SDCC: Jim Lee Looks Back On A Long Career

by Kevin Sharp
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One of SDCC 2019‘s Thursday panels was a spotlight on DC Co-Publisher Jim Lee, who sketched live while looking back on his long comics career — starting with his first Comic-Con 33 years ago.

He opened by saying, “I’m gonna draw and you’ll ask polite and respectful questions. Then, at the end of the panel, I’ll give the sketches away.”

On what that first con experience was like:

“Comics were a much smaller deal back then. I would draw commissions for $15 a pop. Then we’d go back to our hotel rooms and draw more sketches, and fans would periodically show up. So yeah, Comic-Con has really gotten a lot better.”

On charging for sketches:

“When my popularity kind of took off, I felt guilty charging people. It felt very shady. So, I decided I would do sketches for free. And as that demand got bigger and bigger, I had to tell people no. So, I stopped doing free sketches. Then I started doing these panels and decided I’d draw during these panels and give away the sketches.”

Replying to a fan question about his inspirations:

“For comic book art, it was comic books. Then later, as I got older, I started looking at other art. Any art, really. I try to draw inspiration from abstract art, the movement, the composition.”

On the editorial aspect of comic publishers:

“It’s not a bad way to break into the industry. Back in the day, a lot of editors did write and draw but we got rid of that because we wanted to eliminate that conflict. But Peter Tomasi, he was an editor; Mark Waid was an editor. It’s a good path, so yeah, I would recommend that.”

On a fan’s question about Lee being an inspiration:

“I feel very blessed and fortunate. I never envisioned it. I’d say all of this in the past 20 some odd years feels like an alternate reality. I thought I was gonna work in obscurity. Now, my wife’s grandmother knows who these characters are. When I got into it, I just wanted to draw stories with my favorite characters. I see it as a responsibility at this point and it’s one of the things that keeps me motivated.”

On whether his children (some of whom were present in the audience) show an interest in art:

“They’re all super-talented. They all liked comics at some point but they don’t like my comics. A lot of them got into manga and anime. One is a painter, she works in abstract expressionism, but it’s weird — I have nine kids, only three live at home. I have piles and piles of comics at home and it’s like bait for mice, I’m just begging them to pick them up. But they’re all very talented, they all draw very differently, but only one is doing it as a career.”

You can also read about Lee and Dan DiDio’s DC co-publisher panel here.

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