Seeing legendary painter Alex Ross in person at a comic book convention is a rare treat. Seeing him talk with his art book collaborator Chip Kidd is an even rarer treat, so it’s no surprise that a packed room greeted Alex Ross and Chip Kidd on Saturday morning at New York Comic Con 2018. What a way to start the day!
The event took place at Shop Studios, less than a block away from the Javits Center. There was a separate cost of admission from the New York Comic Con ticket to attend this event. While the $75 cost of entry may sound steep, it included a signed copy of Ross and Kidd’s new book MARVELOCITY, a Black Panther print by Ross created especially for this event, the ability to get one more personal item signed by them, and what turned out to be a very informative and entertaining conversation between Alex Ross and Chip Kidd.
The panel consisted of Chip Kidd asking Alex Ross a series of 10 questions. No questions were taken from the audience. Chip Kidd kept the conversation flowing quickly, moving onto the next question as soon as Ross finished an answer. It was evident in their banter back and forth that Ross and Kidd were friends as well as colleagues.
Chip Kidd asked Alex Ross when he knew he was done with a painting. Ross said “You take it to the fullest extent of what you can graphically, but a lot of times you end up shrugging your shoulders and saying I don’t think it’s going to get any better.”
One question of Chip’s to Alex was only two words, “Why superheroes?” Alex Ross’s answer was longer. He explained that “Some of us are sports fans, some of us have other interests, but why are we into this weird thing that is often rejected by society and looked down upon? Not calling it childlike, but the simplistic nature that this stuff connects with us on an intellectual level has an invisible quality to it that shouldn’t be devalued, but is always devalued. People will say try to make it darker to seem more realistic.” Ross was against that line of thinking and continued to answer this question with praise of the designs of Jose Luis Garcia Lopez, who was responsible for the DC style guide in the 1980s. Those interpretations of the characters, with their beautiful simplicity, without the need for seams or stitching evident in their costumes, are his favorite. He cited those designs by Garica-Lopez and questioned if his love for them were just nostalgia for what he loved as a boy “or is it rather something pure that reacts to the part of my brain that isn’t trying to be overly critical trying to live up to this mature, adult thing.”
Kidd threw Ross for a loop when he asked which superhero Alex would most like to wake up next to. After composing himself, Alex Ross said “They’re not sexual beings to me,” which Chip Kidd enthusiastically agreed with. Ross went on to explain that when it came to costumes that would be impractical in real life, like Wonder Woman’s one-piece swimsuit, his brain saw the skin as peach-colored costume. In his head, the skin was part of the costume pallette, not something sexually revealing. Chip revealed his own answer to be Shazam, but changed it to Captain Marvel when Alex pointed out that Shazam was the old wizard and that Captain Marvel was the hero.
Chip Kidd did a great job of peppering in humor throughout the panel. One of his questions for Alex Ross was, “To whom did Neal Adams say this upon first meeting? “Oh, I know you. You do a lot of good work, but you do a lot of bad work too.” Chip quickly answered his own question and said Mr. Adams had that to him, Chip Kidd. This was met with laughs from Alex Ross and the audience alike.
A signing followed the panel. Ross and Kidd made time for quick chats and photos with everyone who attended the signing. Attendees to the event included two men dressed as Superman form Kingdom Come and the Spectre. Watching Alex Ross interact with these two pivotal characters from Kingdom Come during the signing afterwards was quite a surreal sight.
MARVELOCITY, Alex Ross and Chip Kidd’s new book on Alex’s Marvel Comics work, is on sale now at booksellers.
Billy Henehan writes for The Beat. In his free time, he likes to hunt down foreign language reprints of Todd McFarlane Spider-Man comics.