Alex Ross won’t take sides, so don’t ask him to choose between Spider-Man (Marvel) and Superman (DC Comics). “I’ve had a love affair with both companies since I was a child,” says the 48-year-old artist. “I think you’re limiting your reach when you’re beholden to one.”
Ross is the Caravaggio of caped crusaders, known for his meticulous and photorealistic paintings. That work — covers, posters, art prints — over the past quarter century has made him a hero among comics fans. His new book, Marvelocity: The Marvel Comics Art of Alex Ross, a tribute to Spider-Man, Iron Man, Captain America, and many others, is an overdue companion to 2005’s Mythology: The DC Comics Art of Alex Ross.
Ross’s mother was a commercial illustrator, and he followed her from Texas, where he was raised, to the American Academy of Art in Chicago, eventually settling in the suburbs (he doesn’t like to say precisely where) with his wife and children in a house jammed with figurines. “I’m basically living in a toy store,” he says.
The balding, bespectacled Ross evokes a description often associated with the alter egos of superheroes: mild mannered. But that disguises a fierce professionalism and dedication to both his art and his subjects. “What must connect me with my viewership is they understand that I believe in what I’m drawing. I’m not slumming it when I’m drawing Aquaman. I didn’t just wind up in this job. I strived for it.”