From illustrating the adventures of Alpha Flight, the Punisher, and the X-Men at Marvel more than 30 years ago to his current position as publisher and chief creative officer of DC today, there’s no denying that Jim Lee’s career has been something special – and that’s saying nothing about his Image Comics co-founder status.
Thursday’s Spotlight on Jim Lee panel won’t just give the man behind 1991’s X-Men #1, the WildC.A.T.s (and the entire Wildstorm Universe), or Batman: Hush the chance to talk about what he’s been up to all these years, it’ll also allow fans the chance to see him create in real time, as he’s expected to be sketching live on camera during the entire thing. Think of this as an opportunity to see the magic in action – or, for those reading along, experience it vicariously through this liveblog. I promise to enthuse appropriately.
Popverse will be liveblogging the whole thing from start to finish, sharing the anecdotes, secrets and teases for what Lee has in store as quickly as possible. Bookmark this page to keep up to date, or return later to relive the panel as it happened.
Fresh from the Dark Crisis panel, it's almost time for the Spotlight on Jim Lee panel! They're already setting up the camera for whatever he's going to be drawing during the hour. Anyone got any requests?
Jim Lee just casually walked onstage, and a surprised audience started applauding. "I have to set up," he says.
Asks the audience if they've attended a spotlight panel before. If they haven't, he asks, "Wow, what brought you here? Is there a cool panel later?"
Jim shows off a book of his COVID lockdown sketches, which were sold for charity.
"I've been in comics since 1987," he says, "this is technically my 34th Comic-Con." Appearances at the show have become a family affair, he says, introducing his kids in the audience, who get applauded.
He talks about blaming the delay of WildCATS #2 on the birth of his daughter. "I was looking for a reason, she was a baby, she didn't know."
He'll be drawing Batman to warm up, while talking about becoming a natualized citizen in 1977. He picked the name "James" because he was a huge Star Trek fan. "I wanted people to call me Jim. Or Captain," he jokes.
He asks the crowd who watches his Twitch stream, and a lot of hands are raised. "Have you learned anything?" he asks, to sounds of affirmation. "I'm surprised!" he jokes. His Twitch stream mods are in the audience today, he reveals.
Fans are already lining up to ask questions while Jim sketches. "This is Batman's pissed-off eye look," he jokes. "Drawing is a tricky thing," he says. "But it really is just repetition." Says that drawing Batman is still a challenge. "One of the great things about American superheroes is that we still challenge our artists to define the characters."
Q: Which of Jim's own creations does he love to draw the most? "When I doodle, I don't really draw characters," Jim admits. "Just weird things: tanks, sprockets. Just geometic things." In terms of characters, he likes Batman, Hawkman. Overall, his favorite character to draw is a combination of characters, he says, because he appreciates the juxtaposition of characters. "Batman crouches to find the shadows, but Superman finds the light," he says. "Bringing the characters to life is the fun part of it."
Q: Would Jim consider drawing more Sandman characters in the future? "I love the world of Sandman," Jim says, and says that he'd be interested in collaborating with Neil Gaiman on something in the future. "I've never broached the subject," he admits.
Q: Will Jim be at Twitchcon? "I don't know, sure, why?" he says. His Twitch streams get 800-1000 people, so he doesn't think he's big enough. "The art streams used to be a virtual version of this, and then during lockdown, this became the real life version of the streams."
Q: What characters would be in his perfect story? "It would be awesome to see a revisit to the Amalgam world," he says to the surprise of many. "I didn't really get a chance to play in that world."
Q: What is more important for a new artist: Focusing on a portfolio, or building a social media presence? "I would say the future is digital," he says. "No-one really cares that you can draw on paper anymore." If he was younger, he would work digitally, but if you want to sell originals and make money, work on paper, he jokes. Working digitally feels like work, but drawing on paper still feels like the experience of drawing as a kid in his family home.
Q: What is the fastest way to create your own drawing style? "Everyone works emulating someone else's work," he says, because there's an artist that inspires them to draw in the first place. He namedrops Neal Adams and Jack Kirby as a couple of his inspirations, and says that he drew in their style but was conscious that he would only ever be a second-rate version of them. He needed to put away the reference and discover how he drew; it was hard work, he admits. "When I was working at Marvel, that's how I started developing my own style."
Q: Referencing Jim's art supporting the Snyder Cut, someone asks if he's involved in a potential sequel to the Snyder Cut. "We spent two years in lockdown, and here we are, back at a convention, feeling good," he starts, before saying that the Snyder Cut was Zack's story and passion project, and he was happy to work on the pitch for the other material. "I actually did that years ago, and I thought it had been erased." No plans for a sequel, he says.
Q: What is Jim's favorite Star Trek? He's watching Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, and he's digging it but hasn't finished it. He's a fan of the original series, but also likes Strange New Worlds. He also wonders if there's a way to bring the old Animated Series back via CGI or deep fake technology. Admits that he has an original series costume, and says that he does "a good Mean Sulu" from the Mirror Universe.
Q: What else does Jim draw that's not superheroes, in his free time? "I'm always late on my assignments," he jokes. He paints his family, and he's also working on a series of acrylic paintings on large canvases. (I would love to see this.) He teases Twitch streaming paintings in future.
Q: Can he talk about Warner Bros cultures between owned by AT&T and Discovery? "I think in terms of our day-to-day, what we do, I think they trust the people who are experts and who have been doing this for a long period of time. It's great to have that support. Not much has changed on that front."
Q: Would Jim like to revisit 1990s material, or create any retro material? "Yes! I have a panel tomorrow which would be the answer to that," he teases. What is being planned?!?
Q: Would Jim want Hush characters to be made into statues? "Harold! Unsung hero, man," he says. Says that this year is the 20th anniversary of Hush, and he's amazed how successful it remains.
Q: Where does Jim find inspiration and avoid burnout? "I avoid drawing, and that seems to help, and then panic sets in because the deadline was two weeks ago. That seems to do it." It's about finding the motivation, he says. The thing that inspires him the most is real life, which is why he's such a fan of travel. "It unlocks a creative energy in the brain," he explains.
Q: What made Jim decide to become publisher at DC? "They offered me the position?" he asked, before saying a lot of things fed into that decision. "The creative side of me is not just limited to pencilling," and says that publishing can be a creative position. "It is a form of creativity at the end of the day," and added to his experience of freelancing, gives him a unique insight into things. "I think the company is serviced well when you have creatives in executive positions," he says.
Q: At a former panel, he said that he had an issue with his eyes, what happened? He talks about the value of inverting his artwork to notice his errors that he would otherwise have missed, but he also talks about a tear in his retina wall in the past. It was fixed by a doctor shooting a laser in his eye by hand. "I thought it would be a finely calibrated machine!" he jokes. A follow-up question: Did Hellspawn have a similar cowl to Dark Claw from Amalgam Comics? Do creators notice that? "Attorneys do," he jokes.
Q: A cosplayer asks for a suggestion to get her husband to read comics for the first time. (The husband, Michael, is in the audience. Poor guy.) Jim denies Watchmen as a suggestion. "That's too advanced!" he says. "I think that Batman: Year One is pretty spectacular" as an introduction, he says. "If you read that, if you've seen any of the movies, you'll see the influence of that work in the movies." Plugs DC Universe Infinite as an intro for new readers.
Q: Has Jim ever questioned his motivation or passion for comics? "Gosh, every day. I shouldn't admit that," he says. "To create is to put yourself out there, and if you're not finding people receptive to who you are, that feels like rejection." He says that, if you want something bad enough, you can get there. "Putting in the time and effort has more impact than natural born ability," he says. Suggests that new creators can publish online, and also says not to focus on making money, but on telling complete stories. "The money comes later," he says. "There are times every night when I'm drawing when I think I've lost it," he admits. "It's an emotional thing, it's a daily thing."
Q: What's a highlight of Jim's position as DC's Chief Creative Officer? "Getting to see things come to life," he says, referring to the recent Batman movie and getting to visit the set when he was in the UK for the Birds of Prey premiere. The subway station onscreen was all a set, he says, and talks about the newspapers and subway maps created for the scene, and how they were all created specifically for the movie even though they weren't visible onscreen. "That's the kind of stuff that blows me away."
Q: What character does Jim find it easy to get into the head of, and which character is more difficult to get into? Jim identifies with Ultra Boy of the Legion of Super-Heroes. Also Matter-Eater Lad. (Ultra Boy because Jim thinks he can multi-task, but isn't particularly good at it, he shares.) "A lot of Legion characters, I think, Deadman sometimes." He says he was a huge X-Men fan growing up, especially as an immigrant who felt like an outsider. "Superman is another character," referring to seeing the Max Fleisher cartoons in Korea when he was young.
A fan mentions a hand tutorial Jim did on Twitch, which is the second time someone's mentioned it, so he's doing it again. He's using geometric shapes to build out the hand, and is amused that the audience is correcting him about the name of a particular shape. (It's a rhombus, for those who are curious.)
On safer ground, we've gone from geometic shapes to referring to fingers as Vienna Sausages. The forearm is a hamhock, a concept which seems to confuse parts of the audience.
If nothing else, this panel is a great advertisement for Jim's Twitch feed; it's very calming watching him draw like this, while commentating and trying out new food metaphors for body parts. (A hand clutching a softball is a croissant, he says.)
Final Q, from a tiny little fan who loves to draw Mario Kart characters: What was Jim's favorite character to draw as a kid? "Probably a Marvel or DC superhero," he says, explaining that the only way to be in that universe was to draw his own comics. "I drew a lot of insects, Star Trek characters, people on planets."
It's the art giveaway! Jim asks for a packet of relish or mustard, causing many people to dive for their bags. Sarah gets the hand drawing, Christina gets a Wonder Woman drawing. Jim asks for a pair of chopsticks, and George, Savvy, and Kaia's dad oblige, taking the last of the sketches from the panel.
And that's a wrap! Thank you all for following along.