THIS WAS A CHEAT!
If you read regularly, you may have caught this blog in its preliminary form, which was a cheat. On Friday, I posted an unfinished because I need to have a post published every day to make my goal of the 365 consecutive posts.
In the history of the blog so far, 155 entries, I have only cheated this way once by posting an unfinished entry with the intention to finish it tomorrow. But this has been a weird day. Trying to ween off the narcotics and just had the catheter out. Sounds fun, doesn't it? Have to re-train myself how to urinate. Joyful. And yet, on a daily basis, the Batman takes more punishment. (I had to someone tie in my situation to today's subject.)
For regular readers, I am so thankful for your support. So, you may have seen the rough draft and work in progress or maybe you are tuning in later for the finished product. I did not share Friday's unfinished product with any social media in the hopes that it would go unnoticed until I could finish it.
ANOTHER NOTE BEFORE WE START:
A good person (identity protected for to observe security protocol Alpha Delta Charlie Niner)--whom I do not know well and would like to know better--told me today that he regularly follows my blog and, thus, was apprised of my recent circumstances and had refrained from speaking to me in public because of my previous cries for privacy. The exchange with this smart, young man warmed my heart. Thanks, dude. You rock. It's just further proof that I am surrounded by a great and wonderful community and that many people apparently care about me as much as I care about them.
OFFICIAL AND YET WORKING DRAFT BEGINNING:
Hello again. I return to the regular blog production. This post has been over a week in the making. When I started this post, Grading Robot was at peak performance. I found that what I wanted to write about Alex Ross was going to involve more time and thought than I could devote during Grading Robot's most intense power time, and then, I had surgery.
For some odd reason, I thought I would have enough energy post surgery to not only finish this blog but get ahead during my hiatus.
So, I have some back log news, such as I had nice messages from a couple of TitanTalkers on T-shirt #144: Teen Titans, and when I tagged George Pérez on Facebook, he liked my post, which I consider a great compliment.
ERRORS IN T-SHIRTS BY COLOR
Last week, I categorized shirts by color and posted the list by frequency. I spent a fair share of time on this that I should have spent grading. What I did not do is ADD UP the list of numbers to see if it equaled the number of published posts. Originally, it was 15 shirts short. I fixed this problem, but now it seems to be one shirt short, which makes me fear that I have a numbering error somewhere. I went through the list of posts, and they are all categorized, even the unpublished drafts. But where is the missing shirt? I checked the counting, and it all looks accurate. So where is the missing shirt?
THE STORY OF THE BATMAN SHIRTS ON MACKINAW ISLAND - 1989
In 1989, I went on a vacation to Mackinaw Island with my parents. It was the summer the first Batman movie came out, the one directed by Tim Burton and starring Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson.
In one day, I counted over 60 different Batman T-shirts worn by, as far as I could tell, were over 60 different people. I cannot be absolutely sure I did not count anyone twice. But it seemed as if everywhere I looked someone was wearing some kind of Batman shirt.
This experience was the first I can remember about the mainstreaming of comic books. Previously, I would see evidence of people into Spider-Man or Hulk, and the original Batman craze really swept the country when I was very little as discussed somewhat in T-shirt #94. But seeing so many Batman T-shirts in one day really brought to mind how hugely popular that movie was at least with people on vacation on Mackinaw Island.
With my tendency to go the other way from the popular and mainstream, I did not buy or wear a T-shirt related to that 1989 Batman film.
WE ARE BATMAN - the movie
What is it about Batman? Many people consider him to be their favorite hero. I wonder if other heroes had more mainstream exposure if this adoration would remain in effect. Don't get me wrong. Batman is awesome. But so are many others who have not enjoyed much in the way of general public exposure.
And yet there is something about Batman. His insuperable spirit. His development as a true renaissance man: great at everything. The punishment he takes as he tries to make the world a better place. His angst as he must become part of the darkness he hates to help the world stay in the light, a light he can rarely enjoy.
And, so, Batman. He inspires me, and he has inspired many others as well.
There's a great Batman related Kickstarter project, You should check it out: WeAreBatman.
I have funded a four Kickstarters in the last year. I wrote about one Kickstarter that I did not fund in T-shirt #122. I can't believe I missed the Kickstarter for Dear Mr. Waterson. I am likely to write about another Kickstarter that I did fund soon (as there will be T-shirts), which is Veronica Mars.
However, for this post, I would like to mention the documentary Legends of the Knight and the Brett Culp site WeAreBatman dedicated to the film.
This is a very inspirational project.
One person can make a difference.
From Brett Culp's site: "But this movie isn't about Batman. It's about us. It is about who we are as people & who we desire to become.
The most important Batman tales are not in comic books, TV shows, or Hollywood movies. They are within the people for whom the Dark Knight has become a symbol. Not a symbol of fear - as he is for evil doers - but a symbol of hope.
Over many decades, the Caped Crusader has motivated people around the globe to overcome devastating obstacles, to help & encourage young people, or to be a vital contributor to the community. His legacy has also been a vehicle for connecting us to each other & stirring the hero within.
LEGENDS OF THE KNIGHT is an inspirational documentary that tells the stories that Batman has uncovered in us & the power of heroic storytelling to transform the world. Our goal is to inspire everyone on the planet who loves Batman to embody his spirit, engage with the world, and make a difference.
Together, WE ARE BATMAN!
In the spirit of Batman, all revenues generated by the completed film that are beyond production, screening, distribution, & administrative costs will be donated to charitable organizations" (WeAreBatman, 2013).
Batman embodies the very spirit and essence of how one person can make a difference.
THE IMPORTANCE OF ALEX ROSS
Alex Ross paints some of the most beautiful art work in all of comic book history. He has given us vividly real depictions of many heroes. Ross' art inspires us to believe in the heroic nature of heroes, to believe in the power of the individual spirit, but mostly to believe that the heroes are real.
Many comic fans would list Alex Ross in their top ten favorite artists. I would be inclined to add him to this list as well, though I am still not ready to make that entire list. Some things, like best artists, must be discovered slowly and decided after much thought and sampling. I will not be hasty with the favorite artist list.
Notice that I have dropped "comic book" as an adjective to modify artist. Alex Ross may paint comic book heroes. He may paint for publication in the comic book format. But more so than the majority of comic book artists over the years, Alex Ross is a true, fine artist. His work elevates the imagery above and beyond the four-color process, which was, once upon a time, cheap and disposable.
Six of the ten art pieces on display in my office (nine are on the walls and one is not) six of them are pieces painted by Alex Ross, including the Batman and Superman pics seen here above. Also, the Marvel Heroes and Villains lithographs and the Kingdom Come poster all hang on my walls as seen in the photos right and below. I had the over-sized huge posters of the Justice League and the Crisis on Infinite Earths featured later in this posting mounted on dry board. They used to hang in my bedroom, but I did not wish to inflict them on my wife (not much chance that she would want them in our bedroom), and so, since my parents moved, they are sitting a top my comic book collection stored at their condo.
So, my point being that, obviously, I REALLY adore the art of Alex Ross.
His art is meant to be hung on walls and considered in the realms of fine art. Not that other artists do not deserve such displays and accolades, but Ross is one of the most deserving in the history of comic book art and illustration.
I am not going to go through Ross' entire catalogue and share reviews and thoughts on every work. There is a whole book entitled Mythology dedicated to his art work with just DC Comics. He painted many over-sized specialty comics for DC, featuring some of their most iconic heroes: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, and two issues devoted to the Justice League. His Earth X series for Marvel was a delightful tour de force of geek lore for die-hard comic book fans.
I am going to write about two of his best books: Marvels and Kingdom Come, and then I am going to bring it back to Batman as write about Batman:Earth One as this is what appears in the photos of me with the shirt. I probably should have posed with an Alex Ross book.
|Marvel Heroes Lithograph by Alex Ross|
|Marvel Villains Lithograph by Alex Ross|
Another link and a short article:
A CONVERSATION WITH ALEX ROSS
(From Pittsburgh paper 2011)
Look closely at the Alex Ross art. One of the best aspects of his work is that he paints his creation from live models who pose in costume for him.
Here's a treat from a great blog called "Aquaman Eats Bologna," which has, sadly, not been updated since 2011: ROSS THE BEST ART TODAY
MARVELS - short review
MARVELS - WIKI
Marvels by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross is one of the most original and compelling books in comic history. In the world of superheroes, it would be my first choice as a recommendation for a non-comic book reader who wants to sample the comic book superhero world. Male or female. It's a better entry into comic books for reluctant women readers than Sandman, which has to stop being the "go-to" comic that is recommended for the tiny (but growing) female readership.
Published in 1994, Marvels blended realistic, painted art with fresh and innovative writing.
The most interesting thing about the book is its perspective. The main character is not a hero but is instead a news photographer named Phil Sheldon, who happens to be on scene to catch some of the most startling images from the birth of the age of superheroes. The book opens in pre-World War II America as New Yorkers witness the birth of the original Human Torch and his subsequent battles with Namor, the Sub-Mariner, before he joins the Invaders with Captain America among others to fight the Axis powers in the war.
The story continues after skipping ahead almost 20 years to the early days of the Fantastic Four and the coming of Galactus as well as the coming of the mutants, the X-Men, who are feared, maligned, and persecuted. The series concludes with the pivotal sequence in Spider-Man's early career as he is falsely accused of murdering police Captain George Stacy, father to his girlfriend, Gwen Stacy, who is ultimately killed during a battle between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin.
As I wrote before, it's the perspective that makes Marvels so compelling. Not only are many of the shots from the perspective of the photographer looking up, as in the excellent panel with Giant Man featured above, but also the story shows us the fears of Sheldon, which reflect the fears of society at large, as they try to piece together what is happening from hastily shot still photographs, TV footage, or from watching the battle between Galactus and the FF from the street below the Baxter Building.
Marvels tries to answer the question of what the world would be like if these heroes were real and we were living in a world that must frequently recover from cataclysmic events, such as when Namor floods News York City.
Marvels also addresses quite directly and ardently the question of bigotry against mutants as a metaphor for the public's bigotry against anyone or anything "different."
And though we Sentinels attack Charles Xavier during a TV interview, the emphasis is on the reaction of the viewers and not as much on the battle between the Sentinels and the X-Men.
And yet, Busiek keeps the story grounded in the human drama of Sheldon's pursuit of his career, which he tries to balance with family and home life. Ross' art aids Busiek beautifully in lush paintings of vintage 1940s and 1960s era America and the world of these Marvels, these heroes.
It's a masterful work and is the single best book for non-comic book readers. Watchmen is great but it's incredibly dense and quite a project for first-time readers. The Dark Knight Returns is fun and delightfully violent and yet better suited to fans who will catch all references and nods to comic book lore. I defy anyone to come up with a better single book that would inspire non-comic book readers wanting to try out super heroes to read more comics.
KINGDOM COME WIKI
Following the huge success of Marvels, Alex Ross took a job over at DC developing a definitive look at its line of heroes. Unlike Marvels, Kingdom Come is neither about the early days of the dawn of the Age of Superheroes nor about what a realistic world of heroes would look like to the people on the street.
Kingdom Come is an Elseworlds story set in an alternate future in which the big three DC heroes--Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman--must come out of retirement to restore the ideals of truth and justice to a world inherited by amoral and dangerously reckless "heroes."
Kingdom Come features a huge cast of old and new heroes plus grown up versions of current youth heroes, such as Robin or Speedy (Green Arrow's sidekick). Even die-hard DC comics fans needed guides to interpret the poster and its huge cast as depicted (seen here again but matching the one that hangs in my office in the photo I shared earlier).
One of its most compelling story aspects as the re-interpretation of Captain Marvel as a brainwashed, misguided, emotionally-stunted adult manipulated by Lex Luthor and Mr. Worm.
Ultimately, Captain Marvel chooses heroism and sacrifice over his brainwashing as he almost beats Superman down, using the lightning he calls with his magic word "Shazam!" For those not in the know, Superman is vulnerable to magic.
Kingdom Come is a great comic book but casual fans or non-fans will find it dense and impenetrable. It is best enjoyed by die-hards or with fans of comics with enough background knowledge of the main players to get the most out of the story. Though the story may be dense and difficult for non-fans, it may prove to be enjoyable read if those reading can relax and realize that they cannot understand or "get" it all. If nothing else, the art is gorgeous to look at.
Kingdom Come is at it best when it is not trying to do too much and focuses on interactions between heroes, such as great scenes with Superman and Wonder Woman, wonderful sequences with Batman and Superman, and the epilogue, which is probably the best sequence in the story featuring all three heroes a year after the events of the main story.
Though Ross' art work for the Spectre and his companion, a minister named Norman McCay, is beautiful, the plot device is far too reminiscent on Dickens' A Christmas Carol, and even forgiving that neither the Spectre nor McCay seem integral to story, their function could as easily be fulfilled by someone else.
Still, Kingdom Come is immensely entertaining and fun to read, the art is gorgeous, and the re-interpretations of some heroes, such as Hawkman and Deadman (both of whom have been featured in this blog before as well as their Kingdom Come toys: T-shirt #49: Hawkman and T-shirt #43: Deadman.)
BATMAN EARTH ONE
- Geoff Johns and Gary Frank
Here's the book I am seen reading in the first photos for this posting of me in the Batman shirt as painted by Alex Ross. As I mentioned before, had I thought about the artist of the shirt's image, I would have grabbed an Alex Ross book.
However, I do not mind taking some blog space to plug this wonderful addition to the Batman canon. Earth One is a wonderful look at Batman's earliest years. I especially like the re-imagining of Alfred as more of a bodyguard and a war hero, a comrade of Thomas Wayne's. The book also introduces Lucius Fox, in a clear nod to the Dark Knight movies, for how Batman gets his gear. The book also explores an alternate explanation for the murder of Batman's parents, and it brings in Arkham Asylum as a much more integral and closer to home element of the Batman universe.
This book is a great read and worth exploration of Batman fans who loved Batman Year One.
Gary Frank is one of my favorite current artists (I know; there's that word again; I really need to narrow down this list of "favorites" sometime) and Geoff Johns writes another comic that I plan to write about soon (another post MANY weeks in the making): AQUAMAN.
These are not my four favorite reviews or even the four best. I simply chose four from sites that looked interesting as I searched for images. Though I must say that the review by JR Forasteros caught my eye, and I like his review the best of these four.
jrforasteros review: a great site, whose most recent post is about why we should not freak out about Ben Affleck as Batman: READ HERE. Yes, I had to get that news about Affleck in here. I won't belabor the point. I agree with JR. Good post. Also check out Charles Skaggs news: DAMN GOOD COFFEE.
Talkinthatshit review - Good review, which, like all of them, contains spoilers. Not as much emphasis on the gentler aspects of the story as seen in the image above but a solid review that ranks this book among Johns' other work.
COMICS ALLIANCE - Not so much a review as a preview with early looks at several pages. Good to browse if you think you might want to buy and read this tome.
SCIENCE FICTION.COM - I do not agree with this reviewers criticisms, but to each his or her own.
There you go. More than enough, too much actually, on Alex Ross and Batman. Egads. This was originally chosen because I thought it would be a quickie.
I close with some imagery. First, the posters I mentioned that I used to have hanging on my bedroom wall.
|Justice League over-sized poster|
|Crisis on Infinite Earths over-sized poster|