A few months ago, an artist friend of mine tweeted something a little nasty about Deadpool comic creator Rob Liefeld, who I’ve always found to be an entertaining follow on Twitter. He basically called Liefeld a hack artist. In an effort to understand, I asked him why the next time I saw him. “Look at some of his art for Deadpool and Captain America. He draws characters with unrealistically massive torsos,” he explained. This is something I’d never noticed about Liefeld’s art. Something that never really bothered me, but it is a topic of discussion within the comics community. As a relative neophyte, the only conclusion I could draw from this interaction is that sometimes comic artists such as Liefeld interpret physical bulk as strength. If our heroes look like The Mountain from Game of Thrones, that means they look tougher. Just as comic and video game artists also problematically create female figures that are grossly disproportionate. Because smaller waists and larger chests, in their minds, equals greater sex appeal.
I’d never sat down to consider it until that conversation with my artist friend, but this is something that bothers me. I’ve always naturally gravitated away from the more pronounced and disproportional heroes. It’s one of the reasons why I’ve enjoyed DC’s resurgence on television. With The Flash, Arrow and now Supergirl, they’ve brought to screen characters that look like actual humans you might meet on the street. Sure, Stephen Amell’s Oliver Queen looks like he does Crossfit daily, but he’s not an unrealistic physical specimen. The same goes for Grant Gustin as The Flash, who is fit but also thin. Even though his introductory voice-over is a little silly (“By day, I’m an ordinary forensic scientist.”), I buy him as a lab nerd. And I buy him as a person who can run fast, because his speed isn’t powered by 40" thighs, it’s the mystical Speed Force. His power is shown via his actions, not via his girth.
This is a conversation I’ve had about female superheroes in the past, as well. I feel the same way about the body types of male superheroes.
These are the thoughts that came to mind this morning when I first glanced at this banner, released by DC Films on Facebook. In it we get our first look at concept art for the five main players in the cinematic Justice League: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Cyborg and Aquaman. My initial reaction: with the exception of Wonder Woman, they all look really bulky.
Granted this is all concept art and it seems unlikely that We Need to Talk About Kevin star Ezra Miller will be bulking up to Ben Affleck’s Batman level, but I still don’t feel good about it. On top of disliking the broody tone that DC is setting with its cinematic universe, the look of these characters feels a little bro-macho. This is less of a surprise coming from director Zack Snyder, but nonetheless disappointing. The hope is that on-screen, these characters will fall a little closer to their television counterparts, all of whom feel like real humans within their own world.
We’ll know more this evening, when DC will air a special called The Dawn of the Justice League on the CW following The Flash and a special half-hour preview of Legends of Tomorrow. Perhaps this is just concept art and won’t reflect the actual costumes. Though in the case of Batman and Aquaman, we already know that’s not true. They look just as meaty in real life as they do in the concept art. I guess what really bothers me is The Flash, a character that doesn’t need to be a slab of meat.
Next: The Conversation We Need to Stop Having About Female Superheroes
In other DC Films news, the new logo for the standalone Wonder Woman film was released via the film’s official Twitter. It looks pretty sharp and in line with the film’s WWI setting:
So there’s some good news.