Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Would You Rather...? Doc Ock's Physique

Doug: So I'm looking at the cover of Amazing Spider-Man #157 and I'm thinking, "Man, Otto is ripped!" And then I think that Jazzy Johnny Romita's version really isn't as Steve Ditko had imagined the kooky doctor. And the next thought was, "Shoot, JR didn't always draw him so buff."

Doug: We'll start off with Doc Ock today, but if you have other characters in mind who have over time taken on a quite different physical appearance when under the pencil of a given artist we can sure open this up. Today's conversation could really expand.


Humanbelly said...

OMS&G ("Oh My Stars & Garters"), I'm so darned busy at the moment, but I CANNOT let this topic go by w/out throwing the name EDWIN JARVIS into the ring for folks to discuss, yeah?

And, although I may be the only person 'round here who's read it, in Prince Valiant Hal Foster had a native American sort-of nanny, Tillicum (I think) introduced to help out Aleta w/ her new baby. Tillicum starts out as a rather intimidating-looking, severe, somewhat-wizened, early-middle-aged woman. Over the course of several years, she morphs into a lithe, much younger, lovely Indian Maiden figure (clearly in order to have her function as a romantic match for another supporting character). That's one artist changing his own character dramatically over the course of time!

And now-- off to work--


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
William said...

Shoot, if we're talking the difference between Ditko's pudgy Doc Ock compared to Romita's beefcake version, what about Spider-Man himself? Under the pencil of the Jazzy one, Pete went from being a scrawny teenager to practically having a physique like Captain America.

I personally always preferred the more slender physique for Spidey. First of all, he's supposed to be extremely agile and spider-like. Second, I always liked the concept of this unimposing looking guy being able to lift a car. I guess that's why I'm such a fan of Ron Frenz's early work on Spidey.

One last thought. I guess we could chalk up Doc Ock's later buffness to fact that after fighting a superhero, he decided to hit the weights and get into better shape. (Hey, after all he did spend time in prison, that's what they do, right?)

Redartz said...

The Thing! Ben Grimm started out looking like a lumpy pile of soft clay, but soon sharpened up into the rocky lug we all know and love. Of course the whole evolution occurred under the pencil guidance of Jack Kirby. But then again, much later John Byrne softened up his lumps again during his classic FF run.

A more recent character who has undergone substantial appearance 'adjustments' is Squirrel Girl. As initially rendered by Steve Ditko, she was a rather quirky-looking, somewhat earthy young woman with a great deal of enthusiasm. Some later artists turned Doreen (Doreen Green, aka SQ) into a pin-up queen. Under her current creators (writer Ryan North and artist Erica Henderson) she has returned to her more accessible, "Squirrel Girl next door" kind of look. Not Bronze Age, of course, but I'd recommend "Unbeatable Squirrel Girl" to anyone. Great comic with lots of humor, wit and obvious love for comics (sorry for the brief sidetrack)...

Edo Bosnar said...

To answer the question posed by the post's title, I'd have to say I prefer the kind of lumpy middle-aged scientist look that Ditko gave Doc Ock over the more buff later version. And I agree with William that Spider-man should in fact look more like he did in the Ditko days, i.e., a thin, wiry guy rather than the more buff version we saw later rendered by Romita, Kane, Andru, etc., even though I have no problem with that later appearance, as it was the first version of Spidey I ever saw.

Anonymous said...

I think the buff look that characters like Spidey and Doc Ock developed may have come about as part of that whole house style. That and it became a lot for artists to keep up with who was a little bit skinny or chunky. So when the number of titles being churned out, and the number of different artists drawing them, increased in the Bronze Age, drawing a lot of characters very similarly was something of the lazy way out and expedited this mass production. Maybe it was even encouraged by the powers that be. I mean, heroes and villains should look imposing right?

But to answer the question, I think I'm with the majority of views expressed so far. I like the idea that Doc Ock was a pudgy guy who happens to have these powerful arms; Peter Parker obtained the proportionate strength of a spider while maintaining the same build he had all along, and so on...


RobAnderson said...

Pudgy, fer sure!!! Whether that's Ditko pudgy or Romita pudgy. Just not buff! We need more "real" comic book anatomy, not less. One of the many reasons I've always loved Terry Moore's art.

RobAnderson said...

Slightly off-topic: @Humanbelly you are most definitely NOT the only Hal Foster fan here, though I am a recent fan and haven't reached what you were referring to...just yet. I am currently working my way through Volume 3 of the incredible Fantagraphics hardcover collection, so I had to start blurring my eyes as I read your post, lest I experience a 70-year-old spoiler. But I am LOVING Foster's work. I've recently seen references to both John Buscema and Steve Ditko being inspired or influenced by him (and many others, too, I know). Can't recommend that stuff enough to fellow BAB'ers. It holds up incredibly well.

Garett said...

I've read the first couple volumes of Prince Valiant as well, HB and Rob. Great stuff! I'm a fan of Foster and Alex Raymond, although I haven't really gotten into Milton Caniff, the other big name from that generation.

Anonymous said...

I also prefer the pudgy Doc just seems more logical for a scientist to look like that. Alfred Molina really worked as Ock, for me. As for characters that were transformed, a couple of other Spidey people come to mind: Marla Madison and Dr. Kafka; both started out as middle-aged scientist-types (which they were), but later looked a lot younger and more svelte.

Then of course there's all the (Marvel and DC) superheroines/villains--like Black Cat, Catwoman, Star Sapphire, Storm, etc.--who have undergone mysterious growth in the upper abdominal area over the years. Somewhere in the Marvel/DC universes, there are a couple of very rich plastic surgeons...

Mike Wilson

Anonymous said...

I'm with Edo on this topic - I've always pictured Doc Ock as having a pot belly. Yeah, you could argue that he hit the weights while in prison, but to me it seems quite out of character for him to do that. I prefer the pudgy version, just for his classic look.

As for Spidey himself, yes I also prefer the lean version over the superbuff one as drawn by some artists. Peter might go to the gym occasionally, but he shouldn't look like he drank Cap's supersoldier formula! Hmm now that sounds like a cool What If? story! He's supposed to look like a normal teenager.

Even the Hulk's size has changed - back in the 70s he was 7 feet tall, now he's listed at 9 feet.

- Mike 'looking for used Total Gym' from Trinidad & Tobago.

ColinBray said...

On the other hand, some character tropes have remained pretty consistent.

For instance I have long been fascinated by the white sideburns possessed by Reed Richards (unspoken message to readers: if you're 7 years old, Reed is the same age as your father and acts just like him, kids)

Artists have been remarkably consistent with the 'burns since Kirby. A quick literature review reveals that the major artists have refused the temptation to extend their range with each white-hair inducing cosmic crisis, leaving that response to Captain Marvel.

Either that or Reed is using skilfully applied stable molecule hair dye.

pfgavigan said...


I never associated pudgy with necessarily being out of shape. When I had envisioned Dr. Octopus before the second movie I always saw Bob Hoskins with a Moe haircut.

And yes, that is a frightening image.

But Hoskins had a barrel chest and, reputedly, was very powerfully built.

As to why characters become more muscular as time goes by I think it has something to do with them being easier to draw. One of the reasons I used to get into fights with one of my art instructors over Michelangelo was over what I felt was his unrealistic figures with their perfectly defined muscles EVEN WHEN THE FIGURE WAS AT REST!!!

It's much harder to convincingly draw an average human than it is a superhuman.



ColinBray said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Different artistic approaches to the same character is to be expected; I always thought that was a big part of the appeal of superhero comics - what will character x look like when artist y starts on the book? Cue discussion and argument....

Even with a single artist, the look of a character will often change as they get a better feel for a given series or simply get more comfortable with drawing it.
A really good example that springs to mind is Jack Kirby drawing the Thing. The change in appearance - and, for that matter, Stan Lee's dialogue - over time from the first issue of the FF is so marked Byrne (I think it was Byrne) made it a plot device later and could even do a time travelling current Ben meets first issue Ben Two in One story.


The Prowler said...

My vote is for pudgy. I think Alfred Molina captured the realistic Doc Ock physique. Basically an average guy with metal arms.

The one I could never figure out was Reed Richards. I know for most of the 70s he was drawn with muscles. This is a guy who's power is the ability to stretch. I would see him as being, um, stringy, lithe, slender more than anything else.

Hey Dyno-Mike, 12:42 pm!?! What the heck, dude! Another holiday!?!

Oh, and "used World Gym"? I think the ones for sale are the "unused World Gyms"!!!

(Whoah and I know a man, he came from my hometown
He wore his passion for his woman like a thorny crown
He said Dolores, I live in fear
My love for you's so overpowering, I'm afraid that I will disappear).

Bruce Adams said...

I dunno, look at those shoulders on Ditko's Doc Ock. Methinks he's wearing a loose fitting sweatshirt there.

Related Posts with Thumbnails