Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Wizard Sketchbook: Alex Ross invades the Marvel U.

A number of articles featured on Wizard Universe today that I'll reproduce here, since they interest me.

The first one features sketches from my favourite painter in the comics book world of all-time: Alex Ross!

Alex Ross drawing Captain America...a dream come true!

The superstar painter opens his sketchbook for an exclusive look at his first mainstream Marvel Universe miniseries 'Avengers/Invaders'

By Kiel Phegley

Posted November 26, 2007 10:00 AM

Ask Alex Ross how he feels about having to coordinate his latest creative vision to the current landscape of the Marvel Universe, and the best-selling painter pulls no punches.

“[It’s] absolutely awful,” laughs the painter as well known for his majestic realism as he is for his adherence to creative freedom. “But then again, I’ve had it my way for so long, there’s got to be some give-and-take in this.”

And while the painter’s return to Marvel after a four-year absence has proven a happy occasion for artist and publisher, don’t expect the sudden arrival of the World War II-era Invaders team featuring Namor, Captain America, the Human Torch and their sidekicks to create quite as joyous a reunion for the New and Mighty Avengers squads.

“Both teams are going to be deeply suspicious of one another in this situation and wanting to get into contact with the Invaders first,” reveals Ross. “Eventually, the issue of what each one of them desires to do with this group of transplanted heroes is going to fall sway to a larger issue that will dominate both teams’ lives and choices.”

But before the 12-issue mini-series, Avengers/Invaders—with Ross covers, a script co-written with his longtime collaborator Jim Krueger and interiors from Steve Sadowski (JSA)—hits

ROSS: “The thing that has appealed to me about the Invaders was that unlike the dramatic lead superheroes of the 1940s, the Marvel heroes were always shown as very much engaged in the war.

“They were illustrated in these phenomenal covers by Alex Schomburg fighting Nazi or Japanese forces. It was very striking that unlike other superheroes who seemed to be more stateside, dealing with more fantastical enemies, these guys were in the thick of it. ‘In the sh--,’ so to speak. [Laughs]”

ROSS: “Not that I got much of a chance to do that here, but I look forward to any further illustrations I get to do of the more inspired-by-Frank Cho women of the Marvel Universe. Particularly in his depiction of Wasp and Ms. Marvel, I am so grateful for Frank’s contribution to the art form of making sexy women in comics, because he’s brought booty back. Plenty of guys can draw big boobs, but to really appreciate the structure of a healthy woman and a robust physique? God bless him for that.

“Every storyline in the Marvel Universe right now is about how Tony Stark is trying to manage the entire world and all the chaos therein. This is a new wrinkle thrown into his life, and so he would most deeply interact with the guy who had been his best friend. It is Cap. It’s 100 percent Cap. It’s just a Cap that hasn’t met Tony yet. I totally get behind the idea of where Tony Stark has

ROSS: “I had one model I started using in Marvels in 1990 when I first did my pitch art for that series. I was working with a friend of mine who I decided, since he was a handsome blond guy, let me use him as the Human Torch. And then as I started working on the series, I needed a model for Captain America. Well, hell—throw him in as Captain America.

“Here I’ve got the one guy my model Frank Casey posed for as the Human Torch sitting side by side with another blond guy he initially was the model for, and I don’t want you to see the same face. And I’ve always thought my top choice for Captain America, if he could have been portrayed in a movie in the last 15 years, would have been [former NFL star] Howie Long. So there’s a little bit of Howie Long in this face you see here.”

ROSS: “What should be obvious in the way that this story writes itself is that in today’s continuity, of the [three] original Invaders, there’s only one of those men who’s currently alive. And that’s Namor. So if they’re going to travel into the present and cross paths with modern heroes, how can you write a story that doesn’t pit the two of them at each other? And wouldn’t one of Namor’s first instincts be to go and find out what’s happened to his people?”

ROSS: “It relates to [the original] teaser piece I created. People could have figured it out by seeing those two other hands and saying, ‘Wait a minute. I recognize those gloves. I recognize those hands.’

“You start sketching the position of one figure like I did with Captain America, and then I just built from there the way that Namor with his back to Cap but still looking at Captain America has an interactive quality with the figure. And then Bucky completely with his back turned—it’s all interactive in one way or another. And it is intentionally playing up the importance of the Cap figure, but also placing sly commentary on the others.”

ROSS: “[The idea of an Avengers/Invaders series was] building off particularly the contemporary New Avengers, and their split into two groups over the past year has been an interesting addition to that. When this whole thing started off, the idea of Captain America meeting himself in the future was in there. It was going to be like Earth-1 and Earth-2 Captain Americas, but obviously you don’t have that here. You have an even more fragmented society, but in the case of our storytelling we’re going to get mostly the physical get-together of what had been the New Avengers with Iron Man, Spider-Man, Spider-Woman and Wolverine—all those guys together and seeing them operate together. But [in this piece] everybody is separated from Spider-Woman for a reason.

“[The toothpick in Wolverine’s mouth means] this is a guy who’s being forced to not smoke by external powers beyond his control. [Laughs] I’m glad that most restaurants and bars in Illinois have changed to be smoke-free. But at the same time, when it comes to these fictional characters, their smoking can’t harm me, and I don’t think kids read comics enough to actually want to learn to smoke.”

So looking forward to this. Even if it IS just Ross covers. But hot damn, it'd be awesome!

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