If you needed any further proof that Marvel is now fully a part of the Walt Disney Company family, look no further than a new collaboration with ESPN (also a subsidiary of Disney).

A group of Marvel artists --- Alex Maleev, Sara PichelliEmanuela Lupacchino, Lenil Francis Yu, Frank Cho, Russell Dauterman, Mike Deodato, Jim Cheung and Greg Land --- have contributed original art of Daredevil, Captain Marvel, Medusa, Luke Cage, She-Hulk, Iron Fist, Iron Man, The Hulk and Ant-Man to a "superhero edition" of ESPN Magazine's famous "Body Issue," an annual celebration of athletic physiques (with lots of pictures of naked people).

The project might lead you to expect something akin to the old Marvel Swimsuit Issues of the 1990s, especially with artists like Cho and Land on board, but the images are pretty well in-line with the photos of athletes in the magazine's annual issue: tasteful looks at very fit people who just happen to be in the buff. It's almost like an anatomy clinic that says, "Hey, this is what muscles look like."


Alex Maleev, Sara Pichelli, Russell Dauterman (click to enlarge)


To avoid the snake-eating-its-tail idea of artists drawing muscles using photos of muscles (perhaps from previous Body Issues), ESPN presents the art with process in mind, showing original sketches and finished, colored art side-by-side in slider widgets. There's also some commentary from the artists. For example, Land says he uses old bodybuilding magazines for reference, while Yu says he gravitates toward photos of MMA fighters.

Sara Pichelli offers this philosophy for drawing these powerful characters: "I work to combine correct proportions and powerful muscle shapes with a commonly accepted idea of beauty."

It's a pretty cool project that could have easily turned silly, but ESPN and the artists make it work.

Of course, next year, this will all have to go to its logical conclusion: Athletes painted up as (or dressed as) comic characters. LeBron James as Captain America, maybe? Ronda Rousey as Thor seems like a good fit. And, of course, Tom Brady as Venom. Tell me that's not perfect.