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.
Most of us wanted to be superheroes; Alex Ross wanted to draw them. Ever since he was a little tyke in Lubbock, Texas, he dreamed of splashing his cosmic-sized fantasies across the pages of comics. In Mythology, superfan Chipp Kidd pays tribute to the DC Comics master who transformed our conception of hyper-real legends. Graced by full-color illustrations throughout its 320 pages, this expanded paperback edition includes 32 new pages of superheroes art.
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.
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 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.
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
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.
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.
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.