Updated on 16 October, 2021
Most of anatomy textbooks for comic artists are going to tell you a basic method of drawing a human body by sketching it on paper, and then cutting it out with a scalpel and carving it out with a more detailed body in it like how you would a Batman figure. This is not a particularly original way to draw a human body, it's something I've seen depicted many times, but I'm surprised that nobody has ever told me the origin story. There is another way, and I believe it was used by Robert Capra and Stan Lee in the early days of their comic book creations, which you may not have heard about. It involves the artist drawing body parts out of Styrofoam.
In the early pages of Superman, you can see Clark Kent draw a couple of his most important personality traits, like his strong resemblance to Superman, or his obsession with keeping up with the news. Both of these traits are clearly drawn, and the writer obviously put a lot of thought into making sure that was the case. But what is the origin of all of this? The important thing to note about the drawing of Superman, and all comic art in general, is that artists draw what they think looks good, and are influenced by a number of different factors, some of which are beyond their control.
One of the most influential forces is the influence of American comic art of the late twentieth and early twenty first century. Most artists drawing superman or other famous comic characters have had to deal with the transformations that their characters go through over the course of hundreds of issues. This is an unnatural process for someone who wasn't born with that kind of body, or even has relatively small breasts. So naturally, when artists begin to draw superman, they are going to draw him with large breasts.
The truth is that superman was drawn with his over-sized stomach as a means of giving readers some idea of how strong his punches would be. The actual physical shape of Clark Kent is quite unremarkable, with a round, fat stomach, and small back and shoulders, compared to the unusually muscular build of Superman. As Superman changed from comics to films, his appearance was altered a bit, with his arms being replaced by more powerful ones (notice how the chest muscles stay firm), and his stomach being given a more defined shape. It's this transformation that has led people to question whether Superman's stomach was real, or just a product of the artist's imagination.
But the "real" Superman is much more than just his physique. His costume was changed to make him look more muscular, his hair gave him a more defined look, and his stature became bulkier to give him a more heroic look. All of this has led to an argument over whether or not Clark Kent is actually strong enough to fight crime without his super strength and indestructible suit. So let's take a look at the three books for comic artists that feature this famous battle scene:
The Adventures of Superman, one of the most complete Superman stories, features Superman confronting Metallo. There is really nothing subtle about this drawing, other than Superman appears to be beating Metallo to a pulp. There is no way to tell whether this was intended by the writer or illustrator, though. The anatomy on the left is probably the easiest to understand because it features only Clark Kent's back and torso, while the right is a bit more difficult to see. We can conclude that Clark Kent is using his superior strength and muscles to defeat Metallo.
While this is a good book for those looking for a quick example of a Superman fight, it fails to give the necessary detail to support the concept of anatomy. One of the biggest problems with any drawing of Clark Kent's anatomy is that he often poses with his stomach exposed, leaving no sign of his back muscles. These pose books make it easy to spot these muscles, but it would have been more effective if he had just had a shirt and a belt on.
The Anatomy of a Man, on the other hand, gives a much better explanation of Clark Kent's back and shoulders. Unlike previous anatomy books, this one explains precisely how muscles and bones connect to each other in a clear and easy to follow manner. It also shows Clark Kent's arms, and how they connect to his shoulders. These are the basics that comic artists need to know to draw human body properly.