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Year of the Artist, Day 140: Mike Deodato, Part 2 – Elektra #1

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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 Elektra #1, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated November 1996. Enjoy!

After drawing Wonder Woman for a while, Deodato drew some issues of Glory and had a brief run on Thor with Warren Ellis and William Messner-Loebs and a brief run on Avengers. Then he started working on Elektra. Oh, Elektra. I’m still not completely convinced Peter Milligan actually wrote this comic, because it’s just so very, very terrible. Maybe Peter Milligan sub-contracted this out to a particularly dexterous marmoset and took the money, because this is not only the worst thing Milligan has ever written by a fairly large margin (and yes, I’ve read his run on X-Men), it’s possibly one of the worst things Marvel put out in the 1990s, which is saying quite a bit in a decade in which Teen Tony Stark existed (and yes, that’s Deodato drawing Avengers at that link – the dude drew some terrible comics in the 1990s!) and in which Gambit was a popular character. At least a lot of the terrible comics from the 1990s are laughable these days, but Elektra doesn’t even have that going for it – it’s just awful. Yeah, I don’t like Elektra. Can you tell? But what about the artwork?!?!?

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It’s the age of excess, even more than other ages, and Deodato was in the right place at the right time to become a superstar. In this book (and others around this time), he took the oddities of his Wonder Woman stuff and amped it right up to 11, and we loved him for it. Where Diana had long hair that at least looked somewhat realistic, Elektra has hair that looks Gorgon-esque and ridiculously long, to the point where I can’t believe she didn’t trip over it now and then. In the early issues of Wonder Woman, the characters moved somewhat like characters would, but by the end, Artemis was just posing, and that’s what happens to Elektra quite a bit in this series. Deodato can still lay out a page, as we see here. Elektra bursts through a skylight (and, in the grand tradition of fiction, gets no cuts whatsoever) and lands on a stage. Deodato chooses to use negative space in the first panel to show her body, which Christie Scheele smartly colors red. It’s a dramatic image, and then we get the three vertically stacked panels along the right side that take Elektra (with her flowing sashes not getting caught on anything, mind you) down to the stage. It’s well done – Deodato draws her doing a nice turn in the air and coming down softly, her hair trailing from Panel 3 to Panel 4, linking the entire sequence. He gives her two sais tied to her right leg, because 2>1, fanboys! We will see much more of her anatomy as we go along. Despite some exaggeration, this is a nicely done page.

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This is part of the next page, and we see Elektra a bit better here. Again, Deodato lays the page out well so that we get the central image of butt-kicking Elektra, with the pathetic and sexist ninjas reduced in size around her and Konrad Weiss, the director of the dance company that uses the stage, looks on in amazement. Deodato, notice, makes Konrad look back at the larger, central panel, even though he’s really looking at Elektra beating up the ninjas in the panel above him. In the central image, Deodato gives Elektra that crazy, flowing hair, and while her thighs aren’t as crazy thick and her waist isn’t as tiny as we’ll see later in the book, her left thigh seems really, REALLY long. It’s kind of freaking me out.

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For some reason, Deodato uses panel borders in this image, turning it into something that appears to be trapped inside a precious stone. I don’t know why he does it, but let’s not worry too much about it. Once again, we see the amazing hair, and you can just feel the energy rippling through this drawing. That’s, I think, partly why artists of the 1990s drew like this – despite all the problems, these comics crackled with manic energy, and that does help quite a bit. Elektra is getting a bit sillier in the anatomical department – her right leg has turned into a tree trunk, while her left thigh is still far too long. We must deal with it! Deodato had a bunch of artist at “Deodato Studios” inking this (including Ed Benes), and it’s pretty well done. The blacks on Elektra’s hair give it a wild, tangled look, while we get enough hatching on her face to show how crazed she is and how much she wants to kill the ninjas. The light source on Konrad’s face is strange, because we never actually see a light source, even though it’s making the sais sparkle. There’s no time for light sources!!!!

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One of the hallmarks of this brief era of comics art, as we’ve already seen, is a very wacky sense of proportion. We’ve seen a bit of this with Elektra, but look at Sensei Stewart. Holy crap, he’s a giant! I mean, Sensei Lau isn’t a small dude, and Stewart looks like he could eat Lau as a snack before his real meal of one entire bear and one entire mako shark. His forearms are as wide as Lau’s torso!!!! Okay, we need to move on before my brain explodes.

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So Konrad wants Elektra to dance for him, and Elektra doesn’t want to until there’s an opportunity to take another woman down a peg. Way to stand up for your sisters, Elektra! In Panels 1 and 2, Deodato draws Celia fairly normally, probably to contrast her to the otherworldly vision of our heroine. First of all, let’s check out that hair again. At least Elektra doesn’t braid the entire thing, but how is it not frizzy after it comes out of that thing she has it tied into? She has some crazy good conditioner, is all I’m saying. Anyway, what the heck is she wearing? I guess it’s a skirt, if we can call a piece of fabric that small a “skirt,” but I hope she’s wearing a thong underneath that thing, because if she’s going commando, how is the entire world not getting a flash whenever she takes a step? That final image is astonishing – her waist has shrunk a bit, her thighs have shortened to something more normal, but they’re still good and thick. In one of the only indications that Milligan isn’t taking this all that seriously, Celia makes a snide comment about Elektra hanging in the air, which cracks me up. It’s another one of these impressive drawings that makes your head hurt the more you think about it.

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One more shot of Elektra dancing. Where is her actual waist? How far is it from her waist to the top of her ass? How wide around is that waist? Is her hair tickling the back of her knee? What the hell happened to her neck? So many disturbing questions!!!!

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Elektra senses that something has gone wrong at the dojo, so she heads over there, where she finds Senseis Stewart and Lau hanging from their ankles. Look at all those muscles on Stewart! The reason this page is interesting is because I think it foreshadows the way Deodato’s art would shift once he started working on Bruce Jones’s Hulk a few years later. Stewart’s torso in Panel 3 and his hand in Panel 4 are inked heavily, sure, but the scars on his arms stand out because they’re not inked in – they become negative space scars, in effect. The brush work on his hand in Panel 4 is slightly softer than many of the other inking in this issue, too. Deodato is still working in his “classic” style, but I wonder how much he was taking from little things like this and thinking he could go straight to colors from pencils and get a different look. Hmmm …

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Oh, Bullseye. Were the steroids really necessary? Deodato gives him giant … well, everything, really, from his wide shoulders to his ridiculous thighs. Once again, we see the nice inking to create shadows of muscles, so that even though he looks ridiculous, he doesn’t look as silly as he might if Deodato drew in all the muscle lines. I thought about showing some of the images from issue #2, where Deodato gives Bullseye the famous saliva linking the upper and lower parts of his mouth, but the drool in this image is enough, I suppose. I like to think that Deodato was this close to finishing the issue, but when he reached the bottom right of this page, the ladies of some Brazilian beach were just too much to resist and he said “Foda-se” and he gave up on Bullseye’s foot. Maybe Bullseye is a ghost, and he’s having trouble keeping his form together?

Elektra, as I mentioned, is a terrible, terrible comic, but I did buy seven issues before it drove me away. And honestly, the art is wacky, but it’s not the reason the book was so bad. Deodato moved on, and tomorrow … hmmm, I’m not sure yet what I’m going to take a look at tomorrow. It’s Day 3, so I should probably get to his big style change, but maybe one more from before that time. We shall see! Find more style changes in the archives!

20 Comments

“She’s so absurdly sublime!!!” WTF??

More like absurdly drawn, I love that second shot of her arching her back. The Amazing Shifting Waist, her neck is too long and apparently missing, her boobs have disappeared, her left arm is too long and connected to nothing and her hair length keeps changing! And she out-jumps a pro ballerina while wearing heels.

And Bullseye has a right foot attached to his left leg. Wow.

Imraith Nimphais

May 20, 2014 at 3:36 pm

oh. my. goddess.

For all intents and purposes that is some truly bad art…despite interesting panel compositions, experimentation in inking and such…it looks like his figure-work actually deteriorated for a while.

But…

The writing! By the totality of my indomitable will not to skewer my eyeballs with rusty scissors.

Faith and Beggorah! And by all that is (un)holy! There are no words to describe the absolute atrocity written on those pages…it…it beggars the mind.

I’m a little embarassed… When I saw “Elektra” and “Deadato” I thought “Wow, this was such a great comic!”
However I was 14 at the most, and I was just entering the world of comics. Anything seemed amazing. I remember I liked that gritty dark style, and the art looked amazing! Wow… Now I can’t look at it, it’s so wrong! Guess that was the reason why even though I thought it was good, I have not read the book again since then.

Imraith Nimphais

May 20, 2014 at 3:53 pm

The odd thing…his male figures seem pretty much in proportion despite being steroid freaks but, Elektra and Celia are so freakish looking I sincerely doubt the circus would ever want them as part of their troupe.

Maybe Peter Milligan sub-contracted this out to a particularly dexterous marmoset and took the money

Bwah-ha-ha-ha… that sounds like the plot for a GOOD comic book written by Milligan :)

I never read this Elektra series, but I did flip through a few of the issues in the comic shop back in the day, and pretty quickly put them down.

On the other hand, I do have nearly every issue of Glory that was published by Image Comics / Maximum Press. I ended up following that series because it was written by Jo Duffy, and I’ve been a fan of her work for a number of years. Duffy and Deodato was something of an odd combination, to be sure. Duffy was doing her best to write Glory as an intelligent, three dimensional character, make her more than just Rob Liefeld’s homage to / rip-off of Wonder Woman. Deodato, on the other hand, was turning in page after page of T&A artwork. Well, okay, it was rather good T&A art with interesting layouts & storytelling, at least compared to a lot of other artists who hopped on the 1990s “bad girl” wagon. But, still, it was a weird dichotomy.

I can’t stop laughing at that ballet panel, where Elektra’s head is apparently levitating 10 inches above his torso, in a 90 degree angle, with nothing holding it there… I guess that’s a ninja skill or something?

Based on the previous stuff posted here, we’ve seen that Deodato was able to draw humans in anatomically correct way earlier. Did adopting “Liefeld style” mean that skilled artists had to actively forgot what they knew about human anatomy, so that they could imitate the art of a man who never anything about it in the first place?

tom fitzpatrick

May 20, 2014 at 7:09 pm

Sadly, this is NOT one of Mike Deodato’s better books.

Speaking of Elektra artists: You should showcase Scott McDaniel’s work one day, Mr. Burgas.

Especially Elektra: Root of Evil.

Go on, get out of here. Go and do what you do best!

Deodato had a run on The Incredible Hulk around the same time this title was coming out. Could make for an interesting study of his changing approach if you were (as hinted?) planning on covering his later run with Bruce Jones, given that it’s the same character and all.

Though I would say that the Tigra mini-series (a year prior to his 2nd Hulk run?) is probably the work where he really starts his transition.

Imraith: I bought this book because Milligan was writing it – I didn’t love Deodato’s art, but I didn’t hate it either – and it was a HUGE letdown. It’s almost impossible to believe he ever wrote great comics, but he did!

matthewaos: Hey, I was 25 and I bought it. Such is the power of comics!

Tuomas: It is strange how so many artists tried to draw like Liefeld. I mean, Herb Trimpe and Tom Grindberg are probably the two weirdest examples, but so many did. I guess they didn’t care that he wasn’t very good – he sold books!

tom: I have McDaniel on my list, but I haven’t checked to see how much I own by him, so we shall see.

Mr. JR: I basically flipped a coin to decide between this and his few issues of Incredible Hulk. I decided this was a bit more extreme, so I went with this. I will check out his work with Jones, but not the Peter David stuff.

I don’t own the Tigra mini-series, but when I saw some samples on-line, it looked like a pretty good transitional comic, but his work on Jones’s Hulk was the true beginning point. It’s a moot point, since I don’t own Tigra – I have to show his work on The Incredible Hulk!

Given how they were doing the book when the resurrection of Elektra was still fresh and insulting, I can see why neither Milligan or Deodato would give this assignment their all…

I’m Amazed nobody noticed that Elektra changed her piece of leather resembling a mini skirt, to a mini short..in between panels.

Greg: Between the two (this and Hulk run #1), I’d say you definitely made the better choice on which to focus on as far as showcasing how EXTREEEEMMMMEEEEEEE!!!! his work got circa this period. Follows up the write-up from yesterday rather nicely too.

Haven’t been reading a whole lot of comic write-ups lately (at least not compared to what I used to), but I’ve really been enjoying your series here. Didn’t mean to come off all demanding or something if it read that way (“No, don’t cover that! You must cover this!!!!!”), heh.

Aren’t those nineties era veins rather than negative space scars? The patterning of the lines on the hanging dude and Bullseye is quite similar.

OMG, I bought that as Milligan was my fave writer back then (maybe still), but one issue was enough! The Rob Liefield aping was too much for my dedication to Peter, even if indeed the story was some of the worst ever.

LouReedRichards

May 21, 2014 at 9:14 am

Ahhh that’s more like it!

I’m not sure whether I should be happy that his work from this period is as bad as I’d heard or depressed because it’s EXACTLY as bad as I’d heard it was.

I’m going to go with gently bemused I guess.

Mr. JR: Thanks a lot for the nice words. I’m glad you’re enjoying it. And no, I didn’t think you were being too demanding! :)

Anonymous: Hmmm … You could certainly be right. I suppose I was giving Deodato the benefit of the doubt. In that instance, I think a case could be made that the sensei has been scarred, but given the Nineties excess of it all, your idea makes a whole lot of sense.

LouReedRichards: That’s what I do! And honestly, this art is better than his stuff on Thor or Avengers, but I don’t own those, so it’s really not as bad as it could be.

And not related to Deodato; that dialogue. It’s so hilariously over-the-top that it wouldn’t be out of place in Milligan’s X-Statix. I assume that Milligan knew that this book was never going to succeed, so he wanted it to fail with the intensity usually reserved for success (to paraphrase Achewood).

Neil: Oh, I would like to believe that’s true!

Did Deodato stay when Greg Rucka started writing the title? Rucka’s issues got some acclaim (although I think Marvel undid everything he changed, but I was too scarred from the first three Milligan issues that I bought to care. And I *loved* Elektra growing up, just not this awful vision of her.

Frank: I don’t know. When I bailed on it, it was still Milligan, and I don’t know how long Deodato lasted. Sorry!

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