Sean Howe’s Tumblr is full of interesting supplementary material that work as visual erratta to his great book Marvel Comics: The Untold Story. Now the author has highlighted a series of letters sent to the young Jim Lee (as recently posted by Lee to his Instagram account); they’re great, a fantastic lesson for any artist at the start of his or her career: keep trying, keep growing, keep submitting.
I remember seeing some of Lee’s earliest comics at Marvel, his Alpha Flights, his Punisher: War Journals, in 1988-’89, and thinking the guy was good enough. It took him barely a year more to become, y’know, JIM LEE! — and now he’s co-publisher of DC. If that isn’t some sort of life lesson in keeping your nose down and working hard, I don’t know what is. Howe, because of his specialist interest in Marvel, doesn’t re-post one of the more telling letters in the sequence Lee presents at Instagram, from the legendary Dick Giordano in October 1986. At that point, Giordano had been overseeing the company through an amazing period of creative growth, which included the publication of two comics that still stand as megaliths in the world of superhero comics, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen. I’ve heard it said that it was these two titles that caused Lee to postpone his medical career to return to his childhood dream of drawing comics. Lee writes of Giordano’s handwritten note at the end of the standard rejection letter: “His line at end meant the world to me. Still does.”
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