Alex Ross, the supremely talented comics painter, first came to my attention as the artist of Marvels, the Marvel Comics miniseries written by Kurt Busiek that featured the early years of Marvel's main characters as seen by the man on the street. Alex's detailed, super-realistic paintings made the story work in a way that was startlingly good.
In 1996 I heard that Alex was going to do a new painted mini-series for DC. Dan Raspler called me to ask if I'd be interested in lettering it. "Okay," I said, "but are you sure Alex wants me? We've never worked together before, and he may be happy with his previous letterer from Marvels." Dan said he'd find out, and would get back to me. A few days later, Dan called again and said he had a message on his answering machine he wanted to play for me. I listened, and I heard, for the first time, Alex Ross's dry, somewhat grumbly baritone voice saying, "Todd Klein. I want Todd Klein. Get me Todd Klein." Dan and I had a good laugh, and I was on board for Kingdom Come.
Working with Alex was a great experience, though he was demanding, with definite ideas about what the lettering should look like and where it should be placed. I was lettering on vellum overlays, though, so it was easy enough to make changes if needed, and I enjoyed the discussion. When we disagreed about some fine point, I'd present my case, and sometimes he won, sometimes I did. I think the process made the work better, so I couldn't complain. One thing I have to say about Alex is that he is always willing to go the extra mile to create the best possible work, and all he expects of his collaborators is the same commitment. I admire that. The script by Mark Waid, from ideas by Alex, was also quite excellent, making this a fine project that I'm happy I was a part of.
When it came time for the series to be collected in book form, Alex arranged for Graphitti Designs to handle the book design, and he wanted to create a unique font for the titles. I worked with him on this, turning his pencilled letter forms into a font. It's unusual in that the lower case letters are much smaller than the capitals, but that's the way Alex designed it. It involved a lot of back and forth between us, but eventually came out well, I think. The Kingdom Come font was used sparingly in the collected editions, as in the example below, but used much more in the Kingdom Come novel written by Elliot S! Maggin, and published by Warner Books some time later. It's the first and only time I've collaborated on a font.
The next project I worked on with Alex was U.S. (Uncle Sam), a two issue series using the golden-age patriotic character in a story full of American history and politics written by Steve Darnall. A fine effort that gave Alex a chance to try something different than the super-hero books he'd been doing, and I think his art for the books was quite excellent.
In 1999 Alex called to ask if I'd be interested in working on a Marvel Comics series he was planning. Alex would co-write and do character designs and covers, with the art being done by others. It would be an epic storyline involving all the Marvel characters Alex and co-writer Jim Krueger could fit in. I agreed to join the team, and would eventually letter hundreds of pages of Earth X, Universe X, Paradise X and a number of spinoffs. It was, indeed, epic, and had some fine moments. My one regret was the lettering design I came up with for the main narrative character, X-51.
It was meant to have a circuit design in the background, which looked okay in the beginning, when colorist Matt Hollingsworth was able to airbrush it away from the actual letters, but later that wasn't done, and it became distracting and made the dialogue hard to read. Oh well, live and learn.
Read more about ALEX ROSS
All text and images ©Todd Klein, except as noted. All rights reserved.
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