Alex Ross Brings the Fantastic Four Back to Basics in ‘Full Circle’ Graphic Novel
Speaking to Marvel.com, Alex Ross unpacks ‘Fantastic Four: Full Circle,’ his approach to the Negative Zone, his Pop Era colors, and more.
Marvel’s First Family is headed back to the Negative Zone. In Abrams ComicArts’ Fantastic Four: Full Circle, an original graphic novel from esteemed artist Alex Ross, a quiet New York evening turns to chaos when an invader appears in the Baxter Building. The mystery of his arrival – and the subsequent swarm of invading parasites he leaves in his wake – leads the FF back into the Negative Zone… where, unbeknownst to them, the fate of the cosmos hangs in the balance.
Speaking to Marvel.com, Ross provided the origin story for Fantastic Four: Full Circle. He broke down his approach to the Negative Zone and teased the terrifying, “malevolent” villain that dwells within. He shared the challenges of working with a Pop Era color palette, as well as Jack Kirby’s influence on his “photo-collage” designs. He also explained what makes Sue Storm Richards “essential” to this story, why he felt “compelled” to tell it, and more.
MARVEL.COM: To start, tell me a little about where the idea for Fantastic Four: Full Circle originated and how it finally came together after all this time.
ALEX ROSS: I have been petitioning Marvel for some years to do a graphic reinterpretation of the Fantastic Four in their normal comic series. I knew I would need to illustrate a full story myself to get across the way I believed it could be done. The basic story for Full Circle came to me early on as an easy and audacious way to draw attention to my approach. I also envisioned the larger graphic novel format as something I wanted to bring back with Marvel characters. Luckily, the opportunity came through with Abrams as a publishing partner to create this book the best way I could envision it.
MARVEL.COM: Fantastic Four: Full Circle delves deep into FF history. Without giving too much away, how did you arrive at using these deep-cut characters and references?
ALEX ROSS: I was really giving in to the impulse I often hate in others: to provide answers following up one of the best-known stories in the history of comics. The characters I used are key parts of the [Stan] Lee/[Jack] Kirby legacy of their FF run, with important backstories I knew well but could only hint at.
MARVEL.COM: To quote Ben Grimm, "This is straight outta them old creature features!" What inspired this particular take on subspace distortion and the Negative Zone? What did those settings allow you to do, that perhaps you haven't been able to before?
ALEX ROSS: I’ve always wanted to do an homage to Jack Kirby’s photo-collage art, which he used heavily in the Negative Zone trips he took. The Zone setting is more of an abstract place than a realistically functioning alternate dimension. From the moments the FF started going there without oxygen tanks in that anti-matter environment, you knew the ground rules were whatever you wanted to make of them.
MARVEL.COM: This OGN uses very specific, limited color palettes. What led you to this choice?
ALEX ROSS: I knew that another painted project from me would not get across the simple graphic impression I wanted to make with the FF team’s rendering and Pop Era style. The era of the ’60s and ’70s had a bold Day-Glo use of color in various parts of the culture, and I wanted to connect with that. The flat color approach would also test whether my art would hold up in an era with limited production capabilities.
MARVEL.COM: Drop a hint about the book's mysterious (and very creepy!) villain. Why should readers be afraid – very afraid – of Full Circle's antagonist?
ALEX ROSS: The Nega-Energy that makes up the Negative Zone has a face—several, in fact—and it can touch you, but no power you have is enough to even affect it. This Nega-Energy is true to its name, as it is a force of negative, malevolent intent.
MARVEL.COM: Like any good sci-fi comic, Fantastic Four: Full Circle uses a lot of pseudo-science, particularly in Reed's dialogue. How did you set out to approach that?
ALEX ROSS: Largely, I am consistent with the language used by Reed and other FF characters to describe what elements he’s dealing with. I really didn’t make anything up that wasn’t already established. At most, I piece together aspects of Marvel Universe science that haven’t been thought to be connected before.
MARVEL.COM: Which member of the Fantastic Four surprised you the most as you were crafting this story?
ALEX ROSS: Sue is likely the most essential character to get them through the story, mainly because her powers prove the most useful, with force fields and invisibility, to save their bacon over and over again.
MARVEL.COM: What are you most excited for readers to see in Fantastic Four: Full Circle?
ALEX ROSS: I’m very happy with the finished package of our book, and the printing is excellent. This is a one-stop best version in its initial offering.
MARVEL.COM: What sets Fantastic Four: Full Circle apart from the rest of your extensive work with Marvel?
ALEX ROSS: My history of multiple projects I helped to plot and create has demanded from me that I fully write and execute a complete long-form work on my own. This book is finally that project that I felt compelled to commit myself to, realizing the goal of showing what more I am capable of.
Fantastic Four: Full Circle by Alex Ross is now available from Abrams ComicArts.
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