Sunday November 11, 2012

STOCKBRIDGE -- Marvel and DC joined forces Saturday night for the unveiling of a new exhibit from comic book icon Alex Ross, at the Norman Rockwell Museum.

Fans young and old, of both comic universes, packed the lobby waiting to hear the artist explain how Norman Rockwell influenced his years of award-winning work.

"His work had a huge influence on my work throughout my life an apex to my senses," Ross said in front of a crowd of nearly 70, leading the group through a tour of his work. "I always wanted to follow his lead artistically, especially when I was working on ‘Kingdom Come.' "

The show, "Heroes and Villains: The Comic Book Art of Alex Ross" opened Saturday with a private tour and commentary with Ross and nearly 150 pieces of his work.

The 42-year-old Oregon native said he used Rockwell's style of having live models to create his images of some of the greatest superheroes of all-time, including members of the Justice League like Superman and Batman, their arch-villains, like Lex Luther and the Joker.

Ross first exploded into prominence in 1994 with Marvels, an award-winning, four-issue series co-written with Kurt Busiek, which covered the history of the Marvel Universe through the eyes of a reporter in New York City. The series won several Eisner Awards, the comic book version of the Oscars or Emmys.

In 1996, Ross was back with another mini-series, "Kingdom Come." Set in the near future, the series tells the story of the return of Superman from semi-retirement and his attempts to rein in a new generation of unruly super-powered heroes. That series also won several awards.

Since then, he has been in great demand by comic publishers. Ross credited Rock well, whom he discovered as a youngster, with being a major influence in his work.

"His work is so believable," said Karen Mercurio, who drove from Meriden, Conn., with her husband, Dan, to attend the opening. "His characters are transformed from actual people and you can see the details in his work. That's the way Superman would look if he were actually walking the down the street," she said pointing to a nearby cardboard cutout of Ross' work.

Employees at the museum said the event was the biggest opening they've had in a several years and were fielding phone calls throughout the day. Officials are expecting thousands to visit the exhibit over the course of the next few weeks.

For the 6:30 p.m,. opening, more than 400 people had lined up outside the doors. Louis Zanetti, of New York City, said he waited for hours to meet his hero.

Clutching Captain America's shield, Zenetti explained he's had nearly every great comic book artist sign it except one.

"I've left this top spot blank for Ross," he said. "His work, the narrative behind it, speaks to me. I identified with his experiences."

In 2004, Ross released "Myth ology" a reflection his work throughout his lifetime. Zenetti said the book was like "seeing childhood come full circle."

To reach Josh Stilts:
jstilts@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6243
On Twitter: @JoshStilts