Mythology: The DC Comics Art of Alex Ross



Mythology returns, in a newly expanded paperback edition of the book Entertainment Weekly awarded a grade of A, saying: “Alex Ross brings to his work an unparalleled sense of the real. His heroes–both super and mortal–have weight; they exist in space, and that space is affected by them in ways never before seen on the page.” And so here they are, the ...

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Mythology returns, in a newly expanded paperback edition of the book Entertainment Weekly awarded a grade of A, saying: “Alex Ross brings to his work an unparalleled sense of the real. His heroes–both super and mortal–have weight; they exist in space, and that space is affected by them in ways never before seen on the page.” And so here they are, the incomparable cast of the DC Comics universe: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Aquaman, the Green Lantern, and the rest of the Justice League as you’ve never seen them before. Mythology brings together the best loved comic characters in the world, brought to life by Alex Ross, one of the most astonishing young artists working in the medium today. The award-winning designer/writer Chip Kidd and photographer Geoff Spear have teamed up to create a book like no other, with an introduction by M. Night Shyamalan, the acclaimed director of The Village and The Sixth Sense.

Ross has often been called the Norman Rockwell of comics, and this book reveals not only his lifelong love of these classic superheroes but also his vision: Mythology takes you into the studio for a behind-the-scenes look at his fascinating creative process. The combination of Ross’s dynamic art and Kidd’s kinetic design makes images from his most memorable stories–including Kingdom Come, Superman: Peace on Earth, Batman: War on Crime, and Uncle Sam–soar off the more than 300 pages.

The new material centers on Ross’s startling new comic book series, Justice, including sketches, preliminary art, prototype figures, and more. Mythology is a book in which every page explodes with the power of the icons it celebrates.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
What if Batman, Superman, the Flash, and all the rest of the DC Comics heroes really existed? They'd look just the way comics legend Alex Ross draws them in this gorgeous coffee-table art tome. The gifted Ross reimagines the cast of DC superheroes as morally complex characters deeply affected by the events of life. In addition to Ross's amazing hyper-realistic paintings, Mythology includes an original Superman and Batman story by Chip Kidd and a retelling of Robin's origin by frequent Ross collaborator Paul Dini.
From the Publisher
“Alex’s unique style combines the best of the fantastic and the real, creating a world where myths walk and leave tangible footprints in the sand.”

–Paul Levitz, President and Publisher, DC Comics

USA Today
If America's superheroes have a Michelangelo -- or even a Norman Rockwell -- it would be Alex Ross, the 33-year-old Texan whose paintings and graphic novels majestically bring to life the make-believe characters of childhood. — David Colton
The New York Times
Some say Mr. Ross's portraits of superheroes make them incredibly hunky. His Wonder Woman is easy on the eyes, too. But everyone seems to agree that his real accomplishment is making superheroes more real than anyone has ever before — filmmakers included. Working almost entirely in gouache, Mr. Ross, 33, gives the same kind of earnest photorealism to portraits of well-known superheroes that Norman Rockwell gave the faces of doctors, letter carriers and firefighters. — Frank DeCaro
The Washington Post
The book is both a tribute and exploration of the Alex Ross aesthetic. Critics who thought there was nothing left to mine in the dubious pop-academic exploration of comics are taking another look at Ross's superheroes. — Hank Stuever
The Village Voice
Mythology closes with a bang. Co-written with Kidd, "The Trust" is an eight-page roller-coaster ride of terrific, economical storytelling and propulsive visuals. For the general reader, who knows little of Batman and Superman's long, prickly history, the concise dialogue (kept to a minimum to free up the art) provides all needed backstory. Ross launches the Man of Steel through the air like a titanium missile, Batman trailing behind on the Batrope, the silken cord making graceful arcs and taut diagonals that seamlessly knit the action together; the backgrounds hurtle by. Colors are vibrant and expositional, subtly defining aspects of each character and scene. A work of art, "The Trust" ends too soon, but it ends right, a reminder that comic books, like baseball and rock 'n' roll, are one of America's joyous gifts to the world, created for the young but with reverberations for the ages. — R.C. Baker
Publishers Weekly
With art that looks like a hybrid of Norman Rockwell and Jack Kirby, artist Ross has become the preeminent painter of superheroes of his generation. This lavish coffee- table tribute puts him into a pantheon as exalted as the superbeings he depicts. The son of a preacher and an illustrator, Ross was always captivated by superheroes, but it wasn't until he discovered the use of live models in art school that he was able to realize his visions of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and the rest. Like Rockwell, Ross uses photographs to set up lighting and staging-a process documented in a section at the end of the book-and like Rockwell, he favors otherworldly lighting effects that somehow serve to make his figures more realistic. Like Kirby, he has an innate belief in the iconic power of superheroes that gives them a dimension far beyond the usual four-colored adventures. Whether in Kingdom Come, a renowned tale of the twilight of the superheroes; his own oversized stories written with Paul Dini; or countless posters, covers and commissions, Ross's vision of beings so powerful they verge on arrogant will make viewers glad they don't exist in the real world. Kidd's text is laudatory but never cloying, and the book includes numerous studies, sketches and photos to show Ross's method. While collectors and fans gush over Ross's output, the sheer weight of pictures of every superteam in DC's universe does become somewhat numbing by the end. Still, the immense power of Ross's best images cuts through any clutter, and this volume deftly showcases just that. (Oct.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
This coffee-table hardcover, marvelously designed by Kidd (Peanuts: The Art of Charles M. Schulz) and showcasing some of the best work of multiple award-winning painter Ross, is one of the most visually rich books about comics ever published. Ross's magnificent paintings of some of the most famous superheroes ever created-Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and other DC stars-are amazingly lifelike and at the same time manage to compellingly capture the essences of these fictional characters. Included here is artwork from some of Ross's most famous comics, including Kingdom Come and the six-book tabloid-sized series written by Paul Dini that concludes in November with JLA: Liberty and Justice, along with paintings done for posters, limited-edition prints and plates, and book and magazine covers. Also featured are conceptual sketches, penciled layouts, photos of some of the live models so crucial to Ross's work, and even a charming selection of Ross's childhood artwork, plus two previously unpublished stories. Ross's earnestness, love of the characters, and immense talent shine through on every page. This collection is not to be missed by any fan of Ross or of these characters, and it is essential for all public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/03.] Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-This is a coffee-table tribute to the work of the cartoonist. Kind of an odd blend of Norman Rockwell meets Saturday morning cartoons, Ross's gouache painted art glows on the pages. Interspersed with quotations by the artist and those who know him, Kidd's sparse text takes readers on a brief tour of Ross's childhood to his early days in advertising and comic books, finally ending with the limited series "Kingdom Come" (Warner, 1998), which combined hyper-realistic artwork with unusually complex storytelling. The book not only displays samples of finished works but also includes sketches, photographs of live models, and comic art dating back to the 1930s. For a humorous touch, Kidd includes samples of Ross's childhood art, with pieces ranging from rough copies of comic covers to endearing sculptures of Batman and others made out of construction paper. Ultimately, Ross is an artist who quests to reuse and redevelop classic characters like Superman and Wonder Woman and elevate their stories to a level more sophisticated readers can enjoy. High goals, but this man makes it work.-Matthew L. Moffett, Northern Virginia Community College, Annandale Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375714627
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 11/8/2005
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 361,273
  • Product dimensions: 9.10 (w) x 12.00 (h) x 0.77 (d)

Meet the Author

Alex Ross has produced more than 1,500 pages of comics material in less than fourteen years–an extraordinary body of work that has earned him every major award in the industry. Ross was born in Portland, Oregon, in 1970 and eventually settled in Chicago, where he attended the American Academy of Art. Among his best known books are: Marvels, Kingdom Come, Uncle Sam, Earth X, Superman: Peace on Earth, Batman: War on Crime, and JLA: Liberty and Justice.

Chip Kidd is the author and designer of Batman Collected and Peanuts: The Art of Charles M. Schulz. His book jacket designs for Alfred A. Knopf helped break new ground in the field from the late 1980s to the present. The Cheese Monkeys, Kidd’s first novel, published in 2001, was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.

Geoff Spear has photographed for numerous publications, including Vogue, Entertainment Weekly, GQ, Newsweek, and The New York Times. His images have also appeared in national ad campaigns for AT&T, American Express, Citibank, and IBM. His photographs for Batman Collected were chosen for the American Photography annual of the best of 1996.

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Interviews & Essays

An Interview with Alex Ross

Barnes & 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& 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& 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& 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& 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& 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& 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& 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& 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& 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& 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& 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& 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& 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.

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Sort by: Showing all of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2012

    It's great

    Spectacular art.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2008

    Crappy copy of a great book

    The glue for the binding really sucks. All the contents from my copy simply separated from the cover after two days of light reading.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2004

    He is a CLASSIC!

    Alex Ross is no Rockwell....if he is to be judged, it will be with the likes of Will Eisner and Alex Raymond. Alex Ross embodies both of these two geniuses........beautifully. The art of Alex Raymond, or Hal Foster, and the cinematics of Will, (if you dont know who Will Eisner is you shouldn't read any comic book. period.) Alex Ross is the 21st century comic artist.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2004


    Alex Ross, Chipp Kidd and Geoff Spear put out a book for comic and non-comic fans to enjoy. The book is sensational with beautiful color art contained in each page. You can not look at this book in one sitting to enjoy how detailed Alex Ross draws his DC characters to give them that extra dimenson rarely seen by artists. I brought to book to work and people who are not comic book fans looked thru it commenting on how well it was done. You can see the time and effort Alex Ross puts in his work for all to enjoy.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 2003

    Superheros Galore

    Superheros are indeed the new mythology. This is a great book. Highly recommended.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2003

    The Most Beautiful Superhero Art Book Ever

    Alex Ross's work is magnificent. He perfectly captures the glory and majesty of the world's greatest super-heroes that we admired as children and still admire as adults. A brilliant and aweinspiring work of Americana. I recommend this book to everyone.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 11, 2003

    Alex Ross is the 'Man' hands down!

    I don't think there are enough adjectives to describe just how unbelievable his work is. And I know it's only going to get better and better. D.C. Direct made those Kingdom Come action figures based off of the artwork of Mr. Ross, I think they should base a set of figures off of his traditional look of Superman,Batman and the others. He is really the best I have seen in along time.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2003

    A 'Must Have' Book.

    This book is simply gorgeous! For some time now, I have been a fan of his work. I have been captivated by the hyper realistic renditions of the comic book characters that many of us have grown up with. With his work, he has been able to elevate the comic book medium into something more than just kid¿s stuff. The majesty of his work makes one expect these characters to leap off of the page. When you see his renditions of Superman or Batman, you see them as much more than just people in tights. You can see the weight of duty that sits on Superman¿s shoulders. You can see the smoldering need, in the eyes of Batman, to dispense justice to those who deserve it. For the uninitiated who may have never seen an Alex Ross work, this book is an excellent primer. Once you open it, you will be in for a jaw dropping feast. From beginning to end, we see the power of Ross¿ work, it is that good!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 2, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 27, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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