DC Comics' "Rebirth" Character Designs for Batman, Wonder Woman and More
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”?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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