While it’s certainly every artist’s dream to be drawing for giants in the comic book industry such as Marvel and DC, such a privilege unfortunately comes with some side-effects that isn’t typically reflected on the fine print. And even for luminaries such as Alex Ross, none are spared from the horrors of the corporate machine.
The 50-year-old American comic book artist, known for his iconic painting-style artwork on the cover pages of DC and Marvel, recently went on record stating that he was slighted by DC Comics over recent live-action adaptations on his works on the iconic graphic novel Kingdom Come, as well as the character of Batwoman, whose design was his creation originally.
Speaking to John Sientres on the podcast Word Balloon in a video interview (via Bleeding Cool), Ross explained how he and co-creator Mark Waid were “taken advantage of” by DC for adapting the designs used for The CW’s Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover and the Batwoman TV series last year, as well as the golden armour for Wonder Woman as seen in the upcoming Wonder Woman 1984.
Well, the thing is they were borrowing my Superman costume but it was only to get [Brandon Routh] in as his version of Superman, and the truth of the matter was they must not have been able or willing to do a deal based upon the production he was part of with Bryan Singer. Presumably that they didn’t want to have to pay out to them.
So instead I got screwed. They didn’t pay me or Mark [Waid] anything for using our [designs]… I don’t see any money for [Wonder Woman 1984] using my armour. Hell, I designed Batwoman for heaven’s sakes, and she’s got a whole damn show.
But you know these are some the issues that I have with not working with Warner Bros. anymore. They can recycle my content [that] they used to pay [for]. And I’m not kidding — they paid a year ago for different things that were kind of “discretionary bonuses” is how they called it, where they give you a gift of money, so that you’re not out there effectively complaining like I’m doing right now, saying “I got taken advantage of.”
Basically, in a buildup of a lot of projects over time, particularly peaking last year with the Crisis thing, there was a lot of stuff of mine that was getting (on TV) physically. And of course, the interpretation Mark and I did of the broken Batman we now saw portrayed by Kevin Conroy… and every fan knows where that was coming from. But we got no love from the corporation, and I have to feel, it probably revolves around the new ownership. He’s probably cut the budget of any kind of discretionary money given, so it’s a really rotten thing.
Given his frustrations, Ross also explained how hesitant he was to file a lawsuit against DC Comics for failing to give him and Waid the recognition they deserve. He brought up the point where Frank Miller, creator of another iconic graphic novel series, The Dark Knight Returns, issued a legal battle with DC over the use of his designs on Batman v. Superman in 2016, but was only issued a settlement as the company claimed that they were basing the film on Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight in 2008.
With such pulling power available at these big companies’ fingertips, it is tragic to see these talented artists being cast aside after putting out such iconic works over the years. One does question the sincerity of big-name publishers and the meaning of honest work in such an industry.
In any case, not all is doom and gloom for Alex Ross. The artist is now mostly affiliated with Marvel Comics. One of his main works for this year was the new The Rise of Ultraman ongoing series which first came out in June 2020.
Marion has a serious RPG addiction. Sometimes it bleeds into real life; he forgets to sleep because he thinks he has a Witcher’s body clock. Forgive him in advance if he suddenly blurts out terms such as “Mind Flayer” and “Magic Missile”, because never once does he stop thinking about his next Dungeons & Dragons game.