The center dude’s sabertooth headpiece was, in fact, based on a photo of an actual (fossil) smilodon skull, hence the notable detail visible inside its nasal aperture, which I certainly wouldn’t have been able to generate if I hadn’t been working from reference. In fact, I’m reasonably sure that the bird-looking critter at left was also referenced from a relevant photo of a baby bird.
Man, you younger comic artists have no g-d idea what a time of luxury you enjoy regarding the easy online availability of reference pics. In the bygone, primeval days before the widespread adoption of the internet, hapless artists had to maintain entire g-d visual libraries of potential reference photos, just in case they became necessary for a story you might be drawing. In fact, I still festoon most of my living spaces with shelf upon shelf of reference books for my work, but that’s still a dramatically lower amount of materials than I would’ve needed in the pre-internet era.
Of course, in other
ways you younger comic artists face a rather tougher set of circumstances than
creators did in those halcyon days of yore, but that’s another