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CCI: Jim Lee on Art, DC Comics and “X-Men”

by  in Comic News Comment
CCI: Jim Lee on Art, DC Comics and “X-Men”

DC Comics Co-Publisher and superstar artist Jim Lee took the dais alone for his spotlight panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego. He began with a funny slide show reminiscent of the YouTube meme where people post videos of themselves holding up cards displaying their feelings instead of actually saying anything. He then welcomed his wife and eight kids in the audience before he displayed his final two cards: “Boys, please clean the toilet seat after ‘target’ practice,” and “When Mommy and Daddy say they are taking a nap, please don’t come in.”

Lee then shared an old letter he had written in response to a fan letter in 1989. The fan was one of the first people to ever write him about his work, and Lee responded with a long and thankful letter and a promise to do an even better job in the future. Also included was a small sketch of the Punisher. The artist loves that conventions still allow creators and longtime fans to connect. “It’s one of the cool things you get to see at Comic-Con,” Lee said, joking that most days all fans get from him is a twitter response of “@Some_Fan: Thnx np.”

Throughout the entire panel Lee sketched on a projector as he answered questions and explained some of the techniques he was using. One tip was about how to convey emotion in a head sketch, as many artists will rely on eyebrows or the mouth, but tilting the head can be just as useful. As an example, Lee noted Batman always has his chin pointed downward because it conveys aggression.

He explained the key to any drawing or piece of art should be 40 percent inspiration, 40 percent technique, and 40 percent emotion because “great art feels more than 100 percent.”

Asked if he missed drawing any characters from companies he worked for in the past, a clear nod to his time with Marvel, Lee joked, “I can draw anyone I want at home.” He said as far as Marvel Comics were concerned, “I feel like I got a lot of that out of my system,” and admitted he still wants to draw more Wonder Woman and Legion of Super-Heroes for DC.

Lee does not have any strong opinions on digital art tools. He uses a tablet to draw sometimes, but prefers a pen or brush on paper. “Do what’s best for you,” he said.

He will use reference materials as needed, and shared that for the cover of “Justice League #3” featuring Wonder Woman holding up a defeated parademon, he used his wife as a model, mainly because “bent knees are tricky.”

“He was awesome to work with,” Lee responded when asked about his collaboration with writer Chris Claremont on “X-Men” more than two decades ago. “I started when I was like 24 or 25, wasn’t that far removed from being a fan — definitely a heady experience.” His favorite issue from the period was “X-Men #268” because Claremont asked him who he would most want to draw. As a result, the issue ended up featuring Black Widow and Captain America.

Oddly enough, his favorite character from that time was Wolverine, all because of the first time he saw the character’s unmasked face with the hair that was the same shape as the mask. “Ridiculous,” Lee said. “But so unique, so special.”

Lee also shared that his parents and mother-in-law were in attendance, and he took a moment to recognize them. “I want to thank them here for their love and support,” Lee said. He joked that his mom will stay and wait in line at conventions to get something signed from her son, even though she can see him whenever she wants.

His artistic influences are many and varied as the artist mentioned Frank Miller, John Byrne, Neal Adams, Mike Mignola, and many, many more. He laughed about a period in his work where he drew everyone with big round eyes because of his enjoyment of J. Scott Campbell’s work.

The panel’s final question came from one of his daughters who asked which of Lee’s children was his favorite. Lee smiled, considered the question, and said, “You’re all special and unique in your own way.”

Stay tuned to CBR News for more coverage of Comic-Con International 2012.

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