The Good: Amazing photography, Interesting details and biography
The Bad: Nothing particularly superlative, The writing does not light the world on fire, Does not include anything on Justice!
The Basics: Mythology: The DC Comics Art Of Alex Ross is a beautifully-photographed coffee table biography of one of the world’s premiere comic book artists.
For those who might not read all of my many, many reviews, I am a fan of the artwork of Alex Ross. Alex Ross is a comic book artist who paints panels of artwork for the books that he provides art for. The book Kingdom Come (reviewed here!) is known much more for the art of Alex Ross than the writing of Mark Waid. While that might not be the most fair thing in the world, it is, alas, true. Alex Ross is also the artist of my favorite graphic novel of all time, Justice (reviewed here!). So, if anything, I was excited when my library got in Mythology: The DC Comics Art Of Alex Ross for me. Mythology: The DC Comics Art Of Alex Ross is, as the title suggests, a coffee table book of Alex Ross’s artwork, with a lot of information on his process, his biography and his thoughts on his final works.
Mythology: The DC Comics Art Of Alex Ross is written by Chip Kidd, who serves as a decent biographer for Alex Ross. Unfortunately for fans of Alex Ross like me, Mythology: The DC Comics Art Of Alex Ross was written after Kingdom Come and JLA: Secret Origins (reviewed here!), but before Justice. As a result, Mythology: The DC Comics Art Of Alex Ross is missing what promised to be some of the most interesting sections to me. The book is chock full of information on Uncle Sam, which is now in my graphic novel “to read” list because of how intriguing this book made it seem!
Chip Kidd presents a decent chronological narrative of Alex Ross’s life in Mythology: The DC Comics Art Of Alex Ross. Perhaps most interestingly, Kidd quickly dispels the potential myth that Ross was heavily influenced by the style of his mother. Ross’s mother was an artist for years before she became a homemaker and Ross did not encounter her art until long after he was an established artist. Mythology: The DC Comics Art Of Alex Ross includes basic stories about Alex Ross’s interest in comic books, along with full-color pictures of his earliest drawings of super heroes. Kidd then details how Ross first came to work for DC Comics.
Mythology: The DC Comics Art Of Alex Ross becomes an astonishing resource for fans of Kingdom Come then. Through detailed interviews with Ross, Chip Kidd explores the creative genesis for Kingdom Come. Readers are walked through the character design process of Superman and Batman and are treated to extensive sketches, prototype paintings and reflections on them by Alex Ross. Through much of the middle portion of Mythology: The DC Comics Art Of Alex Ross, Chip Kidd takes a backseat to Ross himself. Kidd acts as a relay, phrasing or rephrasing Alex Ross’s stories on the creation of Kingdom Come without providing any editorializing of his own.
Kidd’s reluctance to editorialize continues through much of the rest of Mythology: The DC Comics Art Of Alex Ross. Kidd chronicles Alex Ross’s rise to popularity in the wake of the massive commercial success of Kingdom Come and he even explores the bounty of merchandise that was released surrounding Kingdom Come. In that way, Kidd and Ross detail the influence Alex Ross had on the promotional materials, toys and other merchandise surrounding Kingdom Come and the Ross’s subsequent work for DC Comics and the Warner Bros. store. Mythology: The DC Comics Art Of Alex Ross also includes a bounty of information on Alex Ross’s Uncle Sam. In the wake of Kingdom Come, Alex Ross could pursue whatever projects he wanted and he chose the politically-charged Uncle Sam. In Mythology: The DC Comics Art Of Alex Ross, Chip Kidd walks through that decision and the artwork of Uncle Sam with Ross.
Unfortunately for Alex Ross fans, Mythology: The DC Comics Art Of Alex Ross appears to have been published well before Justice. There is nary a mention of the massive, amazing project in the book. Big pout.
That said, what Mythology: The DC Comics Art Of Alex Ross has far outweighs what it is lacking. The book is a museum to the work of Alex Ross and includes everything from photographs of superhero puppets he made as a child to the photographs he used to base some of his iconic paintings off of. Mythology: The DC Comics Art Of Alex Ross is visually impressive, with its glossy photographs of virtually every work Alex Ross did for DC Comics, including the four “tabloid books” that focused on Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel.
There is some irony, too, which Chip Kidd is (unfortunately) unable to elaborate, exploit or explain. In discussing the origins of his career with DC Comics, Kidd reveals that the first work Ross had was to create the cover for the novelization of the story of the death of Superman. Ross actually had to be talked into the project because he did not want to have to paint Superman with long hair (which was how he appeared following the Reign Of The Supermen arc). The irony comes from the fact that when Superman makes his appearance in Kingdom Come, he is older, in hiding . . . and wears his hair long! How Kidd did not ask Ross about that is unfathomable (at least to a die-hard fan like me!).
In the end, Mythology: The DC Comics Art Of Alex Ross is well worth reading for anyone who loves comics, especially those who are fans of DC Comics and the works of Alex Ross. It’s a much tougher sell for buyers, though. It’s an enjoyable book, but it is not the ultimate guide to all things Alex Ross and at full price, it is expensive.
For other books on popular media and comic books, please be sure to check out my reviews of:
The Ultimate Wonder Woman Encyclopedia – Phil Jimenez
Watchmen Portraits – Clay Enos
Where No One Has Gone Before: A History In Pictures – J.M. Dillard
For other book reviews, please visit my index page on the subject by clicking here!
© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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