"Justice League": Exploring How Superman Returns (Again)
Film, Comic Books
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 Incredible Hulk #54, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated August 2003. These scans are from the trade paperback, which was published in 2003. Enjoy!
In 2003, Deodato unveiled his new style in the pages of Bruce Jones’s Hulk run. Ah, Bruce Jones’s Hulk run. So very cool early on, even in the middle, and then it all fell apart. Sigh. Anyway, I’m fairly certain that issues #50-54 – his first arc on the book – was the first time he showed this style, although I can’t be sure. Right before this he drew the Tigra mini-series, but I don’t own that so I don’t know what kind of style he was drawing in. I’m sure someone can let me know! This work on Incredible Hulk isn’t quite as photo-referenced as some of his later stuff would be, but it’s an interesting step away from his 1990s work and a good transitional comic. Join me as we go through it!
I chose issue #54 and not issue #50, the first one of the arc, because issue #54 has more action, but let’s start with a quiet sequence. I don’t know if “Studio F,” which colored this, is doing it straight from pencils, but it wouldn’t surprise me. Deodato is credited as “artist” for this (and pretty much from now on, if I recall correctly), so I don’t know if he inked it at all. Either way, the inking is very “soft,” and the colors take over. We get a lot of rendered coloring, which chunks of black taking the place of inked lines. We also get what I assume are Photoshopped colors in the background, especially in Panels 1-3. It’s not too big of a deal, but it’s one of those things that you hope doesn’t start to overwhelm the art.
As I pointed out, this is a “transitional” comic for Deodato, so he hasn’t completely committed to the format, especially when it comes to the monsters in the story. Blonsky and Banner look a bit more inked than the actual humans in the issue, but it might be just that the colorist is simply layering on more black. Anyway, part of what makes this artwork a bit hard to get used to is the preponderance of blacks – it’s like a modern movie or television show, which are often drenched in darkness to obscure crappy CGI effects, except that there shouldn’t be any crappy CGI effects in a comic! Deodato lays the page out well, and I love how he draws the Abomination, with that mouth full of giant teeth, which is kind of his go-to look for monsters. Notice, again, that the rubble is obviously colored with a standard Photoshop pattern (I’m sure the entire thing was colored in Photoshop or some other program, but obviously with more care given to the principals), but it’s not too intrusive here.
Here’s some more very dark coloring. It’s a bit vexing. I don’t know if Deodato was doing very basic breakdowns in this book and the colorist was just filling it in with black, but it’s a lot. Blonsky is standing in broad daylight, after all, and I don’t think the shadows would be so thick on him. Oh well. Deodato still hasn’t left behind his 1990s excess, as we see with the Abomination, whose shoulders, back, and arms dwarf his head, but that’s just the way it is.
Deodato does a nice job here as Bruce gets peeved at Blonsky before lashing out at him. He changes his facial expression well as Bruce gets angrier and angrier, with more and more hatching showing up as his eyes get wider and his forehead crinkles in rage. The colorist uses a green base with some blending of hues to show the play of light across his brow, and it’s really well done, especially in the third panel when Bruce really gets mad. This seems to be a pretty good blend between the new-fangled coloring process and a more old-school pencil-and-ink job, which is why this arc works quite well.
More rendering and more blacks show up here, with coloring taking the place of inking, especially in something subtle like Nadia’s hair in Panels 2 and 3. It’s sunset, so the blacks make more sense, and they help hide whether Deodato is using photo references for Nadia and Bruce (I have no idea if he is; it’s not an obvious match like using Tommy Lee Jones for Norman Osborn, but he could have, I suppose). As we saw above, when Deodato drew “humans,” the influence of the colorist was much more evident, and it’s possible it’s because he was using photo references more, while there was no photo references for the Hulk and the Abomination. I don’t know, but it’s interesting to check out the differences in the art when he’s drawing regular folk and when he’s drawing the monsters.
Deodato became, if possible, even more popular once he started working in this style, and he’s been a prominent artist for the past decade, working on plenty of Marvel’s biggest books. For my last post on his work, I’m going to check out his most recent work, which is so recent it just came out a few weeks ago! Phew, that’s some turnaround, isn’t it? Of course, the archives remain there for your perusal!
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