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Barnes & Noble.com: Mythology is a stunning "coffee table" art book that features the work you've done over the years for DC Comics. Did you ever think you'd be the subject of such a lavish tribute?
Alex Ross: If I ever thought that I would get this kind of treatment, I wouldn't have expected it so early in my career. The chance to have Chip Kidd design a book around you is an experience above all others.
B&N.com: It seems that you've done a lot more work for DC than for Marvel -- is that because of the iconic characters DC has, or are there other factors that explain it?
AR: I've formed a strong relationship with DC since I started working with them ten years ago. As it is, the characters fall into an easy framework in my mind of the greatest lineup of heroic legends that comics know. It's very easy to lose yourself in the DC Universe without running out of ideas and inspiration.
B&N.com: When did you realize your true calling was to be a comic book artist?
AR: I had hoped since around the age of three or four to have something to do with drawing comics, and there really wasn't much else that distracted me from that goal in my lifetime.
B&N.com: Your mom was a commercial illustrator. Do you believe that a portion of your prodigious talent is hereditary?
AR: Certainly there can be something passed down of art talent or disposition. As it was in our family tree, her father passed it on to her, and she to me. Whatever it is that motivates you to learn more and perfect your craft is mostly to do with your specific circumstances in life and less to do with heredity.
B&N.com: You're famous for using live models in your work, a rarity for comic book artists. Where do you find your models?
AR: Actually, it's not that rare for comics to be created from studying life. The 1930s Flash Gordon comic strip, which was hugely influential on all American superheroes, was done using model reference. I also know many people doing comics today approach it no differently than I. Generally I find my models amongst the people I know, and oftentimes I consider how I can incorporate all of my friends into my work.
B&N.com: You're often referred to as the Norman Rockwell of comics -- how do you feel about that comparison?
AR: Any positive comparison to Norman Rockwell is flattering. The phrase is a simple way to try to describe me to people outside of comics, and I'm perfectly happy with it, as long as I can live up to it.
B&N.com: Who's more fun to draw, Superman or Batman?
AR: I like drawing faces, and you get more face with Superman, so that's more fun.
B&N.com: What was the first comic book that really "grabbed" you as a kid?
AR: Spidey Super Stories. This was a comic meant for a younger reading age, based upon The Electric Company TV show that Spider-Man appeared on.
B&N.com: You're a big fan of Captain Marvel, who at one point in time was the world's most popular comic character but had fallen into semi-obscurity by the '60s. What's his appeal?
AR: Charm. The character design, the villains, the abilities, and the overall style of his adventures is very special to comics for the innovative qualities they held.
B&N.com: Your frequent collaborator, Paul Dini, has done a lot of great work on the various Batman animated series in recent years. Do you ever see yourself working in the animation world?
AR: Paul and I have discussed various cartoon ideas involving my design, but nothing has taken precedence over my comics work yet. It may be something to develop in the future.
B&N.com: Your version of Wonder Woman manages to be quite sexy and statuesque, despite the fact that she looks like a "real woman" (as opposed to the unrealistically proportioned "good girl" characters popular in today's comics). Is it true that she's modeled after Lynda Carter?
AR: As much as I would have liked to have used Lynda Carter, it wasn't our right to depict her likeness, and I have based the character upon various models that match a certain ideal I have in my head for what she should look like. As beautiful as I think she should be, I never envision her objectified.
B&N.com: You've also got a new large-format graphic novel coming from DC this fall (another team-up with Paul Dini) that features the entire Justice League of America, called Liberty and Justice. Is a JLA story, for you, the ultimate "fanboy" project?
AR: In a great many ways, this is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. Since I was a little kid, I've been drawing my little superhero "graphic novels" with the Justice League as a big focus. I wanted to create something that would honor the history of this group, its characters, and the talent that came before Paul and me.
B&N.com: How did you decide which characters to feature in Liberty and Justice? Is this your "ideal" JLA?
AR: The characters that appear in this group are as they are known by most of the world, in the form that they held for decades. The Justice League is a group concept born of the Silver Age of comics, from the 1950s through the '60s. The members that comprise it, to my mind, were designed to a level of perfection in this period and don't deserve revision.
B&N.com: Marvel seems to be outpacing DC in getting movies made of their characters. What DC characters would you like to see head to the silver screen? How about a Kingdom Come animated miniseries?
AR: If DC could get the "Shazam!" movie off the ground, I would be happiest, especially for the irony of Captain Marvel finally getting his due after being counted out for so long.
As far as Kingdom Come goes, why would you animate it instead of a live-action film? If you could do it at all, I would think that the translation of my painted work to another medium would most logically be to a real-life presentation. There are a great number of characters deserving of a larger stage to be seen on, and I take from the success of Marvel's films, which were long overdue, that every worthy character may one day get his or her story told.