STOCKBRIDGE, Mass. | Comic book great Alex Ross, often-called "the Norman Rockwell of the comics world," will have his works exhibited in the Stockbridge museum that bears the late artist's name.
Ross, who attended an opening event at the Norman Rockwell Museum earlier this month, said that Norman Rockwell influenced his unique, photorealistic renderings of superheroes such as Batman, Superman and The Avengers.
"We both hone in on trying to represent the grit of life in some detail," said Ross, in a recent telephone interview. "What made Rockwell is what shaped me."
Heroes & Villains: The Comic Book Art of Alex Ross will be on view at the Rockwell museum through Feb. 24.
This is the first museum exhibition celebrating Ross' work. Organized by the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, the exhibition features more than 130 works including paintings, drawings, photographs and sculptures from Ross' personal collection.
The exhibition features rarely-seen works — from his crayon drawing of Spider-Man, created when he was 4 years old, to his work for such publications as "Marvels," ''Justice" and "Kingdom Come."
Ross, now based in the Chicago area, has worked on the best-selling "Kingdom Come" for DC Comics and on Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, which is collected in "World's Greatest Super Heroes and Uncle Sam" for Vertigo comics. His interior artwork for DC includes the epic series "Justice" featuring the Justice League Of America, which he co-wrote with Jim Krueger.
Ross said he would like comics to be read by more people, but that doesn't mean simply producing more comics because already "more are being put out by the major companies than there is an audience for."
Many of the current works are aimed at men in his age category, the 42-year-old artist said; the younger audience has moved on to video games and other media.
Almost 70 percent of U.S. comic-book readers are adults, according to the www.firstamendmentcenter.org
"There are legions of fans that want to see stuff evolve and grow" while comics in general is a "breeding ground for potential movie properties" and merchandising, Ross said.
But with an older audience, there is increasing sex and violence in comics. "Younger readers are used to a liberal amount of violence and edginess in the video games they play," Ross said, noting that there are mature content warnings on comic books.
What he illustrates is "largely veering away from violence because it doesn't work for me as an entertainment tool," he said. Like anything else, "it can be run into the ground. If we develop a homogeny of excess, it loses its power."
"Heroes & Villains" pays homage to Ross' inspirations, including original work by his mother Lynette Ross, also a successful illustrator, Frank Bez, Andrew Loomis and Rockwell. Also featured in the exhibition are works by Andy Warhol, a comic book fan, including his "Myths" series, which mirrors many of the subjects depicted in Ross' work.