Alex Ross has been waiting a long time for the opportunity to tell his Fantastic Four story. When the opportunity finally came, the superstar artist was ready to challenge himself like never before. The result is Fantastic Four: Closed Circle., an original graphic novel that opens on September 29. It is the first title from Marvel Arts, a new publishing partnership between Marvel Comics and Abrams ComicArts.
Closed Circle is the first graphic novel written and illustrated by Ross, who rose to fame in the ’90s as a co-creator of such limited series as Marvels, Kingdom Come, and the ongoing Astro City series. Check out this slick new Fantastic Four adventure in the image gallery below, and read on to learn more about why Closed Circle is decades in the making and how Ross wants the characters to fit into it. Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The evolution of art by Alex Ross
Ross’ illustrations in 1994’s Marvels and 1996’s Kingdom Come have given Marvel and DC superheroes a hyper-stylized realism, and his distinctive style continues to make him one of the most requested cover artists in the world of comics. That’s why I was surprised to learn that he had changed his artistic process for his new project. Ross created the Closed Circle art using pen and ink and flat coloring to capture the retro Pop Art vibe he was going for with his original story.
“I knew it would have to change to convey it in a way that maybe connects the dots a little more for the contemporary reader.Ross tells IGN during an interview via Zoom.Doing traditional pen and ink and having flat color was essential. If I just did my typical painting process, I don’t think I would have successfully conveyed any of the notions from that time period.“.
the artist did a concession by changing your creative routine. He used black gouache paint for the inking phase, mainly to give the corrections a break.
“Actually, I didn’t use ink“he clarifies.”If he messed up, he could use layers of water and lift what he had just put down. It’s not the problem you have with ink, where you basically have to put white on top and then draw something“.
The origins of Fantastic Four: Closed Circle
In Fantastic Four: Close Circle, a swarm of parasites from the Negative Zone causes the Fantastic Four to return to the antimatter dimension to investigate. While there, they meet a figure from their past. Ross’s story reminiscent of one of the high points of the legendary series by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee“This man… this monster! From Fantastic Four #51. The idea dates back to the mid-’90s, when Ross, fresh from the Marvels smash hit with Kurt Busiek, was offered a golden opportunity .
“Having worked at Marvels for them, then Editor-in-Chief Tom DeFalco suggested that I could take any story in the Marvel pantheon and revisit it. We would retell a story, expand on it, and tell new things that happened within that historical context. And he mentioned “This man… this monster!“
DeFalco even suggested pair Ross with Stan Lee for the project.
“He kept telling me that he could work with Stan Lee on this. And I thought, oh, that’s the Jack Kirby experience where I’m going to do all the work, figure it out, and then Stan will come in and discuss it,” recalls Ross. “I don’t know if that’s the right way to repeat history, you know?“.
The idea went nowhere.
Two decades later, as Marvel prepared to relaunch the Fantastic Four title after a long hiatus, Ross made a proposal to direct the revival. That didn’t happen either. Partnering with another writer was also out.
“It just wouldn’t fit if I was following someone else’s lead“, dice Ross. “The thought I had is that Jack Kirby didn’t get this to develop on its own in the way that it needed to when the amount of plots he was doing were pretty much driving the tomes back then. I can’t do that to myself. I have to learn from his example and make sure that whatever work I commit to, I get the credit that is due me.“.
Unsatisfied ambition continued to nag at Ross. When the Abrams Books opportunity presented itself, the search of all these years could finally be completed
“I had always remembered this idea that had been put to me. And I thought the boldest thing to do was to go back to what is commonly considered one of the most famous stories that they did. [Kirby y Lee] and make a sequel to it“.
“The boldest thing to do is to go back to what is commonly considered one of the most famous stories that made [Kirby y Lee] and make a sequel.
This standalone story is set in a time period that Ross describes as “contemporary.” The artist wanted place their story between the previous volume of Fantastic Four and the current situation of the book, in which Franklin and Valeria Richards are now teenagers. Ross portrays the team as space explorers (with new suit designs) as well as superheroes, and the book gives Ross ample space to pay homage to Kirby’s work on the characters that defined the era. The artist wanted to sync up with the art Kirby was doing on the Fantastic Four during the title’s heyday in the ’60s, but he didn’t want to do purely nostalgic period work.
“I was trying to be in tune with what Jack Kirby was doing artistically and with the time period in which they created this book.“, dice Ross. “It’s not that easy to do, especially nowadays“.
Ross even made his own custom action figures. by Reed Richards, Susan Storm, Johnny Storm, and Ben Grimm, which he later photographed for reference while working on the book (he can be seen drawing the photos on his YouTube channel). He was doing an average of 10 pages a month, while still doing his usual cover assignments for Marvel.
The book is full of amazing artistic pieces, including a double page spread with the Crossroads of Infinity (seen above). He jokes that his take on the Fantastic Four will catch the attention of a major Marvel fan. “As you say, it’s a vibe, and it’s a vibe that I hoped would somehow rub off on readers, as well as maybe one reader in particular, which would be Kevin Feige.Ross adds, punctuating the comment with a laugh.Now, will that make any difference? Probably not“.
Bringing the Fantastic Four to the MCU
Marvel has confirmed that a Fantastic Four movie is coming in November 2024. How would Ross like to see Marvel’s First Family introduced into the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
“I’m like most fans, who keep saying: put them in the 60’s and then you can do as much material as you want with them being the only superheroes in their own time period.“, dice. “And then you can make them time travel if you want to cross them, but you don’t have to. But having them in that time period would be wonderful, because of the aesthetics of things like we saw in Mad Men. Can you imagine that coming to life in a [película] contemporary with the Fantastic Four?“.
Ross crafted his story in such a way that could be used as a roadmap by filmmakersif they so wished.
“You have the opportunity to make a great first impression [con la nueva película]”, dice. “We know that contemporary movies are very influenced by the most recent things that have been done in comics… I wanted to present a way of looking at the group centered on the four members who, if they do an adaptation, stay with the main version first“.
Ross’ love of comics has been an integral part of his career.. His fondness for the heroes of the Silver and Bronze Ages of comics influenced his work at Marvels, as well as the tabloid-sized specials he did for DC Comics with Batman: The Animated Series writer, Paul Dini. He points out that he is a fan of the Marvel movies, but that he wishes they were more faithful to the source material.
“I really like what they do and even the things I don’t like, the stylistic choices they can make, I don’t hate them. I can always appreciate it for being the insight they bring“, dice Ross. “But I would love it if when looking at the characters he would just say, ‘That’s how Jack Kirby drew.’ And I don’t think Jack’s work was that abstract, so I’m trying to give my own take here that he says, doesn’t it look like the face that Jack drew for Reed?“
For most of the last quarter century, Ross has based his portrayal of Reed Richards on Russell Johnson, who played “Professor” in Gilligan’s Island. For Círculo Cerrado, he found a new inspiration. “Here I switched to a different kind of 1960s TV series, and luckily it’s still around and he was fine with it.“, dice.
Ross contacted actor Gary Conway, who starred in the series Land of Giants, to get his blessing and base your new interpretation of Reed on it. “When I first saw a picture of him, which was in the last 20 years, I was like, “My God, that’s Reed’s face. Holy shit! And it made me think, have I been doing it wrong all this time? Because that’s what Jack was drawing. So little by little I got used to it.” dice Ross. “He really embodies the character beautifully. But the thing is, there’s a roadmap. There’s a style of people’s faces that look alike. This is what that archetype was. And I’d love to see that reflected in the cast.”“.
The launch of the Abrams ComicArt imprint will surely lead to more independent projects. Ross says that already there are ongoing conversations with other comics talent. “They’re reaching out to people who really consider themselves to be a unique type of author-artist and giving them the platform with the Marvel properties, but in a way that’s more artistically extravagant.“, dice.
Ready to write and draw another project?
“Ideas are seeping outhe replies cryptically.I’m thinking about what I’d like to try next“.
Ross has said that this book was to challenge yourself artistically. But talking to him, one gets the feeling that he did it for another reason. For a large number of fans, Kirby-Lee’s career is the pinnacle of comics. Fantastic Four: Closed Circle gives Ross a chance to remind people why Kirby was known as the “King of Comics.”
“Try to somehow tune into what Jack Kirby was doing artistically in the time period in which [Kirby y Lee] created this book, it’s not easy to do, especially nowadaysRoss explains.There aren’t too many people who really emulate the style that he did. If we go back to the ’70s, there are people who were influenced by Jack Kirby’s comics. Today it seems like a much more distant memory, but the style of him is embedded in this group of characters, in this book in particular. [para el que] created one hundred numbers of content. I wanted to kind of convey that, taking my style of realism and filtering through that influence while trying to say, “Hey, what Jack did still works in a context.”“.
Fantastic Four: Closed Circle will go on sale on September 29. Here we tell you who will be the director of the next Fantastic Four movie for the UCM.