Rough Justice: The DC Comics Sketches of Alex Ross – Book Review
By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder
Alex Ross is in a league of his own in terms of comic book art. There’s nobody like him, because nobody does what he does. His art offers the most photo-realistic images you can get of superheroes outside a movie or a TV show. He sketches, inks, and paints most of his own work. Some have said his art represents the most character-faithful representations of heroes like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel. Though it’s a cliche, he’s truly in a league of his own.
In a sense, Rough Justice: The DC Comics Sketches of Alex Ross is a sequel to Mythology: The DC Comics Art of Alex Ross, published in 2005. They’re both tabloid sized books printed on glossy paper, which allow you to see Ross’ art in all it’s glory. But as Rough Justice‘s title plainly states, this book focuses on Ross’ initial sketching process.
Because this book essentially looks at unfinished portraits, it’s not as stunning as Mythology. But it’s stunning nonetheless, especially for comic art buffs. I wasn’t wowed by the black and white versions of comic book covers and classic Ross paintings I’ve already seen. But the colored (by marker and colored pencil) sketches of rejected concepts Ross pitched to DC, not to mention the images that aren’t as renowned as some of Ross’ other work make up for that. And the narration by Ross himself offers the perfect perspective.
Some of Ross’ early sketches of the modern version of Batwoman are revealed, as are some pitched redesigns for the Nightwing and Robin costumes, and what might have been a throwback look for Dick Grayson’s incarnation of Batman. We also see some sketches he presented for a revamped Captain Marvel series, and what I find to be an incredibly interesting Batboy miniseries (starring Bruce Wayne’s son, not that kid from Weekly World News). Little treats like that are always really enjoyable.
We also see sketches of some of the un-used covers Ross sketched when he was the cover artist for Superman and Batman, his sketches for the line of Justice action figures, and a behind-the-scenes look at his recent work on Justice Society of America.
One of the really cool things about this book, and Mythology as well, is that Ross’ personality shines through. When you read what he writes about certain things, and see the little notes on some of his sketches, his passion is really on display. He comes off a bit anal-retentive about things at times, but you forgive that because you know it’s happening out of love for these characters and the world they inhabit.
It should be noted, for those unfamiliar with Ross, that he doesn’t work exclusively on DC characters. He’s done a lot of work with Marvel, and actually created his own superhero universe with Project Superpowers, using largely forgotten heroes from the Golden Age of comics. But I think the DC Comics characters have a special place in Ross’ heart. He hasn’t been shy about his love for Superman and Captain Marvel in particular, as evidenced by their roles in he and Mark Waid’s epic Kingdom Come story.
But whether he’s sketching or painting, for DC or Marvel, Ross’ work will always stand out. That’s what happens when you’re in a league of your own.