Comic Talk and General Discussion *

What about BODY SHAPE? - Quackcast topic, please contribute.
Ozoneocean at 4:24AM, Feb. 11, 2015
posts: 28,710
joined: 1-2-2004

The image above was made up of pics taken from here -
and here -
(The images, taken by photographer Howard Schatz for his 2002 book, Athlete)
The pics show various athletes awho're at the top level of their respective sports, it also shows that they have wildly different physical atributes: there IS no one ideal, and there IS no “normal”. This got us to thinking how body shape can define a charactor as much as facial features, hairstyle, clothing etc.

For Quackcast 207 we want to talk about bodyshapes in comics again! We had a chat about it in Quackcast 205:
We'd love to know what YOU think about bodyshape in comics! Ones that YOU draw, read, or have just seen and that it needs commenting upon.
Gunwallace at 10:54AM, Feb. 15, 2015
posts: 383
joined: 10-13-2010
To be honest, I don't buy or read many modern comics. Sometimes if I'm waiting for my kids to finish school I'll stop in at the local library and read some of their collection of ‘graphic novels’ from the Big Two, which these days seem to be just any old issues of a comic run crammed together under a vaguely umbrella title. The body shape in those comics is a cliched as the storylines, for the most part. However, I did stumble across a bizarre Justice League collection from the New 52 era that had some very odd body shapes. It seems the artist had used real people as references for the characters, which I can fully related to, but had used a model for Batman that seemed to be a chubby white guy with a double chin. It wasn't in all the panels; sometimes Batman's chin would be thrust out in a grimace and the fat would melt away at that angle … but whenever Batman was relaxed or pensive he looked fat. Or at least fat for a superhero.
We have expectations for our heroes body shapes. There was a ‘controversy’ in the US a few years ago now when the quarterback Peyton Manning appeared on a skit on SNL with his shirt off and he had a big gut. He'd just won the Superbowl and he was flabby. People were outraged. How could this god of a man have a flabby gut? To quote one commentator: “he just looked like a regular guy”. If Peyton Manning can't be a regular guy, then Batman certainly can't be.
David ‘Gunwallace’ Tulloch,
Kroatz at 1:15AM, Feb. 17, 2015
posts: 2,417
joined: 8-18-2008
I prefer the imaginative to the banal. A world is more interesting with dragons or lasers, and the same goes for the characters in it. Keeping your comic book characters realistic, with believable proportions, and the average amount of limbs, seems like a waste of a perfectly interesting opportunity to create something that deviates from the norm and is therefore likely to be interesting. Half of every change from the average turns out better than the average.

The difference between action movies and horror movies is the relative weakness of the main characters. In an action movie, the main character has a big laser, capable of cutting zombies in half; In a horror movie, the main character has naught but a few bullets in their gun, reserved for himself and his family in the end. This weakness is usually shown in behaviour, or in dialogue, and that is a big missed chance. If you want to show weakness, make your characters physically incapable of some things. Give them a massive gut, or make them small, or give them a cool quasimodo hump. I'm not sure it fits in the body shape category, but there is a lack of physically differently able people in comic books. Create characters that should be unable to run from the big blob monster, have them struggle to even get over a fence, make even a little stream a nearly undefeatable foe, and it will be much easier to elicit emotional responses from your readers without the need for cliché situations or story arcs.

I care very little for the physical appearance of the people I encounter. If Spider-Man was a fat redheaded asian kid, but nothing else would change, I think I'd be okay with it. Create characters that fit in the world you created, and make sure that their body type has an effect on the story. Furry characters with a tail will knock things over with it; Tall people will run into New York doorframes; Fat people will be scared of rickety chairs and creaking stairs. I guess all I am trying to say, in a very lengthy way, is that any choice you make is a good choice, as long as you make sure that it actually has an effect on what really matters: The story.
The feeling you get, right before you poop.
That's the best feeling in the world.

- Albert Einstein
ejb at 4:09AM, Feb. 17, 2015
posts: 3
joined: 1-18-2006
I've been reading through an art course from the1950s, and it talks about figure construction and “idealized” forms. In terms of proportion, most people can be divided up into the seven head tall figure, with minor variances. In illustration and commercial art, however, due to “ modern ideals,” the seven head figure was seen as looking stout. In renderings, the eight head figure became the new norm. The height is the same as the seven head, but the head is smaller and the rest of the body is proportionally longer and leaner.

It's weird, after listening to the Quackcast last Tuesday, I was skimming through old magazines in a pulp archive and I saw this little illustration:

To be fair, it was in a 1923 ad for a miracle fat melting cream. “Reducine the Wonder Creme” or something like that. But I just thought it was hilarious and oddly fitting.
last edited on Feb. 17, 2015 5:10AM
KimLuster at 4:42AM, Feb. 17, 2015
posts: 795
joined: 5-15-2012
Anne Rice was once interviewed (which I'm heavily paraphrasing) about the appearance of her characters: they all tend to be gorgeous, rich, dress well, and talented in everything… even their flaws are flaming bonfires… They're all walking superlatives! She was asked why she didn't make more ‘realistic’ down-to-earth characters. Her responses was, basically , that people (in general, there are always exceptions) don't want their stories to be about Phil the Flute-maker, but about Hercules the Hydra-Slayer. They don't want to read about characters they could actually be, but characters they want to imagine being! People live ‘themselves’ every day, but they want to dream about the Gods!
While I don't fully agree with her, I do to an extent… For your main characters, it's can be a winning strategy to make them beautiful, with physically desirable bodies, talented, great fighters. They can have flaws, but the flaws just contrast with their otherwise perfection, drawing attention to it all the more. Even so, following the theme of this thread, ‘perfection’ need not be limited to a single cookie-cutter shape, as the array of pictures of athletes show!
bravo1102 at 6:07AM, Feb. 18, 2015
posts: 6,038
joined: 1-21-2008
Keep it consistent and if you're going to go with realistic body shapes have those body shapes match abilites. If Spiderman was a fat glasses wearing nerd, his build would change to that of a wiry acrobat over time. One Spiderman movie showed this. He started out with no build and after the spider bite became ripped. There was also the great transformation in the first Captain America movie.

And poor Hugh Jackman has to go from wiry dancer to muscle bound Wolverine every time he does one of those movies. But if you spent all your time doing superhuman things you'd get the build to match within time. Look at those transformations for the movie 300.
tupapayon at 8:47AM, Feb. 27, 2015
posts: 155
joined: 5-8-2013
I know it's late for my comment… I see a lot of comics now including a diversity of body shapes… Victory comes to mind… he's a non athletic double shin superhero… in Coganito the characters are normal average looking… but as pointed out, the fantasy is that our heroes are god-like, so they gotta look the part… but, as pointed out, they don't all have to look like superman or Wonder Woman…
maskdt at 10:04PM, March 2, 2015
posts: 58
joined: 9-11-2008
I prefer to go for variety. It helps to make the world more believable, it adds more visual interest, and it makes it easier to tell characters apart from as little as a silhouette. That said, a character's body shape should make sense for their occupation. If someone spends a lot of time doing something physically demanding (eg: fighting, working out, physical labour), then it just makes sense that they're going to be physically fit. What kind of fit they are varies, but they should still be in shape. On the other hand, a hacker probably isn't going to be particularly fit unless that character makes a point of working out. They might still be lean, but probably not muscular.

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