There’s an interesting thread here (got it from digg) which shows scans from the “how to draw superheroines” type chapters from various issues of Wizard Magazine. The comments are mostly from appalled feminist comic fans. They’re also pretty true. I mean, I can’t get that bent out of shape over superhero comics. Life is just too short. And there are different ways to read something, even for women, even for feminists — is that anatomically impossible PowerBabe a sexually empowered icon of female strength, or viciously offensive & exploitative chunk of cheesecake a la mode? Hard to say definitively. What if it’s ironic and self-mocking? Well, that’s hard to prove either way.
The consensus seemed to be that there was a lot to be appalled by in these how-to-draws. Some of them had little to no “how to” content, and were just “this is what I like to see in a superhero babe body.” The assumptions behind much of it were highly creepy. Oh, and fat-phobic too! (Catch the image of the Fat Scarlet Witch chowin’ down.)
As I’ve mentioned before, I read How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way back in high school — maybe it was even middle school — and it taught me a lot about drawing in general. (It also filled me with a bunch of false assumptions and bad habits, of course, but back in those days I did a lot of portrait drawing from life, which helped ground me a bit.) Back then, that was the only book on drawing comicky stuff around. Now there are shelves and shelves of them, with many variations, some with some great stuff, most completely worthless, and a strangely huge percentage of them authored by former “Blondie” cartoonist Christopher Hart. You can buy different books about drawing faux-Korean comics, faux-Japanese comics, “Noir” Crime Comics, and lots of other stuff. For the most part they don’t teach much of anything about drawing, they just have lots of examples of the kind of art they’re supposed to be teaching you. Sometimes good examples, sometimes awful. Just a bunch of examples.
I own a few of them. I admit it. I’m a sucker. There’s even some good stuff in some of ’em. But I think the real teaching content of about five or ten of ’em could be compressed into one book. It’s just so weird that there’s this huge industry in it. The Marvel Way seemed to be such a cool unique find back then. Now they just churn ’em out.
Having made it through several paragraphs of this I’m losing track of where I was trying to go with it. Oh wait. Here we go.
I’m OK with the freaky chicks in the popular comics. Sometimes they’re honestly attractive, sometimes they’re just weird. That’s fine, if there’s a market for it, whatever. It’s all good.
Just leave some of this around for me, OK?
Now back to your regularly scheduled comics.
I checked “How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way.” I scanned it for what it has to say about drawing superhero women. It doesn’t have a section on drawing female superhero bodies. Its general “drawing heroes” body examples are Reed Richards and Sue Storm, who are shown in exactly the same pose. There are general instructions about drawing bodies full of energy, tension, and melodrama, but nothing on making your women “sultry” (or even “raunchy“).
The one thing they do have for women is more and more detailed instructions on drawing their heads and faces, saying that drawing beautiful women’s faces is easier than drawing handsome men’s faces. I could see that as embodying a particularly het-male point of view, I guess.
On the pages where they discuss Reed’s and Sue’s physiques, they give the advice not to muscle up the women like you do the men, and that women are drawn “smaller” all over “except for the bosom.” Sue is introduced thus: “And where would Reed be without his stunning Sue?” So there’s definitely an emphasis on attractive appearance and body shape that is greater for women than for men, but there’s not much of it and it’s extremely mild compared to the hormone extravaganzas in the Wizard how-to-draw bits.