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Creator / Alex Ross

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"There have always been naysayers. People who absolutely thought painting superheroes wasn't going to work. I had try to prove those people wrong."
Ross, The Art of Painted Comics

The Comic Book Painter.

You remember those realistic-looking paintings of superheroes that made it plausible to imagine people running around wearing those costumes? They're probably the work of this guy.

Nelson Alexander "Alex" Ross (born January 22, 1970) is an American painter, character designer, and plotter who set the bar for painted comic book art. After discovering Spider-Man on an episode of The Electric Company (1971), Ross became a huge fan of the superhero genre and attempted to emulate artists like John Romita Sr. and George PĂ©rez when he decided to become an illustrator in the industry. Soon, however, he discovered the painted works of artists like Norman Rockwell and envisioned superheroes being drawn in the same style and quality. With this goal in mind, Ross graduated from the American Academy of Art in Chicago and pursued work in the comic book industry. He hit it big with his beautifully crafted recreations of iconic Marvel Comics moments and characters in Marvels. He continued his success over at DC with Kingdom Come and later with Justice. Ross is also in the creator-owned side of things with works like Uncle Sam and Astro City.

Ross also worked on artwork for Unbreakable, Spider-Man 2, and Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe.

Due to the lengthy process of painting his art (he forgoes digital for more traditional methods), you'll seldom see him actually draw interiors. Nowadays, he's stuck with cover art (mainly at Marvel), character design, or whatever he feels like doing. Nobody's really complaining, though.

He's also fond of Reconstruction and Genre Throwback. He's not fond of The Dark Age of Comic Books. Or Wolverine (at least until Hugh Jackman came along).

Has no relation to the equally talented Bob Ross.

Official website. Official Twitter.


Alex Ross's works provide examples of:

  • Art Shift: Don't let his photorealistic style fool you; Ross is very capable of drawing in the styles of other mediums or artists. Take for instance this Shazam! piece which was confirmed to be hand-drawn.
  • Author Appeal: Ross really likes The Golden Age and The Silver Age of Comic Books.
    • He's also a big fan of Superfriends, so references are abound.
  • The Cameo / Creator Cameo: He'll often paint other characters, celebrities, or other comic creators into the panel.
  • Comic-Book Fantasy Casting: Since he uses models and reference photos for his work, the use of this trope is more clear than other examples.
  • Converted Fanboy: He couldn't care less for the X-Men, especially for Wolverine. It wasn't until Bryan Singer's film and Hugh Jackman's performance that Ross wanted in on the movie-inspired relaunch. He also replaced the unflattering portrayal of Wolverine as a fat, lazy drunk in Earth X's sequels with the much more dignified and badass version from Days of Future Past.
  • Creator's Pest: invoked
    • Famously dislikes Kyle Rayner Green Lantern, and goes out of his way to avoid drawing him.
    • He used to heavily dislike Wolverine until Hugh Jackman's performance turned him around.
    • He's also admitted to not liking Venom due to his general disdain for '90s Anti-Hero type characters. As such, he disliked painting him for covers and for his lineup of Marvel villains, even lamenting in the linked video how good the latter piece turned out.
  • Formerly Fit: Ross has a habit of having various characters in alternate future stories gain some weight in the intervening time. Sometimes it's a blatant Take That! to characters he doesn't like, other times it's ultimately just a Surprisingly Realistic Outcome about how some people normally age.
  • Only Six Faces:
    • Reusing the same models over and over for reference can only do so much when painting a buttload of superheroes who are supposed to have different appearances. Martian Manhunter is essentially Superman but with a bigger brow and painted green.
    • Due to his painstaking painting process (especially for lighting and perspective purposes), Ross has a penchant for following the most immediate model he can pull at the moment he needs it: himself. As such, some of his most known character models have facial features that resemble his own.
  • Parody Assistance: He's drawn a cover for MAD that parodies his grandiose style of painting... by having Superman and Batman awkwardly trying not to acknowledge Alfred E. Newman attempting to epically pose alongside them.
  • Production Posse: invoked He can usually be found working with Kurt Busiek as his partner in crime. When he's the one heading the project, he'll usually bring in Jim Krueger to help him with writing while he plots.
  • Promoted Fanboy: Ross was a fan of Battle of the Planets and jumped at the opportunity to draw covers for the Top Cow Productions adaptation. Later, when ADV released the original Science Ninja Team Gatchaman on DVD, Ross came on board again to draw art for the DVD boxsets and be interviewed about the series. His art is now considered synonymous with the series to the point where Sentai Filmworks reused his art for their Blu-Ray release of Gatchaman, and included an artbook of Ross' work with said release.
  • Reconstruction: Besides his more idealistic works, the man's artwork in general makes it plausible that these people can go out in those costumes and fight crime without looking silly.
  • Superheroes Wear Tights: Played with. One of the features of his artwork consists of how superheroes would actually look on spandex without leaning into Form-Fitting Wardrobe territory. So, yeah... those are wear and wrinkles on Batman's pants because he's wearing clothes that are supposed to look like clothes.
  • What Could Have Been: invokedAs a concept artist, Ross has tried his hand at providing preliminary designs for potential reboots or just alternate costumes. Most infamous are his design sketches for Sam Raimi's Spider-Man: a Spider-Man redesign which would eventually be the inspiration for Superior Spider Man and a medieval-looking Green Goblin.
  • Writer on Board: