Alex Ross’s cover for an upcoming issue of Justice Society of America has caused a bit of a kerfuffle because of the bulge in Citizen Steel’s pants. As Dick Hyacinth says, there have been “several arguments that Ross painted [Citizen] Steel with a bulge only because his model had one.”
Piffle. Let’s start with another Ross painting, done for the animator JJ Sedelmaier, and reproduced in Comic Book Artist.
I trust that no-one doubts that that composition was designed to draw attention to the foreground figure’s package. Ross has placed us, as we look at the picture, below groin level, looking up, so that bulge is almost literally “in your face”. Now let’s look at the Citizen Steel painting.
The whole composition seems designed to draw the eye down to Steel’s dick. The raised arms make his torso a triangle pointing down to it. This is reinforced by the way the musculature has been painted, emphasising diagonals converging on the groin, by the folds in Steel’s strained pants, and by the “Y”-shaped design on the costume, which acts as a pointer. None of that is accidental, surely.
So what is Ross up to? Perhaps he’s just having a joke. Perhaps it’s a plot point, and the Citizen’s steely erection will save the day from Star Sapphire’s radioactive vagina. Perhaps it’s tit-for-tat (as it were) for all those cheesecake covers of DC superheroines – so common that DC has just put out a 200-page hardcover book of them. Perhaps, after 70 years of homoerotic superhero comics featuring scantily dressed musclemen wrestling with each other, Ross feels that it is time to move one stage closer to the money shot.
I wonder how it will sell?
I assume that, for American readers, the name Citizen Steel brings to mind Citizen Kane or Citizen Robespierre or some such.
But I’m a middle-aged Englishman, so I just think of Citizen Smith. Freedom for Tooting! (Or wherever Steel hails from.)
Ambiguously Gay Duo Comics, cover by Alex Ross, JJ Sedelmaier Productions, 2003, reprinted in Comic Book Artist volume 2 issue 2, October 2003
Justice Society of America issue 7, solicitation image by Alex Ross, DC Comics, 2007