From Deadpool to Wonder Woman: Inside the Evolution of artist Mike Hawthorne

Wonder Woman: Evolution concept art by Mike Hawthorne
Wonder Woman: Evolution concept art by Mike Hawthorne (Image credit: Mike Hawthorne/Darran Robinson (DC))

The upcoming DC Wonder Woman: Evolution isn't just about the character's evolution, but also the next step forward for the title's artist.

Mike Hawthorne

Mike Hawthorne (Image credit: Mike Hawthorne)

Long-time Marvel exclusive artist Mike Hawthorne, best known for a six-year run on Deadpool and as of late on Daredevil, has moved from the proverbial House of Ideas to the Amazon island of Themyscira. And while he's best known for more street-level, masked, male heroes, Hawthorne's diverse bibliography hints at his range and his readiness to change things up with Wonder Woman: Evolution.

After speaking to writer Stephanie Phillips about the upcoming series, Newsarama now talks to Hawthorne, for a pseudo sequel to our interview earlier in August about Mike Hawthorne's decision to leave Marvel after almost a decade. Not only is the artist sharing his thoughts about Wonder Woman: Evolution, he's also sharing process art as well.

Newsarama: I feel like we were just talking a couple of months ago about that great Wonder Woman drawing you did in your sketchbook, and now you're doing this. How'd you get re-connected with DC, and to do Wonder Woman specifically, Mike?

Mike Hawthorne: It's weird, right?! I remember you'd posted it on your Twitter and it kinda took off. People seemed to really like the approach I took! 

(Image credit: Mike Hawthorne)

I reconnected with them via my old friend Jamie S. Rich. Jamie and I go way back, to when we were both at Oni Press. We kept in touch over the years, as fans of each other's work and friends, and he'd extended an open invitation to work with him if I was ever off of my exclusive with Marvel. 

Once my exclusive ran out I dropped him a line and he mentions this new Wonder Woman book, and I'm telling you man... it was the strangest thing. I thought back to that sketch, as well as some recent interviews I'd done while promoting Happiness Will Follow. People often ask what character I'd draw if I could choose anyone, more and more I was saying 'Wonder Woman.'

I hadn't planned for it, the pieces just kind of fell into place. Like I said last time we spoke, I went with my gut and I'll be damned if it didn't pay off! 

Newsarama: You're working with writer Stephanie Phillips on Wonder Woman: Evolution, who has made a name for herself with Harley Quinn - and maybe I'm projecting, has a bit of the same sensibilities you do from things like Hysteria. I know it's early on, but what's it like working with her and turning her scripts into comics?

Hawthorne: You're right, we jibed creatively immediately.

Dude, I want to be careful not to gush too much or jinx this thing... but she's genuinely awesome! First off, she's incredibly smart. She's able to nail the story while also planting these opportunities for the kind of visual storytelling I adore. She's able to make even a dialogue-heavy scene visually interesting to draw. 

It's like we've been working together for a long time, I feel like we've hit the ground running. I love that, making comics with a person like that! 

Wonder Woman: Evolution process art

(Image credit: DC)

Newsarama: This series is about Diana representing Earth in a cosmic trial to determine if humankind is worth existing. That's much bigger than the street level adventures of Daredevil or Deadpool, and more like your work on Oms En Série or Infinity Countdown. What kind of cool stuff are you able to draw here?

Hawthorne: Oh, man... I'm so glad you brought those up because I'd been looking at that stuff recently and itching for an opportunity to get back to that kind of material. Oms En Série in particular, as it was during my hiatus from American comics and I'd wanted to go down that rabbit hole a little longer when Deadpool came along. 

I'm definitely picking up where I left off with those books you mentioned in many ways. There's more world-building than I've gotten to do recently. Like the books you mentioned, I hope to use the bigger epic scale to transport readers beyond the borders of the comic and our world. 

I'm getting to draw creatures from other worlds, and reimagine what's at the edge of the cosmos. I got to co-create a race of aliens in Infinity Countdown, which I'll get to do here too. 

I'm getting to draw on a bigger scale than I have in a while, and I couldn't be more excited for the opportunity!

Newsarama: Fans of your self-published stuff know you have the ability to really change your style to fit the circumstances - what kinds of things are you doing with Wonder Woman: Evolution?

Hawthorne: I'm trying to rethink what Diana looks like, looking to ancient Greece for inspiration. I've been in the dark underbelly of the Marvel U, and now I want to fly way above that and give this book a weightier feel to it. I also want to jump into mythology with both feet, really playing to the God-like feel so many of the DC characters exemplify. 

Newsarama: We've spoken to Stephanie about the written story, but how would you describe the story from an artistic perspective?

Hawthorne: Visually it has to feel grand. It has to feel like the scope of the story is beyond the reach of mortal men. With Daredevil 

I was shooting for the feeling of having a sword at your throat with nowhere to run,  trapped feeling so you had a fight or flight experience as a reader. 

However, with this I want readers to really feel that the universe is bigger than us and that the danger is being at the mercy of these 'gods.' I'd like to ratchet up the feeling of having the world in the balance, and we're left to hope our hero is strong enough to hold up our world. 

Newsarama: This is your first DC work in years, after a long time at Marvel. A lot has changed on the outside at DC - what are you hoping to do here at DC, with this series and also beyond?

Hawthorne: I'm hoping to do my job well, serve the story, and to continue to earn the trust that has been given to me with this iconic character. 

I want to work in service to the story, regardless of the publisher. 

I've worked hard at my craft to be able and ready to tell a story, so the story is my only real goal. 

That make any sense?

Newsarama: Complete sense. How do you view Diana, and the role/mantle of Wonder Woman personally?

Hawthorne: That's a complicated question for me. Wonder Woman is intriguing because she is more archetype than a person. She's so often an ideal, literally made from clay to be a perfect combination of several Greek gods.

As a female character that's so laden with problems. 

So, for me, she's intriguing because she's been made for a specific, pre-ordained role and the conflict of making her human with motivations outside of what she'd been created for. 

Superman is powerful but was not created with a specific purpose. He is at his core human despite his being an 'alien.' Wonder Woman is a kind of inverse, to me, in that she's created with a specific purpose but has to find the 'humanity' at her core. 

Bear in mind I'm not a comics historian, I'm just giving you my personal thoughts, as per your question. 

Newsarama: Big picture, what do you hope people get out of Wonder Woman: Evolution?

Hawthorne: I hope they can lose themselves in the story. I can't define the story meaning to anyone, that's for each reader to discover on their own. I just hope I can do my work with enough skill that I will personally fade away and readers will only experience the story via Diana's challenges and searching. 

I hope people will feel the care I have tried to put into my work as I serve the story. 

That's what I hope for. 

Make sure you've read all of the best Wonder Woman stories comics has to offer. 

Chris Arrant

Chris Arrant covered comic book news for Newsarama from 2003 to 2022 (and as editor/senior editor from 2015 to 2022) and has also written for USA Today, Life, Entertainment Weekly, Publisher's Weekly, Marvel Entertainment, TOKYOPOP, AdHouse Books, Cartoon Brew, Bleeding Cool, Comic Shop News, and CBR. He is the author of the book Modern: Masters Cliff Chiang, co-authored Art of Spider-Man Classic, and contributed to Dark Horse/Bedside Press' anthology Pros and (Comic) Cons. He has acted as a judge for the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, the Harvey Awards, and the Stan Lee Awards. Chris is a member of the American Library Association's Graphic Novel & Comics Round Table. (He/him)