Alex Ross

From Academic Kids

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Ross's rendition of the Golden Age Batman and Robin.

Nelson Alexander (Alex) Ross (born January 22, 1970) is an American comic book painter, acclaimed for the photorealism of his work. Ross is by far the most prominent comic book painter in the industry and is known for his love of the vintage looks of classic characters and the more mythic elements of the superheroes.

In the past ten years, 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.


Ross was born in Portland, Oregon, but grew up in Lubbock, Texas. His mother was a commercial artist and his father a minister. From childhood, he wanted to work in comics. He was particularly influenced by George Perez, Berni 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.

In 1987, Ross moved to Chicago to attend the American Academy of Art, where his mother had studied. After graduating, he pencilled various comic books including a series based on The Terminator films for Marvel. In 1993, he completed his first painted superhero assignment, the cover of a Superman novel.

During this time, Ross befriended 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.

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Ross's portrayal of Marvel's Silver Surfer from Marvels #3 (1994).

Marvel green lighted a project that would tell the much of the history of the “Marvel Universe” from the perspective of an ordinary person. That mini-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.

Afterwards, Busiek, Ross and penciller Brent Anderson created Astro City, first published by Image Comics in 1995 and later published by Homage Comics. The series features an original superhero world and continues the theme of Marvels, exploring how ordinary people and even the superheroes and villains themselves live and work in such a fantastic world. Ross paints covers for the series, which has been published sporadically in recent years due to Busiek’s health problems.

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Promotional art for Kingdom Come. Top row, left to right: Green Lantern, Superman, The Ray, and Robin. Bottom row, left to right: The Spectre and Rev. Norman McCay (in background), Power Girl, Hawkman, and Wonder Woman.

In 1996, Ross teamed-up with writer Mark Waid for the DC Comics mini-series Kingdom Come, which tells of a future 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 McKay, 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 and was a moderate success.

In the early 2000s, with writer Jim Krueger, Ross plotted and designed characters for a trilogy of Marvel mini-series, Earth X, Universe X, and Paradise X, which combined dozens of Marvel characters from various time periods in one galaxy-spanning epic. While moderately successful, without Ross painting the internal art, it failed to gain the prominence of his other projects.

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An Aquaman poster, an example of the merchandise Ross has painted for DC Comics.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Ross painted tabloid-sized comic books celebrating the 60th anniversaries of DC Comics’ Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel, respectively, as well as two such books featuring the all-star Justice League. He has also designed much DC merchandise, including posters, dinner plates and statues.

In 2001, Ross gained 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.

In 2004, DC compiled the coffee table book Mythology: The DC Comics Art of Alex Ross.

External links

it:Alex Ross pt:Alex Ross


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