The first thing Bruno Junqueira did when he left O’Hare International Airport at 5 a.m. Saturday after a long plane trip from Brazil was to drive to the Bess Bower Dunn Museum of Lake County in Libertyville.
There he met his hero, Alex Ross, a renowned artist of superheroes and villains for Marvel Comics and DC Comics.
Junqueira was among more than 600 people who came to the opening of the exhibit “Marvelocity: The Art of Alex Ross” at the Lake County Forest Preserves museum. Ross was there for three hours to autograph his new book “Marvelocity,” as well as various other books, drawings and other works of art he created that superhero and art lovers brought to the event or purchased there.
Ross, who lives in the Chicago area, is recognized as one of the nation’s finest modern comic book artists — and his colorful, detailed art work depicting Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, Iron Man and others grace the museum walls. Also on exhibit are superhero figures Ross drew and sculpted when he was a young boy.
A life-sized, three-dimensional Captain America sculpture Ross created is also on display, flanked by busts he sculpted of the Hulk and other superheroes. Some of this art has never before been seen by the public, said Ross, who has spent nearly three decades turning drawings of superheroes created by Marvel Comics and DC Comics into fine art.
When Junqueria learned he’d be flying into Chicago for a business trip the same day the exhibit was opening and that Ross would be there, he knew it would be his first stop. “My luggage is still in my car,” he said.
Junqueira added that “my biggest inspiration is Alex Ross’s work,” pointing out the artist’s ability to create detailed, colorful works to look as if they were either done in an acrylic paint or with water colors, or both.
“Since I was 6 or 7, I loved comic books and drawing,” Junqueira said. “It’s amazing how with that, you can enter into such a different world.”
Junquiera, a budding comic illustrator, brought Ross a gift — a drawing of Ross himself, which the artist graciously accepted just before beginning a three-hour stint of signing his works for his admirers.
Young and old were there because they love superheroes, and they love the art of Alex Ross. One woman wore a Batman sweater, earrings and necklace. Adults and children took selfies with the paintings and sculptures. Others browsed the gift shop filled with Ross’s work.
One superhero lover didn’t even know Alex Ross and his works would be there when he visited the museum.
Mason Reid, 8, of Vernon Hills, and his father Jerry came because Mason won a free pass to the museum at school.
“I walked in and I saw Captain America and all these pictures, and noticed this is a whole area dedicated to superheroes,” Mason said.
His favorite drawing was one showing Sandman attacking Spider-Man. “Spider-Man is using the force to defend himself,” said Mason, who loves to read comic books and draw — and, of course, he was Batman one year for Halloween.
The young boy recognized that superheroes weren’t one-dimensional.
“There’s some good and maybe a little bad in them,” he said. “Batman has a dark side.”
When asked what it was about superheroes that attracted adults and children, Mason said, “It’s a great way to express powers we don’t have.”
Mackenzie Kick, a junior at Barrington High School, came to the event to purchase Ross’s new book for $50, and have him sign it.
“I like his art style,” said Kick, a ceramicist who enjoys reading comic books. “You can see right there on the pages what you’re reading about.”
Justin Torres just plain loves superheroes. When the Chicago resident noticed that the displays included a sculpted bust of The Thing that Ross had created, he immediately took a selfie.
Torres knows all about The Thing. “He just got married and he’s Jewish,” Torres said, showing a cellphone picture of The Thing wearing a yarmulke for the wedding ceremony.
“He’s one of the original Fantastic Four from the ‘50s. He’s cool and grumpy,” Torres said.
Torres added he didn’t realize Ross lived in the Chicago area and that there was a museum in Lake County featuring exhibits like this one.
“This is a hidden gem,” he said.
Some visitors at the event asked Ross who his favorite superhero was.
His immediate response: “Captain America.”
“He’s always trying to do the best, be the best version of us,” Ross said in an earlier interview.
The exhibit continues through Sept. 8 during regular hours at the museum, which is located at 1899 W Winchester Road. Special events are planned, including a program on superheroes of the animal world.
Sheryl DeVore is a freelance reporter for the News-Sun.