|Birth name||Nelson Alexander Ross|
|Born||January 22, 1970
|Awards||Will Eisner Award (1997)
National Cartoonists Society Comic Book Award (1998)
Nelson Alexander “Alex” Ross (born January 22, 1970) is an American comic book painter, illustrator and plotter, acclaimed for the photorealism of his work. Ross is known for his love of the vintage looks of classic characters and the more mythic elements of the superheroes.
From the late 1990s, Ross has done much work for the industry’s two largest and most historically important publishing houses, Marvel and DC Comics, but Ross is also the co-creator of Astro City, an original series that explores superhero mythology.
Although he is a prominent figure for both DC and Marvel, he is better known as a DC artist, as much of his work (such as Kingdom Come) was created for DC. Due to the time and effort required to render his complex paintings, he is often hired to craft covers rather than interiors. Almost all of his Marvel work since 1994 has been as a plotter or cover artist.
Ross was born in Portland, Oregon, but grew up in Lubbock, Texas. His mother, Lynette C. Ross, was a commercial artist best known for her paper doll books. His father is a minister. From childhood, he wanted to work in comics. He was particularly influenced by George Pérez, Bernie Wrightson and Neal Adams. The telling facial expressions and realism of Adams’ work can be seen in much of Ross’. He was also interested in mainstream American painters such as Andrew Loomis, J. C. Leyendecker and especially Norman Rockwell. He was even influenced by his favorite band, Queen, specifically the cover to their second album, Queen II, the composition of which, (black background, grouped figures with faces partially shadowed,) would go on to be used many times in Ross’ work.
In 1987, Ross moved to Chicago to attend the American Academy of Art, where his mother had studied. His first published work was the five issue series, Terminator: The Burning Earth (1990), penned by Ron Fortier. Ross created all of the art, from pencils through coloring for the series. He performed similar work on a variety of titles over the next few years. In 1993, he completed his first painted superhero assignment, the cover of a Superman novel: Superman: Doomsday & Beyond.
During this time, Ross met writer Kurt Busiek and the two began submitting proposals for series that would feature paintings as their internal art, an unexplored idea at the time. Marvel agreed to a project that would tell much of the history of the Marvel Universe from the perspective of an ordinary person. That limited series, Marvels, was released in 1994, and chronicled the life of a photojournalist, as he reacted to living in a world of superheroes and villains. Many fans were astonished by Ross’ uncannily realistic portrayals of Spider-Man, Captain America, The Fantastic Four, The X-Men, Silver Surfer, The Human Torch and others.
Busiek, Ross, and penciller Brent Anderson went on to create Astro City, first published by Image Comics in 1995 and later by Homage Comics. The series features an original superhero world and continues the theme of Marvels, exploring how ordinary people, and superheroes and villains too, react to a world where the fantastic is commonplace. Ross paints the covers and helps set the costumes and the general look and feel for the series, which has been published sporadically in recent years due to Busiek’s health problems.
In 1996, Ross teamed up with writer Mark Waid for the DC Comics limited series Kingdom Come, which unveils a possible future for the DC universe, in which Superman and several other classic superheroes return from retirement to tame a generation of brutal anti-heroes. Ross redesigned several important superheroes, such as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, The Flash, Hawkman and Captain Marvel for the series. He also hid numerous visual references in his images, such as recognizable graffiti, objects and posters, and modeled Rev. Norman McCay, a minister who The Spectre appoints with judging who is responsible for a prophesized tragedy, on his own father, Clark Ross.
Kingdom Come helped cement Ross’ place as a comic book industry superstar. He followed it with the risky Uncle Sam, a non-superhero work. A project of DC’s Vertigo line, it was an experimental work that examined the dark side of American history. While not a sales success, the mini-series garnered favorable reviews from comic fans.
In the early 2000s, with writer Jim Krueger, Ross plotted and designed characters for a trilogy of Marvel limited series, Earth X, Universe X, and Paradise X, which combined dozens of Marvel characters from various time periods in one galaxy-spanning epic. Alex Ross’s decision to not paint the internal art hurt the series.
Ross has also been the subject of a minor controversy over his refusal to draw certain characters (most notably Kyle Rayner, who at the time of Ross’ refusal was the Green Lantern). Although recently Ross has drew some characters he refused to draw in the past, such as Kyle Rayner (Green Lantern Corps 27 Cover) and Nightwing (Batman 683 Cover).
Between 1998 and 2003, writer Paul Dini and Ross produced annual tabloid-sized editions celebrating the 60th anniversaries of DC Comics’ Superman (‘Peace on Earth’), Batman (‘War on Crime’), Shazam (‘Power of Hope’), and Wonder Woman (‘Spirit of Truth’), as well as two specials featuring the Justice League, ‘Secret Origins’ and ‘Liberty and Justice’.
In 2001, Ross won acclaim for his work on special comic books benefiting the families of those killed in the September 11, 2001 attacks, including his portraits of paramedics, police and firefighters. He has also designed much DC merchandise, including posters, dinner plates, and statues.
In 2004, DC compiled the coffee table book Mythology: The DC Comics Art of Alex Ross, written and designed by Chip Kidd. In late 2005, a paperback version of the book was published to include new artwork by Ross, including sketches for his “Justice” mini-series.
Also in 2004, Ross designed paintings for the opening credits of the film Spider-Man 2. The paintings presented key elements from the first film, including a rendition of the classic upside-down kiss between Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst.
In August 2005, Ross reunited with writer Jim Kreuger and penciller Doug Braithwaite to begin the epic 12-issue, bi-monthly limited series Justice for DC Comics. The series focuses on the enemies of the Justice League of America banding together to defeat the League.
After Justice he started on projects showcasing his love for Golden Age characters: Project Superpowers with Jim Krueger for Dynamite Entertainment. and, starting in 2008, Ross launched Avengers/Invaders featuring Marvel characters but published by Dynamite Entertainment. The story will pit World War II versions of Captain America, Namor, and other classic war characters against the modern Avengers groups. He has not stated what will happen in the series, but he has stated the recent death of Captain America has improved the story, since it was conceived a year before his death.   He also collaborates on DC’s Justice Society of America. Ross is also set to draw the covers of Dynamite Entertainment‘s comic book series featuring The Phantom. He will also redesign the hero’s costume.
DC Direct (the exclusive collectibles division of DC Comics) has produced 3 waves of action figures from the comics book Kingdom Come based on Alex Ross’ artwork. The first wave of figures included Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and Hawkman. The second wave included Batman, Red Robin, Captain Marvel and Kid Flash. The last wave included Magog, Flash, Armored Wonder Woman and Deadman. An exclusive figure of Red Arrow was released through ToyFare magazine. DC Direct also released several other characters through their Elseworlds toylines. These figures included The Spectre, Norman McCay, Jade, Nightstar, Aquaman and Blue Beetle. Ross also designed the costume the current incarnation of Batwoman wears; this character has been released in action-figure form by DC Direct as part of its “52” line of toys.
- Series 1: Bizzaro, Sinestro, Cheetah, Flash, Superman, Superman (Variant)
- Series 2: Aquaman, Batman, Black Canary, Black Manta, Parasite
- Series 3: Green Lantern, Joker, Plastic Man, Poison Ivy, Wonder Woman
- Series 4: Black Adam, Hawkman, Shazam!, Solomon Grundy, Zatanna
- Series 5: Brainiac, Green Arrow, Lex Luthor, Martian Manhunter, Martian Manhunter (Translucent), Red Tornado.
- Series 6: Batman Armored, Green Lantern Armored, Hawkgirl, Scarecrow.
- Series 7: Aquaman Armored, Gorilla Grodd, Green Lantern John Stewart, Superman Armored
- Series 8: Batgirl, Captain Cold, Supergirl, Toyman
- Alex Ross drew the cover picture on the Anthrax albums We’ve Come for You All and Music of Mass Destruction.
- Had a notable feud with filmmaker Kevin Smith because Smith’s film Mallrats seemed to imply that Stan Lee was the sole creator of the Marvel Universe. Ross stated that he feels that Jack Kirby should have half the credit. This feud was referenced in the DVD for Mallrats.
- Had designed a series of costumes for the 2002 film Spider-Man, but director Sam Raimi instead chose not to use Ross’ outfits. Rather, many of the costumes were redesigned prior to filming. In the film’s video game counterpart, as an easter egg, it is possible to unlock a playable version of Ross’ Spider-Man design. When using this unlockable, the Green Goblin will also feature one of Ross’ unused character outfits. As such, Ross was commissioned to do a series of drawings for the opening credits of Spider-Man 2, which recapped the major events from the first film.
- Painted a picture of Ace and Gary, The Ambiguously Gay Duo in his trademark form.
- ^ Ross! Krueger! Dynamite! “SUPERPOWERS!”, July 18 2007, Comic Book Resources
- ^ Avengers/Invaders at the Comic Book DB
- ^ Interview: Alex Ross Returns to Marvel, IGN, August 11, 2007
- ^ Ross’ Return = “Avengers/Invaders”, Comic Book Resources, August 14, 2007
- ^ Alex Ross Talks Avengers/Invaders, Newsarama, August 14, 2007
- Alex Ross at the Comic Book DB
- Around Comics Interview on Around Comics 01/01/08
- Official website
- Alex Ross at Marvel.com
- Comic Book Pros, represents Alex Ross
- A video showcasing Alex Ross at work on the cover to JLA: Liberty and Justice