What’s the best way to show one character head-butting another?
James Forders, US
Answer Tom replies
Not traditionally considered the noblest form of combat, the headbutt is a uniquely immediate means of selfexpression, noted for its indelicacy. When drawing it though, I find it’s better to take a subtle approach. Not so much with the action itself, but in the directing.
A head-butt is more shocking than a punch or a kick because it’s less rational. Unless a person is bound or otherwise restrained, it seems crazy for them to thrust the most vital part of their figure forward as a means of attack. It shows a complete disregard for their own safety – and nothing is more intimidating than someone who is so determined to do harm that they don’t care what happens to them in the process. So, bearing that in mind, I would tend to steer clear of fancy angles and acrobatics. The action is arresting enough – over-directing it would be gilding the lily.
Furthermore, as any good stuntman or football centre-forward will tell you, the effect of a staged piece of violence depends at least as much on the person being hit as the hitter. The bigger the reaction, the harder the hit must have been. So I try to give my pate-recipient a sense of impact. The skin of his face ripples to meet his ears (his profile now but a memory), and a wellplaced, arcing trail of blood from his concave nose serves as an elegant alternative to a motion line – making the point of impact, and his trajectory, all too clear.
Simpler staging of dramatic moments can serve to give them greater power – presenting them starkly and stripping them of all pretence and glamour.
The circle indicates the focal point, the blue triangle the movement of force towards that focal point, and the radiating lines the reaction to that force.