Today however, they put out a longer one to note the 25th anniversary of Marvels. Ross dives into some of his inspirations while working on the book, and the emergence of painted comics in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Definitely a stand-out on the channel.

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Toy Chest Theater: RIP Stan Lee

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

With the passing of Stan Lee, fans from across the globe are paying tribute to the iconic creator in their own unique ways.

I found this image from Nicholas Belmont to be particularly touching. Since the news broke yesterday, I’ve seen a lot of “grieving” images from toy photographers. Many of which depict an emotional Spider-Man being comforted by other Marvel heroes. That’s perfectly natural, I think. There’s nothing wrong with that. People process grief in a lot of different ways.

But for yours truly, in times like these scenes of love resonate so much more than scenes of grief or sadness. That’s what we get here. The love and respect we all feel for Stan Lee, personified by the characters he helped create.

Rest in peace, Mr. Lee. Thank you for inspiring so many.

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Alex Ross on YouTube

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

I didn’t even know Alex Ross had an official YouTube channel until just recently. But I stumbled upon it not long ago, and hit the subscribe button. But it was only today that I really got to dive into it and absorb some of the content on there.

If you’ve ever read Mythology: The Art of Alex Ross, which I absolutely adore, you’ll find the channel covers much of the same ground. It’s Ross being interviewed about his creative process, his inspirations, his journey as an artist, etc.

Particularly interesting for yours truly, even as someone already in his 30s, was listening to Ross talk about his early days trying to become a working artist. Whether you’re an artist or not, you can take a lot of what he says and apply it to your craft. I liked this video in particular.

Ross also has a passion for the more classic and iconic versions of these characters, which is very much evident based on how he usually draws them. He also has tremendous insight into who these characters are at their core. Case in point, the vids below.

Email Rob at PrimaryIgnition@yahoo.com, or follow Primary Ignition on Twitter.

A Civil War II Review – Lighting Strikes Twice?

Civil War II, coverTITLE: Civil War II
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
PENCILLERS: David Marquez, Olivier Coipel, Andrea Sorrentino
COLLECTS: Civil War II #0-8
FORMAT: Hardcover
PRICE: $50
RELEASED: February 1, 2017

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead!***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

There’s a good event comic somewhere inside Civil War II. You just need to squint really hard to see it. As amazingly talented as Brian Michael Bendis is, what he turns in here doesn’t truly get going until issue #5, and by that point you regret buying in to begin with. The series is also bogged down by a certain been-there-done-that feeling. The original Civil War was one of the biggest hits Marvel has ever had. By comparison, Civil War II feels like a knock-off song played by a shoddy cover band.

In the original story, the question of whether superheroes should register their true identities with the government caused a major rift, and subsequently a war. This time the divisive issue is “predictive justice,” or in essence, profiling. When a young man named Ulysses is suddenly able to see vivid visions of the future, Captain Marvel sees a crucial opportunity to stop instances of crime, injustice, and tragedy before they ever occur. Iron Man, however, can’t live with punishing someone who hasn’t done anything wrong yet. What’s more, the exact nature of these visions are unclear. Is Ulysses truly seeing the future, or just a potential future? As they search for an answer, heroes will fall in more ways than one.

civil-war-ii #4, two-page spreadThe predictive justice idea is a sufficient divider, and reflects recent real-world events involving police brutality. The Black Lives Matter movement specifically comes to mind, especially when we see what happens to Miles Morales. But it’s when we drill down on the notion of another war amongst the heroes that Civil War II begins to fall apart.

Civil War ended when Captain America surrendered, realizing how costly and violent the conflict had become. The idea that all of these heroes, most of whom were involved in that same war, would allow things to escalate to this degree a second time makes them all look irresponsible, and even downright stupid. This is especially the case after Hawkeye straight up murders Bruce Banner with a literal crowd of heroes watching. But of course, if the heroes don’t fight, you have no story. So you have to make it work.

The way you massage that into working, for my money, is to have the heroes lament having to fight each other again. The original Civil War is barely even acknowledged in this book. It’s almost as if Civil War II is trying to hide from it. While it goes without saying that this story has to stand on its own, it’s a sequel. A sequel to one of the most renowned stories Marvel has ever done, no less. Instead of dancing around it, why not embrace it? The payoff would seemingly be a deeper story.

Civil War II #5, 2016, Spider-Man, Captain AmericaBut even with that added depth, Civil War II would face the problem that it’s simply not that interesting until issue #5. Ulysses has a vision of Spider-Man clutching a dead Captain America in front of a decimated Capitol Building. Given how young Miles is, and the obvious real-world parallels, this is where the story finally starts to gain some momentum. Hindsight being 20/20, this should have happened in issue #3. You put the Miles vision in issue #3, and Bruce’s death in issue #5. That way, Bruce’s death doesn’t feel so glossed over, and it’s fresh in our minds when we get to the final confrontation.

How about this: Captain Marvel puts Miles in prison following the vision in issue #3. (That opens up issues with Miles’ civilian identity. But we can work around that.) After Banner’s death and Hawkeye’s subsequent acquittal, Iron Man’s crew breaks Miles out of prison. We then get the confrontation in front of the Capitol Building as they were presented in issues #7 and #8. Would this little switch fix everything? No. But it would at least up the intrigue level earlier, and perhaps take us on more of a ride from start to finish. In truth, James Rhodes doesn’t even have to die in issue #1. As was the case with Banner, his death is almost glossed right over.

Our primary artist is David Marquez, with Olivier Coipel and Andea Sorrentino tagging in for specific sequences. Marquez delivers big here, particularly in issues #5 and #6. His stuff with Miles is very strong, which makes sense, as he and Bendis worked on Ultimate Comics Spider-Man together. He gives us an absolutely gorgeous two-page spread of Spidey overlooking Times Square, watching the Hawkeye trial. And of course, primary colorist Justin Ponsor gives us the Marvel Universe in all its glory.

hawkeye-civil-war II #3, David MarquezWe do, however, see a lot of what I’ve come to call the “Marquez doe-eyed pouty face.” Marquez is good with facial expressions. But we see variations of this one over and over, perhaps most notably when Hawkeye surrenders in issue #3 (shown left). We see it multiple times from Carol Danvers and Ulysses. We see it so much it becomes distracting and borderline comical.

As many problems as I have with Civil War II, I’ll credit Bendis for one thing: Not killing off Tony Stark. That was what a lot of us were expecting, given Rory Williams had essentially taken up his mantle in Invincible Iron Man. Instead Tony ends up in a coma, and we get a vague explanation about how he can’t be treated. Frustrating in its lack of specifics, but better than having to go through the usual death, funeral, and resurrection routine.

Civil War II could have worked. It would never have been what its predecessor was. But it could have at least been a compelling story. What they gave us had its moments. But by the time things finally got off the ground, it was too late. Given how all-encompassing Civil War II was in terms of its effect on other books, this story can be given partial credit for DC Comics regaining all that lost momentum last year.

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