Friday, July 03, 2009

Wayne Boring's Superman

Mike Fontanelli says he hates superheroes because they don't make sense.

Unlike talking rabbits who walk upright - which makes perfect sense.

I disagree with Mike. To me superheroes are an American tradition and the more preposterous they are the more I like them. Superman has to be the most preposterous of them all and he deserves the most preposterous artist to bring him to life with absolute stiffness.
Wayne Boring is the best Superman artist in my opinion because he draws everything so wooden. The whole concept of a Superhero is crazy. Men with god-like powers who run around in long underwear taking the law into their own hands. - and normal people completely accept it!
The fact that you can't recognize the secret identity of a superhero just because he takes glasses on and off can only work if every character in the comics looks exactly the same - and you can't hear their voices. It helps if no one ever opens their mouths to talk and also never opens their eyes.
All emotions have to be treated exactly the same. Here is deep romantic love. Can you feel it?
One thing I love about Wayne Boring is that he draws the cranium smaller than the jaw.
I made a cartoon once that celebrated the stiffness of Wayne Boring's poses, and made these model sheets from his comics to inspire the animators for once to be stiff on purpose - but in a certain way.

Look how relaxed Superman is in repose.
I really love how thick Boring draws Superman's torso. Very appealing.

The flying poses kill me too.

I think that Superhero comics were ruined when the artists and writers started taking them seriously in the 70s. The drawings got really serious too. Some artists like Neal Adams even took the bold revolutionary step of opening Superman's mouth!When you try to hard to explain preposterous ideas, they lose their charm - and it's even worse when you try to make silly things socially conscious. Didn't the Hulk have a gay friend in the 80s who died of Aids or something? Jesus, that's sure what the kids want to read about in their long underwear stories.

No, to me the art and stories and concepts have to be as insensible as possible to make Superhero comics work. Like I said, everything about Superman is unbelievably illogical and the writers in the 50s and 60s had their tasks cut out for them. They had to keep coming up with ways to get around the fact that you can't hurt Superman, because he can do everything. How do you find conflicts for that? They had to contradict all their own premises to be able to continue writing millions of stories about God and his friends. And they did it!

The only other comic character that comes close to the preposterousness of Superman is Batman - a character who can afford the colorful long underwear - BUT HAS NO SUPER POWERS AT ALL! And we're expected to believe that you can't kill him. Isn't he the most popular character too? It's because it makes no sense that he's so beloved.

I made a cartoon with a character based on Wayne Boring's Superman and I'll get a clip from it to show you soon. It was hard to make because I had spent all my previous time on the series trying to loosen up the animators' drawings. Now I had to tell them to draw stiff on purpose - but with style.

At the San Diego Comic Con, I'll show a cartoon I made that parodies Batman. Hope you will be there!


Mitch said...

Hey now, show the rest of us this nugget of entertainment, too.

Good post.

Kali Fontecchio said...

Is that artist's name really Wayne Boring????

Oliver_A said...


It's not only the blatant stiffness which makes superheroes funny, but also the subtle fascistic ideology, having superior humans running around taking the law into their hands and messing up their environment in order to bring goodness to the world.

I also think the deadpan portrayal of stiffness by Adam West and Burt Ward is also the reason why the 1966 Batman series is hilariosuly funny.

nktoons said...

Great scans....I agree with Oliver the 1966 Batman was comedy!

Isaac said...

There's more deep romantic love in a traffic light than in that drawing.

Jack G. said...

The only other comic character that comes close to the preposterousness of Superman is Batman.

I've never liked superheros, but Batman was OK because he was just a rich guy who could afford cool gadgets.

Marvel heros were the worst - some freak accident happens and viola: a new superhero is born! But... they have issues!

What a cliché!

Nate said...

ah ha ha ha ha! good.

Larry Levine said...

Wayne Boring was & will forever will be the greatest Superman artist (including the long tenured Curt Swan).

Boring's artwork was fun & exciting, something painfully missing in the post-1970 anatomy lessons that took over the superhero comics.

So many of today's artists push the muscle envelope more laughably than Chuck Jones did for The Crusher in Rabbit Punch & Bunny Hugged

HemlockMan said...

Oh, how I miss the San Diego Comic Con! I used to go every year! Alas! Now I'm too busy and too poor!

When I was a kid I absolutely HATED Wayne Boring's art. But when I was a kid I absolutely absorbed every freaking Wayne Boring Superman story. Go figure. I must have secretly liked his work and didn't want to admit it to myself. I loved the absolutely insane stories. I recall one where Superman got out of a jam by being Clark and Superman at the same time. Not with his robot, but by moving so fast that nobody could tell that he was jumping back and forth while changing clothes. Persistence of vision made everyone think that Superman and Clark Kent were a couple of feet from one another at the same time. (Or maybe I just imagined that story.)

And the time Superman did a handstand to push the entire effing planet Earth. Everyone thought that Superman was just being crazy, but he was pushing our planet out of the way of something dangerous (I forget what--a disintegration beam or something stupid like that.)

Yeah, in them thar days Superman was tougher than God and could whoop Jesus' ass, no doubt.

Yeah, those crazy 50s and early 60s Batman tales were truly weird, too. I didn't like them as much as I liked the insane Superman stories, though.

And, yeah, Adam West and Burt Ward were doing the 50s and 60s comic book Batman & Robin. They should be given awards for that.

Niki said...

This whole idea of preposterous reminds me, on Monday I was watching an anime cartoon and it was the last episode. I realize how completely retarded it was. They even used Superman science to explain everything! it was hilarious the robots where as big as galaxies and they where using other Milky ways as throwing stars! I really always love how they find crazy ways to explain everything such as he's an alien so he can build a fortress in the arctic! It's probably melting by now though.

Also when after the comic con can you post the video here? I can attend the con but I'd love to see it.

thomas said...

Original and really interesting take on Superheroes.

i'm not a Mary Worth specialist, but these kind of remind me of Mary Worth, but with another layer on top of it. Instead of " Is the doctor going to marry the nurse?" its' Should I tell my girlfriend that the planet's going to explode?"; but its essentially the same melodrama.That's what makes it so over the top, and ridiculous.

The stiffness of the drawing relates to all the thought bubbles over the characters heads. They're always thinking, but are immobile at the same time. Very funny.

Sean Wiig said...

OH, man! I never thought of THose superhero comics as being any kind of comedy (On the count of I never read them first hand), but now I am laughing my pants off! Batman IS funny! Superman is made of logs!

tomztoyz said...

I can't make it to San Diego, can you please send me the Batman Parody video or post it on YouTube?


Anonymous said...

This post gave me an idea for a Superman cartoon you could do. It could be drawn as a parody of Wayne Boring's art.

You could also do a Fantastic Four sketch I have in a parody of Jack Kirby's art.

mike f. said...

It's not only the blatant stiffness which makes superheroes funny, but also the subtle fascistic ideology, having superior humans running around taking the law into their hands and messing up their environment in order to bring goodness to the world

That pretty much sums it up for me, too. I'll never understand the allure of men in rubber underwear - but I admit I (grudgingly) admire the skilled craftsmanship that goes into superhero comics. [Stuffs hands in pocket in sulky manner, kicks pebble resentfully...]

(I like Wayne Boring, actually. I especially like his übermensch cartoonist handle; second only to Dick Sprang in accidental coolness...)

Bill J. Barry said...

Man-Man and Boy-Boy?

Wally Wood did a great job of unintentionally copying Wayne Boring poses with frozen joints.

Rick Roberts said...

The irony of superhero comic books is that they don't reflect anything about humanity at all no matter how flawed they are, there is always a one dimensonal division between good and bad.

On the other hand look at "funny animal" comics such as the work of Carl Barks. Donald Duck and Scrooge McDuck are like everyone else in real life, they aren't trying to save the world. All they want to do is fulfill selfish goals for the sake of self worth and many times they are corrupt by greed, especially Scrooge. These are genuine flawed human traits that you don't see in super hero comics.

Pilsner Panther said...

There are a couple of interesting Fleischer Superman model sheets in Leslie Cabarga's Fleischer book. Two notable things that they demonstrate:

1. Superman and Clark Kent were treated as completely separate characters, with somewhat different body construction.

2. The Fleischer guys were used to animating characters based on circles, and the model sheets make a point of instructing them that realistic humanoid characters are based on rectangular blocks or slabs, instead.

Those cartoons are very true to the original comic book character designs, and they're very impressive if you watch no more than one or two of them at one sitting. But like the comics (and superhero comics in general), they get repetitious in a hurry. For all the talent involved, they're the most formulaic, assembly-line products the Fleischers ever produced.

Admittedly, I'm not a superhero fan; even when I was a kid, I'd pick a Carl Barks Donald Duck or MAD for sheer entertainment value over anything from DC or Marvel. I haven't changed my opinion, either.

bloatedsackofprotoplasm said...

Hahaha. When I saw the name "Wayne Boring" I thought you were doing some kind of play on words or something. Good stuff.

Sean said...'re so right about that, man..Superman loses so much when he's not drawn like a GI Joe. Why didn't I ever notice that?

Brandon D. said...

This whole idea of preposterous reminds me, on Monday I was watching an anime cartoon and it was the last episode. I realize how completely retarded it was. They even used Superman science to explain everything! it was hilarious the robots where as big as galaxies and they where using other Milky ways as throwing stars!

Hey Niki, I beleive you were thinking of Gurren Lagann as shown on Sci-fi channel's animonday lineup. It's a pretty good show, if you haven't seen the rest of it you really should.

Ed said...

John, (or any of the others lamenting the end of thick, wooden, slab-men) has anyone introduced you to Frank Quietly's superman and batman?

Small cranium, but chin? check.

Squinty eyes? check.

Emphasis on the pajama like costume? check.

Stiff akward pose? check.

Appeal? check.

Kyle said...

I was never a fan of most superheroes, especially superman. I hated his lack of weaknesses.

The only heroes I ever latched onto were ninja turtles and Power Rangers. which, now that I think about it, it doesnt get much more ridiculous than those.

I do like the Spiderman movies, but even with those I cam in pretty late. didn't see the first till the second was about to release.

John Paul Cassidy said...


POWER RANGERS was a half-assed Americanization of the Super Sentai series. I was a fan of Super Sentai before POWER RANGERS unfortunately happened along and deformed the entire tokusatsu (Japanese SPFX) medium the world over, let alone the J-Hero genre.

Everything live-action comic-book-based American superheroes wish they could be, the Japanese have achieved in abundance. The thing is, most Japanese heroes, tokusatsu or anime, have been a TV thing, more than a comic/manga thing.

As John K has said, superheroes are an American tradition, but the only other country this tradition has crept into is Japan, which has the same record output as the US, and offered their own unique spin on the American superhero conventions! And I'm talking about the hundreds, close to a *thousand* of flashy costume/mask heroes. Moonlight Mask, Ultraman, Ultra Seven, Spectreman, Masked (Kamen) Rider, Silver Mask, Iron King, Kikaider, Inazuman, Goranger, Zubat... the list goes on.

And it's too bad that most Americans don't even know what a Japanese superhero looks like. What do they see? DRAGON BALL, SAILOR MOON, COWBOY BEBOP, NARUTO, etc. Sorry, Americans will have to dig much deeper than that.

The coolest thing about some Japanese heroes is that Ultraman and his brethren are brilliant flying, ray-shooting alien creatures who wrestle with some very nifty (even crazy-looking) giant monsters and creepy aliens! They don't wear costumes, because, well, they can't take them off! :)

Since 1971, Kamen (Masked) Rider is the one who started the "henshin" wave of superheroes, the ones who transform by doing a pose. They're usually cyborgs (Masked Rider), androids (Kikaider) or mutants (Inazuman, Masked Rider Amazon), which explains their "superhero" forms. Most of the Super Sentai and Metal Heroes (Super Sentai's one-time brother genre, the ones that inspired the design of RoboCop) are mere skilled humans wearing enhancing suits.

And these colorful crusaders were ridiculously violent and, to an extent, dark and grim! Way ahead of the "seriousness" American comic-book writers instilled into the medium. Eiji Tsuburaya and Shoutarou Ishinomori were more revolutionary than, say, Denny O'Neill!

And Jirou Kuwata, my favorite manga artist, did the absolute best manga adaptation of Batman & Robin in 1966, as you can see in Chip Kidd's great book, BAT-MANGA!

Rampant said...

I am both delighted and a bit upset that this made me laugh hard enough to jolt me out of my sleepiness. Superman looks about as agitated as Charlie Sheen ever does nowadays (or ever?) in the "blurting out the truth" segment.