The Hulk, ESPN The Magazine

Courtesy Marvel Comics & ESPN The Magazine

The athletes who pose nude in ESPN's "The Body Issue" look unbelievably in-shape, but their famous figures are nothing compared to the likes of Marvel's Ant-Man, Captain Marvel, Hulk and Iron Man—among other iconic characters.

To prove that theory, ESPN the Magazine released "The Body Issue: Super Heroes Edition," a special insert inside this year's "Body Issue," on newsstands tomorrow. Other characters featured include Luke Cage, Daredevil, Iron Fist, Medusa and She-Hulk. These are illustrations, meaning that the actors who play the comic book characters—Paul Rudd, Mark Ruffalo and Robert Downey Jr.—did not strip down.

Marvel's editor in chief Axel Alonso explained the project's origin.

"When comic book artists imagine the physical ideal, they have to start somewhere, and let's face it, professional athletes, whose bodies are fine-tuned instruments, are the closest thing to real-life super heroes," Alonso said of the no-brainer collaboration. "Marvel's Body Issue insert is a celebration of the most iconic super heroes in the world and the athletes that inspired them."

Marvel Comics artist Sara Pichelli was one of the illustrators involved in creating the insert. "For a comic book artist drawing the human anatomy is an everyday job, but here it was matter of celebrating the maximum expression of human muscles and shapes. Creating believable, powerful, and at the same time harmonic bodies is always a challenge. That's why I wanted to be part of this," she said.

Pichelli was responsible for drawing Captain Marvel.

Alex Maleev drew Daredevil, saying, "My goal is to make super heroes more human. We look to see ourselves in many masked vigilantes. Not only with Daredevil, but many characters I draw are based on real people." Mike Deodato, meanwhile, handled Iron Man. "Drawing super heroes? Well, they have to be perfect," he said. "They are like modern gods." Hulk came to life courtesy of Jim Cheung, who told the magazine, "When I'm illustrating such dynamic figures, background explosions help sell the impact the character is having on the environment around him. The toughest part is trying to show the kinetic energy in a static image." Greg Land drew Ant-Man, who is played by Rudd in the Marvel Studios movie, out July 17. "I always try to have the musculature of something that could possibly exist," Land told the magazine. "Even though everything looks extremely exaggerated, I still want him to look like he can move and be functional."

The four other artists who contributed to "The Body Issue: Super Heroes Edition" were Emanuela Lupacchino (Medusa), Leinil Francis Yu (Luke Cage), Frank Cho (She-Hulk) and Russell Dauterman (Iron Fist).

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