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Revenge of The Fanboy

Alex Ross, painter of supermen and superwomen, makes it easy to believe in heroes

Kingdom Come also was turned into a novel...

"Oh, dear God," Ross groans. "Why don't you take out a pin and poke me in the ass right now?"

Not one to miss taking a swipe at greed, Ross' follow-up to Kingdom Come was the ultimate downer: Uncle Sam. The two-book series for DC's Vertigo offshoot told the story of a homeless man, who indeed looks like the title character, suffering for our country's sins. Bouncing through time, Sam finds himself in a mental asylum, in the middle of battlefields, speaking to Abraham Lincoln, and, finally, face to face with a grand, glib version of himself who speaks in George Bush platitudes. Ross' vision of America as "a big advertisement for a product that doesn't exist" sold poorly (around 20,000 copies). He could have expected no less.

The two sides of Alex Ross: Kingdom Come's Superman and
EarthX's Captain America, painted for Wizard magazine.
The two sides of Alex Ross: Kingdom Come's Superman and EarthX's Captain America, painted for Wizard magazine.
Batman one is: A scene from Batman: War on Crime
Batman one is: A scene from Batman: War on Crime

Early last year, Ross debuted his own follow-up to Kingdom Come--using Marvel, not DC, characters. Titled Earth X, the series also was set 20 years in the future, where everyone on earth is a superhuman, the result of a mysterious plague that has rendered all of humanity, in essence, mutant X-Men. Spider-Man has become a fat slob, Daredevil is invincible, and Captain America is a scarred relic out to save the earth from itself. This July, Ross and his collaborators will present Universe X, in which humans, when presented with a "cure," reject it, deciding they no longer wish to be mortal. Ross will then follow that up with his third "big book" for DC, this one starring Captain Marvel: Shazam! Power of Hope.

Ross insists he loses money doing these oversize books for DC, that he can make far more doing a single cover illustration for a comics mag such as Wizard -- a couple thousand bucks a pop, and he's finishing two this very afternoon. And most of the proceeds from the sales of Superman: Peace on Earth and Batman: War on Crime, in addition to original pieces of Ross' art, go to various charities, including the Make-A-Wish Foundation and UNICEF.

Ross likes to say it's his small way of acting like a superhero, of doing some good when he could easily do nothing. "These characters are about action beyond yourself," he says. Ross then chuckles, realizing he could easily be confused with a man who takes himself -- and his comic books -- quite seriously.

"Hey, I'm as big of a prick as anybody else. It's what that character is capable of. It's what that concept is good for. The hope is that you begin to instill in other people a sense of the passion and the understanding of the values that those characters are supposed to represent. I mean, ultimately superheroes were created as not just entertainment icons, but as metaphors for virtuous thought. The entire concept of the superhero is an altruistic act, so, therefore, there's a philosophy behind that that is generally lost on modern society. Are these comics going to be part of rekindling a little bit of that? I can only pray so, but you never know if that is going to be the case."

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