Comic book legend Alex Ross opens show at Norman Rockwell Museum


STOCKBRIDGE -- If there is a Mount Rushmore of innovative comic book artists somewhere in the multiverse (perhaps carved out by Captain Marvel on the Rock of Eternity), one of the four faces on it would probably be Alex Ross.

Ross, 42, was born in Oregon and has operated out of Chicago for the past 20 years. He will be showcasing his work at a special exhibition at the Norman Rockwell Museum beginning Saturday.

The show, "Heroes and Villains: The Comic Book Art of Alex Ross" will feature more than 150 pieces of Ross' work.

A reception for Ross is scheduled for Saturday be ginning at 6:30 p.m.. Following a 7 p.m. commentary on his work, Ross will be available to sign examples of his work. There will be a limit of three pieces of work per person.

"It's a big show," said Ross in a phone interview from Chicago. "In addition to work from throughout my career, I'm going to have some props and sculptures I've used for some of my work."

Ross' realistic and detailed style, more painting than actual drawing, has been described as "neo-realistic" and "unique" by fellow artists and comic book critics.

Comic Book Buyer's Guide senior editor Maggie Thompson noted in a 2010 interview that Ross "may simply be the field's favorite painter, period. That's despite the fact that there are many outstanding painters at work in today's comic books."

In fact, after Ross was named "Best Painter" in the comics field for the seventh consecutive time, the category was retired.

M. Night Shymalan, who directed "Unbreakable," said that Ross "portrays his characters as human beings You can see both the strengths and weaknesses of his heroes, making them more universal."

Shymalan said much of the look of the hero of "Unbreakable," David Dunn, was based on Ross' work.

Ross is best known, even outside the comics field, as an artist who strives for realism in his work. He often uses costumed models and props when creating his paintings.

In addition to comics, Ross has drawn an album cover for the band Anthrax, done covers for video games and created satiric portraits of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

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 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 Rockwell, whom he discovered as a youngster, with being a major influence in his work.

"His work was, to me, the apex of what could be done in illustration. The depth of thought and design that goes into every one of his paintings, it's so impressive to me," said Ross of Rockwell. "Every time I see one of his paintings, the level of detail, the amount of work he ob viously put into it, just knocks me out. I think to myself, 'Man, that's amazing. Just incredible.' "

Ross said he is excited to have a show in Stockbridge.

"I saw the traveling show when it came around a few years ago, and I was thoroughly bowled over by it," said Ross. "It's extremely humbling for someone like me to see Rockwell's work up close. I can't wait to see more of it."

As a painting comic artist, Ross said it usually takes him about 2 1/2 times longer to produce a page of comic book art than it would a regular comic book artist.

"That's a tough question, because it depends on the amount of detail I have to put into it," he said. "If it's a single figure with no real background, it takes less time than, say, a cityscape with several figures in it. And you have to remember than an average comic page has three hands working on it: A penciller, inker and colorist. I do all that myself."

He names his two-part "Uncle Sam" miniseries co-created in 1997 with writer Steve Darnall for DC as the comic of which he is most proud. "Uncle Sam" is the story of a homeless man Sam, who wanders through an unnamed city encountering different individuals who represent various concepts found in history.

Ironically, one of the events in which Sam dreams of is Shay's Rebellion, which originated in Sheffield.

"That series stepped aside from super heroes," said Ross. "It was a comic that was more politically aware than my other work."


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