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 Days Missing #3, which was published by Archaia and is cover dated October 2009. Enjoy!
I didn't see a lot of Moder in the early 2000s - he didn't draw much for a few years, and then he was drawing stuff that I wasn't interested in, but I did pick up Mirror Mirror, which he drew, and then Days Missing. I no longer own Mirror Mirror (it was okay, but nothing great, so I traded it in), but his art on that looks a lot like the art on Days Missing, and it's another interesting development in the way he draws, so let's take a look!
Moder has changed his style again by this time, to become even more cartoony than he had been a decade earlier on Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E., as we see here. He's not using a lot of lines on Kate's hair, relying instead on bold lines creating the outline of it and letting the colorist - Imaginary Friends Studios - fill in the nuances with color gradients. This isn't the first time we've seen this, and I doubt it will be the last! Moder uses similar bold lines to etch a few wrinkles on Lohr's face, but again, IFS does a lot of the more textured work to create other, more implied lines on Lohr's face. You can see this also pretty clearly in Panel 2 - in days past, Moder and the inker would draw in Kate's cheekbones and possibly the rest of her nose, but in the brave new world of digital coloring, we get thin areas of darker hues to create that look. Moder's style here is bold enough to fit in with this kind of digital coloring, even though, as you recall, I don't love this style of coloring.
Of course Kate is gorgeous, and of course her ex-husband - a paleo-astronomer - is gorgeous too, but that's comics, so we'll just have to roll with it. Once again we see the colorist stepping in to add shading to Kate's hair instead of Moder using excessive lines - this kind of thing is something the new generation of digital colorists do fairly well - and as usual, Panel 3 is really dark in print but not on the screen, because that's the way it is. But none of that has anything to do with Moder, so let's check out Panel 3 and 5, where the two compare hands. Moder does a nice job with Mac looking at his wedding ring - he gives him a wistful look in his eyes, and the way his hand is positioned is perfect, and I have to think Moder was using a photograph to draw it, because it's the way your hand would move if you were touching your own wedding ring. Kate, meanwhile, has taken hers off (the trend in fiction these days seems to be that men are more sentimental while women are harder, so this is a cliché, but no matter), and Moder does a nice job with her hands, touching the spot where it used to be. We don't see her face, but just the fact that she lingers over the spot is a nice touch by Ian Edginton and Moder.
This is another unexciting page, but I don't care (plus, the book isn't all that full of action)! I just wanted to show a bit more of Moder's "directing" here, as the characters interact with each other quite well, and you really get the sense that they were once intimate with each other. Kate looks gleeful and even a bit immature in Panel 1, as she's so happy that she figured something out that she regresses a bit to childlike enthusiasm. Moder makes her mouth wider in the smile, which makes her more relatable, and even the fact that she's sitting on her desk feeds into this idea. Mac is a bit more phlegmatic, even though Edginton's words imply he's excited, because he knows that no matter what they've discovered, moving forward is going to be difficult. Kate looks sufficiently conniving in Panel 3 as she talks about getting more hard evidence, and in Panel 4, Moder softens her face a bit more as she thanks Mac for his help. Moder does nice work in those panels - Kate's eyebrow goes up sneakily in Panel 3, while in Panel 4 her eyes widen just a bit and her smile vanishes as she gets a bit nostalgic for her time with the sexiest paleo-astronomer alive. Moder does good work with the wide range of emotions on the page.
The steward shows up and saves Kate's life (don't worry how; it has to do with that unconscious guy on the floor), and we get this page. Moder's artwork is fine, but when we get into murkier situations, unlike what we saw above, its boldness stands out a bit more. The coloring of the tunnel is poorly done, it seems to me, because it appears like a layer of something grabbed off the Internet and placed inside the borders of the wall instead of the colorist going in a doing the work. This creates an odd, off-kilter look to the surroundings, which makes Moder's cartoony style clash a bit. There's nothing wrong with the coloring of the characters, to be sure, but it's always frustrating to see the attention to detail on the characters fall away for the backgrounds. It's too bad.
This is a pretty good blend of Moder's strong line work and the digital coloring. Moder uses harsh, angular lines on the Steward, and his blacks are placed really nicely, as he doesn't have to figure out where the light is coming from, but he still has to deal with its effect on the Steward. He raises the Steward's hair a bit, implying a rush of air from the ball of light, which is pretty clever. The light is done well - it's obviously placed with some kind of computer implement, but because Moder has done the hard work on the Steward, it doesn't look out of place. It's a nice blend of old-school and new-school.
One more time with Kate and Mac, as the Steward erased the day so Kate isn't obsessed with the data, but still gets a phone call from Hunky Paleo-Astronomer. Moder does more nice work here, as Kate is surprised in Panel 2 because her ex-husband is calling her. On this page, notice that Moder doesn't flip her hair as dramatically as he does on the other pages, because she's just waking up. It's a nice touch. In Panel 3, he gives us a Kate who's just waking up but after she realizes that nothing's wrong and Mac is just calling to say hello. She lies back and relaxes, and then Moder jerks her up in Panel 4 because she realizes that it was a very nice thing for Mac to do - calling because he thought she was in trouble. Then she's sitting up in Panel 6, ready to begin an actual conversation, fully engaged. It's a good way to show someone getting a phone call when they're asleep, as Moder moves us nicely through the various stages of how Kate might react to it. Moder, we've seen, has always been pretty good at facial expressions and body language, and his fairly drastic style shift hasn't changed that.
Soon after this, Moder began working on another comic, one that has turned out to be really, really good but one that also seems to be on a permanent hiatus now. So sad! Join me for the final day of Lee Moder and check it out! Or, you know, you could hang out in the archives for a while!