DC Comics co-publisher and one of the industry’s top artists, Jim Lee, spoke with fans about his 25-plus year history in the industry. Lee’s Comic-Con International spotlight panel is a convention tradition by this point, with the artist drawing sketches on a projector as he candidly answers questions.
This year, however, threw him a bit of a curve ball. Part of his annual trek to San Deigo finds the artist hiding one-of-a-kind drawings around the convention center, and then tweeting out hints until they’re discovered. One time he even left one hidden in a women’s bathroom (with help from his wife), but after tweeting it, the bathroom was ransacked by male fans. For his 50th birthday this year, he planned to hide 50 sketches, but in more open areas with less of an opportunity of destruction. however, he was running a bit behind schedule at the time of his panel. “I wanted to hide more sketches,” he said, but his wife insisted they go back to their room for what turned out to be a surprise birthday party.
Lee joked about attempting to secretly place some sketches into fans bags as they walked by this year, saying he was shocked by how many bystanders who saw him reaching into other people’s bags didn’t say anything or try to stop him. He was able to give away three this way at this point, but only one of the sketches had been tweeted about, leading him to jokingly declare the other two have probably been accidentally throw away.
Explaining the impetus for the sketch hiding game, Lee said he has been going to comic conventions since 1987, where he used to charge $10 or $20 per sketch. As time went on and he became more popular, he began to charge $80. Eventually, he started doing them for free because he felt bad charging so much money when his career was going so successfully. The lines for free sketches got so unmanageable, however, that he had to stop, leading to him now hiding them around the convention and tweeting their location.
Lee took out some partially-drawn sketches, sharing them with the audience on a large projector screen. The first, a headshot of Bruce Wayne in a 3/4 pose, led him to explain that it is easier to draw a face this way than straight on because you don’t have to worry about symmetry issues.
Sharing a Batman head shot, he pointed out that “the short ears on the bat costume comes from Frank [Miller], who got it from Dick [Sprang].”
Lee showed a sketch he did of Martian Manhunter, asking the audience if they like the pointy-head look. He said he thinks it makes him look more alien, but, “I didn’t like the super pointy head.” In developing the character’s New 52 look, Lee shortened it and made it more of a nod to the Manhunter’s original alien form.
Showing Wonder Woman next, Lee said he was excited for her to be introduced in the Zack Snyder film, declaring that he thinks Gal Gadot looks great in the costume, the fist photo of which debuted at SDCC. He praised Snyder’s vision, saying the director seems very inspired by the imagery of the comics.
A fun image of Batman on his Bat-Smartphone was shown, Lee joking that he had just beaten up the Joker and was putting it on Instagram. “How does Superman have more followers than me!?!”
While inking an image of Nightwing, Lee said he’s really excited for Dick Grayson and his new status quo as a secret agent.
Talking about Frank Miller, Lee said it’s stressful meeting anyone that you idolize, and it wasn’t until his fifth meeting, at a bar, with Miller that he was able to relax and talk as equals. It was there that they joked about the ridiculousness of Green Lantern’s weakness to the color yellow, which led to the infamous scene in their “All-Star Batman and Robin,” with Green Lantern being taken down in a room painted completely yellow.
Ask where his favorite place to draw, he joked, “Well, my least favorite is in front of a lot of people!” For the record, his favorite place is “in my office.”
Lee’s favorite character to draw is, diplomatically, “The one in front of me.” He explained how it wouldn’t be fair to readers if he worked on a book that was featuring his eighteenth-favorite character. Although, he did say that he would like to draw more Wonder Woman and Legion of Super-Heroes.