I rarely take a second look at these, and I may have actually checked Heroes! in and out a few times before (In fact, since it came out in 2007, I'm almost certain I have). But the last time I checked it in, I happened to noticed the name of the author: Jay Stephens.
"Not the Jay Stephens," I thought to myself, "of Jetcat and Land of Nod fame?!" But the back jacket flap confirmed it. Yes, this is indeed a how-to draw superheroes book written and drawn by Jay Stephens, one of the better drawers of superheroes! Of course I checked it out.
I can't actually speak to how great a tool it is in terms of teaching one to draw. It's aimed at kids, and while I didn't spend any time following Stephens' step-by-step instructions, everything he said looked and sounded true, and in-keeping with what I've learned and read about drawing during my lifetime interest in it. It is a kids book, and I think that actually makes it a better instructional tool for adults, particularly ones who might be more interested in being able to draw to communicate rather than, say, get a gig drawing Batman or Spider-Man some day.
In addition to talking about figure construction, and the step-by-step bits demonstrated using the dozen or so original characters of Stephens' that appear here, he also spends sections on each general feature. For example, on a page devoted to noses, he draws the same character with nine different noses, each of which is a shape as simple as "upside down 7" or a suggestion like "How about just the nostrils?" (My noses, which I learned to draw from aping Jim Lawson's humans in old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics, the shadow created by where the nose that I don't actually draw, isn't one of the nine).
He does this for just about every feature, along with a few words about what the various shapes and choices might suggest about your character, and the result is it's easy to look at the book as a sort of giant menu, from which you can order, say, a particular head, a particular nose, a particular mouth and so on until you've got yourself a character.
He also gives lots of options of various accessories, and it's fun to see, say, the same generic face trying on a bunch of different masks...
Some of the characters he creates as examples are pretty cool, and some surprisingly filled-out.
My favorite two are Doubledog and Gumball.
Here's the former, whom you'll notice has more than a passing resemblance to the original, Golden Age Daredevil:
While on an archeological dig in Greece, David Deuce was bitten by Cerberus, the legendary two-headed hound of the underworld. Deuce recovered—and discovered he has the power to split into two people!(There seems to be some conflation of Orthus and Cerberus, but that's probably for the sake of simplicity).
Here's Gubmall, who seems to combine a bit of Spider-Man's costume with the powers of Plastic Man and Speedball:
The Blue Dwarf"), and some that allow us to see Stephens "cover versions" of certain Golden Age heroes.
For example, here's his Miss Fury:
And his Crimebuster and Ironjaw:
Apparently, Heroes! is part of a series, which also includes Monsters! and Robots!, both of which I hope to track down soon, to look at more of Stephens' art, and maybe to collect in case we invent time machines in my life time, in which case I can send all three back to high school Caleb.