Jim Lee has been a superstar comic book artist for decades, long before he became DC Comics' Co-Publisher. Friday at WonderCon in Los Angeles, he sat on-stage before a packed audience armed only with a small light and a few art supplies. The room's two screens focused in on the drawing board of Lee's pen and pencil as the artist opened up the floor to questions from the audience while he drew. He took on everything from drawing technique to Wonder Woman's age, and discussed the future of "All-Star Batman and Robin," plus what storyline he'd love to revisit.
"I have a kid in art school and it's very expensive," joked Lee. "Maybe I should just have my kids watch me on Youtube."
Lee decided he wanted to teach the audience about landscapes, and after realizing the audience couldn't see his pencil he switched over to a fine-tipped marker. "Don't psych yourself out, it really is lines on a piece of paper, he said. "You'll find that lines inspire certain reactions in people." Lee began to draw a generic masked superhero, but added upside-down triangles, completing Batman's signature cowl.
"A lot of people get psyched out on backgrounds because they feel like they have to use rulers to measure things," said Lee. "I've advanced to the point where I don't need rulers." The artist took a piece of paper and used the edge to draw lines on the page in marker. He started adding more details to the lines that he drew in order to make an actual cityscape meant to resemble the fictional Gotham City.
"It's about creating patterns and visual interest." Lee drew a very tiny Batman grappling from a tall skyscraper, then connected the rope Batman was grappling from through a separate piece of paper. After taking a request from fans, Lee joked, "Wonder Woman is Superman with longer hair -- I think that's the single biggest thing that I don't see young artists do -- it's that they don't pay attention to the differences between things like facial features."
As Lee started to draw the Wonder Woman sketch, he laid out the image in pencil, then he used fine-tipped marker. In the middle of drawing the first sketch, a fan asked Lee if he could draw without the pencils, he switched over to an alternate version of the sketch only using the marker.
A fan asked about Lee's first WildStorm title, "WildC.A.T.s," and if Lee missed drawing the original characters. The artist showed the audience a sketch straight from his phone that seemed to depict WildC.A.T.s and Batman. After finishing the inked sketch for the original character, Lee returned to the Wonder Woman sketch with pencils.
Another fan asked Lee's opinion about "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice." "I think Zack [Snyder] always had a talent for adapting the magnitude and scope of what we draw in real life, I thought the fight scenes were literally the war of the gods even though these heroes are on your side."
"When are you going to finish 'All-Star Batman and Robin?'" asked a fan. "I did talk to 'Daredevil' writer Frank Miller about it," said Lee. "He said, 'Yeah.' I literally saw him just this past Monday."
After he used the markers. Lee finished the inked, markered and penciled sketch of Wonder Woman with a brush. He teased a Batman title currently underway that he "could not discuss at the moment." A fan asked about what title he would want to work on and Lee explained that the publisher has always wanted to work at the Hanna-Barbera output where Lee mentioned that he wanted to work on Josie and Pussycats as well as Black Widow and Captain America at Marvel.
"If you were a Batman villain, what Batman villain would you be?" asked a fan. "You guys know who Hourman is, right" asked Lee of the audience. He then dabbed the image with a napkin to dry it.
Another fan asked how Lee could age Wonder Woman, to which he replied, "Goddesses don't age." While completing the image, Lee took a whiteout pen and added detail to the individual strands of hair.
Asked about the possibility of a Marvel and DC crossover, Lee said "the streams should never be crossed" as he used a tissue volunteered by the audience to add further detail into the sketch. "Every issue that I draw regardless of the storyline usually has a mental breakthrough or stylistic breakthrough. I have posted them up online every now and then."
"I brought a lot of talent to WildStorm, but some people weren't that gifted." Lee said artist Lee Bermejo was "kind of a Whilce Portacio cross-hatching clone." He noted that the artist spent a lot of time learning the craft as Lee grew to respect his ability.
Lee next told a story about a child who used to work at the Image office and went onto work at "MAD Magazine" and later moved to The New Yorker.
"You're one of my biggest inspirations in comics," said a fan. "Who is your biggest inspiration in comics?"
"My biggest inspiration when I have a deadline is my family -- it makes me angry that my wife can sleep" Lee answered. "My goal is to get my work done so I can have a family life, it's a way to motivate yourself."
Lee spread ink across a page, using it as a canvas as he drew a sketch of Batman. He added more detail, refining as went. He joked about staying up late at night, eating Pop-Tarts and drinking Red Bull to finish deadlines as he drew the Batman sketch. Speaking about Batman, Lee said he wanted to work on a follow-up to "Batman: Hush," his seminal storyline with writer Jeph Loeb.
Asked about the upcoming Rebirth initiative, Lee was quick to correct a fan who called the initiative a reboot. While he answered the question, Lee used whiteout to fix some of the ink spread around the page.
A fan asked Lee how he liked his ramen and Lee explained that he's on a low-cholesterol diet. He does, however, add spinach to the ramen. Lee accidentally smudged ink into the corner of Batman's face with only a few seconds left during the panel, but the artist was able to use whiteout to fix his further mistakes.
He gave the sketch away to the first attendee who produced a "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" theater ticket. As soon as the panel was done, fans crowded around the stage hoping to earn the remaining sketches from the artist.