Drawing Traditional Superheroes

Yesterday I surprised some people by sharing these drawings I did for a potential mascot for a client (in my internet marketing day job).

Super Guy
Super Guy
Future Man
Future Man

A traditional superhero and a retro space age hero.  To my non-surprise the client chose the more generic hero, while everyone one else seemed to prefer the futuristic jet pack man.  But I did seem to get the same reaction from most people I shared these with: shock.  Several variations of “You drew this?“.

Yes, I did indeed draw them both.  So why do they look significantly different then my normal stuff?  Because normally I go out of my way to draw more original “heroes”.  My heroes have bad costumes and spend the majority of time sitting around talking.  It is a lot harder thing to draw, especially to draw well (which I’m always working on).

Traditional heroes like these half a wealth of visual history behind them that you can reference.  For the top hero, there are about a million images of Superman and various rip-offs all over the comic world, so it is probably the easiest thing to draw a muscle man flying around in a cape.

When you read any  “how to draw comics” book the generic image they use to teach you hero anatomy is basically Superman.  As for retro space age futuristic superhero, just go back a few decades you will find plenty of them to borrow ideas from.

Not only do the “how to” books tell you to proportion your heroes as larger than life men, the teach you to position them in exaggerated poses.  Take the most extreme point of any action, exaggerate it a little more and that the one you should use.  Oh, and also use a plentiful amount of forced perspective or foreshortening.  Everything must be visually dramatic as possible.  Even the way a hero stands (Superman’s hands on hips with feet spread apart).

They don’t spend time showing how to draw an average sized man dressed as a hero sitting at a bar.  No, flying and throwing punches with musclemen is far more common.

So when it is time to draw a regular superhero (oxymoron?) it really isn’t that hard if you’ve done your studying and some practice.  What is hard is to draw completely original visuals that often go against the rules of how to draw a superhero according to all the books and most of the content out there.

It’s kind of sad in a way, because when people asked if I drew these I know it was partially because the style is so different, but also partially because they thought the art was better than my usual work.  That ties into the idea that these are the predominant images of comic book superheroes in our society’s consciousness, which equals “well drawn” in our minds.

Does that mean I should be just sticking to the traditional comic book fare of giant men having epic battles with superpowers?  Maybe.  I’d probably be more successful at it.  Alas, that is not the story I want to tell.  I’m not here to create derivative art and stories you feel like you’ve read many times before.

No, Black Snow Comics is about something a little bit different.  It’s about looking at heroes in original ways and telling stories that haven’t been told before.  It’s about going against the norm (and rules of the “how to” books) much of the time.  So, possibly to my detriment as a commercially successful artist, I will continue on with my journey of self discovery while attempting to improve at creating art that is wholly my own.

And hopefully that is good enough for everyone else.  And look, if you want me to draw something more traditional for you, well you just have to pay me!

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