Justice Vol. 1 collection, 2006
Print on canvas
Justice Vol. 2 collection, 2006
Print on canvas
Collection of the artist
"This image of the Justice League is a companion to another print seen here of what might be called The Legion of Doom, or, just the super villains of my particular series: a series called Justice, which was a twelve issue series I did over a course of two years working on painting every page of this long, drawn out comic series that was a tribute to the cartoons of my youth, the series the Super Friends. In fact, it was specifically called The Challenge of the Super Friends because it was the first time they were orchestrating a run-off between super villains and super heroes in kid’s TV. That really wasn’t the commonplace thing for a lot of super heroes adapted to cartoons. You would generally just see the heroes – often in the ‘70s – fighting some kind of, you know, ‘problem of the day’ that would demand somebody come in and, you know, ‘make right’ but not necessarily fighting a direct bad-guy-super-villain. And, so, this was unique to my youth, having this embodiment of all these villains together in one assembly. And I wanted to pay tribute to this with a project. As an adult I had always been kind of shying away from typical ‘superhero to super villain’ conflicts, so, this series was based around that concept.
"The paintings were building off of a style of art that I had done for the series Kingdom Come – the covers for that series – and you’ll see the cover for Kingdom Come #1 here showing the same compositional style. This was also lifted from something I saw Norman Rockwell do, which was a flat compositional style, where all of the figures don’t recede in the background as these rows of figures are all the same exact size and proportion. So, there’s a lack of depth, but part of that is the power of the piece, that you get this sense of almost a ‘class photo’ as you’ve taken the camera shot from far away of a full grouping of people. But, something of that flatness was very powerful to me when I saw it in illustrations done by Rockwell. He did it in a number of pieces and one that’s on display in the show is of the U.N., where the figures seated of the U.N. members with a backdrop of people behind them kind of created this image in graphic for me, and I wanted to emulate that very strongly."
The animated television series Challenge of the Super Friends aired on Saturday mornings for only three months in late 1978, but the series left an indelible impression on 8-year-old Alex Ross. The second half-hour of the hour-long TV show All-New Super Friends/Challenge of the Super Friends, Challenge of the Super Friends featured heroes and villains from the Silver Age of DC Comics battling each other.
Celebrated as one of the most accurate depictions of comic book superheroes in an animated series, Challenge of the Super Friends featured the villains Lex Luthor, Toyman, Bizarro, Brainiac, Sinestro, Solomon Grundy, Black Manta, Cheetah, Giganta, the Scarecrow, the Riddler, Captain Cold, and Gorilla Grodd working together as the Legion of Doom. The heroic Justice League of America comprised Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman and Robin, Aquaman, the Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Black Vulcan, Apache Chief, and Samurai.
The 16 episodes of Challenge of the Super Friends have influenced Alex Ross's work throughout his career, perhaps more than anything else related to comic books. In fact, Challenge of the Super Friends was the direct inspiration for Ross's 12-issue Justice comic book series, which debuted in 2005. In addition to painting the books, Ross co-plotted the story with frequent collaborator Jim Krueger. Justice, named after the Justice League of America, featured an epic battle between the heroes and villains from Challenge of the Super Friends, in addition to heroes such as Martian Manhunter, Black Canary, Plastic Man, Red Tornado, Captain Marvel, and the Metal Men, and villains such as Black Adam, Clayface, Metallo, Doctor Sivana, and the Joker.