Rather than focusing on a bad costume this week, I want to take a moment and talk about another common blight on the super-hero comic landscape: bad anatomy.

Examples abound, but let's focus on just this one panel from "Prophet" number 4, which is ©1994, Rob Liefeld. Note that Liefeld isn't the illustrator here, just the creator/writer*. No, the "honors" for the inking and pencils both go to Stephen Platt (which shows why having the same guy do the inking and penciling both can be a really bad idea, but that's a rant for another day). Anyway, here's the panel:


Yes, this is the same issue the second-to-last Caption Contest was taken from -- it's the gift that keeps on giving.

Just look at this panel for a few moments. Once you're able to separate out the figure from the surrounding elements (made much more challenging by the atrocious color design, nonsensical panel layout, and obscure -- at best -- backgrounds), see if you can tell what's off about it.

Done? All heaved out? Good. I've taken the liberty of diagramming the image in Photoshop for you, pointing out some of the ways Platt went off the rails here:


Exaggerated human anatomy is one of the staples of the genre, from the 7-head tall body to the big muscles to the extremely dramatic poses. But you have to understand the basic anatomy before you can successfully exaggerate it. That's part of the problem with the Image-style necks, bulbous thighs, and enormous forearms, they just throw in huge groups of muscles and bones that simply don't exist. At all. That's not exaggeration, that's invention, and it's extremely difficult to get right.

Look again at that Prophet illustration. His legs are broken, flat out. There's no other way for the human body to get into that position. His forearms are literally the same width as his upper arms. And finally, not to be crude, but he's got an ass-hole the size of Brooklyn if you look at where his legs join the torso. That can't be healthy.

It's like someone took a Todd McFarlane Spider-Man drawing and pumped it full of helium till it ballooned to the desired proportions. And the only thing about McFarlane that should be that full of hot air is McFarlane himself. At least he earned it.

*Goodness knows I could write reams about how awful the writing and concept are as well, but focus, people, FOCUS!

13 Responses to Antinatomy

  1. Skiriki says:




    You know, for a second I thought that the sole of his right foot was somehow a source of one of those heads, as if he had chopped off human-headed hydra/snake or something like that.

    Another warning: never, EVER try if it is possible to pose something shown in Image/Liefeld-drawn comics. I tried once, and I nearly broke my back. And I’ve been told that I am actually quite agile and nimble…

  2. Jose Inoa says:

    Y’know, I remember reading the back of a “Youngblood” card (from the set) at a Con somewhere (and I paraphrase – it was years ago) that it took awhile for Liefeld to define his signature style. Which is ‘frosting on crap’. And I mean the so called illusion of pro-grade work trying to hide behind computer assisted coloring.

    I’ve also heard the argument (in a ‘podcast’ about superhero costumes) that comics are really more like hieroglyphics that go along with words to further define the story.

    Or in Liefeld’s case, (focusing on ‘Prophet’ – and the character isn’t one) a graphic hissy fit on those that told him he’d never get hired to make a Conan the Barbarian story.

  3. John says:

    Y’know how reptiles have detachable jaw hinges? Maybe Prophet has detachable hip joints. ‘Cause that’s the only way his legs are getting that far apart.

    Of course, that makes cleansing one’s colon that much easier. Ah, sweet relief!

  4. Cory says:

    I honestly believe the caption is just as nonsensical and hilarious…. “I am outside” wtih what I can only imagine to be a look of surprise? I give this 5 Liefeld thumbs up!

  5. EnderX says:

    How dare you make fun of the poor man in the image! Obviously he was cut in two at the waist, and had robotic legs replacing the originals.

    At least, that’s the only explanation I can come up with for why his torso seems to be pivoted at a really incongruous angle to his legs.

  6. Niall Mor says:

    Is it a reasonable rule of thumb to suggest that if you can’t tell what the heck is supposed to be going on in the panel that it’s a badly drawn panel?

  7. Jeff Hebert says:

    I would say yes, Niall, that’s an excellent rule of thumb.

  8. DJ says:

    Hmmm…I think I have a million dollar idea…Abstract Comics…Rob Liefeld is already a master at it but he hasn’t give it a name…I SHALL RULE THE WORLD!

  9. Frankie says:

    I don’t know the correct name for them, but the muscles that are between your neck and shoulders looks like a collar on this guy.

  10. Cavalier says:

    It took me a bit to even *find* that guy’s right leg. It hurts just looking at it. The heavy lines all over the poor schmuck doesn’t help much either.

  11. Jeff Hebert says:

    This whole issue shows how important it is to have a really good inker, and how it’s more — much more — than just tracing the lines. You don’t appreciate the artistry until you see it done very poorly. Like this.

  12. HalLoweEn JacK says:

    I loe the little image in the bottom right corner of him escaping from an obviously kicked-down-with-muscles-of-liefieldness door hatch – and the running pose! The flared buttocks! The raised hands! It looks liek one of those early 20th century WB or Disney cartoos that was eventually ‘lost’ because it was an offensive racist stereotype of someone.

    To me, that running pose lacks only a floral handbag and a parasol beside the caption “We must hurry to market, or all the best fish will be taken.”

  13. Jigglypuff says:

    Oh yeah Anatomy is a necessary part of the comics. If the anatomy is badly done, then the person will look downright odd or even totally screwed up, like in the pictures above.