There's no getting around the fact that Americans place a high value on physical appearance, and nowhere is this truer than in Orange County. Whether through physique-enhancing drugs, hardcore workouts, plastic surgery, body implants or face-lifts, face-lifts, face-lifts, more and more people are trying to create the perfect body, the perfect face, the perfect nose, the perfect eyelids.
So we are proud to tell you that everything you need to know about the symmetrically ideal human being can be found in cartoonist Stan Lee and John Buscema's How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way(Fireside, 1978). The book shows how to draw superheroes as compared with "normal" people, whom Lee and Buscema describe as "weak" or "dumpy." What's funny is that the "normal" people drawn in the book look like they've been working out seven days a week their entire lives. What's funnier still is that an increasing number of real people look less like the "normal" folks in the book and more like superheroes drawn the Marvel way.
For example, in chapter four, there's a drawing of a regular guy, whose physique is essentially perfect, standing next to Captain America.
"Note that the superhero is larger, with broader shoulders, more muscular arms and legs, a heavier chest, and even a more impressive stance," the book explains. "There's nothing weak-looking about the fella next to Captain America, but a superhero simply has to look more impressive, more dramatic, more imposing than an average guy. Perhaps the most important single point to remember is that you should always slightly exaggerate the heroic qualities of your hero, and attempt to ignore or omit any negative, undramatic qualities."
Maybe that's why so many guys who work in office buildings typing at computers all day spend so much time at the gym. Even if you're not a superhero in real life, you can still look like one—and finally get the attention and admiration you deserve.
Perhaps the biggest insight from How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way is that the essence of human beauty is simplicity—or, to put it another way, a total lack of the unique characteristics that distinguish one person from another. In the old days, people who wanted a perfect face had to be born with it. But now, thanks to Botox injections, chin implants and expensive surgery, anybody who wants a perfectly symmetrical face can have one. All the seemingly complex cutting and pasting plastic surgeons use strongly resembles the Marvel method of drawing, as outlined in Lee and Buscema's handy book.
"For men, the face should be chiseled and angular. A typical, hero-type head . . . is generally five eyes wide," the book says. "There is one eye's distance between the two eyes. To determine the width of the mouth, draw an equilateral triangle, starting at the top (bridge) of the nose. The triangle goes down, touching the nostrils at the outside of the nose, right? Of course! Well, the width of the mouth is determined by where the two lines cross the mouth line!"
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The same shortcut also applies to the chin. (Don't try this at home.) "Simply start your triangle underneath the nose, through the lower lip (where it starts to turn up) and, when it touches the bottom of the head—Eureka! That's the width of the chin!"
When it comes to women, Lee points out that it is important not to "emphasize muscles on a female. Though we assume she's not a weakling, a woman is drawn to look smooth and soft, as opposed to the muscular, angular rendition of a man. We've also found that it's preferable to draw a female's head slightly smaller than a male's. In fact, she's generally drawn somewhat smaller all over, except for the bosom."
It is just as easy to produce a beautiful woman's face, especially her profile. "Note that the lower lip is fuller than the upper lip, while the upper lip juts farther forward," the book says. "Place the eyebrow, but not too low—and employ a graceful curve. Bring chin forward and find proper positioning of nostril by drawing a straight line from mouth to eye line."
"Drawing the good guy is, as you can probably tell, a somewhat formularized task," the book continues. "But drawing the bad guy—ah, that's where the fun is! That's where you can let your imagination run riot and really do your thing!" In comic books—and increasingly in real life—all heroes, superheroes, and those who want to look like them—look the same. At this rate, sometime in the near future, only the villains will be left with any personality. Only the bad guys will look normal.