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Year of the Artist, Day 139: Mike Deodato, Part 1 – Wonder Woman #85

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Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Mike Deodato, and the issue is Wonder Woman #85, which was published by DC and is cover dated April 1994. Enjoy!

Mike Deodato (or, to call him by his Brazilian name, Deodato Taumaturgo Borges Filho, but I’m only going to do that once!) has been drawing comics for over 20 years, and while I don’t own his very earliest work, this was only about a year after that, so it’s close enough, right? He’s a wildly divisive artist even today, but his style has evolved quite a bit, which makes him a good choice for this series! Yay!

First, I want to show the cover and then the very first page of Wonder Woman #85, because it’s wild:

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You rarely see that, but it’s pretty awesome. Brian Bolland is a more accomplished artist, especially at this stage of their respective careers, but Deodato’s drawing is still pretty energetic. Diana never appears in costume in this issue, so Bolland’s drawing is more iconic, I guess, but Deodato’s obviously fits the story. Bolland’s demon is a bit uglier than Deodato’s – the creature has more hair, an uglier face, and more leathery wings – while Deodato’s seems a bit more gleeful about attacking Diana (and Deodato loves drawing teeth like that, so we’ll see it again!). In both cases, the perspective is a bit off: both Bolland and Deadato – more with Deodato – draw the building at such a degree so that the demon and Diana don’t exit the window perpendicularly to the glass, but at an angle. The way both men draw the demon and Diana – straight-on – means that we don’t quite know what’s odd about the way they’re falling. Of course, they could be coming out of the window at an angle, but it still seems a bit strange.

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1994, of course, was at the height of the Image X-TREEEEEEMMMMMM!!!! revolution, and Deodato was certainly not adverse to that style! It’s probably why he got hired in the first place, actually. Anyway, back when I was but a 22-year-old comics neophyte, I thought this art was the shit, and while my tastes have changed, I can’t hate it as much as I now hate the art on, say, early X-Force (I’d list some of the early Image books, but I didn’t buy them). There’s a manic energy here and even storytelling that you don’t get from a certain denim-advertising wunderkind (Deodato was already 30 when he drew this, so he was possibly a bit wiser than that dude), and it’s not hatched insanely by Terry Beatty and Kevin Conrad. I’m not too familiar with Conrad, but Beatty, of course, was a long-standing professional by this time, and I wonder if he helped keep Deodato’s pencils in this issue from going too far. When Deodato returned to the book in issue #90, he was inking himself, and he went a bit further with the hatching, although not too crazy. Anyway, his anatomical work here is fine – yes, Diana’s clothing are shredded in strategic places because cheesecake sells but this is still a family comic, but she’s not ridiculously proportioned, and in Panel 4, down at the bottom, she strikes at the demon in a perfectly reasonable manner. He leads us across the page pretty well – the first panel is “backward,” but it leads from the previous page well, while the rest of the page works perfectly fine. The demon is a bit ridiculous, but it’s not deformed by contortions or giant pecs. That’s always good!

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It’s still 1994, so of course we have to be a bit ridiculous. Still, Deodato draws Randolph and Naissi without too much embellishment – in Panel 1, Randolph’s face isn’t over hatched, as Beatty/Conrad simply accentuate his cheekbones and shadow his eyes, while Naissi in Panel 2 has just a touch of inking on his face. Deodato goes a bit wacky on Naissi’s design when he turns into a supervillain, but again, we see that his anatomy is perfectly fine, with a few exaggerations. His arms are a bit long, even though he’s crouching, and his left hand looks bigger than it would even if it’s slightly in the foreground. But Deodato again restrains himself on his torso, and the clean inks help make him look shiny and metallic. Patricia Mulvihill colored this issue, years before she began turning every Vertigo book brown, and she uses yellow and orange to good effect.

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Here’s another action scene, as two ridiculously costumed bad guys (remember: 1994!) try to snatch some people from an apartment building and the landlady, an old actor, takes them apart. I don’t remember too much about William Messner-Loebs’s run on WW, so I don’t recall if we’ve seen this woman before and have an explanation about why she’s able to destroy these dudes, or if the implication is that because she was a swashbuckling actor in the 1920s (and she’s still kicking ass in 1994?), she’s able to fight big, heavily armed dudes. I don’t know. Anyway, Deodato lays out the page quite well. Camille smacks the one dude in the eyes with her sword, blinding him temporarily. We’re led across the panel nicely, and Deodato even gives us a panel border of blood to drive home the violence. In Panel 2, we get the big dude holding his eyes and Backstabber (yes, that’s really his name – Messner-Loebs, I like to think, was totally fucking with us) confronts Camille. Deodato wisely keeps her out of the panel, allowing us to see the two baddies, but he puts the hand holding the sword there, creating almost two panels and dividing the injured bad guy (who, sadly, doesn’t get a name) and the angry Backstabber. It’s a pretty good composition. Camille stabs him in the hand (which is a bit hard to do, it would seem, given that he’s clutching that knife so tightly), then ducks his thrust in Panel 4. Again, it’s a nicely laid out page, even with the crashing of panel borders that was so in vogue back then. Once again we see the nice inking job – both Bad Guy #1 and Backstabber are wearing armor, so Beatty/Conrad don’t rough up their outfits too much, while they use somewhat soft hatching on the exposed skin of the participants. We get thicker folds in Camille’s clothing in Panel 4, but again, there’s not an overabundance of hatching, which is nice.

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I have no idea if Deodato was using photo references on this comic – I know he did on his first penciling gig, which was Beauty and the Beast, but that’s understandable given he was working on a licensed property. Obviously, everyone who reads mainstream superhero comics knows about his “Tommy Lee Jones as Norman Osborn” weirdness from years later (it still freaks me out!!!!), but again, I don’t know what the deal is here. I only mention it because that baby’s face is perfect, and unlike the other faces Deodato drew in this issue, it looks far less cartoony and more “realistic.” As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t care if artists use photos for reference, because if they’re drawing the stuff but using photos as a guide, that’s perfectly fine. It’s when they’re dropping images into the pencil art just because they’re lazy that bugs me. But look at that baby in comparison to Diana’s face. Deodato might have used photo references for Diana, but Diana has to “act” in the scene, so if he did, he just used her as a base. The baby doesn’t have to do anything, so its face looks more … perfect. Anyway, this is nice, quiet work by Deodato, and once again we see the way restraint in inking can be extremely beneficial.

That’s it for this issue, but I did want to drop in an iconic image of Diana after she loses the “Wonder Woman” designation to Artemis and turns into Hot Urban Vigilante Diana in issue #93:

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Man, look at that. It’s composed really well, actually – the smoke leads us from where our eyes fall naturally down to Diana, whose straight leg takes us down to Rock Dude’s jaw, while the sound effect helps move us to the woman with the camera and the dude. Deodato is inking himself by this time, and he uses a bit more hatching on Diana, but not too much. But that anatomy is starting to be worrisome, as her thighs look like tree trunks and her waist is (relatively) tiny. And that outfit. Oh, that outfit. Let’s just move on from that outfit!

So that’s early Mike Deodato. He would continue in this vein for a while, as the Nineties kept being X-TREEEEEEEMMMM!!!, and we’ll see some more of that tomorrow, as he goes even crazier. Yes, it’s one of the comics I hate most in the world, but I will examine it for you, good readers! Find some solace in the archives!

28 Comments

” this was only about a year after that, so it’s close enough, right?”

Nope. It is worth noting he had been assisting his father and then drawing solo in Brazil for nearly 15 years before starting the US portion of his career. 3000 Years (1987) was even reprinted as Fallout 3000 in the US in 1996, as well as Jonas!, Protheus, and Ramthar.

Duff McWhalen

May 19, 2014 at 2:58 pm

I’m hoping that a later work brought up is either the one issue of Moon Knight or Wolverine: Roar.

Oh damn, the outfit in the last panel just gave me a nasty flashback to the 90s’ Avengers “gang jacket” look! Ugh, hack, barf..

Actually Diana’s jacket isn’t that bad, mostly because she’s the only one wearing one, but with the tube-top thing or whatever that is, ugh.

Nice choice for the spotlight. I always (that is starting with Wonder Woman) liked Deodato, even though he was X-TREEEEEEEEMMMMMM!

I think some of his later art was not as strong, probably the studio years.

It was around his Amazing Spider-Man work that I took notice of him again. It was a nice evolution from what we see here. His work now is quite excellent.

David: You know, I figured he had to be working in Brazil for some years before this, but I couldn’t find what he did. I suppose it’s somewhere on the Portuguese Internet and I couldn’t find it! :)

Duff: You’ll have to wait and see!

Ganky: Yeah, that was a such a 1994 outfit!

kdu2814: I poke some fun at Deodato today and tomorrow, but I do dig his art, even during this X-TREEEMMMM period. I think I have good examples of how his work progressed, but we’ll see, won’t we?

LouReedRichards

May 19, 2014 at 4:05 pm

Wow- that’s not nearly as bad as I thought it would be.

by ’94 I had pretty much given up on the big two and wasn’t buying any superhero comics so I missed Deodato’s early days in North American comics.

I’ve heard his named thrown around a lot when people talk about Image clones and EXTREEEEEME art, but most of the stuff shown here looks totally fine. Not mindblowing, but not horrible by any stretch.

I’ve seen some of the Thor work he did a little later and yeah, that stuff looked pretty bad.

LouReedRichards: Come back tomorrow. I promise you won’t be disappointed if you’re looking for art that might make your head explode! :)

At the time, I had the impression that Messner-Loebs was doing a deliberate jab at the popular trends of the period while reveling in them at the same time. My favorite bit was the issue where, after Wonder Artemis had spent a few months beating up a series of ridiculous, Liefeld-ian looking, hyper-muscular guys with deliberately chauvinistic names, Diana finds out that they’ve all been paid actors. So you have this panel with this HUGE guy standing in front of the smaller Diana, holding a tiny script (if memory serves) being all like: “Oh hey, you saw my performance as “Woman-Smasher” (or whatever it was)? Did you like that? Was I good?” Always felt that sequence was hilarious.

Mr. JR: Yeah, Messner-Loebs’s run was far more satirical than you might expect, but I really wonder if Deodato was in on the joke, or if Messner-Loebs wanted him to go as “serious” as possible so his satire would land better. He still indulged in some of the silly storytelling tropes of the time period, but the Deodato part of his run was fairly clever nevertheless.

joe the poor speller

May 19, 2014 at 5:35 pm

pior to his marvel work, deodato has drawn on some fanzines, horror anthologies and small press titles here in brazil. his very work was under his father’s (also a comic book artist, as well as writer and journalist) supervision. some examples:

http://i254.photobucket.com/albums/hh109/cursodinamohq/Blog%20CURSO/ArgCast%20-%20Imagens/ArgCast%20100/lycantropus.jpg

http://mlb-s2-p.mlstatic.com/gibi-h-q-n-1-deodato-borges-welta-e-ninja-rarissimo-14262-MLB4346155355_052013-F.jpg

http://www.guiadosquadrinhos.com/personagem/imagens/2012/06/20483person_2276.jpg
(his first creation, The Ninja)

tom fitzpatrick

May 19, 2014 at 8:45 pm

I remember The Beauty and The Beast issue(s); I can’t remember if he did both of them for First Comics.

Those were really well done.

Hi mister Burgas
QUESTION
Exactly what x-force run and artist where you referring to saying you disliked? Before the yost stuff? Cus crains work on that while very dark was solid and mike choi’s work was gorgeous.

A series that will be very interesting ;)
By the time Mike Deodato draw those issues.. he was 30-31, and already had his studio

How much of the art proposed is him ? how much is Benes or Bennett or another shadow artist ? (4th and last page shown)

Man, to me the Bolland cover contrast just makes it so much worse. On its own Deodato’s piece isn’t bad I guess it has some nice movement and she’s very pretty of course, but comparatively, Bolland drew a powerful Wonder Woman in a brutal fight and Deodato drew a hot borderline “brokeback” supermodel falling out a window like a helpless damsel.

And it has nothing to do with costume vs. lack of costume. It has to do with body language, body type, anatomy, facial acting, hell, it has to do with almost everything. Though the costume certainly does help Bolland’s piece in many ways, even if Diana was in the same t-shirt get up, or if Deodato’s Diana was in the costume, it wouldn’t matter, the damage was done long before the costume came into play.

To me, Mike Deodato, has ALWAYS been a gifted artist.
I am very pleased that this great man has steady work over at Marvel Comics.
Regarding costumes, since everyone trashes his design from the 90′s I abhor that everyone only has praise for the costume worn by the marvel character Carol Danvers.

To me, the red boots, red gloves and the red around her collarbone are awful.
The same goes for the yellow stripes and yellow star.
I also have an enormous dislike that Carol’s blonde hair STICKS OUT of the helmet.
A helmet which is cracked at the top which results that the hair of the wearer sticks out, I do not find great.

I find it fair to remind a designer of today’s super heroine costumes that he/she is NOT better in any way whatsoever than the designers of the super heroine costumes from the 90′s.

Travis Pelkie

May 19, 2014 at 11:08 pm

I have, like, 2 copies of this issue. It was in some multipack where I got a couple packages and it happened to be in 2 different ones.

Oh Justin, Justin, Justin. I’m guessing you’re either quite young or missed out for some other reason on the wonder that is Rob Liefeld’s X-Force (from 1991 until…heck, I guess about a year later). The X-Force books you’re talking about are from more recently than that.

It’s strange to me that someone could have missed out on 90s comics, but I forget that I am now getting OLD!

I enjoyed Deodato’s run – yes 1990s but it’s actually aged relatively well.

As for the outfit, love the jacket and that she’s in pants. Fix the bodice, gloves and that silly belt, make those pants long and it would have been absolutely fine.

Wasn’t Beauty and the Beast an Innovation title? I know they did a lot of licensed work and I do have some issues of Deodato doing Hero Alliance for Innovation.

Travis Pelkie

May 20, 2014 at 1:55 am

I believe Beauty and the Beast was an Innovation title. I believe the guy (David Campiti, iirc) behind their books was an agent and packager of comics, or something, and brought the Deodatos to the States.

This issue isn’t really too bad. Among other reasons, because it does not overtly feature the ridiculous thong variant of WW’s costume.

But the storytelling is actually better than later issues would show. And worlds better than those of his Thor and Avengers issues (at least the pre-Heroes Reborn ones).

joe: Thanks for the links! Man, I wish I had some of those comics. The last one doesn’t seem to be working, though.

tom: As turk and Travis pointed out, Beauty and the Beast was from Innovation.

Justin: Yeah, Travis nailed it. You’re talking about very recent runs of X-Force, I’m talking about the original, Liefeld stuff. Painful stuff.

ollieno: He had the studio at this time, so I don’t know if others were already ghosting for him. I can only go by the credits of the book, unfortunately. Today’s example is inked by the studio, so I do mention it, and I think that final image of Diana in the other costume was also inked by Benes and the gang, so perhaps that’s a bit more than the others, but I just don’t know.

Kelly: To be fair, Diana is attacked when she’s not expecting it, which might account for the comparatively “weaker” pose she’s in on the Deodato page. She was just hanging out in a hospital room when the demon showed up and drove her out the window. I don’t think the brokeback position is as terrible as when artists pose women on covers – I could certainly accept Diana getting twisted that way more easily if a demon attacked her and she has no ground to orient herself rather than standing with other heroes. Bolland’s work is definitely better, to be sure, but I think Deodato’s page fits in the context.

D C: I don’t mind the outfit at all, but you’re right – a little tweaking and it would be a lot better.

Luis: Man, that thong. Jeepers!

I got rid of my Deodato Thor issues a while back, or I would have featured them, because it’s just not very good. The example I use today isn’t great, but it’s better than Thor, certainly. 1995-1998 or so were not great years for Deodato, but luckily, he did get better.

Deodato is yet another of those artists who started out in the mid-1990s doing pretty decent work with clear potential, but showing a lot of the excesses of the “hot” art of the decade, i.e. excessive T&A, exaggerated anatomy, hugely impractical guns & armor, etc. Much like Jae Lee, actually.

I think that the worst of Deodato’s early excesses were most obviously on display during his time drawing Thor. The god of thunder had insanely bulging muscles & an overly complicated costume, and the Enchantress showed up looking like a dominatrix / high-class call girl.

Of course, as with Lee, after a few years Deodato started to show some development in his work. The first time I noticed that was the Tigra miniseries he drew in 2002. Still a bit too heavy on the sexual elements (well, okay, it was Tigra) but you began to see some real atmosphere to his work, as well as ssolid storytelling for the quieter, more character-driven moments.

Over the last dozen years since then Deodato really has refined his style, becoming a very accomplished artist.

I’m looking forward to seeing the upcoming examples of Deodato’s work that Greg showcases.

I’m sorry, Greg; but I think Kelly has the better points here.

The telling point, to me, anyway, is what Deodato chooses to do with the smock/jersey dress that Diana is wearing. Not only is the pose passive and close to impossible, but the parts of her body he chooses to expose and nearly expose (the underside of her breasts, for example) makes the prime point of the splash page objectification.

Obviously, Bolland has to have her in costume on the cover, and Deodato can’t in the story, based on what had gone before. It’s what he chose to do with her clothing that pushes the splash over the edge, if I can make a poor pun.

Though Deodato’s art has changed quite a bit over his 20+ years in comics, his page layouts back then are similar to the kind he uses now– lots of diagonal panels, most pronounced on action pages (but present even in conversation scenes), with the gutters themselves becoming stylized and the characters breaking free from one panel to the next.

It’s not my cup of tea in terms of comics storytelling, as it can be a bit hard to follow, but it’s a conscious design choice that’s unique and I can respect that.

Kelly: I was going to mention that I’d feel kind of sorry for any artist who has his first page splash re-rendered on the cover by Bolland! A tough act to follow. Both versions are good, but Bolland’s is obviously better for all the reasons you mention. Bolland did have the advantage though, of being able to copy and improve Deodado’s page with better layout and rendering decisions.

At least, he did IF the cover is based on the splash page, I don’t know how the production cycle actually went. Is there any way we can know? Was the cover done first? If the Deodado page is based on Bolland’s cover it’s more like two steps down, worsening the layout, acting, etc. But who knows.

tom fitzpatrick

May 20, 2014 at 7:17 pm

Mr. Burgas: They’re right – Innovation’s Beauty and the Beast issues were done by Deodato; First Comics’ Beauty and the Beast issues were done by Wendy Pini.

I forgot that – guess I’m getting old!

joe the poor speller

May 20, 2014 at 7:55 pm

greg: that’s strange, the last pic opens here just fine!

some more of deodato’s ninja (sorry, but there isn’t much of it on the internet):

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-2Qmmd_znZNM/T7ZaaSCJmRI/AAAAAAAAZHs/RMkBRPFUsj4/s1600/NINJA%2B1%2BDEODATO%2BFILHO.jpg

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-sfA_N7B3thQ/T7aPHUahfFI/AAAAAAAAZPU/09uamhZ_YOA/s1600/NINJA%2B2%2BMIKE%2BDEODATO.jpg

joe: Thanks! Beats me why I couldn’t see it – I usually blame my lousy computer!

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