Kingdom Come, Book Two, 1996, DC Comics, Cover by Alex Ross.
The POP Retro Cover Of The Week continues its examination and celebration of iconic comic covers from the 1970s through the 2000s, this week returning to the Nineties, a decade that continued a trend begun in the Eighties: perfect-bound miniseries with card stock covers.
One of the most popular of these miniseries was Kingdom Come, a story about the next generation of superheroes, who have lost their way and are creating an even more violent world, and even hastening its end. The series was wrapped in religious allegory and biblical references, and even centered around a preacher.
The stunning and monumental-feeling “group” covers for this very American tale of guilt, lost hope, redemption, and hope found again were inspired by perhaps the greatest illustrator/painter of Americans and American virtues, Norman Rockwell.
Like me, cover illustrator Alex Ross is a major fan of Rockwell, and he was inspired by his paintings of stylized group scenes, like The Right To Know (1968) and the unfinished work United Nations (1953). Both Ross and Rockwell are hyper-realistic painters, so what could be stylized about their work? In a normal photograph that lines people up shoulder to shoulder in a row, and arranges them several rows deep, the people in the front row would look obviously larger than those in the back row. Both artists toy with those proportions to make everyone the same size and importance, with those in the back row just as large and powerful as those in the front.
Another way both Rockwell and Ross take artistic license with the laws of physics is to light each figure from below for dramatic effect. Each figure in every row seemingly has their own hidden light source, lighting them from exactly the same angle, something that would not be possible in the real world.
Ross’ group covers present heroes and villains alike in a noble manner, giving each figure a distinctive, realistic face and body type, humanizing them and making us relate to them as more than just colorful costumed comic book characters. Rockwell would be proud.
Next week: A cover from the 2000s!