Recently, Josh Green, got the chance to catch up with acclaimed artist Alex Ross. In this interview, Ross gives us an intimate look at his work with Dynamite Entertainment and what it was like to work with Marvel once more.
-Alex Rodrik, Editor of Features and Interviews
Josh Green: Most of your work these days is with Dynamite Entertainment. Tell me why Dynamite has been such a good home for you.
Alex Ross: The main thing I enjoy with Dynamite is extensive input in the process of making the comic book from every angle. The observation of not just content and editing the final works, but overseeing how we do our advertising and effectively roll out everything of the product.
JG:Your main project within Dynamite is your work on Project Superpowers. What is it like creating a new superhero universe with such classic characters?
AR: It feels like a natural fit to the history of comics that there should be a strong established corner allowed for these character concepts that should not be forgotten by time. So many of the characters we’re using are classic characters created at the same time as the most well-known of all superheroes and some of those concepts like the original Golden Age Daredevil and Black Terror are such important contributors to comics history that they need a home to continue to be seen and spotlighted in.
JG: Is the Golden Age of comic books your favorite era? If so, why?
AR: Yes and no. I would easily say as a fan of most modern comics I enjoy the period of my youth most of all. Ironically if you examine much of that time period of the 1970s that I was growing up in — going into the mid-80s — there’s a whole lot of bad work that was populating that time period but I wouldn’t necessarily have known it as a kid as it was all new and fresh to me and in particular I was enjoying a lot of the reprints of the period from the 1960s. I had a peculiar fascination with the Golden Age of comics as being this archaic version of the characters I knew so well in their earliest versions. There is something very pure about that original period of craftsmanship in comics where the first characters superhero costumes were designed, superhero alter egos, all those first ideas were conceived there is something so unique and worthwhile then that would become repetitive over time.
JG:What’s coming up with Project Superpowers: Chapter 2 and Black Terror?
AR: I think it would be our big payoff conflict that utilizes Claw more as an established character to which fans would recognize him and that’s something we have yet to show that will be forthcoming. The various aspects of the storyline we’ve been setting up of Zeus as masquerading as a superhero in the 1940’s now revealed as being the reality behind the character Captain Future that will build to a boil and ultimately pay off with a war of the gods, so to speak
JG:You are also contributing to Kevin Smith’s Green Hornet and Matt Wagner’s Green Hornet: Year One. Tell me about your work on both of these projects. How do you approach each Green Hornet project differently?
AR: I’ve approached the idea of this “Silver Age” style version that Kevin’s doing as an opportunity to assert how Green Hornet might have been interpreted in place of if he had been a vibrant character in comics in the early 70s right after his television appearance, whereby the character mostly disappeared at that point and wasn’t featured in any media if he had been revitalized in comic books with the sort of artistic style of the time if that had happened that’s the interpretation I’m trying to embrace. Something that’s a little bit more comic book stylish — slightly more superhero — added to his look but for the most part true to the integral design of the character. Of course, Kevin has his own things, his own idiosyncrasies he was going for in particular to the Kato figure being a daughter of the original Kato from the 40’s so we’re still holding to that basic idea that he demanded which works out fine.
JG:You had made your return to Marvel last year with Avengers/Invaders. What was it like to return to the Marvel Universe after so many years away?
AR: The last time I had worked with Marvel was on the series Universe X and probably for my last few lithos for Dynamic Forces before. I have always enjoyed drawing the classic characters for Marvel so something using the Invaders was particularly fun but I am a big fan of a lot of the work they have done with their characters in the redefined versions of The New Avengers and even Mighty Avengers and so it was fun to get to draw revitalized characters like Ms. Marvel and Spider-Woman, characters that had been mostly missing for the last twenty five years in Marvel’s publications so it was very easy for me to wrap my head around stuff that was very reminiscent of the characters and costumes of reading Marvel comics in my youth.
JG:You are currently involved with The Torch comic book by Marvel and Dynamite. Can you give us a tease of what will happen in the coming issues? Describe working with Mike Carey.
AR: Mike Carey is a very smart, very effective writer in establishing a sense of the real occurring that this story, this drama, is taking place very much in that cutting edge side of Marvel’s continuity that feels like it is happening in the real world. The artist as well, Patrick Berkenkotter, really brings that home with an extremely photo-realistic art style and forthcoming in The Torch series one will see a new villain invented for the Human Torch that is one of the most obvious concepts to add to his lineage but it had never been tried before so the concept of an Inhuman Torch will be added to the character’s history.
JG:You have also done lots of cover artwork for Marvel’s anniversary comics (Amazing Spider-Man #600, Captain America #600, Daredevil #600, Incredible Hulk #600) as well as other popular comics like Captain America: Reborn #1 and Spider-Woman #1. What goes through your mind when approaching cover art for such prominent comic books?
AR: If there is a story point that I need to represent certainly I will do that like the Spider-Man one had to focus on Doctor Octopus as a key element but a lot of times all composition with me is whatever gut impression I have about the characters and that I often like to convey. I did a new Moon Knight cover for a new Moon Knight series launch and my first feeling there was I wanted to represent and pay homage to a classic pose that Bill Sienkiewicz had done thirty years ago for the character that any old fan would recognize this pose as applied to my painting and the background I gave it. But stuff like that is what wil
l roll through my mind, just physicality, what angle I’d like to present on the character and sometimes it will be a wholly original thought that came out of nowhere just an instinctive framing. It could be the lighting that’s unique, the Spider-Man one has the focus all on red so the body suit would blend with the background around him so it was like the dark details of the webs and the darker parts of his costume against a field of red that he would blend with.