Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Lee Moder, and the issue is Wonder Woman #73, which was published by DC and is cover dated April 1993. Enjoy!
You’d be forgiven if you compare Lee Moder’s early work to Adam Hughes, as it was pretty clear he was channeling Hughes early in his career. As far as I can tell, this is only the fourth comic he drew, so it’s not terribly surprising he was finding himself a bit!
Moder already shows that he has a good storytelling sense, as nothing much happens on this page but Moder still makes it interesting. Diana finds that Themyscira has vanished, but she finds Steve Trevor at the site where it used to be. So she swims down as says hello. Moder does wonderful work in Panel 1, when Diana looks so happy to see Steve, and even though we can’t see Steve’s face, the extra bubbles in Panel 2 make it clear that he’s stunned. Her face changes slightly, too, from happiness to surprise, and then he swims upward. Moder also does a good job with her hair, as it floats lazily upward, contrasting it with the bubbles from Steve’s breathing apparatus. Moder leads us up well, and he remembers to make Diana’s hair slick and wet in Panel 5, instead of full and thick like it usually is. Of course it would look that way after she gets out of the water, but it’s still nice that Moder remembered. Steve’s smile in Panel 6 is fairly standard, but it’s still a nice transition from the gasping fish he is in Panel 5 before he realizes that Diana is back, as he thought she was dead.
Again, there’s not a lot happening on this page (even less than the first one), but Moder’s attention to detail is wonderful. Diana is sleeping in a basement, and Moder draws a good one, with the washer and dryer in Panel 1, flanked by a big wardrobe (I will always call this a “schrank,” which is the German word for it) and the stairs leading up but also to Panel 2. He draws a beat-up sofa in Panels 2 and 4, making the cushions lumpy, adding some stitching, and making sure some of the stuffing is oozing out (although I’m not sure if it would be so abundant in the arm of the sofa like that). In Panel 4, he uses the overhead shot to show boxes taped up, with one being used as a table, and the furnace in the corner. Ande Parks inked this, and I wonder if he helped draw in all the ovals on that hideous rug, but just the fact that it is so hideous makes it perfect for the cellar. Moder draws a nice Diana, too – she’s an attractive woman, but she’s not perfect – her nose is a bit big, for instance. I also love the way he draws her lying on the couch, with her feet twisted together like that. It makes Diana much more human, and as that’s part of what William Messner-Loebs (who wrote this) is trying to do, it’s a nice touch.
Diana has to find a job, and she runs into these two gentlemen while she’s out and about. They’re caricatures to a degree – I’m not sure what that guy has around his neck – but Moder makes sure they’re detailed enough that they’re humanized and their eccentricities aren’t their defining characteristics. Moder’s dingy and cracked street scene is also part of Messner-Loebs’s commentary in this issue – the economic aspect of Diana’s life is important early on in this part of the story. I love Moder’s Diana – she’s tall but not a giant, and he gives her modern clothing with a nice classic touch – obviously, she has her tiara and bracelets on, but Moder also gives her those wonderful sandals over her stretch pants. It’s a nice mix of time periods.
Diana gets a job at TacoWhiz, and we get this page, as Wonder Woman wears a fast food uniform. It’s glorious. Moder really gets the drudgery of the job, as Hoppy looks a bit beaten down by life in Panel 1, although she does look a bit better in Panel 3. Messner-Loebs and Moder work well in tandem, as Messner-Loebs uses the page to write about the economic realities that Hoppy and others face and then about the vagaries of employment at TacoWhiz, with the careful measuring of meat and the pushing of soda, while Moder spends the page with the more mundane but just as important stuff, as Hoppy ties Diana’s giant mane of hair back and Diana figures out how to use the sour cream gun. Moder knows how people stand, as in Panel 2, Hoppy sizes Diana up while Diana can’t figure out her hat. Just the way Moder draws Diana with her left foot back and on her toes is very nice, because once again it humanizes her. I don’t love Diana’s smile in Panel 4, as it looks a bit forced and out of place, but it’s neat that Moder, who obviously has skills for a superhero book (as we’ll see), is good at the more “realistic” moments, too.
Moder does get to draw some action, as private investigator Micah Rains gets in a firefight with a mobster who happens to be a demon. Which probably happens all the time. Moder lays the page out well, with everything moving from left to right well (even in Panel 4, in which Rains falls to the left, he’s firing back to the right), and he and Parks do a good job with the chaos of the scene. We get the hatching indicating things shaking all over, and Moder does a nice job with the posing – the thugs look very tough, while Rains seems more awkward, even though he shows that he knows how to handle himself. His expressions are nicely done, too, as Rains looks terrified in Panel 2, then frantic in Panel 3 as he gets shots off, and then extremely worried in Panel 5 as the bullet is about to hit him (it doesn’t; Diana stops it). Moder’s punks are well done, too – the blond who gets a bullet in the shoulder is in pain, while the dude with the mutton chops looks awfully surprised that his brains are getting blown out the back of his head.
Diana fights the demon, naturally, and we get some nice work by Moder, including a nice sense of humor (which might be Messner-Loebs’s contribution; before the “Image-ization” of this comic, it had a better sense of fun than a lot of superhero books). He draws a nice, ugly demon, although if we get back to the Adam Hughes comparison, he looks a lot like Despero in Panel 3. Moder, however, moves the characters around the page well – his line is never rigid, so Diana’s flip in Panel 3 and her shoulder to the demon’s back in Panel 4 are well done. He doesn’t draw Diana as too muscular, but in Panel 4, we see that she is built well. Moder or Parks adds a good amount of messy body hair to the demon in Panel 6, which always tends to signify a lack of respect for one’s appearance. Moder again leads us around the page well, with the gangster falling toward the right side of the page (that device he was wearing made him transform, which is why he changes back when it comes off), and even though Diana stops his fall, her legs point us to the bottom right, which is where we turn the page. Again, Moder’s smooth, clean lines give us a nice superhero comic, even though he didn’t get to draw a ton of action in this issue.
Moder drew Wonder Woman for a while (too short for my tastes, as I loved his art on the book), but then he moved on to … Batman! You knew he had to draw Batman at some point, didn’t you?!?!?!? Come back tomorrow and see what’s up with that, and don’t forget to check out his replacement on this book in the archives!
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