09.May.2009 Far from a bullseye

With the amount of bows and arrows that appear in comics, it amazes me that artists and editors consistently overlook the basic mechanics and proper form required to accurately portray an archer in their books. This week’s cover to Deadpool #10 is a prime example of one of the many slips that occur when archery appears in comics.

Focus on Hawkeye's hands and bow and things start to look a little wonky.

Focus on Hawkeye's hands and bow and things start to look a little wonky.

First off, a few basic things that even the average joe could catch. The strings on Bullseye/Hawkeye’s bow are taut and yet we can obviously see that he isn’t holding the bowstring. Yes, the bowstring is magically drawn.

Secondly, Hawkeye uses a recurve bow. On this cover, he is holding a compound bow.

Recurve on top, compound bow on bottom.

Recurve on top, compound bow on bottom.


Not a huge deal, but still, that is just continuity. Not to mention a villain who’s superpower is extreme accuracy probably wouldn’t need a style of bow that is designed to help increase accuracy (which is why recurve bows are the only style of bow allowed in the Olympics).

But ok, artist Jason Pearson opted for a compound. They may not be true to the character and comics history, but they do look cool. However, Pearson’s illustration has numerous bowstrings being drawn by Hawkeye. A compound bow helps to increase accuracy and ease of use because it uses a cable and pulley system to be more energy efficient. So, only one string is actually used to nock the arrow, the rest are pulled, but as part of the pulley system, they remain in place to take some of the burden of the person pulling back the string. So, simply, the use of this bow is illustrated incorrectly.

On to proper form: Three fingers are used when drawing a bowstring. The index, middle and ring fingers pull the string and the arrow should be nocked between the index and middle fingers. This is easily the most common comic book archery error. Artists, like Paco Medina in this same issue of Deadpool, frequently draw bow-wielders drawing their bows by simply pinching the arrow between their thumb and index finger.

Pay attention to those fingers.

Pay attention to those fingers.


Not only is that an extremely difficult way to draw a bow with what I’d assume would be a draw weight of at least 60 pounds (Imagine trying to pick up 60 pounds of anything of the ground with just your thumb and finger) but even if it could be done, accuracy wouldn’t be helped by this form.

As someone who not only completed his American Archer award (the highest skill level achievable by the Camp Archery Association) but also went on to instruct archery at summer camp, it is extremely frustrating to see the very basics of this process so frequently botched—and not just with Hawkeye, but Green Arrow as well.

How's he holding that bowstring back?!

How's he holding that bowstring back?!

Not that some artists don’t do a little research and get it right…

Two examples of artists doing a little research.

Two examples of artists doing a little research.

Still, I just don’t get why this gets overlooked so much. You wouldn’t draw the Punisher pulling a gun’s trigger with two fingers, nor would you draw Batman with his boots untied, so why make heroes and villains whose main schtick is archery look like they haven’t even had a first lesson? Especially nowadays when making sure this gets drawn correctly is just a Google search away.

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There are 4 Comments to "Far from a bullseye"

  • Mike Flynn says:

    very interesting. This post definitely provided me my new knowledge of the day…well done sir.

  • DrNightmare says:

    On Sunday, I went with my friend to buy some astroturf for the make-shift golf-putting-practice-thing he has in his house’s alley. We stopped at a junk shop (this was way the hell out in some Lancaster, CA wastelands) and looky there! the old dude in the shop had some old bows he was getting rid of. So after like half an hour of hearing his bow-fishing stories, I bought a sexy dark-wood 25# recurve for practice. I haven’t fired in 5 years now maybe, but it’s like riding a bike, you just can’t forget how. It’s obviously very easy to shoot this, and I’m almost at my old skill level, the sad thing is that now even 35# bows tire me out after holding them drawn for only like 20 seconds, I need to develop my muscles again 🙁

    My friend bought the even sexier Howard Hill 50# recurve, we can’t shoot it consistently yet, but goddamn, that thing packs a whomp!

  • Raul says:

    Sorry to post more than a year after, but i found this on google when i was searching for recurve bows.

    well, i started recently Pa Kua archery lessons and I really think you have a point at all, but I can’t really agree about your comment on this picture http://www.enemyofpeanuts.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/dpool010_int-24.jpg .
    you commented and argued assuming everyone in the world uses the Mediterranean Bow draw, and I must say, indians used to pinch the arrow to draw and we at Pa Kua uses the mongolian style, which uses only the thumb to draw the bow, and some of us uses 50-60 pounds bows without any problem.

    I just wanted to comment about that, don’t want to start a flame war or anything, just think somethings slipped you when commenting about that image.

  • Jim Gibbons says:

    Raul,
    Valid points…

    I’m definitely most familiar with Mediterranean bow draw—it’s how I shot and what I instructed—so that informed this post when I initially wrote it. I believe it definitely applies to a majority of these images, as well as most archery drawn into comic books.

    That said, based on what little I know about the Mongolian and Pinch styles for drawing a bow, I don’t believe I’ve seen many proper examples of those in comics either. Not the most reliable resource, but the example images on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bow_draw) don’t seem to back up many of the pinch-esque images of archery I’ve seen in comics, and I’ve never seen Mongolian style shown in any sequential storytelling either. In the image you had issue with, Bullseye is doing a Pinch draw with an extended index finger. To my knowledge, that is not correct—but again, that style is not my specialty.

    So…
    Yes, there’s more than one way to draw a bow and that should be considered by artists. I completely agree with you there. However, it doesn’t appear many artists are portraying archers with a Mongolian or proper Pinch draw when not penciling arrow-slingers with a Mediterranean draw, which I still think is worth noting. A quick google search should still help to inform artist seeking to draw a proper bow draw no matter what the style.

    Thanks for stopping by and adding to the discussion, Raul! I definitely appreciate it!