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Year of the Artist, Day 141: Mike Deodato, Part 3 – Batman #570

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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 Batman #570, which was published by DC and is cover dated October 1999. Enjoy!

Yesterday I debated whether I should jump straight to Deodato’s new style that he debuted on Hulk in 2003, but I decided to spend one more day with his “classic” style, partly because I think it’s a good example of how he was beginning to transition to his “new” style and also because it cracks me up whenever I’m reminded of the Batman Axiom of Comics, which I just recently coined and which states that if you’ve ever drawn a comic book, you’ve drawn a comic book with Batman in it. I completely forgot that Deodato drew a few issues of “No Man’s Land,” but then again, was there an artist working in 1999 who didn’t draw an issue of “No Man’s Land”?

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This is demonstrably Deodato’s work, as the Joker’s thugs attest, as they have the giant muscles, tight pants, and angular faces that we see in a lot of Deodato’s drawings. The Joker and Harley are interesting, though, because they’re drawn a bit differently. Harley’s face is still a lot like earlier Deodato female faces, but it’s a bit more rounded, giving her a less extreme appearance. It might be the fact that her costume doesn’t show any skin, but her body doesn’t look quite as anatomically crazy as Elektra’s from yesterday – she still has bigger boobs than we might expect on that frame, but her midsection isn’t as distended as some earlier Deodato drawings. Meanwhile, the Joker has his usual face shape, but again, it’s a bit softer than the way Deodato has been drawing people. Maybe it’s the inker and colorist – David Roach inked this and Pamela Rambo colored it (with separations by Wildstorm FX), and it seems like Roach, while using more blacks, isn’t hatching quite as much, making the pencils a bit smoother, while Rambo’s somewhat muted colors take the edge off of Deodato’s sharper lines. It’s interesting to see.

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We see the evolution of Deodato’s work a bit here, too. He does good work with the facial expressions of the two characters, from the Joker’s wide-eyed surprise and nervousness to Harley’s coquettishness, with her smaller mouth and sultry eyes. Roach does a small amount of hatching on Joker, but it’s so close to the spot blacks that they still soften the pencils quite a bit. Deodato had been good at expressions in the past, but they were usually much more exaggerated than this. This is toned down a bit, but it looks good.

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Even when the Joker gets evil, as he does in Panel 2, the drawing is still less severe than we’ve seen in the past from Deodato. Again, Roach uses slightly thicker lines on his forehead and around his eyes, making them not as sharp but still adding definition. The use of a brush for some of the inking is enough to tone down Deodato’s sharper tendencies. Notice, again, that he draws Harley with a slightly rounder face, so that she seems a bit more sympathetic, even though she’s still a psychopath.

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Deodato still draws action quite well, as we can see here. Some of these panels look Breyfogle-esque, especially the top two. He does give Harley some large breasts here and her torso is a bit strangely proportioned, but luckily it’s off to the side and isn’t too distracting. In this case, I think the coloring helps soften the pencil work, as Rambo’s slightly muted palette and the abundance of spot blacks take the sharpness from the pencil work. Harley’s face when she smacks that dude, for instance – we can see the stress lines between her eyes, but because Deodato/Roach uses a good amount of black on her face, it’s not as stark as his earlier work. Similarly, the dude getting hit is shadowed so much that the impact of Harley’s fist is lessened. I can’t imagine Deodato didn’t like this, as he and his colorists began doing this kind of work, only in a more extreme fashion, a few years later.

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Of course, on the final page of the issue, he gives us a “classic” Deodato pose, as Helena stands looking at the posters on the wall. Her cleavage is a valley, as Deodato loves putting breasts quite far apart on a torso, her waist is quite small, and while her upper thighs aren’t quite as thick as Elektra’s, they’re not bad. Still, notice how much smoother Helena’s hair looks as compared to Elektra’s from yesterday. Deodato is drawing it differently, but the inks and the coloring keep it tamed as well.

As I noted and everyone who pays a bit of attention to superhero comics should know, Deodato changed his style pretty dramatically a few years after this. So tomorrow we’ll take a look at that new style and what’s going on with it. Be here or be square! Actually, what would be square is if you spent some time in the archives, so embrace the squareness!

15 Comments

“Classic Deodato Pose?” Obviously that’s an sarcastic comment, but when an artist gets distinct criticism for drawing overly exaggerated fanservice women within the SUPERHERO GENRE, it’s especially egregious…

Neil: I don’t know why you would think that’s sarcastic – I know it’s the Internet, so sarcasm is hard to detect, but I like to think I make it obvious. I’m not being sarcastic here – the way he poses the Huntress is a classic pose of his. I think it’s a bit too exaggerated, but you’re right that within the superhero genre it’s not too bad. I simply meant that his Huntress looks like she could fit in easily to any Deodato comic we had seen up to this point in his American career. That’s all.

tom fitzpatrick

May 21, 2014 at 8:33 pm

I remember Deodato’s run on the Incredible Hulk, when it was written by PAD.

Deodato’s Joker has a very Bolland vibe to it.

His women, however, are unfortunately built like pencils with giant tits attached.

Nevertheless, I vastly prefer his Jim Lee phase to his photo-realistic phase.

I was gonna make the same Bolland comparison as Solid Snake… The Joker in the first panel you posted especially could be straight from The Killing Joke. I guess David Roach’s detailed inking adds to the Bolland impression as well.

Mike Loughlin

May 22, 2014 at 6:14 am

tom fitzpatrick,

I remember the PAD/ Deodato combo and not particularly liking it. I think a lot of the work on those issues was done by “Deodato Studios” rather than Deodato himself. The Deodato art from the Bruce Jones run looks almost nothing like his earlier work (for the better).

Man, the summer issues of No Man’s Land were mostly dreck. I’m glad the story rebounded after that, but Harley and Joker in a romantic comedy set during a post-apocalyptic-type setting did not work at all.

the Batman Axiom of Comics, which I just recently coined and which states that if you’ve ever drawn a comic book, you’ve drawn a comic book with Batman in it

Actually, you are very correct with that one, Greg. Even Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko have drawn Batman.

I previous had come up with something similar, which I guess you could now refer to as the Judge Dredd Axiom of British Comics, which states that if you are a comic book artist from the UK then you’ve drawn Judge Dredd at least once in your career.

Mike: Deodato only drew PAD’s Hulk for a few issues, and yeah, maybe it was a bit more “Deodato Studios” rather than Deodato himself. I’m not sure how much of the work was ghosted – maybe we’ll never know!!!!

Ben: Ha, that’s an excellent transatlantic example. I’m almost tempted to track down everyone who’s ever drawn Batman in an actual comic book story (not as a cover or a poster or something). Maybe there’s a John Romita Exception? (I don’t know if Romita, having worked for Marvel his entire career, has ever drawn Batman in some weird crossover.)

I could list a ton of comic book artists who’ve never drawn Batman, but I guess what you meant “if you’re ever drawn a superhero comic book, you’ve drawn Batman”. Sorry for nitpicking, but people using the term “comics” when they actually mean “superhero comics” is a pet peeve hate of mine.

Tuomas: Sure, be that way! :) I hope everyone around here knows that we’re talking about superhero artists. It’s only when you get out among the unwashed heathens who (gasp!) don’t read comics that you need to start distinguishing! Because, yes, I can name many, MANY artists who haven’t drawn Batman without even thinking too hard about it. Forgive me!!!!

Greg: You are probably correct that John Romita is the exception to the rule. He is probably the one of the few major mainstream superhero comic book artists (recognizing Tuomas is correct to include that clarification) never to have drawn a Batman story. Maybe someone at DC should ask Romita to ink his son’s pencils on an upcoming Superman issue that guest stars the Dark Knight Detective :)

On the other had, even John Buscema of all people has drawn the Caped Crusader, specifically the Batman Black & White back-up in Gotham Knights #7.

And, since Tuomas has brought up non-superhero comics, now I want to see Batman by Peter Bagge and each of the Hernandez Brothers and Shannon Wheeler and Bob Burden and Robert Crumb and Bob Fingerman and…

Um, wait, what were we talking about again? Oh, yeah, Mike Deodato! Nice pick with this issue, Greg. As you say, it is a good look at his art when he was beginning to transition from his 1990s material towards the style of his more recent work.

Mike Loughlin

May 22, 2014 at 11:45 am

Wait- has Rob Liefeld ever drawn Batman in a published story? (“Real” Batman that is, not Awesome Entertainment character who bears a coincidental resemblance)

Imraith Nimphais

May 22, 2014 at 11:46 am

Major kudos to David Roach, definitely!

Mike, I don’t know if he ever did so before, but I know Liefeld drew Batman in one of the final issues of the last Hawk & Dove volume.

@Ben Herman: actually Romita Jr draw a Batman/Punisher crossover years ago (written by Chuck Dixon), so he is no exception to the rule.

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