Jim Lee interview (August 2006)

August 28, 2006 | Interviews


Jim Lee has been among the hottest artists in comics over the past 15 years and there’s no reason to think he’s going to cool off anytime soon.
After burning up the pages of Batman and Superman over the past few years, Lee — who’ll be in Toronto this weekend as the comic book guest of honour at the annual Fan Expo Canada (www.fanexpocanada.com) — has now turned his attention to All-Star Batman and Robin and re-launching his signature series Wildcats.
He’s also taken some time out of his busy schedule to talk to JPK about his being a comic book executive, his art projects, working on DC’s biggest video game project ever and what keeps him motivated after such a prestigious career.

JPK: Tell me about the reboot of the Wildstorm Universe and reviving Wildcats.
JL: “There’s a couple of things that are exciting for me: first, I haven’t really worked on this material, hands on, in eight or nine years, so going back is really nostalgic. But I don’t think I would have done it for that reason alone. Lately almost all of my projects have been driven by my desire to work with some of the best writers in the business and we were able to get Grant Morrison [to write Wildcats] — a super-creative, super-imaginative guy. When he signed aboard, that’s what really sealed the deal for me. The fact that it’s Wildcats makes it even more exciting, because that was the first thing I created when I left Marvel back in ’92.”

JPK: What’s it like working with writer Grant Morrison?
JL: “It’s crazy because you work with all these great writers and you expect them to have some sort of commonality, other than their excellent work, and what I’ve discovered is that every writer works differently, every writer has a different thing that they really focus on through their writing. Working with Grant has been a real thrill-ride. His scripts are as zany and mischievous and odd and interesting as his work itself. It can be a challenge to decipher what he wants, but at the same time it’s a lot of fun.
“If you followed his work on New X-Men, you’ll know that, aside from creating a lot of brand new concepts, he’ll also take things that have been around for ages and find a new way to make them fresh and interesting and to reinvigorate them with a real contemporary feel and that’s what he’s done with Wildcats.
“It’s unusual seeing something you created, but seen through someone else’s eyes. Through someone as creative as Grant Morrison, you’re getting some interesting and kooky stuff.”

JPK: What is the crux of Worldstorm, the Wildstorm revamp?
JL: “ Basically we’ve gone back to the core Wildstorm titles — Wildcats, Gen 13, Wetworks, Stormwatch, Deathblow and The Authority.
“When we launched all these titles, these were all unknown characters and the thing that worked for us was that we got creators that the fans cared about. We couldn’t really do this [relaunch] without the people more creators like that, so we got writers like Brian Azzarello, Garth Ennis, Christophe Gage, Grant Morrison, Gail Simone and artists like Whilce Portacio, Talent Caldwell, Chris Sprouse and Carlos D’Anda.
“I feel like we’ve got a real solid lineup of creators and that’s what’s going to make this project exciting.”

JPK: What kind of commitment are you making to staying on Wildcats?
JL: “We have a 12-issue story that we’re doing on Wildcats, and it’s bi-monthly, so I’m alternating it with All-Star Batman and Robin.
“It’s actually very difficult. You’d think it’s the equivalent to working on one monthly book, which I was able to do on Batman: Hush and Superman: For Tomorrow, but going from Frank Miller’s writing to Grant Morrison and back and forth is a little bit of a leap.
“The way we want the books to look is very different. Frank wants to do something very dark and noir and Grant wants to do something very bold and that is a distillation of what we started back in the 90s with Image Comics, which is bright, day-glow comics that just burst out from the page.”

JPK: What’s the experience been like working with Frank so far on All-Star Batman and Robin?
JL: “It’s been slow so far. *laughs*
“It’s not his fault. He’s been a prince as far as turning in the scripts on time and that was actually the initial concern because he’s so busy with [the film versions of] 300 and Sin City2 and obviously his comic work, that I thought ‘Well, will he have time to write a comic,’ but he’s been ahead of me ever since day 1. It’s really been on me that the book’s been late.
“Frank was the reason I got into comics. Back in ’86, I was a senior in college and Dark Knight Returns came out and that inspired me to think ‘Hey, comics can be more than what I remember from being a kid’.
“It’s unusual working with someone that you idolized when you were a teenager.”

JPK: So you’ve got Miller and Morrison added to your list, any other creators you’re really interested in working with?
JL: “Geoff Johns and Greg Rucka. I like their work a lot and we’ve talked about doing something. But those guys are much more able to fit more projects on their plate then I am. I can’t do more than 22 pages a month — if that — and usually I want to do 12 issues with a writer, so I’ve got three years of work already lined up right now.
“Geoff Johns and I will probably do something four years from now. It’s weird to say something like that.”

JPK: You’re done major Batman and Superman story arcs over the past few years. Any other DC characters you’d like a shot at?
JL: “Wonder Woman would be awesome. I’m also a huge Legion Of Super-Heroes fan and I think that would be tremendous to work on.

JPK: What’s your experience been like working on the forthcoming DC MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game)
JL: “The MMO is like building a pyramid in relation to drawing a comic book.
“It’s been really illuminating and interesting. I got into it because I’m a huge MMO player, a huge fan of Everquest and World Of Warcraft.
“When DC was going to set up an MMO deal, I threw my hat into the ring and said ‘I have experience with this, I have passion for this and if you need someone to help guide it creatively please call me up’.
“I’m involved with it more than just on the art side. I’m helping with gameplay, what the game will be like, what makes it fun, what the goals are, how we guide the player through the game and what the DC Universe is like.
“What’s been really cool about it is that we have all of the same characters, but we’re tweaking a lot of the costumes, especially for a lot of the secondary characters, and we’re tweaking what Gotham City and Metropolis look like for our purposes. We’re recreating the DCU in way that is definitely representative of what you see in the comics, but at the same time is unique.
“It should be a really interesting experience for longtime comic book fans.”

JPK: How sad are you to see Alan Moore’s time with ABC/Wildstorm come to an end?
JL: “I say good riddance! *laughs*
“Alan has been tremendous for us. I think he might have published the most amount of work through one publisher through us, which I think is a great honour.
“When he signed up to do work for us years ago, we thought we were going to get one years of work from him and he’s produced so much more than that — some of which is his best stuff ever.
“He’s leaving on a real high note. The Black Dossier is going to be huge.”

JPK: So you’re an artist, business executive and gaming consultant. What’s the best of those jobs?
JL: “There’s a reason why I still draw the comics and that’s because I think that’s my real core link to the industry. I love guiding a lot of projects editorially, working on the game is a real hoot, but I find drawing the most challenging. For me, telling a story through pictures and making it seem like characters are moving and hearing explosions and feeling the rumble, that is still what gets me off.”

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