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productImage People are talking about...§ Alex Cox reviews GODDESS OF WAR and comments on sundry other matters at Comics Should Be Good!:

This is a comic unlike anything I have ever read, and certainly one of the most original books so far this year. But best of all, this is a comic that could only exist in this medium; this is not a pitch for a movie, or a property to be merchandised, or a novel with pictures. This is an excellent ride that can only be taken panel by panel, and it revels in the form. It’s exactly the type of project that gets me excited about Comics, and what comics are capable of.


§ Laura Hudson engages in comparative literary analysis with FLEX MENTALLO and FINAL CRISIS:

I recently caught up on Final Crisis (alongside Douglas Wolk’s helpful annotations) and subsequently read Flex Mentallo for the first time, something Matt Fraction advised me to do at last year’s Comic-Con that I wanted to accomplish in less than a year. Both are Grant Morrison works that involve themes of alternate realities, death wishes, and the apocalypse (as well as some more direct shared references) that stood out to me.


alex ross obama People are talking about...§ Frank Santoroburies Alex Ross:

I guess the thing that resonated most with people is my rant about Alex Ross, and I just don’t feel like turning my recollections about this wonderful panel I was on into a bitch-fest about Ross, but … ah fuck it: It’s not just Ross, it’s this culture of photo-referencing in comics that grinds my gears. It’s true, I hate Ross’s work. He’s got great technical ability, but big deal. Why is copying the nuances of a photograph such an achievement? That’s not drawing! He’s the worst example for a young artist to have, the worst role model. No one has done more harm to the form than Ross. It’s not comics he makes. It’s fumetti. There are no real panel-to-panel transitions as there are in “pure cartooning”; he’s just putting photograph next to photograph in a way that some find pleasing. But it’s not comics.


Yes, yes, I know what you’re thinking: NORMAN ROCKWELL. See the comments on this for the answer.

§ KC Carlson on what it takes to be a good comic book editor:

As an editor, your key role is to make the creative people that you work with look great and inspire them to produce exceptional art. You are, confoundingly, the most important and the least important part of the creative team. You are also, generally, the least creative person on the team, but you are expected to come up with creative solutions to insolvable problems at any given second. You must be able to work with massively creative and talented creators without jealousy and without fear. You must always remember that what you are doing is a “team sport,” even if others do not.


§ Hudson Phillips on Top 5 Things I Learned at HeroesCon:

1. For the most part comics creators are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met.

I was blown away by how nice and supportive everyone was. There is something unique about the comis industry… and I believe it’s due to it’s size. No one is in comics to become famous or rich (because it doesn’t happen)… they are there because they LOVE it. And there is an immediate connection over that. Creators want other creators to become successful. They want to embrace new readers… to grow the industry. There is a love of craft that I haven’t found in any other industry. It reminds me of the local music scene growing up.

Comments

  1. “He’s got great technical ability, but big deal. Why is copying the nuances of a photograph such an achievement?”

    The reason Ross is so great is not just because of his technical ability, but because he’s speaking an artistic language that can be read entirely outside the dialog that goes with it. Sorry Frank, but you’re missing a whole lot if that’s all you see in Ross’ work.

  2. Sphinx Magoo says:

    Man, those commenters on Alex Ross are harsh! And also pretty unfair too. I’d take their comments with an immense grain of salt. Maybe a dump truck’s worth of salt.

  3. snoid says:

    The comments on Ross are right on the mark…all style, no soul. Sure he can render well, but so what. I find his work to be actually kinda creepy. But as far as doing the most harm to the form, no that would be Image comics and their creators.

  4. Okay, I’m putting out a challenge. Anyone else who’d like to make a statement like Snoid’s is going to have to back it up a little with some examples and compelling arguments. No offense to Snoid (who I’m sure is a smart fellow) but off the cuff remarks about how this or that are the downfall of the way of the comic, just don’t cut it. Image, has put out some banner work in it’s years, which I would say makes up for more then 50% of the product they’ve put out over that time. If you’re going to ignore that, then tell us why. It’s only fare the you back up your pot shots. Wouldn’t you agree?

  5. “The reason Ross is so great is not just because of his technical ability, but because he’s speaking an artistic language that can be read entirely outside the dialog that goes with it. Sorry Frank, but you’re missing a whole lot if that’s all you see in Ross’ work.”

    Huh, artistic language? Hes just painting models posing as superheroes.

  6. Torsten Adair says:

    Norman Rockwell painted from live models, not photographs, and actually placing local townspeople in his paintings. (Although Alex Ross did something similar, like how Ms. Beat can be found in the pages of Kingdom Come.)

    I would love to see Alex Ross expand his technique, style, and tools. The best artists always find fault in their work, and strive to improve with the next.

    Question: are there cover artists who illutstrate well, but who do not tell stories well?

  7. While I’m not a huge fan of Ross myself, Santoro’s comment (in the above excerpt at least) is off the mark for a few reasons.

    Ross has been doing this for far longer than his imitators, and furthermore, he has no control over the people who rip off his stylistic concepts. To blame him because people are making money off of something he’s been a huge success at – and some would argue originated – at is adding insult to injury, and reeks of some kind of sour grapes.

    To insult the idea of using photos the way he does – well, it’s a trade secret going back nearly to the middle ages (camera lucida and camera obscura being the technical means before photography – basis of the Hockney-Falco thesis).

    But I won’t argue that it’s not cartooning – what he does isn’t in the least. All of the traced-photo superhero stuff that’s around these days isn’t really cartooning either. But at least Ross shoots most (if not all) of his own ref, and what he does is legitimate.

  8. Christopher, I have a challenge for you, name one comic that Image has done that has risen to the level of Eightball or ACME. Just one.
    I ignore them because it’s all genre crap. I bought the new previews this week for the first time in years, in the Image section there wasn’t one thing I would give to an adult who doesn’t read comics as a example of a good comic.
    Giving a Image comic to some who doesn’t read comics would be like giving a Steven Segal movie to someone who doesn’t watch movies as a example of a good movie.
    Plus I hate ALL their art, it’s ugly as hell and it screams that none of them have any real art training (if they do they left all at the door), they all learned from comics. At least Ross is trained in something outside of old Micheal Golden and Terry Austin comics.

  9. Sphinx Magoo says:

    You know, on this photo-reference nonsense…
    I was lucky enough to find one of Kitchen Sink’s Alex Raymond “Flash Gordon” reprints and it was a real eye-opener for me. Finally I got to see the strips that had influenced people like John Buscema and Al Williamson. One thing that stuck out pretty obviously though was his use of photo reference and models. Sometimes the model poses were kind of at odds with the storytelling in that the pose didn’t complement the story. But overall, taken as a whole, I could see why Alex Raymond would be such an influence.

  10. Elektra says:

    I had no idea that Image does nothing but bad comics. I must remove Age of Bronze by Eric Shanower from my shelf and burn it immediately.

  11. I do not know who Frank Santoro is, nor why I should listen to his whizdom regarding one of the greatest artistic talents to ever grace the funny book world (along with Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby, Gene Ha, for starters).

    Hopefully his rant will gain Mr. Ross more attention and fans.

  12. Kat Kan says:

    Hawaiian Dick shows REAL Hawaiians, Japanese, Chinese, and all the all-mix-up-kine local people (just like many members of my own family) one does find there if one goes beyond Waikiki. Plus the Hotel Street and Chinatown areas of Honolulu were very well rendered. I speak as someone who grew up in Hawaii and married a local guy. That’s one Image Comics title I always recommend. Also Madman Atomic Comics – I love Mike Allred’s work, have done for many years now. And like Elektra, I love Eric Shanower’s Age of Bronze. I was a Classics and Ancient History scholar in college, and Shanower’s work is very well researched; his art reflects what we know of that time better than anything else out there. And he actually consulted many scholarly books that I used while in college.

  13. “Christopher, I have a challenge for you, name one comic that Image has done that has risen to the level of Eightball or ACME. Just one.
    I ignore them because it’s all genre crap. I bought the new previews this week for the first time in years, in the Image section there wasn’t one thing I would give to an adult who doesn’t read comics as a example of a good comic.”

    What are you talking about? Image is the most diverse publisher. Genre crap? They are subjects for stories . What r they supposed to just trot a bunch of autobio comics about depressing, slacker 20 somethings? Genres are subjects for stories.

  14. RE: Frank Santoro

    While Alex ross is “just” a Photo Referencer, like Santoro says, he also has artistic ability. If I try to look at a photo and make something beautiful out of it, you know what happens? Shit happens!

    Don’t all artists reference something when they are drawing? Not obviously, like Ross or these other people who actually have people posing for them, or photos beside their drawing table.

    So, because you don’t take directly from an exact source, you’re not as worthy?

    I guess what Frank Santoro is saying is that the Mona Lisa was shit, and we should throw it in a lake, because that’s just “copying.” and not totally from the imagination.

  15. I’m not sure what Snoid means by “genre crap”. Everything belongs to a genre. But I’m guessing he means no science fiction, fantasy, supers or horror…

    So I can’t use “Bone”, “A Distant Soil”, “Dynamo5″ or “The Walking Dead”. All current or past Image books. Or “Phonogram” and “Suburban Glamour”. Or “Invincible” or “Noble Causes” or “Casanova” or “Jack Staff” or “Godland”…

    Which leaves me what?

    “The Amazing Joy Buzzards”? “Pirates of Coney Island”? “Fell”? “Grrrl Scouts” or “PvP” perhaps?

    Man thinking up a single decent Image comic is hard!

  16. R. Maheras says:

    I appreciate the tremendous skill that goes into Alex Ross’ work, and I can also appreciate its fundamental beauty. It’s the type of work that, taken at an individual image level, I can examine for hours — particularly the originals. He’s a far better artist than I will ever be.

    That said, I’ve never thought of his work as true sequential art, because despite all of its individual splendor, I think it’s boring, repetitious and one-dimensional when strung together into a strip. With his photorealism style, he does not (or cannot) take advantage of the true creative freedoms a comic strip offers, ala a Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Basil Wolverton or Winsor McKay.

    I think of Ross as fundamentally a cover artist who opted to create strips.

    To put this into perspective, however, I’ve never been a huge fan of Boris Vallejo (exclusively a cover artist) or Hal Foster, either — some pretty good artistic company, don’t you think? All were outstanding at creating eye candy, but it was frequently soulless eye candy, in my opinion. Vallejo, for example, created work in the Frazetta vein, and while it was gorgeous at first glance, it had little of the life, creativity and power of a Frazetta piece. In short, if Frazetta’s work exuded life, Vallejo’s work was like a “death mask” version of something that was once alive and vibrant.

    Of the three, Foster’s work most often showed the creativity, epic feel, and power I yearned as a comics aficionado, but to this day I remember Sunday after boring Sunday where Foster’s strip was great to look at but boring as hell.

    Give me a Kirby, Wally Wood or Norman Saunders any day of the week, and I’ll be a much happier comics aficionado.

  17. I cannot wait to read Goddess of War, it looks amazing.

    As for work produced by Image comics which showcased talent, creativity, and originality in writing, art, and storytelling: The Authority, Astro City, Tellos, Kabuki, Rising Stars, the Alan Moore runs on premiere image titles like WildCats and Supreme, The Maxx, Powers, Savage Dragon, and more recently Invincible and Parade with Fireworks.. Also, Wildstorm’s ABC line of comics, including Promethea, which is in my opinion the best comic series ever, began while Wildstorm was still a part of Image.

  18. Bill, most of what you mentioned is now with DC, Top Cow, Marvel and Supreme is Rob Liefeld’s property. Your missing out on a ton of good books. Girls, Ultra, The Walking Dead, Godland, Fell, Dynamo 5, Bomb Queen, The Nightly News. Those are just the ones Ive gotten to so far.

  19. I think Snoid is really Eric Stephenson, and he posted that just to make everyone name all those really good Image comics…

    …to which I’ll add The Sword and Proof.

  20. Jonathan says:

    Wouldn’t it be fun to also list other photo-referencing artists and bash them too? Let’s start writing down all the talented guys that we want to discredit entirely. I’ll start then you guys join in with others that are irredeemable and wholly without merit because the look at live models, photos, or use a light box…

    Greg Land
    Tony Harris
    Tim Bradstreet

  21. David Riches says:

    Okay many people have made points here and I think that it needs to take a second breath deeply and look at this in a fair way, just to see what’s being said.
    Frank Santoro said his problem was not just Alex Ross but Photo Referencing in art. The problem was he found copying a photo to be not technical to the actual comics work. Comparitively he refered to it as fumetti saying there is no real pannel to pannel work. Bottom line the idea is the photo’s or photo realism is not lending to an improvement in the art of story telling. This trend is looked upon as a negative influence. That is what his problem was laying pictures in an album does not tell the story. Okay that was his point.
    To counter that people start to lash at Image or defend Image comics.
    To recounter the original statement by Mr Santoro we had comparisons to Alex Raymond, Norman Rockwell, and the Mona Lisa. Seems everyone missed Marvel’s Fumetti book in the 1980’s.
    Someone then missed the original point of Mr Santoro’s and said cover artists who could not tell a story inside the comic. That sounded like an attack on Mr. Ross directly but didn’t degenerate Mr. Ross’s work just his ability. Thoughts ran to Todd McFarland and Spider-Man.
    Then somehow we degenerate the conversation into defending Image comics as being diverse publisher. They were earlier compared with Eightball and Acme, fine comparisons for a company with Authority or AstroCity or Powers or Age Of Bronze. Along these lines we slip into the wrong loop away from the original point of Mr Santoro’s which was Photo realism ruins comic story telling.
    To this we have the Universe X, Kingdom Come, Justice, and JSA to look upon to compare for Mr Ross’s work. Fine paintings and lined up do they act like comics and tell a story. I always wondered whatever happened to the doohickey Batman played with in Kingdom Come that disappeared the next pannel. However the rest of the story telling lines are intact. It’s no worse than most comic story tellers and is almost direct lines from the Kubert book or even the originals. Take the oversized books Alex Ross did with single storys of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Shazam. Not a single pannel without the photo realism influence. But he has to tell the same story that has been told hundreds of times before and you have to see where the influence grows. Classic Shuster rocket brings baby to Earth, film versions of the Batmobile, the beachs of Paradise Island, and the Rock of Eternity. The fact is if you want to see new concepts in story telling look all around and you see people experiment all day. If you want a successful comic book the racks are filled with hundereds. Is Mr Ross’s work a successful comic? Yes or we wouldn’t be talking about it so personally. Does it add or detract from the medium which was Frank Santoro’s original point that it’s bad? Only time will tell but personally I think it makes people who want to ape Mr Ross style think twice when they see the amount of work that goes into not just making the pictures but telling the story and isn’t putting the pictures with words to tell a story what comics are all about? In this Alex Ross is a success. That’s why the two page origins in the back of Countdown were so hit and miss some told a story but a lot were just lay the facts down on the character.
    I always wondered if Lichstein did pannel to panel work could he tell a story? Didn’t Monet number some of his paintings to tell a story? Don’t we watch M & M’s commercials because they tell a story? There are no pannel to pannel transitions but the ceiling of the Sistine chapel tells a story that makes an interesting book in the giftshop. We need to think does the style of a medium truly effect the out come of the medium. If Alex Ross’s Justice was turned into South Park art style would it still be as good? I vote yes.

  22. People here are commenting on Frank Santoro’s remarks on Alex Ross, from a post that also mentioned Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s outstanding but sadly overlooked Flex Mentallo. So I’m just chiming in to note that Flex Mentallo should be read and enjoyed by everybody (maybe one day it will get the trade paperback and publicity it deserves). Regarding Ross, well, while I appreciate Santoro’s take on Ross’s style, I’ve always enjoyed the artist’s work, especially on the Justice League of America, individual members or combined.

  23. I would so love to say something really sarcastic. But I won’t.

    Thanks, elektra and Kat.

  24. Yeah, Flex Mentallo was pretty great, and so is Kabuki, which came out of Image. This is a good thread people. I’m smiling. See… :) Now, how about a hug. Group hug everybody!!!

  25. Torsten Adair says:

    The one Image title I hand to people who don’t normally read comics?

    True Story Swear to God.

    His work is heartfelt, honest, funny… Go buy the essential edition just published.

    All those others are good, too. But TSStG is one of those rare comics I can hand to my parents.

  26. Sphinx Magoo says:

    Seriously tho’. I don’t care if he’s talking about Todd McFarlane, Mike Manley, Sal Buscema, Eric Shanower, Alex Ross, Joe Quesada, John Byrne, Curt Swan, or whoever, when a blogger states something like: “It’s true, I hate ____’s work. He’s got great technical ability, but big deal. … He’s the worst example for a young artist to have, the worst role model. No one has done more harm to the form than ____.” he’s gonna have to expect trouble. These kind of blanket statements are kind of silly; they’re the equivalent of playing with poking sticks in a fire ant mound.

    But kudos to Laura Hudson on the Grant Morrison essay. There’s a lot of meat in there and she only scratched the surface a little. There’s stuff about levels of reality and thought that make Final Crisis more exciting that I thought it would be. I read issue 2 last night and I was pretty stunned. For myself, reading this book only and not a bunch of other tie-in stories I was really left wondering what the heck was going to happen next. I am quite hooked, so any additional perspectives (like Ms. Hudson’s) are very appreciated.

  27. Russell says:

    How is Alex’s panel-to-panel work different than any other artist’s? Comic panels are snapshots of a greater story, screencaps if you will. Alex takes photos of live models and draws and paints from those photo references. The only difference between how Alex paints and any classical portrait artist is that he has the advantage of photography technology. It doesn’t require a model to stay seated in his studio. He doesn’t trace the photos — he uses them for reference, like countless other comic-book artists.

    And let me ask this: What’s wrong with fumetti? What’s wrong with using different techniques in a medium in an effort to spice things up or try something new? Dave McKean used digitally manipulated images and three-dimensional objects in his Sandman covers — are they not art? David Mack’s techniques in Kabuki are mind-blowingly different; is it not a comic book because it’s not traditional images on a 9-panel grid?

  28. Does anyone know why Diamond canceled all orders of Goddess of War? I had to order my copy from Picturebox direct and I wanted to get some to stock in the store I work at in ABQ.

  29. Dan Nadel says:

    Diamond should have Goddess in stock. I’ll check on that. Thanks.

  30. I want to correct something written above about Norman Rockwell. He DID use photographs, extensively, throughout much of his career. He started in an age when photos were more difficult to take and develop, and used live models like everyone else. However, as soon as it became technologically feasible to do so, he began using photography as an important part of his work.

    Rockwell would set up the models and lighting, and used a professional photographer to take the shots. He would take as many as 75 shots per single picture in preparation for the final drawing.

    Most of the great illustrators of the “golden age of illustration” used models. Andrew Loomis writes extensively about the technique (and how to correct for lens distortion and the compression of light/dark values in photos) in his great instructional books. Many of the best comics artists in history – Alex Raymond, Frank Frazetta, Wally Wood, Al Williamson, Neal Adams, to name a few, have used photo reference.

    So, while it’s possible to have a debate about whether we enjoy photo-referencing (I do!) it really helps to have some correct background information when talking about the subject.

  31. In response to David Riches’ musing about whether Roy Lichtenstein could do panel-to-panel storytelling… Well, since he stole all of his single-panel work from better artists, and obviously had no original ideas or talent of his own (other than to make the stuff he stole REAL BIG), I’d say no, he couldn’t. Unless he stole a whole story, which frankly, I’m surprised he never tried.

  32. The Beat says:

    I will always love Alex Ross for this if nothing else:

    Alex-Ross Bush-Liberty

    I think this image will live on for a while.

    As for Snoid’s bizarre non-sequitur Image put down, if I had not just been on a heavenly trip to Ikea I would have taken it down, but it does seem to have sparked a lively debate.

  33. How’d he get George to pose fer THAT one?

    //Oo/\

  34. It may not be on the same level as Eightball or ACME (and I don’t think I want it to be) but Image’s Rocketo was a fine adventure story.

    The Laura Hudson Flex Mentallo/Final Crisis essay IS outstanding. Encore!

  35. …and Heidi, look how much is said in that one painting. It speaks 8 years worth for so many people, not just in America, but all around the world.

  36. The Bush-as-vampire image is indeed striking… but it’s very much a political cartoon of the moment no matter what your take on #43.

    You want to see Ross really get outside his comfort zone and show he has true cartooning (i.e. panel-to-panel) skills AND can make a truly relevant statement while doing so, then check out “Uncle Sam.” Now that’s some seriously good comics on every level.

    Not that I’m dissing any of the man’s other work. I think he’s a genius. He has a style and he does great work within it. Other cartoonists have other styles and they do great work as well. Comics is a large medium and it contains multitudes. We should celebrate this rather than deride it.

  37. I have that laex Ross rendition of George Bush on a t-shirt and everytime I self consciously put it on and walk down the street – I get a variety of looks from people. Some say to me – it’s the most brilliant thing and others tell me that it’s a abomination.

    One time I wore it in Vegas and it was the first time in my life I EVER really pissed my dad off.

    My aunt in New Mexico was scared that people might start shooting at us when we were driving through Gallup.

    ~

    Coat

  38. Leialoha says:

    “Norman Rockwell painted from live models, not photographs, and actually placing local townspeople in his paintings. (Although Alex Ross did something similar, like how Ms. Beat can be found in the pages of Kingdom Come.)”

    In “My Adventures as an Illustrator”, Rockwell recounts a visit from JC Leyendecker, who was seriously old school: live models only, no photos ever. They both pointedly ignored the copious photo references Rockwell had laying around the stusio for his works in progress.

    In the end, it doesn’t matter how you do it. It’s what you do with it. So to speak.

  39. Alan Coil says:

    I’m all for a reasonable expression of someone’s opinion. We all can’t be alike, or like the same things.

    But…really.

    Does anyone actually think that Alex Ross cares what we think? He does a job, gets paid well for it, and is in constant demand. That is all the justification that one would need on the quality of one’s work.

  40. michael says:

    I enjoyed that Laura Hudson post. :)

  41. Matt,

    I know a good deal of that stuff has moved, which is something else in itself speaking to Image’s place and importance, that the creators owned their work and could take it with them. Think about Matt Wagner’s Mage, and the problems he faced moving on with the series once Comico went under. Image is still the place where much great work saw the light of day, even if that work did not remain there due to the vagaries of business.

    I love Bomb Queen, and I am not sure how I managed to overlook Fell in that list. I was really just listing a smattering of work published at Image to disagree with snood, not provide a definitive list of their accolades. Some day I’ll catch up on all the good stuff. Some day.

  42. I wish people would check out the thread at Comics Comics since not all the people totally agree with Frank and there’s a very fascinating discussion taking place.

  43. nvigneaux says:

    “I have a challenge for you, name one comic that Image has done that has risen to the level of Eightball or ACME. Just one.”

    There have been several listed already, but I would like to add one of my favorites: A Touch of Silver by Jim Valentino.

    On another subject, I don’t particularly like the style of Alex Ross. Sometimes what he does works great and looks perfect, and sometimes it makes a completely jarring image which seems out of place with the subject matter. I much prefer Bradstreet and Harris, but that mostly has to do with the types of things they draw than their style. Sometimes Bradstreet’s photo-realism bothers me, but not nearly as much as Alex Ross. No single style is the “correct” style. It can only be correct for a specific project. I wouldn’t want the style of Alex Ross to be the dominant style for many reasons, but the same can be said for most other styles out there. NO style should be dominant, really. Variety is the spice of life. If more than 25% of all comics had Alex Ross covers, then it would be time to worry. For now, calm down already.

  44. Nick Sacco says:

    “I do not know who Frank Santoro is, nor why I should listen to his whizdom regarding one of the greatest artistic talents to ever grace the funny book world (along with Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby, Gene Ha, for starters).”

    Whoa, whoa, whoa. WHOA.

    Whoa.

    You can say what you think of Ross, pro and con, but comparing him to Ditko and Kirby is just so off the mark, it’s ridiculous.

    I don’t mind Ross, I enjoy his work to an extent, but would enjoy to see him grow his talent, which I’m not seeing. I recognize that he’s an important part of this generation, but comparing him to the legends like that is just insane.

  45. “I don’t mind Ross, I enjoy his work to an extent, but would enjoy to see him grow his talent, which I’m not seeing.”

    I agree with this a little bit. He is getting stronger as a painter over all, but hasn’t ever broken out of what he was doing 10 years ago. Of course, it does put bread on his table, so good for him. Keep of the good work. I love Ross’ art. He’s a much better painter then I, and I’m damn good, if I do say so myself. :) However, I’d love to see him expand into new territories, like Dave McKean (Ross says McKean’s book Black Orchid inspired him to paint comics in the first place) is constantly doing. I’m not saying he should do stuff like McKean’s, but just to open up to more of the possibilities art has to offer. There are an awful lot of them, and I bet he could really kick some ass with them. He could always go back to what he was doing before, if no one buys it.

  46. AERose says:

    “…and Heidi, look how much is said in that one painting. It speaks 8 years worth for so many people, not just in America, but all around the world.”

    With all the subtlety and taste of hitting a kitten with a sledgehammer.

    Whether you agree with the political statement implicit to the cover or not, it remains utterly abominable as a piece of art. There’s no mystery to it, no food for thought, no provocation other than the provocation for those who agree with that to loudly proclaim “I agree!” and for those who don’t to proclaim “I disagree!”

    Beyond that it’s doesn’t only fail to capture the complexity of the situation but avoids any hint of complexity whatsoever. The painting says “Bush is evil.” But why is Bush evil? Is he a man with the best of intentions who is misguided into destroying all that we hold dear? Is he a craven opportunist looking to increase his own personal power? Is he merely an impotent figurehead? There’s no delicate shading here, only broad strokes.

    Which is not to say a blunt statement can’t be art, but the painting also lacks the appropriate viscera to lift it out of the mires of its shallow thought processes. The only emotion here is a kind of college-dorm-room smugness. As if he showed the final product to his room mate and they both stared at it for minutes reverently intoning “oh man, so true.”

    The craftmanship is there, as always with Alex Ross, but the soul is conspicuously lacking. It’s an Eric Clapton cover of a Robert Johnson tune; technically correct but not true.

    (Full disclosure: I’m apolitical, believe that the government is and always will be in the hands of what Mencken called “jobholders” who are concerned only with perpetuating their own authority, and I dislike Alex Ross not only because his art style is flat and emotionless, but also because of his repeated artistic failures as a “concept man,” especially Kingdom Come, that whole Earth X debacle, and his current mucking about in Justice Society.)

  47. AERose says:

    As an aside, I also blame Ross for successfully making a whole raft of Paul Dini scripts horrifically boring. They might have been boring to begin wit, I know, but I’d rather blame Ross for the finished product.

  48. As a whole I see your point AERose, but could also give counter to it. I’m just to busy to write the essay I feel turning inside me. Maybe, for my magazine at some point, I will. As for making Paul Dini Scripts “horrifically boring,” I blame Paul Dini for that in full. Those were just cheap rundowns of DC heroes, meant to be sold at the WB Stores. No amount of great art could save them.

  49. AERose, I’m in agreement with Christopher – the only thing that made those Dini books even vaguely interesting was the great art. And I completely disagree with your tastes across the board, it seems: Ross’s work always crackles with life and energy, and elevates project in which he’s involved from mere entertainment to Art.

    Also, while I’m going on here, I’ll give you my two cents on the Bush painting. Far from being a simple “Bush is evil” statement, the artist chose (cleverly, IMO) a PARTICULAR evil icon. Not just mindless destruction or generic evil, but the image of the leader of a country draining the life’s blood from that very own country. He’s sucked it dry and now hungrily looks for more. Also, the psycho-sexual component of the Vampire myth can’t be ignored, and Ross uses this as well. After all, he’s not killing Uncle Sam, he’s metaphorically ravaging Lady Liberty.

    Bush could have been likened to Godzilla, or Frankenstein, or King Kong, or anything. Hell, he could have been kicking puppies. These would all show the “evil” idea in broad strokes. Instead, I think the artist’s idea in the allegory is very precise and at least somewhat layered.

  50. AERose says:

    “Far from being a simple “Bush is evil” statement, the artist chose (cleverly, IMO) a PARTICULAR evil icon. Not just mindless destruction or generic evil, but the image of the leader of a country draining the life’s blood from that very own country. He’s sucked it dry and now hungrily looks for more. Also, the psycho-sexual component of the Vampire myth can’t be ignored, and Ross uses this as well. After all, he’s not killing Uncle Sam, he’s metaphorically ravaging Lady Liberty.”

    Which still dodges the issue of “why,” and in doing so either shows incredible naiveté by painting Bush as someone who is simply evil without motivation, or a conscious shallowness of expression. Either way the finished product is a shallow piece of art.

    As for your argument that the use of Lady Liberty represents something clever and purpose driven, I would say that if it did it was wasted effort. If Bush is going to be portrayed as a single-minded destroyer-of-all-that-is-good, what matter if he’s a vampire, or King Kong, or anything else? The iconography does little to sharpen the point when the point is “Bush is evil. Arguments need not apply.”

    If the painting in question really does live on for a while, as the honorable Beat thinks it will, I would take that as an indictment either of artists for failing to level nuanced or clever or visceral criticisms of the President in the medium of painting, or an indictment of the taste of Americans who allow the painting to live on.

    (As an aside, the bit about Dini/Ross was mostly snark. I do rather enjoy treating Ross as a personal comic book Sin Eater. Someone who knew me better would have called me out for the hypocrisy of putting all the blame for Kingdom Come on Alex Ross and none on Mark Waid, who is one of my favorite comic book writers. I just enjoy blaming Ross.)

  51. When so many people are just plane sick of Bush, they’re going to enjoy having a bit of fun over it. This painting is going to go down in history in that vain (pun intended) if you like it or hate it. I wonder if there are still any limited edition prints of it left. I should have picked it up, the last time I had the chance. I think it’s going to go for a lot of money some day. I’ll have to see when I go to comic con. I’ve got the Uncle Sam one he did at least.

  52. AERose says:

    If we’re introducing the component of humor into the conversation, well, put it this way: I would not like to have drinks with anyone who would get a giggle out of that.

    If it goes for a lot of money; again, indictment, taste, etc.

  53. “If it goes for a lot of money; again, indictment, taste, etc.”

    All that is irrelevant in the face of history. It is what it is.

  54. AERose says:

    I rather thought that how much money it could possibly go for would be irrelevant in the face of history. People will spend their money on crap and on gold but a bad piece of art will remain a bad piece of art.

  55. All I’m saying is that people will pay big money for a piece of history. People said that the impressionists were crappy artist, too. Tried to buy a Van Gogh lately?

  56. AERose – I think I’ve figured out why I keep coming back and being annoyed with your posts. It’s because you don’t ever say “in my opinion” it’s “bad art”. You say, as though it’s a fact, that Ross makes “bad art”.

    OK, maybe I’ll play your game: it’s not bad art, it’s pretty darn Good Art, and anyone who thinks otherwise is wrong.

    No, that’s kind of obnoxious, actually. How about, instead, we agree that in matters of aesthetics, other people might have different opinions from yours which are, at minimum, equally valid?

  57. AERose says:

    The various and sundry “in my opinion”s were omitted because I thought anyone who might read my post would be capable of filling in the blanks. Just because I don’t explicitly kowtow to the gods of subjectivity doesn’t mean I’m not keenly aware of the lack of objective truth in my posts.

    I’d also add that that last bit about all opinions being equal (though some being more equal than others) is an odious bit of uncritical thinking.

    Also: Moonlight, your analogy is wonky. Van Gogh died penniless and unknown, Alex Ross will die fabulously rich and well loved in his field. A more logical analogy would be Alex Ross to Van Gogh’s commercial contemporaries, of which I can name none, which illustrates my point nicely.

    Which is not to say Ross will fall into obscurity later only because he’s popular now. In my opinion he’ll fall into obscurity because he isn’t very good.

    But predicting the future is a mug’s game, that we can be sure of.

  58. “But predicting the future is a mug’s game, that we can be sure of.”

    I’ll ask my mug, next time I have a cup of coffee. Also, you may not like Ross’ work, but he is good.

  59. Hmm, maybe my speculation will drive it’s value up. Hey, that’s how gas prices work.

  60. AE, you seem to be one of those sorts who feel that the nicer someone is to them, the more of an opportunity that is for you to be a jerk. I try to be diplomatic; you call my thinking “odious”. Very well then, since you have no respect for any attempts to be civil, here’s what I really think: your taste in art is uninformed, confused, and just plain bad. Better?

    (You can’t name any commercial contemporaries of Van Gogh? Really? Not Pyle or Nast or Mucha, or Doré to name some who to mind immediately?)

  61. AERose says:

    I call you thinking odious because it is odious. “How about, instead, we agree that in matters of aesthetics, other people might have different opinions from yours which are, at minimum, equally valid?” is A.) a subjectivist cop-out argument and B.) contradictory to the point you’re trying to get across. Why must other peoples’ opinions be, at minimum, equal to mine? Why do other peoples’ opinions have the opportunity to be better than mine, whereas my arguments can only at best be equal to theirs? You’re trying to hide behind subjectivity but you’re tripping over your own words on the way.

    Are my arguments handed down from God, imbued with the incorruptible characteristic of pure truth? Probably not. Are they more valid than someone who argues that, (for example) Alex Ross is a bad artist because his fans aren’t good debaters? I should certainly like to think so.

    As for my being a jerk; if you say so. I have no interest in provoking you to name calling, my interest here is to argue the merits of Alex Ross. Your last two posts have been frustrating to me in that regard because you’ve given up even trying to outline Ross’s merits as an artist and the merits of the painting that I originally commented on. Those are what I want to discuss, not entry-level Critical Thinking and how much of a big stupid meanie I am.

    As for Moonlight:

    “Also, you may not like Ross’ work, but he is good.”

    I think I’ll keep my own counsel on this one, as you too have given up even trying to explain why Ross is good.

  62. Alright, a comic as good as Eightball or ACME from Image– Kyle Baker’s Special Forces, Mike Allred’s Madman, The Jim MahFood stuff, The Popgun Anthologies, the Next Issue project, amongst others.

    Its stupid to dismiss an artist who references photos. Like it or not, the choice of color, the choice of model pose, and drawing the damn thing is an art in itself. Compare Alex Ross to the artists on Ultimate Fantastic Four or Thunderbolts. He references photos not as a crutch but as a way to make his art more solid.

  63. R. Maheras says:

    Alex wrote: “He references photos not as a crutch but as a way to make his art more solid.”

    I disagree. I think the overreliance of photo references is, in fact, a crutch.

    I think it limits an artist’s imagination, and it makes an artist’s drawings repetitious – ESPECIALLY when it comes to sequential art.

    That said, in today’s marketplace, I understand why an artist who has deadlines and has to create “on demand” to pay the bills uses heavy doses of photo references.

    I’m old school, I guess. I like artists who create their worlds spontaneously, and then, if they even have to, go back to tweak stuff for accuracy by referring to reference photos.

    Face it: almost any artist of any skill level can copy photos. I don’t know how many high school kids I’ve seen over the years that could do so with ease. But I say, for sequential art, what’s the point? Why not just do fumetti?

  64. “I think I’ll keep my own counsel on this one, as you too have given up even trying to explain why Ross is good.”

    Sure I will, at some point. Right now I’ve got a deadline to meet. Stay tuned, to my magazine sites, and remember to try and have some fun.

  65. I don’t know if you’ve tried to draw from photos yourself, but to me, whatever comes out always has the artists’ stamp on it. Its impossible to actually trace a photo and then have it be mistaken for the human being, so there must be some kind of interpretation. Besides, most artists, are always drawing from some kind of reliance on reality. Ross does pose all of those photos himself.

    As for the worlds, I think the robot invasion at the end of Marvels, the prison and wastelands of Kingdom Come and the fantastic but familiar worlds in Paul Dini’s ‘Superheroes’, and the sickly ‘Uncle Sam’ speak to the artist’s ability to create that.

    Pencils aside, in the instances where Ross didn’t do them (like in the Jim Lee Batman/ Superman poster, or the fold out in Evanier’s Kirby book) his colors and tones tell as much of a story as his realistic pencils do. I remember hearing Bruce Timm talk about how the colors influenced the colors in the JLA toon.

    I think he’s the bee’s knees. He brings out the best in superhero comics with his art, which is whiz-bang simple fun, which is ironic considering what he’s known for. His art is direct, the colors are bright, and its hard not to ‘enjoy’ his work, even if you dislike it from a technical or philosophical standpoint.

  66. snoid says:

    “Alright, a comic as good as Eightball or ACME from Image– Kyle Baker’s Special Forces, Mike Allred’s Madman, The Jim MahFood stuff, The Popgun Anthologies, the Next Issue project, amongst others.”

    Baker and Allred are ok, but in no way is their work up to the level of Eightball or Acme. As for the rest, not even worth talking about in the same breath as Baker and Allred much less Clowes and Ware.

  67. …in your opinion. This is all opinion. But did you read Special Forces though? That stuff is intense. And the entirety of Madman is more kaleidoscopic than Ware and Clowes have yet attempted. They do different things. That in no way makes Image a waste of time…

  68. snoid says:

    “…in your opinion. This is all opinion.”

    True that. Of course on the good old net here it comes out like fact. IMO, (just to be clear), 99.99% of Image comic are a waste of time, if the sampling in the new previews is any indication.
    And yes I’ve read Special Forces, which I like a lot (tho’ The Cowboy Wally Show is much better IMO), and I’ve read plenty of Madman stuff, but they just don’t compare. Those books are like really good hollywood movies, whereas for me, Eightball and Acme are like the best movies I’ve ever seen.

  69. Okay, time for me to move on, but this aint ova. :) I’ll be back with an Unbreakable, essay on the subject of Ross’ talent, that will bring Justice to the subject and blow you all to Kingdom Come, leaving nothing be a Burning Earth, and you will all Marvels at.

  70. AERose says:

    The only way I see you doing that is if your counterpart from Earth X writes it. (Where Alex Ross draws like Darwyn Cooke ohhhhhhhhh buuuuuuurn.)

  71. Oh it’s on.

  72. AERose says:

    “The iconography does little to sharpen the point when the point is “Bush is evil. Arguments need not apply.”

    What’s an example of a one-panel editorial cartoon that does put forth an “argument” rather than simply denouncing a person or practice as stupid/vicious/wrong?

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