Tag Archives: comic book art

Newsflash: Superheroes spotted at the Norman Rockwell Museum!

At the NRM with SupesPut on your best cape and let’s fly to the Norman Rockwell Museum! Today’s post is by one of our store managers and resident comic book nerd, Jake.
I was online last Friday morning when I read that a friend was going to see an Alex Ross exhibit at the Norman Rockwell museum in Stockbridge, MA. I was flabbergasted! How in all of geekdom did I not know about a show of one of my all-time favorite comic book artists that was going on just a couple of hours away?! Even more catastrophic, it was ending in 2 days! This was probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience to see some very famous (for comic book fans, anyway) original pieces of his painted superheroes. I managed to take the afternoon off from work (hey, we got a blog post out of it), grabbed my wife along with her niece & nephew, and made like the Flash to western MA .
IMG_3553Alex Ross Batman bustIt was amazing! I was familiar with nearly every artwork in the exhibit – they were all on my bookshelf at home. While some pieces were high quality reproductions from Ross’s own collection, many were the actual paintings. Seeing Aquaman or the Green Lantern in the scale that they’d been rendered, with all the little details that you don’t see in the published versions, was something I didn’t think I’d ever get to do. Aquaman & Hawkman by Alex Ross
Ross became known in comic books when the medium was on a real downturn – there was a glut of junky art and mediocre stories in the early 90s. He brought a fresh look and gave iconic characters back their prestige. His classical approach to depicting super heroes with incredible realism hadn’t really been seen like this before. Typically, publishers use 3 aritsts – a penciller, an inker, and a colorist. But Ross told stories thru painting all of his own work. Not many artists can please fans like he did and make the leap into the mainstream where his work became known outside of just avid collectors.
If it seems strange that the Norman Rockwell Museum would be hosting a show of comic book art, it’s because Rockwell’s work has always informed Alex Ross’s paintings – he’s never made a secret of that. After noticing the close resemblance between some of the pieces, more cynical people might say that he’s ripping off the great American artist. Personally, I love that there’s such a strong tie between the two. It makes sense to me because comic books and Rockwell’s images are so very American. And I enjoy the idea that Rockwell’s sensibilities help elevate these characters that many think of as being cartoonish or goofy. But with Ross’s help, visitor’s to the show left with the same impression of these heroes that those of us who visit our local comic shop live with everyday.
Here’s a great comparison of the two artists, along with Ross’s own words about how Rockwell’s illustration for the United Nations inspired him.
Norman Rockwell United Nations“What impacted me so strongly here was the flatness of the composition in imagining all these people swapped out for superheroes, which I did, there’s something very powerful to that. Something too that I engaged with from how this particular pencil piece worked, is that the foreground figures of the United Nations members are lit by some kind of overhead light which separates them from the background figures. He also had a way of illuminating subjects where it felt very realistic in a way that would help me get across the idea of wanting to render these fantastic characters realistically. I wanted you to believe them. I wanted you to look at them and believe that they could be real, but also legitimate too. That the idea of being real people was not devoid of the fantasy that they were also embracing – that the two things seemed utterly understandable and realistic.”
Alex Ross JusticeThis isn’t our first post about Alex Ross’s comic book art. Take a look at the time we got to frame one of his original drawings!

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The longest art we’ve ever custom framed

Spider-Man bannerHow far would you go to decorate your child’s bedroom? How about custom framing a 10 foot long Spider-Man banner? One of our customers is tricking out his young son’s room with a Marvel Comic Book theme. He’s starting with this enormous vinyl Spider-Man picture that a friend who works at a comic shop got for him. Typically, only retailers would have access to something like it.

Okay, we get it, Jake.  It's a long picture.

Okay, we get it, Jake. It’s a long picture.

We had to use plexiglass to frame it – glass would have been too heavy and not safe for a child’s bedroom. We started with the idea to use a wood frame – a wood frame would have made the long piece more rigid. But the length was too long to get proper mitred corners, so we went with a metal moulding and it ended up working out great! We just hope the customer isn’t driving a Volkswagen Beetle when he comes to pick it up.
"#*$& lint, #@$% static cling *#@&$ dust"

“#*$& lint, #@$% static cling *#@&$ dust”

Framed Spider-Man banner

And the Best Wife Award goes to…

So who’s that guy on the right and what’s he got to do with somebody’s wife being awesome? Any comic book aficionado will tell you that’s Alex Ross, probably the most successful and widely recognized comic book artist working today. He’s worked for all the major publishers, depicting practically every hero and villain in his signature style. Ross does not illustrate comic books in the traditional fashion – he paints them realistically, often using life models who dress in superhero costumes so that he can capture every wrinkle, muscle, and arched
eyebrow. Due to his popularity and the time it takes for him to complete a piece, he primarily does cover art these days. Original drawings and paintings by Ross are highly sought after and treated as serious items of artistic merit and value. And they’re cool. Our Milford store manager and self-professed nerd, Jake Johnston, takes it from there. “One of our customers brought in a couple of comic books to be framed as a gift for her husband. I recognized them right away and told her how I was a fan. She said that I ought to really appreciate the other item she wanted framed with them: an original sketch that Alex Ross had done as a rough draft for the books’ covers. It was in pencil on a thin sheet of paper, smaller than a sheet of copy paper. But it looked exactly like the finished covers – just as detailed and just as impressive. She laughed when she saw the look in my eyes. I’d seen pieces like this for sale at conventions and knew its significance. Investing in a piece like this was noteworthy enough, never mind even finding one that shows all of Batman’s major villains and allies. If you were an Alex Ross fan or a Batman fan and you were going to own just one piece of art, this would be it. She also had a small, chrome bat logo – like a belt buckle – that she wanted to include. I told her that we’d definitely come up with the best design for such a special piece. I asked her more about it and she said that it was a gift that had been in the works for a while. She was giving it to her husband, a huge comic book fan, for his 50th birthday. I looked at her and said that she’d done good and wouldn’t have to get him anything else for a loooong time.” The customer kept the drawing with her while we prepared the rest of the design and made the frame. When everything else was ready, she brought it back and Jake mounted the drawing and fit the frame in front of her. “She was truly thrilled with how it came out and I know she appreciated that it was done by people who loved the art just as much as her husband would.”
The sketch is archivally mounted; everything touching it is acid-free and we used photo corners to attach it. This way, everything is reversible – if the owner ever wanted to remove it, the sketch would be completely as it was, untouched.
We used conservation glass to filter out any light that might harm the images. The blue mat on top is a suede fabric mat and the black detail around the edges is a suede bevel accent – it adds an impressive sense of depth and keeps the glass up off of the chrome bat insignia.

A long time ago in a custom framer’s far, far away

“He’s a card player, gambler, scoundrel. You’d like him.”
Okay, before we get all Star Wars intensive and bore you with quotes, here’s what we’re talking about. A customer brought us an 8-page comic book story starring Lando Calrissian – the Billy Dee Williams character from 2 of the Star Wars movies. This was a stand-alone short story that appeared in one issue of the anthology series, Star Wars Tales. A noteworthy tidbit is that it was done by Gilbert Hernandez, a writer and artist who’s well-known in the comic book world for the acclaimed independent comic book, Love and Rockets. He’s rarely known to work with any characters other than his own.
Just so we’re clear, these are the original pages that the publisher used to print the story. They’re hand drawn, hand inked, and hand-lettered. As we were working with them, we marveled at all the little details that could be seen on the paper; errors that had been whited-out, non-repro blue pencil corrections, and guide lines in pencil that the letterer used in the word balloons. The pages are on bristol board and about 11″ X 15″ each.
Along with our customer, we decided that the best way to frame the 8 separate pages was to put them in 2 frames, 4 pages each. This way, they could still be read in sequential order and it would mimic the look of panels on a typical comic page.

The story is light and humorous. It depicts a young Lando and his droid assistant out to collect a reward from some aliens who are being terrorized by a giant monster. Lando is convinced that the mission will be a piece of cake, but there are a couple of surprises waiting for him. The twist at the end is cute and Hernandez’s style of clean, simple lines lends itself to the compact story.

We were so excited that we forgot to photograph the frame – it’s a matte black, flat-faced frame, wide-enough to accommodate the size.

The Flash was framed!

It’s not a secret that a lot of our staff are pretty big nerds at heart. So it was of personal interest when a customer brought in an original page of comic book art to one of our stores. It’s from a 1962 issue of DC Comics’ The Flash. The cover and interior art were done by Carmine Infantino, a DC house artist who depicted nearly every one of their characters at one time or another. But his claim to fame was definitely the Flash.
It just so happens *ahem* that one of our staff owns a copy of this issue, so you can see what the printed result looks like next to the actual art. Pretty much one of the top 10 coolest things we’ve ever gotten to frame!


It belongs to a regular customer of ours. “He’s framed a couple of comic pages already with us,” says Jimmy, store manager. “Besides the Flash page, there was Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD and one with the Atom. The customer prefers a black metal frame with a natural white top mat and a second, red mat. He likes his comic art to be framed like a set. It’s all archivally mounted with acid-free tape and our UV conservation clear glass.” Frankly, we don’t think the scarlet speedster’s ever looked better!