Time to get back on board this semi-regular series I’m working on about Lubbockites who have worked in comics, cartooning, and animation. Today, we’re going with a guy who we talk about a lot here, because he’s one of the most prominent artists in the comics biz: Alex Ross.
Alex Ross was born in 1970 in Portland, Oregon, but he was raised in Lubbock, where he was drawing pictures from out of TV commercials while he was still just a toddler. While he received art tips from his mother, a commercial artist, he picked up his beliefs on morality from his father, a minister who ran a children’s shelter, among other charitable works.
Ross’s artistic inspirations included comic artists like Berni Wrightson and George Perez, as well as “Saturday Evening Post” illustrator Norman Rockwell, whose photorealistic painting and attention to detail appealed to Ross’ artistic sensibilites.
He attended the American Academy of Art in Chicago, where he began toying with the idea of painting comics. After graduating, Ross worked at an advertising agency and did a little work in comics on the side. His work caught the eye of writer Kurt Busiek, who suggested a collaboration.
The result was 1993’s “Marvels”, which looked at the Golden and Silver Ages of Marvel Comics through the eyes of a photojournalist named Phil Sheldon. Ross’ artwork helped make the miniseries wildly popular — he knew how to draw the human body realistically, with fat and wrinkles and non-cartoonish muscles and facial expressions; he knew light and shadow, and how different light sources would affect the appearance of something you saw; he knew how to draw clothing that wasn’t just painted-on spandex, clothing that actually wrinkled like real clothing. His characters — superheroes and normal folks alike — looked like real people. They looked like they’d stepped out of a photograph or out of a movie. His artwork helped make “Marvels” a powerful piece of storytelling, and readers bought every copy of “Marvels” they could get their hands on. It was a massive, star-making accomplishment.
Ross followed up “Marvels” with the equally-impressive “Kingdom Come” at DC, set 20 years into the future of the DC Universe. The story is told mainly through the eyes of Norman McCay, an elderly minister who is chosen by the Spectre to observe the coming disasters. McCay was also the spitting image of Ross’ father, making “Kingdom Come” a more much personal book than “Marvels” had been. And again, “Kingdom Come” was a triumph for Ross — copies of the series quickly vanished from comics stores as readers clamored both for Ross’ artwork and for visions of what the future held for DC’s characters.
Ross began working on smaller-scale projects, though he still had time to work on comics like “Uncle Sam,” “Earth X,” “Justice,” and the 60th anniversary portfolios of Superman, Batman, Captain Marvel, and Wonder Woman. Ross took care of character designs for Kurt Busiek’s “Astro City” and covers for a huge number of comics. He also painted a series of covers for “TV Guide” and created promotional artwork for the 2002 Academy Awards. He painted album covers for a couple of CDs by heavy metal band Anthrax. And he produced a number of illustrations which were used during the opening credits of the “Spider-Man 2” movie. He’s become one of the best-known and most popular artists in the comics industry.
His artwork is simply spectacularly beautiful, no matter whether you’re a comic fan or not. A lot of people — myself included — think he should be included on the West Texas Walk of Fame. Will he make it there? Only time will tell, though there are probably a few politicians out there who could grease the wheels…