Ambiguous Perspective

Sacrificing fundamentals to the gods of dramatic effect and deadlines

Purity Be Damned!

Most professionals ignore or adapt purist fundamentals when hitting unrelenting deadlines, emphasizing storytelling and "what looks good." Experience lets them eyeball while most of us have to ruler and pushpin for validation. John Buscema once said looking at some of his idol Hal Foster's work as an adult left him "a little cold." That's how I feel looking at these perspective gaffes, especially since he co-authored the most concise and informative perspective tutorial I've ever read in How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way.

Erik Larsen on artists fudging perspective

Ms. Marvel #1, 1977

"This Woman, This Warrior!" script by Gerry & Carla Conway, breakdowns by John Buscema, finished art by Joe Sinnott (with background help from Dave Hunt), lettered by John Costanza, colored by Marie Severin

The Problem

The background and most of the figures are worm's eye view (looking up from the ground), while the lower-right gunman is bird's eye (looking down on his head). Steps in my worksheet:

  • Step 1: Establish the horizon line and vanishing points.
  • Step 2: Scale Reed Richards' head to the gunman's.
  • Step 3: Plot the full Richards figure to the size and position of the "Now you're gonna die!" guy.
  • Step 4: Move Richards to the gunman.

Conclusion: He's tying his shoes

Splash page of Ms. Marvel #1, 1977
Based on my worksheet, the gunman should be tall as Reed Richards in this position.
Without the strategic cropping, I think this robber is tying his shoes.

Closing perspectives

  • The cops and background people are way too tiny for that left vanishing point.
  • Why is Carol ignoring the guards getting shot in that explosion?
  • His older brother tried robbing a bank in The Man Called Nova #2.

Howard the Duck #16, 1977

"Tell the People a Story" written by Steve Gerber, illustrated by John Buscema, colored by "Doc Martin" (multiple colorists)

The Problem

I think woman would smash her head through the ceiling if she stood up, while legend Bob McLeod felt the exact opposite. Our opinions came to a head a John Buscema Facebook group. Commenters started dropping off as we defended our positions with increasing enthusiasm.

McLeod has recently retired, having inked Buscema's work on various Conan titles, pencilled and inked his own work, and taught comics and illustration. This online disagreement didn't alter our in-person friendship one bit. His experience and work ethic have earned him the right to be wrong every once in a while.

Bob McLeod interview on the art of inking

Battle of the perspective obsessives!

We illustrated our opinions with Photoshop worksheets. Seeing them side-by-side for the first time, I realize plotting perspective on printed work is a subjective process at best.

Perspective worksheet by yours truly. "Plotting Reed & Sue along my vanishing points make the woman appear too tall."
Perspective worksheet by Bob McLeod. "Even eyeballing it, he got it pretty close, and she has plenty of room to stand up."

Closing perspectives

  • Buscema might've gotten Gerber's wordiest essay. See for yourself!
  • It's still an amazing illustration, especially if he eyeballed the perspective to knock it out in two hours.
  • McLeod's perspective diagrams are pretty damn good.

Fundamentals are usually the first casualties in the war against deadlines and unemployment, yet we're told to master them before even being allowed in the business.

David Marshall, man from the school they tore down to build the old school