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Avenging Artist: Mike Deodato Pt. 2

Outlining artistic process and challenges as well as the differences between Avengers titles!



New Avengers #7 cover by Mike Deodato

By Paul Montgomery

Though artist Mike Deodato has cast the Avengers in many different lights, from a Martian haze to the sickly, sodium glow of clandestine, underground bunker, he’s perhaps best known for their darkest endeavors.

In the coming months, Deodato readies pencils for both the AVENGERS and NEW AVENGERS titles, a task requiring dramatic shifts in environment and tone, with characters hurtling between the Illuminati’s secret meeting places and the Avengers’ far-flung battles at the most remote reaches of the cosmos.

We spoke to the artist about challenges, some inherent in the two assignments, and others he’s imposed upon himself. Aside from directives in the scripts, are there any storytelling techniques or experiments you want to try in these upcoming stories? What kind of personal stamp do you hope to put on the Avengers books moving forward?

Mike Deodato: I’ve been drawing comics for so long that the storytelling comes to me very easily, almost by instinct, so it gives me the freedom to play with other things, such as page design. Every page I try some new design, and that’s very exciting. I’m also spending more time getting body language and expressions better. That's been a large part of my growth as an artist over the past dozen years; I stopped thinking about being an action artist and began focusing on the people in the story. The more I can get them to live and breathe on the page, the more organic I can make them seem on the page, the better job I'm doing in service of the story. You're going to be working on both AVENGERS and NEW AVENGERS in the coming months, both of them written by Jonathan Hickman. Though they function as companion pieces, they're tonally quite different. Do you approach them at all differently?

Avengers #11 preview art by Mike Deodato

Mike Deodato: If my editors want me to visually differentiate the two books with different styles, I will; perhaps shadows on one, but not another or a different approach to the storytelling or rendering; all that's in my wheelhouse now. But realistically speaking, every book, every story, every character and every situation I work with affects, in some manner, the way I draw them. That’s why I like new challenges. They force me to try something new—and that’s what makes my job so interesting. You mentioned body language and expression. That's a major facet of NEW AVENGERS in particular. Do you find yourself spending more time at the mirror, or do you look to models?

Mike Deodato: It is preferable for me to take photos rather than making funny faces into a mirror—though that might make a silly YouTube video. I take pictures of myself, my wife, and whichever friend of mine who happens to be around whom I can con into being my “victim,” as well. I even have them holding lamps to give me the right shadows and so forth. References are great, but you have to be careful when using them, otherwise your work may become too stiff and lifeless. In the end, imagination is my best tool. Jonathan Hickman is a visual artist in his own right. Does that come across in your collaborations? How involved is he in the design process?

Avengers #11 preview art by Mike Deodato

Mike Deodato: I’ve collaborated with artist-writers before, including Bruce Jones and Brian Bendis. In terms of visualizing the story, they all keep a “safe” distance from what I do and I believe it is because they trust me. Or maybe it's because they know I'm good at martial arts. [Laughs] The few times Jonathan Hickman opined about my work, those notes were very useful. Recently he suggested I use the grays on layers so the colorist could follow my lead on the shadows without having to add an extra black to the colors. This "gray thing" is like an addiction to me. Tom Brevoort has been battling with me for a long time about my using it excessively. This last time I felt like I was under some kind of intervention, with all of them trying to convince me to leave the grays on layers. It's all about continuing to grow as an artist, though. If we sit still doing the same old thing, we get lazy and the stories suffer. I'm determined to make sure that never happens on a book I draw.

Look for Mike Deodato’s work on AVENGERS #11, available May 1, and NEW AVENGERS #7, coming in June!

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