Baltimore Comic-Con Xtra: Jim Lee Spotlight

Wildstorm founder and "All-Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder" artist Jim Lee went solo for last Sunday afternoon's spotlight panel in the closing hours of the Baltimore Comic-Con. Lee rushed in, stepped up to the microphone and went straight into answering questions from the numerous fans inatendance.

Lee was first asked about "WildCATS" issue #2. "On hold," Lee said. "I've been working on 'All-Star Batman & Robin," trying to get it going." Lee spoke with series writer Grant Morrison at San Diego Comic-Con International. "[Grant] reiterated his passion for working with me on [WildCATS]." The series will be at least six issues and the plan is to stockpile material until the run is complete before final release.

Another fan asked when Wildstorm hit "Ex Machina" will start coming out on a more regular basis. "When they cancel 'Lost'?" Lee joked, referring to writer Brian K. Vaughan's position as a writer on the wildly popular ABC television series.

Expect "The Authority" to continue, said Lee. "There's a lot of big plans for what's happening in the Wildstorm Universe."

On "Highwaymen," Lee said the series will end when the story ends. "That's a series that hasn't performed well sales-wise but is a good read," Lee said.

New lead editor Ben Abernathy is working with a number of writers to get the core titles back on track. Expect them to take the Wildstorm Universe in a different direction, not a full-on re-launch. "'Armageddon' is about us forging new ground with modern superhero comics," explained Lee.

A fan asked if an "All Star Batman & Robin" collection was on the way and Lee joked that at a pace of two issues a year it might be eleven years before the series was completed. He said the eighth issue ends in a "mini-resolution," though he said it might take three or four years for a big collection.

"How does it feel to be considered a legend?" asked another fan.

"That's a loaded question," Lee said. ''I don't feel that to be the case." Lee explained that he felt he' at least ten more years left and that there were still characters he wanted to create.

On the status of the DC MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online) game, Lee said "they're still working on it, those are usually 3-5 year projects." He added that the developers have done a few builds and that players can expect a "re-envisioning of the DC universe" that will feel different and exciting.

One fan wanted to know Lee's favorite project that he's worked on. "I like all of them for different reasons," Lee explained. "I think 'Batman: Hush' was a good one because I hadn't done a lot of work up until then. I have the luxury of working with some of the best writers in the business."

On whether he'd read " Alan Moore's Exit Interview ," Lee said, "I generally don't read interviews with Alan because he'll tell me how he feels directly. It's usually negative. Lee explained that Moore's work for [Wildstorm imprint] America's Best Comics is over, and that it was likely Moore's longest commitment to any publisher.

A fan asked if there was any possibility of Lee working for Marvel Comics. He said it was possible but that he's still under contract to DC. "I probably wouldn't go back to 'X-Men'," Lee said. "If I went back to it you'd either say it was better than when I first got it or it sucks in comparison and it's probably the latter." Lee joked, "It's like my 'Die Hard 4,' if no other projects are available I've got that."

Lee indicated that following "All Star Batman & Robin," other characters he'd love to draw included the Legion of Superheroes, Wonder Woman and even another run on a Superman title. "Because [Superman] doesn't have as great of a rogues gallery," Lee said, "I feel like that universe could be further developed. It would be kind of fun to do 'Superman' as just this rollercoaster ride introducing new villains."

Another fan asked if Jim Le reads or collects comics anymore. Lee said he gets everything DC and Marvel produce and browses a lot of additional books. "There's not a lot of books I read just for the fun of it," Lee said, but named "Nextwave," "Ex Machina," and "the stuff Brian Azzarello does" among the comics he likes. Along similar lines, the artist said his top three favorite movies were "Star Wars," "Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan," "Sound of Music," and "How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days." As far as music goes, he explained that he likes many different types. "I'm bad at identifying lyrics so usually just something with a good beat."

One fan asked Lee what writers would he like to work with in the future. "Geoff Johns and Greg Rucka," Lee answered. "Warren Ellis, I did one issue with him. I'd love to do some sort of 'sassy' book." Speaking of Ellis, a fan asked when "Planetary" readers can expect the series' last trade paperback, and Lee said that the book is on a "whenever they get it done" schedule.

As to what sort of pace Lee would like to get back to as an artist, he answered, "I'm looking to get back to 8-10 issues a year. Right now I have the mentality that I've been trying to give myself a monthly mindset; doing a page every day." Lee said creating a monthly book is easier to get in on time than a bimonthly book because having two months to complete an issue makes it easier to procrastinate. He spends about eight hours on a page, but as much as 12. For simple covers, Lee said he can dash one out in about four and a half hours. For charity sketches at conventions, he said he might be able to do one in two and a half hours. "And there's no way I could do that at home," added Lee. "I should only work at conventions."

Another fan asked how much of what appears on the page is his work and how much is inker Scott Williams'? "A lot of my pencils are up there, but since I've worked with Scott for so long, I know there's a lot of things he can fix," Lee explained. "A lot of times he tells me to keep it loose; he says he doesn't like completely clean lines." Lee said he's flexible with drawing materials, using ballpoint pens, mechanical pencils and markers. "I try not to be a slave to the materials."

As to what piece of work is he most proud of, Lee answered, "Everything I've done, I could tell you where I was when I did each page. To me, it wasn't about drawing Wonder Woman, it was about listening to the message from Stan Lee on my answering machine ten times."

Finally, Lee was asked what he looks for in artists' submissions. "Three pages are all I need; continuity," the artist said. "Have characters that aren't always in spandex. Have them fighting, but it's not crucial. I'd rather see the background and trees. It's not about the excitement of the panel, it's about drawing these things, and I can't tell if you're just drawing speed lines. Lots of different shots. Do that well and you get a job."

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