Alex Ross: 'The Last Temptation of Superman'

Ross on Kingdom Come and JSA

Alex Ross has been very busy recently, from shepherding Dynamite’s Project Superpowers along with longtime collaborator Jim Krueger to doing the same with Krueger on the Dynamite/Marvel production, Avengers/Invaders - and he’s also doing covers for both projects, as well as character design work.

While those projects are important to him, Ross has also been working on something that has a special place in his heart – he’s been co-plotting DC’s Justice Society of America with Geoff Johns (and of course, providing covers), with the most recent stories following the journey of Kingdom Come Superman to the “main” DC Universe. In the last few issues, more and more elements of Kingdom Come have been popping up in Justice Society, most alarmingly, the revelation of the false Gog and then the real god, Gog, and the looming revelation of Magog.

Kingdom Come pieces are swirling fast and furious among the JSA, and things are headed toward a final conclusion in December’s Justice Society of America #22. Before then though, Ross will not only write, but also paint November’s Justice Society of America Kingdom Come Special: Superman, featuring the Kingdom Come Superman searching for answers to his cursed existence, and the reason why he was transported to this world when his own was in such need of his aid.

We spoke with Ross about the coming Special, and his part in and view of the larger Kingdom Come-related storyline in JSA.

Newsarama: Alex, was this always in the plan for you when you were coming on with Justice Society? Back before the series even started, Geoff was mentioning that you’d be coming on to help out – was it always going to culminate in this for you, a Special that you’d both write and paint?

Alex Ross: To some degree, yeah. I knew that I wanted to make sure in this project – as I was trying to reclaim the world of Kingdom Come to some degree, that if you were going to see a flashback to events that took place in that world, it would be done by me. So if it was a panel or a page, I would do those, and we’ve peppered those throughout the series so far. It wasn’t something that we could really promote, but it was a way that we were showing that it was something that I was very closely associated with.

Also, good symmetry that exists between my art style and the two artists working on the book, Dale and Fernando, has been so in tune that when you see this character from Kingdom Come hanging out with the JSA, it really looks like that specific Superman. You can tell it by his face alone – you don’t need to see the chest emblem to know it. These guys have captured his look so perfectly, which is just thrilling for me to see.

So I knew that I was going to do a bit more artwork, as in the concluding portions of our story, there’s going to be quite a bit more Kingdom Come stuff that will be me closing the door on this whole chapter. All of this is kind of my returning and doing what I didn’t do ten years ago, and putting it out there as a way to say: This is how I feel about this world as well as this project that will probably always remain as the most well-read thing that I ever worked on. We’re adding on a…not a revised chapter to it, but…an addendum? I think that’s what we’re doing here.

NRAMA: Without giving too much away that’s coming up, how do you feel about Kingdom Come years later, and its…use? In your mind, is the story and world something that should be closed off and not revisited, or is it a viable player in the DC multiverse?

AR: No, no, no! You’ve definitely see by the end of this thing – I want it closed. But, you know I’m also showing that I was good for playing with it one last time. This, for me, all goes back to Paul Levitz who originally said ten plus years ago that he wanted a spin-off of the Kingdom Come universe into the contemporary DC Universe. At the time, I could have backed away from it very easily. When they were first discussing it, it was Mike Carlin and Paul saying that they would do a Magog series. Frankly, at the time, I could give a damn about Magog. He was a character who was a metaphor for the modern era of Image/Rob Liefeld style characters. He wasn’t the main, enjoyable point of Kingdom Come – I always felt that was the older Superman.

So I started pushing for this thing that involved the DC heroes reflecting more of their roles within the Kingdom Come storyline, and letting the modern Superman take that center stage a bit more, and that then evolved into the project that I dubbed The Kingdom. And then, due to not seeing eye to eye on it with everyone involved, I backed away from it, and they eventually did something that was much more about doing a whole yearning to re-emerge the multiverse. There’s still something unique about this world that’s the metaphor for a superhero world heading to an Armageddon, than a world where there are so many superhumans is doomed to a terrible ending. That’s the metaphor of this tale. In a way, the Kingdom Come world has to stand as that, and I want the memory of what Kingdom Come represents at the conclusion of the storyline to stand in a simple way that everyone knows – that the Kingdom Come story should not be added much to or rewritten or fixed, or have characters from it borrowed.

NRAMA: So, that said, how would you characterize the storyline you and Geoff are doing with Superman?

AR: By borrowing its biggest character, and having him plucked out of it for a moment to have him play in the modern universe…it should be obvious – it’s The Last Temptation of Christ story. That’s the story I’ve been doing – the story that Geoff is allowing me to tell in the pages of JSA. If you go specifically to the movie, you see Christ on the cross plucked from that moment, and shown the life of a man that he could not be. So effectively, during Superman’s kind of crucifixion in Kingdom Come, he is pulled from that world into our mainstream DCU – and maybe with the consequences of finding out that he may not be saved from the fate that was intended for him.

I’ve been thrilled with how it’s worked out – Geoff took very well with my characterization to the counterpart to Magog, Gog, the giant character that I envisioned ten years ago.

NRAMA: There’s been speculation about Gog in JSA given what was said about the Third World…

AR: Right. I saw and still see Gog as a connection to the Kirbyverse and the New Gods. This giant, who is found on earth, was the only survivor from the ancient world that was split into New Genesis and Apokolips. Geoff’s taken that and written it exactly as I’d hoped for it to be back then. We’ve argued with each other on points, but all in all, it’s worked out well. It’s been a good evolution, creatively. And I love seeing how the various characters who have poked their heads in from Kingdom Come, particularly Starman – how well they’ve been used and how well they fit in to a cornerstones of DC. JSA was always one of my favorite teams of DC Comics, and now I’ve been a part of it for the last several years. It’s been very satisfying.

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