Jim Lee is a lot like Batman. Both are ridiculously good at what they do. Both have multiple personalities-in Jim’s case, artist extraordinaire by day, Wildstorm Editorial Director by night (he lives in Italy, so there’s a bit of a time difference from Wildstorm’s Southern California studios). Finally, it’s impossible to figure out when either of them sleeps. Nevertheless, Lee took some time off to visit my hometown of Arlington for Wizard World Texas, where he discussed working his current slate of projects, and explained why he hates drawing feet.
This naturally steered the discussion towards Lee’s work on DC Comics‘ premiere characters, Superman and Batman. The crowd roared at the mention of Lee’s recent “Batman” run with Jeph Loeb. Lee waited for the applause to die down a bit, then asked, “You guys are happy I left, right?” Having tackled the Dark Knight, he has moved to the other end of the spectrum, collaborating on “Superman” with “100 Bullets” writer Brian Azzarello. “Brian has caught elements of [Superman] that were always there, but haven’t really been explored.”
Lee went on at length about the challenges and differences on working on these two iconic characters. “One can fly; one’s very disturbed. No, I’m just kidding. It’s weird working on the American icon.” He said that the differences between the characters extend to their hometowns, as well. “With Gotham, you can just start drawing. It can be chaotic. Metropolis should feel more designed and consistent.”
And then there’s the problem of feet. “You can cheat more with Batman. He’s always got the flowing cape, and there’s often a lot of mist everywhere, so you can cheat about having to draw his feet. With Superman, he’s always floating.” He laughed before adding, “Ankles are tricky.” He also bemoaned the difficulty of finding new poses for characters that have been in the public eye for decades. It’s a problem that isn’t limited to the World’s Finest, either: “Working on ‘X-Men,’ I started running out of poses for Wolverine.”
Several people asked about Lee’s work habits, and how they change when working with different writers. Lee half-jokingly revealed that it takes him “between two weeks and two years” to finish drawing a typical issue, depending on the type of book and the writer involved. “Every writer writes differently. Jeph always gave me lots of room-three, four, or five panels on a page. When you have fewer panels, I always think you should fill them up, so that means more detail. It’s my understanding that Brian writes all the dialogue for an issue, then goes back and figures where the page breaks go. With him, there will often be six or seven panels on a page.” The amount of detail can also be swayed by deadlines. “If you ever see a panel that’s one giant head, or just silhouettes and capes, I had to get that done fast,” he joked.
The Q+A wound down with a question about Lee’s Hollywood experiences. “I’ve had the opportunity to meet lots of directors and stars, but for the most part it feels like an out-of-body experience.” He added that, although opportunities have presented themselves, he’s never felt tempted to leave comics for Hollywood. “I made the decision years ago that I wanted to work in comics. I don’t see it as an entry-level job; it’s the destination.”