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Rough Justice

A chance to see the sketches behind the work of comic book master Alex Ross.

By Rich Clabaugh / April 3, 2010

Rough Justice: The DC Comic Sketches of Alex Ross By Alex Ross, edited by Chip Kidd Pantheon 224 pp., $30

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Alex Ross is a modern master of comic book art. His photo-realistic paintings have brought to life Superman, Batman, and a pantheon of heroes and villains. In his previous collection, “Mythology,” we got to see many of these paintings collected in one book. In his new book Rough Justice: The DC Comics Sketches of Alex Ross, we get a chance to see the pencil sketches behind those paintings and ones that he has done since.

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This is a visual treasure trove with most pieces appearing for the first time in print. The art varies from loose roughs to very tight finished pencil drawings which allow you into the thought process behind some of his most famous work. To call most of these “sketches” seems like an understatement since they could stand on their own as a finished pieces. Even in black and white pencil, these works lose none of their power and drama. In addition to the work behind Ross’s paintings we get to see costume designs, model sheets for action figures based on his designs, Batmobile concepts, and even some of his typography work.

But the real jewels in this treasure chest are the aborted projects published here for the first and (unfortunately) last time. So step right up if you want to see Ross’s “Batboy” or his reimagining of “Shazam”!

Throughout the book are Ross’s comments on his work. While he has his own unique style and vision for these characters, his love and respect for them and their history shines through in every word and pencil line.

Speaking of love and respect for your subject, the book’s editing and design is done by Chip Kidd, superstar of the world of book design. (Kidd also edited and designed “Mythology.”) Kidd’s work showcases Ross’s art perfectly, keeping the text to a minimum and allowing the art to be as big as possible on the pages.

“Rough Justice” would be a welcome addition not only to the libraries of Alex Ross fans, but also to those of all fans of comic book art.

Rich Clabaugh is a staff artist at the Monitor.

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