Ain't It Cool News (www.aintitcool.com)
Movie News

THE ALEX ROSS INTERVIEW, PART TWO: Batman & Robin, Silver Surfer, X-Men, and more!

Here's PART TWO of Harry's epic conversation with comic book god ALEX ROSS, picking up from where we left off in PART ONE. (PARTS THREE & FOUR are accessible via the links at bottom.)

Also, be on the look-out for more EXCLUSIVE Alex Ross artwork coming soon to AICN, and be sure to visit AlexRossArt.com and catch Alex on QVC Sat., Sep. 9 (check local listings).

Now, back to the interview...

HK: YOU WERE CONTACTED ABOUT BATMAN & ROBIN AT ONE POINT?

AR: Yeah, I was contacted directly by Schumacher. He was going on and on about bringing his nephew into the DC offices and showing him my work on the walls and everything and they saw Kingdom Come while it was in production and oh, they just haaad to have me be a part of that damn thing. At the time, I really didn’t want to be involved, but I was getting pressure from DC itself to possibly be a part of this movie production. So, they were laying a head trip on me, while I was desperately trying to get my work done for getting Kingdom Come out on time. No one seemed to understand that one of those things was a greater priority than the other.

AR: The upshot of the Batman & Robin movie thing is that I put my lawyer in touch with his producers when they started calling me up and that’s when things began to fall apart. It seems, to the best of my lawyer’s understanding, that it was near impossible to get a contract worked out for this work which they would have viewed as a simple run-off and like, "Let’s just get the guy to do the paintings, then move along." I was not interested in handing anything over that could possibly be reused without any further money going to me. Furthermore I was not going to have the artwork returned to me.

AR: A good part of the reason why I didn’t send any originals to Marvel, I was not going to take a chance of never seeing those originals back. Selling originals has become a very big, lucrative thing for me. Frankly, they could have done the same thing. They could have made money off it, they could have made a T-shirt, they could have done anything with that without my blessing because I would have no legal leg to stand on. That’s why I was having my lawyer negotiate with the people on Batman & Robin and eventually they just stopped talking to her, without giving her any further answers to our query about a contract. Eventually the answer came in the form of sitting at the DC booth at the San Diego Con of 1996 and seeing up on the big display screen painted images of the characters in development for the Batman & Robin movie. I realized, "Uh-huh. That’s basically their fuck you to me." They just decided, "Let’s just go ahead and get some other guys. We can’t worry about this dickhead any longer and his lawyer." I was very satisfied with that experience, showing me exactly what I don’t wanna go through in Hollywood.

AR: Really, the only reason I was involved with this Spider-Man thing... I’m the one that brought it up, I’m the one that asked about it, is I genuinely have love for Spider-Man. It’s of course the biggest hoot for anybody to think they could actually make sure that the thing that winds up on screen is the vision that they have.

HK: I KNOW FROM A FAN POINT OF VIEW THAT WHEN WE FIRST GOT THE WORD THAT YOU MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE BEEN INVOLVED IN THE DESIGN STAGE FOR SPIDER-MAN, FANDOM WAS LIKE, "OH, HERE’S SOMEONE WHO REALLY GIVES A SHIT ABOUT THIS SORT OF THING!" THE NEXT SORT OF AREA I WANT TO GO INTO IS: DO YOU REALLY HAVE A DESIRE TO GET INTO MOVIES? ARE YOU A COMIC ARTIST THAT WANTS TO DO MOVIES, OR WOULD YOU PREFER TO STAY IN THE COMICS MEDIUM?

AR: I would say I definitely have a great love and respect for the great art form of film - I mean, who doesn’t - but it’s a kind of thing that I’d rather work in the medium that I’ve grown such an attachment to and a love for, which everyone of course is telling me is dying rapidly... I’d rather make this medium stronger. I’d rather endorse it with more of my efforts because the difference here in comics is you can have much more of a personal view undiluted in the final product you create.

AR: Say in the case of Lord of the Rings finally making it to the screen in a full context, they have to give it three movies, they have to give it this phenomenal budget to finally get it the treatment it deserves. Whereas with comics, the treatment for your imagination, what’s in your mind’s eye, can happen immediately. I can make my own big budget movie adaptation of anything I have in my head right now, on paper. As long as I don’t have too much of a lust for the mediums of sound and movement, I can give people the entertainment value of that creative image as far as any kind of complicated story I want. It can happen in comics. It can be as long as I want it to be, it can be as complex, it can be edgy, it doesn’t have to conform to what teams and teams of producers sit around and bicker about.

AR: So, I don’t have to be a part of any grand machine. The overview I’ve gotten from DC and Marvel over most of my works have been restrained for the most part. I haven’t had to deal with a lot of rejection and unnecessary censorship and stuff like that. It’s generally been a pretty easy ride.

HK: HAVE YOU EVER HAD MARVEL OR DC SAY, "NO, THAT’S TOO FAR?" OR "YOU CAN’T SHOW THAT SORT OF THING!"

AR: Umm... I’m sure on little things, but nothing that’s too consequential.

HK: NO BREAKDOWN FIGHTS.

AR: No, not really. I’ve had more weird things that I didn’t understand that still kinda muck me up. There’s a lot of weird stuff going on at DC these days that keeps getting weirder and weirder as time goes on. For the most part they’ve left me alone on my projects because they’re so largely inoffensive.

HK: ONE OF THE THINGS I’VE NOTICED IS I SAW THE TRAILER FOR EARTH X, THE LITTLE FIVE MINUTE SHORT THAT YOU FILMED. IS THAT YOU SAYING, "LOOK, I CAN DIRECT, I CAN DO THIS SORT OF STUFF," OR IS THAT JUST A FUN THING YOU’RE DOING FOR FANS?

AR: Just a fun thing for fans, generally. It’s not to point out, "Oh, hey! I’m a director everybody!" It’s not that good. If that was my passion, I feel like I could devote myself entirely to it, but I think to really be able to direct, that needs to be your art form. Comics is my preferred art form because I feel like I have more control. But then again, in the case of that video, I had absolute control over what was going to happen, aside from the fact that I wasn’t doing the animations myself. I was actually filming parts of it. I had paid all the animators, I had done the storyboards which everything was based on. I was working with a team of people who were all answerable to me.

HK: ONE OF THE THINGS I NOTICED WAS I WENT OVER TO ALEXROSSART.COM AND WAS CHECKING OUT SOME OF THE STILL IMAGES FROM IT. I SAW THE IMAGE OF THE IRON AVENGERS AGAINST THAT SKY. THAT REALLY DOES MOVE?

AR: Yeah.

HK: TO ME, IF THAT IMAGE MOVES AND LOOKS GOOD, THAT’S SORT OF THE IMAGERY THAT I’VE ALWAYS DREAMED OF SEE COMIC BOOKS TRANSLATED INTO. IS THIS SORT OF YOUR EXAMPLE TO THOSE SORTS OF PEOPLE TO SAY, "HEY, YOU CAN MAKE IT LOOK LIKE THIS!"

AR: To some degree, it’s an example of what the technology has come down to the masses to allow us to do because these are fairly simple systems that are being used to create these things. There was really only about three or four animators used on the whole production. One head animator did 90% of the video, including that Iron Avengers shot. It’s a good way to show off their talents, obviously, but for me it’s also a matter saying, "Hey! We can actually do this stuff on our own, in some cases."

AR: Mike Allred directed a picture called Astroesque many years ago, actually it wasn’t that long ago...

HK: AND RICHARD CORBEN DID A NEVERWHERE FILM ONCE. ARTISTS HAVE MADE THAT TRANSLATION BEFORE.

AR: Were they released?

HK: THEY DIDN’T GET WIDE RELEASE, BUT THEY WERE SORT OF EXPERIMENTAL FILMS THAT CAME OUT IN THE '70S.

AR: Hmmm. Were people naked in Neverwhere?

HK: I BELIEVE SO, ACTUALLY. IT WAS SOMETHING I SAW AS A PRETTY SMALL CHILD ON THE CONVENTION CIRCUIT. I ACTUALLY HAVE A PRINT OF DARK PLANET, WHICH HE DID. IT’S PRETTY COOL. WHAT I LIKE, YOU KNOW THAT SORT OF BACKGROUND DESIGN WORK THAT HE DID WAS SORT OF REMINISCENT OF LIGHT SHOWS FROM THE PSYCHEDELIC CULTURE. HIS BACKGROUNDS HAD A LOT OF THAT SORT OF IMAGERY TO THEM, WHICH SORT OF MADE FOR SOME VERY STRIKING WORK.

AR: I’d love to see that. Let me make a statement about Allred, just that he went ahead with that kind of thing, like you’re pointing out with Corben, he did the same. Both guys are working with budgets that they can throw together. I had always encouraged Mike that if he wanted to make Madman into a film, don’t even worry about Hollywood. The thing he had created was so sort of bargain basement in terms of how much money would have to be spent on it that why doesn’t he just go ahead and direct that himself? He can get in that costume. He based Madman on himself anyway. There’s sort of a thing like, "Let’s show Hollywood that we can actually do this stuff without them."

AR: In the case of this video, it is only intended to be a teaser because we didn’t procure the licenses to go out and make feature-length whatever or straight-to-video whatever of Marvel properties. If we took it any further, we would get in trouble, but given the fact that it’s just for a CD-ROM, I think it opens up opportunities in the way that CD-ROMs are of course the major technology of the moment that is now competing with film and video to point out that you can have a little more contact with the subject if you have a sort of playability or a sort of interactive feature to it.

AR: This again, like I said, is only a music video that we produced here. It’s about five minutes in length. The possibilities I see is taking it further where you have some kind of limited range movies made for a property that is an interactive CD-ROM and here’s these filmed bits that come between maybe levels of the gaming. I don’t know a lot about CD-ROMs because I don’t have a computer or any of that or even a game system, but I’ve seen enough to know that there can be uses for a level of animation... or even... I’ve seen a Sonic the Hedgehog game where there’s an introductory little movie that shows all this massive destruction. It looks like a feature film at the beginning of it and it’s all leading up to the part where you can play the game.

AR: You potentially can have aspects of that done with film and animation that basically doesn’t wait for Hollywood to sit around and do several focus groups about what would be the next best comic to film adaptation, more on a bargain basement level.

HK: HAVING WORKED ON THIS CD-ROM, IF YOU WERE TO GO ABOUT SORTA MAKING A FILM WOULD YOU WANT IT TO BE MORE ANIMATED OR WOULD YOU WANNA WORK WITH A SORT OF LIVE ACTION/ANIMATION MIX... WHAT HAVE YOU TAKEN AWAY FROM THIS?

AR: Definitely a mix. Still, animation is the kind of thing that even in feature films where they have all the money in the world, there’s something missing from not having that human contact. It was a tremendous thrill to get my friend to shave his head to become Captain America for just a few seconds of film. If anybody had the connection to it like I did, they would have that overwhelming feeling of "Oh God! There he is! There he is clear as day looking just like the drawings!" I would have loved to have had more time and figure out something where this person could have been acting something out. We obviously didn’t have the time, the money, whatever to have a lot of interaction in the video as we’ve done it. The video whets the appetite only for seeing something much more elaborate to be done, which, of course, never can happen because the property of Earth X is so convoluted in its essence, it can only be appreciated by a hard-core audience. It’s not the book that's going to reach out there... I mean, the same can be said about Kingdom Come, honestly. You can’t make a movie of Kingdom Come. You can’t even procure all the licenses it would take for just one film with all those characters, all those icons.

HK: I THINK THE ONLY WAY YOU COULD EVER DO SOMETHING LIKE THAT IS IF DC OR MARVEL THEMSELVES PRODUCED IT AS AN ANIMATED FILM FROM THEIR OWN ENTERTAINMENT DIVISION. EVEN THERE I THINK, THE ISSUE OF THE RIGHTS THEY’VE SOLD OFF TO ALL THESE OTHER AREAS WOULD COME UP. I KNOW I’VE ALWAYS WANTED EITHER ONE OF THESE BIG STUDIOS TO BUY MARVEL OR LIKE... WITH WARNER BROTHERS, IT’S ACTUALLY POSSIBLE BECAUSE THEY HAVEN’T BEEN SELLING OFF THE RIGHTS TO THE VARIOUS CHARACTERS TO A BILLION DIFFERENT STUDIOS. THEY’RE ALL IN-HOUSE, SO THERE COULD BE A KINGDOM COME FILM, BUT I THINK JUST IN REGARDS TO HOW VAST THE STORY IS AND HOW EXPENSIVE IT WOULD BE, IT WOULD HAVE TO BE IN ANIMATION MEDIUM. ONE OF THE THINGS I’VE ALWAYS WANTED TO SEE IS SOMETHING LIKE YOUR WORK DONE 24 FRAMES A SECOND, WHICH NO ONE COULD ACTUALLY DRAW, IT’D HAVE TO BE SOMETHING SEMI-ROTOSCOPED, THEN COMPUTER TOUCHED UP FROM FRAME TO FRAME.

AR: When you start thinking about my work as applied to animation, it does seem to be particularly limiting. Why would I be painting these things to the degree I am for them to only be recast later in a very limited form? You don’t have the extent of color, light and shadow... I mean, my stuff is meant to be translated to live action, not to animation, or at least not to classical animation. Computer animation could handle some of the stuff that I worked on and designed.

HK: HAVE YOU EVER SEEN THE TEST THAT BOB CLAMPETT DID FOR JOHN CARTER OF MARS?

AR: No.

HK: HE AND JOHN COLEMAN BURROUGHS ACTUALLY GOT TOGETHER AND PRE- SNOW WHITE WERE DOING TESTS FOR AN ANIMATED JOHN CARTER OF MARS. IF YOU GET THE BEANIE AND CECIL DVD THAT CAME OUT... IF YOU TALK TO PAUL DINI, HE HAS IT. HE’S WHO TOLD ME ABOUT IT. YOU CAN SEE THE JOHN COLMAN BURROWS ANIMATION TESTS THAT WERE DONE. THEY WEREN’T USING TRADITIONAL CEL ANIMATION, THEY WERE ACTUALLY ANIMATING USING OIL PAINTING. QUITE HONESTLY, WHILE THEY DIDN’T QUITE HAVE THEIR WEIGHT PROPORTIONS RIGHT YET, THEY HAD THE MOLD FOR KEEPING THE CONSISTENCY OF HAVING WEIGHT FOR A FIGURE IN A MORE HUMAN WAY AND LESS TOONY WAY, THE WORK WAS VERY PROMISING. SOME OF THE THEED STUFF WAS VERY NICE. IT WOULD HAVE BEEN FASCINATING TO SEE THE FEATURE ANIMATION WORLD BE AFFECTED BY A JOHN COLEMAN BURROUGHS AND BOB CLAMPETT JOHN CARTER OF MARS.

HK: SO, WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU? WHAT ARE YOU UP TO NOW? ARE YOU GOING TO DO ANY WORK FOR THE FANTASTIC FOUR MOVIE?

AR: What’s happened with that is I have had extensive conversations with a producer from the film. She was picking my brain about the property and I spent a lot of time trying to convince her that the way they were going was a complete disaster waiting to happen. Meaning that, one, they hadn’t even watched the original film that was made, what? Ten years ago? Just at least to know what not to do. They were looking to go into production, making costume prototypes within six weeks from the point they were talking to me. This was a few months ago, now. I thought that was ridiculous, given the fact that they didn’t even know what design they wanted yet. You could spend months and months and months and just design.

AR: As far as a script, I didn’t know if they had one... It sounded like something very, very fucked up. I later heard that in fact the entire reason the whole thing was going on was they had to, by their contract, apparently start production on this thing by a certain date and if they hadn’t... I don’t know... something happened... Maybe they lost the opportunity to do the property or something, so they were talking some kind of shit about actually getting it out before the Spider-Man film came out next year. They just wanted to pound out that many Marvel movies in a row. I said, "Boy, you guys can’t really get too far with this before you even know if X-Men did well. At the point I was talking with her, X-Men hadn’t come out.

HK: YOU MENTIONED SOMETHING ABOUT WANTING TO TELL "THE X-MEN STORY." WHAT’S THE X-MEN STORY?

AR: The X-Men story is that they did try desperately to get a hold of me. This comes pretty much on the heels of my experience with Schumacher and with Batman & Robin. I was contacted for a number of different properties shortly after the Batman & Robin thing, like a New Gods animated feature that somebody wanted to make somewhere in Warner Bros., a Silver Surfer film that some Australian director was contracted to play and he wanted to talk to me.

AR: This is another one where I let the door open, ever so slightly, to let somebody from Hollywood in and the situation always winds up the same. They fall off the face of the earth, they don’t come through. This one was a case of a guy from Marvel LA bugging me about it, saying the guy really wanted to talk to me because I’m the only person who will understand because I painted that one issue of Marvels where Galactus and Silver Surfer come down. The guy calls me up after I agree to let him get my number and we talked for I don’t know how long about the ideas. He’s trying to convince me that they can do the character in make-up, if you can believe that.

HK: WAIT... THE GUY ACTUALLY THOUGHT THEY COULD DO SILVER SURFER IN MAKE UP?

AR: Yeah, he says, "Oh, there’s some very state of the art silver makeup these days." Like, "You’ve gotta be out of your fuckin’ mind, man."

HK: I’D LOVE SEE THE TESTS, BUT THAT’S REALLY SOMETHING I WOULD HAVE TO SEE TO BELIEVE.

AR: Then, also, he’s telling me that most of the film Silver Surfer was going to look human because they wanted to cast... God... who was in the Last of the Mohicans?

HK: DANIEL DAY LEWIS.

AR: Right, they wanted to cast him as Surfer. I was like, "Well, I can see that..." Now because of him being a star, you have to show him as a man throughout most of the fucking movie. This is again pointing out the fact that movies suck, is they can’t stop themselves from either having to cater to the star’s ego or to some sense of, "Oh, it’s too many special effects for too long." You know, just ridiculous tripe that just drives you out of your mind. Where things were left off with this guy and the way they let me down is he was going to send me the screenplay so I could check it over. I did not make any promises to him that I would be involved with it, I just said I’d be interested in taking a look at it. Then, of course, what happened? Nothing ever came. No screenplay was delivered. Nothing. Never heard another thing about this thing since.

AR: Same with Fantastic Four. Nothing was ever sent. They were going to send me copies of some of the other designs they had gotten just so I can have an idea of where they’re going, so I can know what not to do. I mean, I had extensive conversations with this gal, but I still need to see something to know what was the wrong direction. Again, nothing ever happened, nothing ever came through. That’s where I start to just go, "You know what? I don’t want any more calls from Hollywood."

AR: So, at the time the X-Men people were trying to get ahold of me, and I was being told it was Richard Donner’s company, I thought, "It’s not going to be him directing it, so I’m not going to give them the time of day. It’s going to suck. I don’t even like the X-Men. Why doesn’t anybody ever read these interviews I do? I’ve always said I hate the X-Men." And I do hate the X-Men. I hate the comic books. I think they have created a level of banality for comics for 20 years. That doesn’t mean I hate all the ideas going into it. I love the original Jack Kirby X-Men. I like the Dave Cockrum. Hell, I like the John Byrne X-Men. I just don’t like the last 20 years, where they’ve been coasting upon what I think is... like the whole Phoenix Saga story-line. Everything built up to this one really great story-line and then all the popularity since was based upon the time where it actually was cool, where it actually was cutting edge.

HK: YEAH, I THINK X-MEN THROUGH THE DEATH OF JEAN GREY WAS FANTASTIC, AFTER THAT IT JUST SORT OF FELL APART.

AR: Yes! Exactly! It’s like they couldn’t come up with any story lines to keep the thing alive until they finally decided, "OK, we’re resurrecting her because we suck and we can’t come up with anything better to talk about than this dead woman and it’s driving our fans crazy, it’s driving us crazy..."

HK: IT’S THE STAR TREK II / STAR TREK III PHENOMENON. WE’LL KILL SPOCK, IT BECOMES THE GREATEST FILM IN THE FRANCHISE, BUT GOD! WE CAN’T BELIEVE WE JUST KILLED SPOCK! LET’S BRING HIM BACK IN THE NEXT FILM.

AR: Right. I find it’s such an interesting tale that the writer and artist didn’t intend to do it, they were told to do it by the editor in chief at that time, Jim Shooter, and for whatever crap people have said about Jim Shooter, that is like the coolest thing that ever happened. It really was a gutsy story, it had a lot of balls to it and the fact that they recanted on it later is sad and pathetic.

AR: In fact, I was working closely with the man who was responsible for bringing her back. Kirk Busiek is the one who actually conceived the way they would do it. This was back when he was just some schmuck who just worked in the offices, but he had mentioned the idea to some of the other writers. I forget if it was Len Wein or whoever, passed it along to Byrne and Claremont. Did Claremont write that issue of Fantastic Four?

HK: I BELIEVE SO (BEEP!!!) HOLD ON A SECOND, LET ME STOP THIS OTHER LINE... (PAUSE) HELLO?

AR: Yep, I’m here.

HK: COOL. WHAT WERE WE TALKING ABOUT THERE?

AR: We were talking about the Claremont...

HK: YEAH, THE CLAREMONT FANTASTIC FOUR PIECE.

AR: I got into arguments with Busiek about it because he was explaining to me with great pride at how he was the one who actually conceived of that damn thing and how his name was almost taken off of it. He obviously didn’t write it in the end, but it was obviously his literal... I don’t know... his sleuthing that figured out this perfect way to revive the character, which again, I found fairly offensive and I hope that over time Jim Kruger and I can actually tear apart that entire reasoning in Earth X.

HK: IF YOU COULD PICK A COMIC PROPERTY TO JUST BE THE COMPLETE PATRON SAINT OVER, WHICH ONE WOULD YOU LATCH ONTO?

AR: Umm... you lost me there...

HK: WHAT I MEAN IS IF THERE WAS A PROPERTY THAT WAS BEING DEVELOPED INTO A FEATURE FILM, WHICH ONE WOULD YOU MOST WANT TO BE PROTECTIVE OVER?

AR: It would probably be Spider-Man at this time. Obviously, if Superman hadn’t happened yet, I’d be protective to that degree. I think the greatest thing that has happened in the last ten years is that they never got around to making another one of these god awful Superman movies like they were talking about. We’re extremely fortunate that didn’t happen.

AR: Spider-Man is set to be a really big thing potentially if they attack it right, if they get to the root of a lot of the messages that the character conveys, a lot of the youth and excitement that he encompasses. If they did it right, they could potentially make the fantasy that comes with superheroes all the more attractive to young teens and make comics potentially hip to a larger group of audience. Maybe not the art form of comics, but at least the characters and the concepts of it, which of course has been a big part of the problem.

AR: Spider-Man is perfect for that purpose. X-Men ain’t bad either, but X-Men to some degree becomes one step in the right direction.

HK: YEAH, I THINK X-MEN MADE A GOOD STEP, BUT AT THE SAME TIME, ULTIMATELY WHENEVER YOU’RE DEALING WITH AN X-MEN MOVIE THE KEY POINTS ARE GOING TO BIG BATTLE, BIG BATTLE, BIG BATTLE. I DON’T THINK INTRINSICALLY IN THE SPIDER-MAN PLOT LINE IS NECESSARY TO SPEND HALF YOUR FILM IN ACTION FIGHTING. I THINK THE CHARACTER IS STRONGER THAN THAT. LET’S SEE... YOU’RE CURRENTLY WORKING WITH PAUL DINI ON A SHAZAM! BOOK. [A giant-sized edition like their earlier "Superman: Peace on Earth" and "Batman: War On Crime."] HOW’S THAT COMING ALONG?

AR: Hoping to make it on time is all.

HK: I HEARD FROM HIM YESTERDAY. HE SAID HE WAS FINISHING UP THE LAST FEW PAGES OF WRITING ON IT. HOW DO YOU LIKE WORKING WITH PAUL SO FAR?

AR: Well, it’s pretty much of a breeze. We’re doing it that old Marvel method, so most of the stuff is scripted based upon thumbnails I’ve done based upon an earlier outline that he did. He’ll write, like, five pages or six pages of an outline, I break it down into the kind of storytelling I think the story can accommodate and then he goes in after I’ve been thumbnailing or drawing it and tries to work with the imagery as it feels to him. It becomes a very organic process. And given the fact that we’re not telling very normal episodic comics, it’s got a feel of a very different way, so it does encourage the kind of process we have been using. He basically just becomes a poet by the end of it. His way of actually approaching the material is a way of summarizing what is in the pictures or not even summarizing, but letting the pictures tell the story. It winds up being very poetic and restrained on his part, so it’s a good success that way, I think.

HK: COOL...

AR: You know what? I’d like to add a comment to that X-Men thing, if I could. Just that the upshot of that whole thing with the X-Men movie was that they were trying to get ahold of me at a time that I had no faith in that production. I knew very little about what was going on with it. They were actually trying to get ahold of me through DC because apparently, nobody at Marvel at that time had my fuckin’ phone number.

AR: Here, I had several people at DC making calls to me on behalf of Richard Donner’s company when I’m pointing out to them, "Guys! Do you know what they’re calling me about? It’s not one of your properties!" In the end, it’s the kind of thing of like, "Oh, would I have been happy to have worked in this film?" To some degree because it’s such a nice film and because Bryan Singer did such a spectacular job, sure. It wouldn’t have bothered me to have been associated with it, but I am perfectly happy to just enjoy it like everybody else. It’s such a wonderful thing that in fact I think I can enjoy it more because I had nothing to do with it. It’s a joy to see somebody get it right. Honestly, if I had directed the film, or designed it, I wouldn’t have done it any different. In fact, I’m not sure if I would have done it as well as he did.

AR: It was as nice as I could have hoped for and it actually did the miracle of all miracles for me, it actually made me like Wolverine. Of course, I think I only really like the actor playing Wolverine, but at least for a few moments I didn’t hate the character as I normally have. Again, let it be known that my hatred, supposed hatred of the characters, are entirely based upon the kind of era of bad writing, angst-ridden angry guy characters that have come in his wake. Much of the poor writing that has been ascribed to the character is just what I hold against him, not really the fact that he is himself a bad character. Reading the Byrne comics with Claremont, I loved him. I thought he was awesome in that stuff because he was well handled back then. He wasn’t the leader of the team. He can’t be.

HK: I COMPLETELY UNDERSTAND. I OFTENTIMES HATE WHAT ENDS UP HAPPENING TO A CHARACTER. WHAT PETER DAVID DID TO THE HULK AND AQUAMAN, I REALLY DON’T CARE FOR ALL THAT MUCH. ONE OF THE KEY THINGS I’VE ALWAYS WANTED TO TALK TO YOU ABOUT IS HOW CINEMATIC A LOT OF YOUR WORK IS. DO YOU COME INTO COMICS FROM A COMIC BACKGROUND OR WERE THERE FILM INFLUENCES? WHERE DO YOU COME FROM IN TERMS OF WHEN YOU’RE PAINTING? ARE YOU BASING IT MORE ON CINEMATIC IDEAS OR COMIC BOOK IDEAS?

AR: I think both. I don’t have any formal film experience. I only have storyboard experience working in advertising, but that doesn’t really have a big thing where I come in with, "Oh, all this extra knowledge from the world of advertising." No, I just have like a work ethic that comes from the world of advertising, but in terms of cinema influencing my vision... you know, that just dates back to me as a kid wanting to mix the two and see a greater harmony, vision. In some ways, the kind of films I’d like to see I’m creating on paper. If I had all the money and the power given to me to make those as actual films, would I want to? Yeah, I guess to some degree I would, but in some ways it’s still going to be so much easier to do it with my own two hands.

AR: When I have my models pose for me, I don’t have to rely on them acting. I just have to rely upon them striking the right pose, so I can make use of that later to reinterpret whatever details I need as I see fit. I can amplify their inability to act to a point where the character looks like they are in the scene and believable to whatever their action is meant to be. I don’t have to get people to get the exact right flying pose to be able to start to draw it. I can get a hand up in the air, maybe take a stepper shot of the legs, or not even. I don’t necessarily have to take billowing shots of capes flowing. I can create a lot of that stuff from my imagination and just retrofit everything else. That’s the freedom that this medium allows me. I can dance with film, like I did with this video and have a good time and enjoy it as a creative accomplishment, but I don’t know if I would ever want to leave this medium behind, which has afforded me so much more control and a tremendous amount of satisfaction, which I do not see dying out so quickly... My satisfaction that is.

*** CONTINUED IN PART THREE!!! CLICK HERE TO READ!!! ***

(Special thanks to Quint for transcribing this interview.)

Readers Talkback
comments powered by Disqus
    + Expand All
  • Aug. 31, 2000, 5:32 p.m. CST

    Showbiz and political demons

    by Zonkk

    Sounds like some pact has been made between the big red dude from down below and most people in power. The world is run by really evil bastards who just want to screw everyone and their mothers. Power to the little people and bring back the luddites. :-)

  • Aug. 31, 2000, 5:51 p.m. CST

    Cool

    by biggs_69

    that was cool:)

  • Aug. 31, 2000, 5:57 p.m. CST

    This is the best AICN feature for a while

    by Airchinapilot

    For the past two months I didn't think AICN had much to warrant reading but the Alex Ross interview is really really good. Thanks for doing it! I admire Alex Ross a lot and learning some of the stories behind the BS of filmmaking and both the DC and Marvel productions has been enlightening. I love what Alex says about how the Xmen writing went downhill after the Claremont / Byrne pairing.

  • Aug. 31, 2000, 6:02 p.m. CST

    Why is Alex Ross so testy?

    by Wesley Snipes

    Perhaps the tone isn't properly conveyed, but every Ross interview I've ever read makes him seem like an irritated and highly critical egotist. Is this just the way he speaks or what? He's like the comic book guy from the Simpsons but with talent. You'd think a guy with such success and ability would be more relaxed...

  • Aug. 31, 2000, 6:58 p.m. CST

    Good Interview

    by Barron34

    I agree with the above poster about the quality of this interview and the value of AICN. I like to come here to pick up on production tidbits and industry rumors so that I can follow Hollwood from the inside a bit, and I have left reading comics regularly behind many years ago (not coincidentlyy just after the industry began to go downhill as the interview suggests, in the post-Byrne X-Men/post-Watchmen, post-Dark KNight era, when practicallyno one was doing any original work anymore, just derivative crap that was a bad imitation of such prior work). With an interest in genre films, I am reading more and more interviews of comics creators and their takes on the Hollywood process, and this is a very good and lucid interview of that type. Harry needs to bring in more stuff of substance like this that illustrates the importance of the connections between Hollywood and some of the sources such as comics that it often exploits for creative material. Also, the insights into the comic world are interesting on their own merits. Kudos.

  • Aug. 31, 2000, 8:29 p.m. CST

    The Only Way AR's costume design will work

    by VinzClortho

    First off, as much as i love Alex, the spidey design looks kind of ridiculous. in fact, im very skeptical on whether a Spider-Man movie could be taken seriously, given the outlandish costumes. No one will believe a teen-ager designed and made that costume. However, if the costume is not made by Peter himself, but by someone in the wrestling industry during spideys stint as a wrestler, well, then i could believe it. And with the kind of costumes worn today, especially be the Mexican luchadores, that kind of costume would not be at all unbelievable. Oh, and if the Green Goblin is to be taken at all seriously, he needs be portrayed as evil. and i dont mean typical comic book evil. he needs to be Hannibal Lecter insanely evil. NO making a fool of himself (see Joker in Batman). The Goblin will have to be one bad-ass muda foka! 'Nooch.

  • Aug. 31, 2000, 8:38 p.m. CST

    yak,yak,yak

    by Apocaquips

    What a pompous ass. Has this guy ever stopped to think that maybe his ideas suck and that's why shit keeps falling apart for him? "This sucks that sucks I'm so superior in my efforts and thoughts whaa whaa blah blah" suck my cock

  • Aug. 31, 2000, 8:58 p.m. CST

    I recall my days as a young lad at Oxford...

    by The Garbage Man

    Everyone was in town to celebrate Henri's birthday - he had just reached the precocious age of 42. Although Henri requested a Skiing Barbie, I settled on a more appropriate gift for a proper young Englishman: booze and hookers. When the big day arrived, the tension was so thick you could lick it on the cheek (it likes that). The party was going smashingly when my present to Henri arrived. Unfortunately, the alcohol turned out to be the urine generated by a rottweiler's weight in chihuahuas, and the prostitute was revealed to be a very sexually confused Gary Coleman. This was all outrageously humorous until Gary, frightened and startled by the sound of laughter, launched into a flurry of punches and kicks directed at the female guests. Henri and I decided that it was his best birthday party ever...

  • Aug. 31, 2000, 9:08 p.m. CST

    Such a pity.

    by Drath

    I knew Hollywood was messed up, but it's always sad to confront the truth in all its hideous glory. There's just no dealing with that world, and we're lucky if we like ANY of their films. On another note, Harry, what are you talking about Star Trek 3 for? That film was great, and bringing Spock back was a must. Plus, Nimoy suddenly said "hey, I want to come back," after first asking to die, so hey get over it. Besides, there was more to that film than bringing back Spock. Oh, and while I don't care about Hulk, and I agree that there is much I miss about classic Aquaman that I wish Peter David hadn't subtracted, I love David's work in general and am sad to see Harry's first mention of the guy(to my eyes on this site anyway) be in the negative. The man is a born storyteller, and a hoot in person.

  • Aug. 31, 2000, 11:06 p.m. CST

    MY VISION!!!

    by Hyper Spazz

    Thats the thing that I fooking hate about comic book movies. "This version of 'so and so man' will be my vision" Well, you know thats fine and all, BUT, it isn't really your vision is it? You didn't create that character or the suit did you? The character has been doing just fine without you, what makes ya think that you are going to make it any better? The egos that are involved with the production of the comic book movies need to go. I mean what the fuck is wrong with the Spider-Man suit that has kicked ass since the 60's? And what is up with the "problem" with not seeing a characters eyes. The audience can't relate. My ass. It's a total non-issue. I think that all these money hunger fucks in hollywood are missing the point of this shit. All this shit is supposed to be escapist fantasy. It's supposed to be fun. Quit trying to make it real. Just make it fun.

  • Aug. 31, 2000, 11:42 p.m. CST

    Sell your soul for $2,000 (for 2 yr. option to develop)

    by PANIC NOW

    Having been a comics fan for decades and deeply interested in its possibilities, it's been great to read Alex's stuff. 'Earth X', 'Astro City', 'Kingom Come', etc. have given nobility to an otherwise pathetic, gasping for breath medium. 'Earth X' gave me the tingling in the guts feeling. One I haven't felt since reading 'Watchmen' 'Mage' or 'Dark Knight'. Okay, even 'Sandman'. I actually got to the comic shop on the days that 'E.X' showed up. Something I haven't done in almost 8 years! And he's right, one should be wary, Hollywood rapes these artists and writers creations, leaving them for dead. Now don't get me wrong, I know they're just comics, but c'mon...how eager were y'all to find out how much 'X-Men' would suck? (I know, I was glad, too). And it's because character rights were bought from those guys early on and left in the hands of people who didn't give a rat's ass. (Stan Lee: you're a scumbag looser and I hope Kirby, Simon and Everett kick your spectral ass, you traitor!) And said film companies shouldn't get Ross' designs unless they're committed to them. I've seen many friends get money for rights, only to sit around with thier hands tied FOR YEARS. I hope these artists let people (the public) know when they've been bent over (Fritz the Cat) so we can NOT fork over 8bucks, and teach them a lesson. I know things are getting better here and there; Dini and Timm were great with thier Sprang and Miller renditions. Kudos. Kudos for the whole series, actually. What IS it with Marvel?!?!?!? Any of you comatose drool-cups reading this? Stop embarrassing yourself and the mythology you control. You can only dodge bankruptcy bullets for so long. 'Kay, I'm done. Whew, I needed that.

  • Sept. 1, 2000, 12:20 a.m. CST

    Views on comics

    by Riffster

    Not to get off on a rant here (sorry Dennis) but there is a phrase that keeps popping up in any conversation or talkback about anything comic related that seems more and more ludicrous every time I see it. It's the "It's only comics" phrase, and I honestly can't figure it out. If we're talking about it in the context of "Sure, lots of people died in that earthquake in gotham, but don't worry, it's only comics" sur,e I can understand it. It's merely drawing the distinction between fiction and reality, and not something anyone should worry over. However, more often than not, it pops up in a conversation revolving around fiction anyways, and so leaves me baffled. Why is comics an art medium that needs to be apologized for, or even dismissed? One rarely sees the phrase "It's only sculpture" or "It's only literature" pop up in a conversation, but comics seem to keep getting this particulat snub, and no one seems to question it, much less mind. When X-Men came out, the phrase "It's good, for a comic book movie" kept coming up, as if somehow a movie based on a comic should be held to a lower standard. Baffling, since most films are total works of fiction to begin with, and MOST are action oriented power fantasies, much like most comic book titles. I guess what I'm asking for is perhaps more specificity when the remark is made. After all, I can certainly see the phrase "It was good, for a Schwartzenegger (apologies for mispelling) movie", hell I've used it myself, but a movie based on a comic book (the medium) should not be confused with a movie based on Super Heroes (genre). Obviously, the expectations for a Superhero movie are going to be different than, say, a period piece on the Franco/Prussian war, as the subject matter is of differing types in all degrees, but that dosn't necessarily mean that one is to be held to a different standard than another. Think about it, what is it that makes a good comic book? Pretty much exactly that smae things that makes a good movie or, to varying degrees, book. A strong plot with interesting characters with more than one level to them. What's sad to see is the lowering of expectations for action films and action comics, becuase "It's only action". BS.... The memorable action films and action comics, the good ones, are the ones that delivered a compelling story with interesting and 'real' characters with depth. This is what seperates a comic like Kingdom Come from, well, lets' say 80% of the comics on the rack, and the same goes for films. What made Die Hard so popular was a combination of neat plot, and characters that had some pinache and subtext. Same with the first Lethal Weapon. There was more going on than that main plot, and I don't mean some tacked on romance either. Sure, there's crap on the comic book racks, hell they're loaded with it, but so are movies, books, paintings hell, name a medium and the majority of stuff done in that medium is crap. Know why? Becuase not all artists are competent, never mind brilliant, and that's the way it's always been. For every Mona Lisa there are millions of velvet Elvis's...and I own most of 'em..LOL So don't settle for mediocrity just becuase the medium involves brightly coloured images and border panels. The medium of comics has yet to be truly tapped, but shouldn't be considered inferior becuase few have tried. That's the artists' faut, not the medium Anyways, I'm sure you're all bored now, so feel free to move on..after all it's only talkback

  • Sept. 1, 2000, 5:20 a.m. CST

    I like this interview, but....

    by Wungolioth

    Is anyone else really surprised that Hollywood keeps pulling away from him? The way he says, "You gotta do this, you can't do that.", has really gotta turn any director or producer off of him immediately. He really needs someone to do his negotiating for him. Once he's on the project he can do what he wants. It's a shame too because I really liked the designs he made, I'd much prefer that over the shoulder-pads look someone posted a while ago. I admire him for his frankness, but it's not going to get him far in that end of the business.

  • Sept. 1, 2000, 7:15 a.m. CST

    The Wait is Over

    by Malgath

    http://www.elbakin.com/

  • Sept. 1, 2000, 12:21 p.m. CST

    This is the best AICN feature I've ever read, BUT...

    by Jobriga2

    Who is "Kirk" Busiek? The brother of comic book writer KURT Busiek, who wrote "Marvels" and "Astro City"? Don't tell me there's no-one on the AICN staff geek enough to catch this...

  • Sept. 1, 2000, 3:13 p.m. CST

    My medication is wearing off...

    by darthexcelsior

    Great interview, super stuff, can't wait, this 'n' that, blah blah blah, blee blee blee...what I was really wondering, after skimming through endless posts here and there, was if that super-anal fanboy from "Trekkies" (the one with the costume made before First Contact came out) and the homemade Star Trek film has ever left a post here. No offense to anyone in particular, but it seems as though he would fit in very nicely 'round these here parts. Well, jus' wonderin'. Anybody? Oh yeah, keep up the, uh, good work, Harry. Great interview. Great insight. Great.

  • Sept. 1, 2000, 8:03 p.m. CST

    I agree, Ross does seem a bit testy...

    by TheCorpulent1

    Sure, in the opening few lines he's all affable and happy but after he starts getting into the meat of the interview his tone just degrades from cheery to "Life-Keeps-Screwing-Me-Over-And-I'm-Goddamn-Sick-Of-It-Because-I'm-Talented-And-I-Damn-Well-Know-It." He seems like he's just whining about how his ideas keep getting rejected when, from the way he describes it, it sound more like it's his demands and endless negotiating that keeps screwing up opportunities for him. Not that he's exactly hurting for opportunities, considering any comic book company is just aching to have him do ANYTHING for them. Actually, the impression I'm getting from him is the same greedy, egotistical one I got from Lars Ulrich during that whole Napster thing. I get that the music was copyrighted and Napster was wrong, but does he really have to come off as a whiny bastard who only wants money? But I've digressed far too much. What I'm saying is Alex Ross seems to be acting like an egotistical jerk because he knows he's talented and, consequently, thinks his work is synonymous with perfection. I'm kind of starting to hate him...The same thing happened to me with Todd McFarlane. I loved his Spider-Man and Spawn work, but then I read an interview with him and he turned out to be the single biggest asshole whose speech I've ever had the displeasure of reading. Maybe it was just the article, but he really seemed like the worst person ever. I sure hope that doesn't happen to me with Ross because he's far too great an artist for a comic book geek and aspiring artist like me to hate.

  • Sept. 2, 2000, 6:59 p.m. CST

    ffdd

    by X-Girls

    GreenBat Stan Lee is an old man, be glad he isn't retired, and he's still working on superheroes (lame and boring flash cartoons, though). 'good for a comic book movie' is used 'cuz most comics are pathetic and written badly with mediocre artwork.

  • Sept. 5, 2000, 1:57 a.m. CST

    Hmmm whining is not becoming, dude

    by Maynard

  • Sept. 5, 2000, 2:11 a.m. CST

    nice artwork, if you like gimmicks

    by Maynard

    Ya, whining aside, he makes nice pictures. He needs to take a valium during his meetings and interviews though.(maybe some lithium as well) I think he just pissed off a real happy x-men fan. Really, if you work from photographs of models, then make your paintings from visually copying these photos, why do that? Why bother calling it art? I'd just make a photo collage and forget about the realistic watercolor look alltogether. Fuck, I did what you are doing on these comics 10 years ago in my first year of art school. I was told it was gimmicky. Basically, the hard part for Ross, is creating the backgrounds. The models did most of the work for him. I bet his shits gonna look the same after 20 years. If you read this Ross, its really just a critique.

  • Sept. 5, 2000, 2:17 a.m. CST

    Interview Chris Claremont Please

    by Maynard

    I'd love to see what everyone else thinks about Alex Ross. Get someone in here from Sony. These artsy types are hard to handle. Sometimes they need to be sedated. Most should not be allowed to kill their own careers by giving huge interviews to dudes that will put whatever you say on the internet word for fucking word.