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Q&A – Alex Ross (Comic-Con Poster Artist)

AMC.com talks with Alex Ross, the veteran comic book artist who created The Walking Dead Season 4 poster for Comic-Con. Ross talks about why zombies can be harder to draw than humans and how his poster paid tribute to his favorite horror movie.

Q: How much creative license were you given to create the poster?

A: I was asking the questions of whether I should put in the cast, or is there some particular zombie I should feature. And the answer I got back was more or less, “Zombies!”

Q: Were you able to procure any secrets about the upcoming season to help with the creative process for the poster?

A: Getting past the whole thing of whether I was supposed to illustrate members of the living cast, sky’s the limit in how to interpret your version of zombies.

Q: You’ve drawn a lot of humans in comics over the years. What is different about creating walkers?

A: This is not one of my skills or something that I’ve exercised much at all. I’ve probably drawn skull-faced kind of characters a small amount of times in my career. It’s the kind of thing that some artists love and have a visual vocabulary with, but I have to go do more research to try and approximate how you might do it. In terms of the things you can do to slice up the human body, there’s no real end to how far you can take it. You still have to have a connected head and brain. But it is sort of a weird thing for me, because my mind doesn’t go as far as that naturally. In terms of that ambition to poke holes in the human frame, I’m usually doing the opposite, trying to build it up to make it seem more tough and strong. So it was an interesting visual exercise.

Q: Where did you look for outside inspiration?

A: A couple of the zombie effects that you see here are referencing the show, but one of the things that I was thinking of is the figure in the center of the painting that’s sort of pointing up with his raised hand. That’s a joking reference to Donald Sutherland from my favorite horror movie from childhood, Invasion of the Body Snatchers — a movie that was way too hard of an R for me to see when I was seven or eight. The last scene of the movie shows Sutherland, who has escaped these body snatchers the entire movie. Somebody else who escaped comes up to him, thinking it’s the real him, and then Sutherland makes this hideous shriek and raises his hand. So I thought, why don’t I just add him, and remove the lower jaw, so it seems like the mouth is sort of perpetually screaming. And that’s why there’s the hint of the curly hair that Sutherland used to have in the 70s.

Q: As an artist, what do you think of Greg Nicotero’s walkers on The Walking Dead?

A: I think they’re phenomenal. They’re beautiful, if that’s a word that can be used here.

Q: Your walkers have some intense eyes. Where did that choice come from?

A: That seems the most relevant thing to really draw the connection to the future, to pop out the eyes and their haunting quality. The one thing about zombie eyes is that they’re mostly blind. But it makes for a very striking visual in all zombie forms that I’ve seen.

Q: Were there any other alternate designs that ended up in the wastebasket?

A: I was thinking of any kind of striking concept using zombies potentially interacting with the viewer. One of the layouts that I did a very tight composition of was having the zombies really close to the viewer, kind of circling around as if the viewer was lying on the ground. The zombies were basically eating the viewer. You had one zombie with flesh pulling into its mouth, and it was quite horrifying. I can see why they didn’t quite embrace that one.

Click here to see a gallery of The Walking Dead Comic-Con posters.

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