Comics superstar, Wildstorm founder, and nicest guy in comics Jim Lee was joined by DC Executive Editor Dan DiDio for a one on one question and answer session with fans at this year’s Wizard World Philly.
After they both arrived a bit late, they sat down and DiDio open with a question for Lee of his own: when is he going to get “All Star Batman and Robin” issue five done?
“Thanks, Dan.” deadpanned Lee, who claimed that the issue is already in the can. After that it was straight into questions from the fans.
The first question was simple; how long did it take to do the six page foldout of the batcave from “All Star Batman and Robin” #4?
Not long, as it turns out, since the scene was mostly rocks and cars, things that required very little erasing and redrawing to get right. The real problem with the pages was that a tired lee initially thought it was only five pages, so he had to go back and correct the flaw.
When asked what it was like to work with Frank Miller, and whether they worked together to hash out the plot, Lee’s answer was simple.
“For the most part, he’s the writer, I’m the artist.”
It’s a little different working with a writer is also an artist, especially when the artist is one as accomplished as Miller.
The feeling is a bit like “I can do it, can you.” The pressure got to Lee a bit, as he redrew the first few pages of the first issue several times, trying to imagine how Frank would do it until he realized that he was there to do it his way.
“It’s pretty easy working with Frank.” Said Lee, noting that Miller’s iconographic style meant that the art was very focused.
Lee’s return to “Wildcats” with writer Grant Morrison is slated for September. Orginally “All Star Batman and Robin” was only supposed to be a six-issue arc, finished in time for Lee to begin work on “Wildcats,” but things did quite work out that way.
“When we’re still in the car in issue four,” said Lee, ” I figured that it wasn’t going to be just six issues.”
Still, Lee is confident hat the two book’s bimonthly schedule will allow him to get it all done. Well, sort of confident, anyway.
“‘Wildcats’ is bimonthly, so now I get to be late on two books” said Lee.
The break neck pacing and team approach Morrison is taking also helps, since it’s a big change from the more languid pace of “ASB&R,” which focuses mostly on Batman.
When asked if he’d write something like “Infinite Crisis” or “Civil War,” Lee said that what he really to write is “Watchmen.”
“Just put your name on it,” said DiDio,” He’s pissed off anyhow.”
Lee has little interest in those kinds of books, mostly because he views them as simple emotional button pushing.
“You like this character? He’s dead” said Lee, clearly not fan of that kind event. He’d like to write smaller, more personal stories.
If he could work on any character in the DCU that he hasn’t worked on before, it’d be “All Star Batman and Robin”, on time.
“No, ‘Legion of Superheroes.’ One issue a year” Lee joked.
An audience member wanted to know how many hours a day it took for Lee to make his page a day pace.
“Anywhere from six hours up. Sometimes four if I’m really cooking. But usually ten to twelve, because of TV” said Lee. Still he can get his pace to two pages a day at about six hours each if he’s really pushing. Some issues of ‘Hush’ were done in as little as two weeks.
Asked if he got a super sweet system from Alienware after he did work for them last year, Lee revealed he got a three computer set up that, owing to his schedule, he rarely gets a chance to use. His kids quite like it, being big fans of World of Warcraft.
For himself, when he has the time, he likes to play first person shooters, partly for stress relief.
“Nothing takes the stress out like capping thirteen year old kids” said Lee, hopefully jokingly.
Asked if he had any mentors or he in turn was mentor anyone, he mentioned how he learned a great from Carl Potts and Archie Goodwin.
“They taught me a lot of good working habits,” said Lee ” Which I then promptly forgot.”
As for mentoring, he’s not doing so in any formal way, but he works closely with the Wildstorm artists, in a mentoring capacity.
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He commented on the current trend of multiple variant covers, something harkening back to the nineties, after a fan, clearly opposed to the, asked for his take on it.
“That’s a good example of a loaded question” Lee said.
Never that kind of collector himself, he admits that he doesn’t really understand the need to buy them, but since nobody is being forced to purchase them, he sees no harm in it. People who want them all can get them. Everybody else can just get one. There’s no real problem there.
Lee was also asked about his long time collaboration with inker Scott Williams. The initially worked together on “Punisher: War Journal” when Williams was already well on his way in his career as an inker.
Lee loved what Williams was able to do with his art, especially with the instinctive ease with which Williams was able to bring out the best in Lee’s work. Even today, Williams is still trying to keep pushing his art to the next level, not content to simply rest on his past accomplishments.
The session ended with a fan asking how Lee managed to stay so popular for so long.
“I avoided Kevin Federline” Lee joked, before revealing that the only secret was to work as hard as you can , never giving up the quest to be the best.