In all the years that I read comic books, you always knew when Alex Ross was doing the art. His style is unique, and his attention to detail is impeccable. There’s a reason Kingdom Come is a classic.
Alex Ross is a pillar among artists. He’s multi-awarded for his art style, something that other creators cannot come close to, much more replicate. While he isn’t as prolific as others, he doesn’t have to be.
Art in the Blood: Ross and His Early Years
Alex Ross is a native Texan from nearby Lubbock, a mere 5-hour drive if you’re a Dallas native like myself. He was born in Oregon by his father Clark, a minister, and his mom, Lynette.
According to Alex himself, Lynette was instrumental in his art style. She was a commercial artist – likely handpainted signs and banners in the day. His grandfather built wooden toys and drew too, so it seems it runs in the family.
Stories say that Alex picked up his paper and drew stuff he saw on TV. He claims he discovered Spider-Man on TV and never looked back.
His comic book influences his love for art included John Romita Sr., Neal Adams, and George Perez. The latter used a style similar to Ross uses, trying subtle colors and bold designs.
He eventually discovered realism, using Norman Rockwell and Andrew Loomis’ creations. Now, his style ventures closest to both Perez and Rockwell, with a distinct flair from himself.
Ross eventually went to the same school as his mother, the American Academy of Art in Chicago. He finished it in three years and took on an agency job as a storyboard artist.
Before Kingdom Come
Ross started his comic career, not with Marvel or DC, but with the now-defunct NOW Comics. In 1990, he published Terminator: The Burning Earth with Ron Fortier as his writer.
He eventually worked with Marvel, Image, and later Wildstorm Comics. He, writer Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson created Astro City, continuing the theme of Marvels.
Ross will eventually work with Mark Waid in 1996, creating Kingdom Come. For those living under the rock, Kingdom Come is regarded as one of the best DC series of all time. While it’s a mini-series, it became the anchor for many future DC stories to come.
A Master Comic Artist At Work
Kingdom Come was Alex Ross’ love letter to the entire comic book industry. Unlike the many twists and turns of the other Crises, it was a straight-up story. Not only was the storytelling great, but Ross’ art made it more fantastic.
Alex was a master of photorealistic depictions of superheroes. Superman and Batman were lifelike, and the superheroes of yesteryear were alive. The likes of Alan Scott, The Spectre, Jay Garrick, Wonder Woman were there, living and breathing.
The life that Ross gives to every character comes from his deep understanding of who they are. For so long, colleagues in the industry have praised Alex’s knowledge of the characters. His deep connection with these superheroes allow him to show off who these heroes genuinely are.
It’s rare to see Alex make a full series these days, and it’s understandable. The among of work it takes to make his masterpieces would not fit the hectic schedule of serialized comic books.
Even then, his covers are enough to make a story enticing. There’s nary a time when I look at pull lists and not feel intrigued by a story with an Alex Ross cover on it.
Alex Ross Never Dies
Alex Ross is a master comic creator, with one of the most distinguishable styles in the world. Every cover he creates is a masterclass to many comic book artists.
Beyond the strokes of his brush, Ross understands the heroes he paints. His body of work speaks for itself.
Kingdom Come #1 to #4 – The best DC story of all time
Marvels #0 to #4 – Alex Ross’ art showcase in his early years
The Art of Painted Comics – Ross’ coffee table book that showcases years of his art
Alex Ross Biography – Alexrossart.com (archived)
Alex Ross on ‘The Art of Painted Comics’ – Christian Holub, June 15, 2016, EW
Alex Ross – Comics.org