Industry legend and DC co-publisher Jim Lee takes center stage in Anaheim at this year’s WonderCon during a spotlight panel. Lee is set to speak about his tenure both as a creator and as a publisher on fan favorite books like Justice League, Batman, and the upcoming Immortal Men “New Age of DC Heroes” title co-created with writer James Tynion IV set to debut this April.
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Lee took the stage promising “something different” this time around for his Spotlight panel where he typically sketches and gives the drawings away. “I like to think of myself as a creative person,” Lee laughed. He explained that he would be mimicking the forms of his Twitch streams and then invited his stream moderators to the front of the room.
“I always start with my origin story but I figured there might be some of you here who might be like, fans, like real stalker level fans,” Lee joked, before inviting a handful of fans to the front of the room to tell the panel Lee’s own origin story.
Three fans took seats on the table. “We’re starting here at the very beginning when I was born, what my parents wanted me to do, how I rebelled against that — you guys just go, and I’m gonna just draw. If you say something good, I’ll nod along with you.”
“So, when Jim was a child,” The first fan, wearing a Batman shirt, began, “his parents wanted him to be a doctor. His parents were like ‘hey Jim, be a doctor. We’d really love for you to be a doctor because you’re smart and everything.”
“And handsome!” Jim interjected.
“So Jim gave himself one year as an artist and if he didn’t make it, he’d go to medical school,” The next fan picked up. “Jim actually learned English through reading comics.”
“Weren’t you on the wrestling team?” Batman Shirt fan asked. Lee responded: “I was! I love that we’re jumping all over the place here — this is like Days of Future Past, we have to make sure this comes together.”
The three fans exited the stage and were replaced with three more.
“Okay. My childhood is over. My parents want to be a doctor. I did some running where I changed “Miller. Byrne” for a while — we’re picking up from there,” Lee prompted.
The next fan picked up with a story about Lee’s name, “You picked your English name because of James Kirk,” “I did, I really did!” Lee confirmed, “I even picked my sister’s English name, but I picked it after Supergirl so my sister’s name is Linda Lee.”
The next fan picked up with some more career based facts, “Jim was given a chance to work for Marvel starting with Alpha Flight, and later X-Men — but after Marvel Jim and some other people went on and made a company called Image.”
“And now he’s a co-publisher for DC comics!” The fans jumped forward in time a bit, “So here we are!”
Lee laughed, “Okay that’s it. I usually move to a Q&A now but maybe I should just crowdsource this whole panel. By the end I’ll just be hanging in the back relaxing. That would be the ultimate goal.”
Sadly, Lee did not crowd source the rest of his Q & A, signaling an end to the “Drunk History” improv vibe.
The first question came from a fan asking about Lee’s vision for the future of comics as an end. Lee was quick to highlight Twitch again as a platform that will be something people should be keeping an eye on, “Technology will help grow this business.” Lee spoke to the importance of using live streaming as a platform to inspire future artists and get newcomers interested in the process of comics creation.
“The business is going to be very different in the future and we have to pay attention to the way it’s changing.”
The next question came from a fan angling for nostalgia, “What are some pieces that really bring you back to those early days of comics?”
“Oh yeah, for sure. There are certain comics that instantly teleport me back to my childhood and reaffirm my love for characters and comics — There’s the story about Superman vs. Muhammad Ali, that sticks out in my brain. Any time you introduce a real life person into a comic it just gets stupid but Neal Adams pulled it off. It’s a sci-fi story, it’s a Superman story. Superman boxes Ali. It’s crazy and preposterous. I love it.”
A fan then asked what Lee is most proud of in his career, to which Lee answered “There’s so much. I don’t know if there’s one specific thing. I think the biggest one is meeting adults who are professionals now in the arts and — I’ve gotta tell you, when I got into this, I never thought about that impact. I never thought about kids being inspired by this. The fact that there’s this other affect happening that I’ve seen over the decades I’ve been in the business — it’s nice to have made a difference.”
A fan asked what the most difficult character for Lee to draw happens to be, to which Lee — and several members of the audience — quickly answered: Spider-Man.
“I’ll explain very quickly why Spider-Man is awful,” Lee pulled out visual aid, “So you draw the egg for the head. Two more eggs for the eyes. No problem, I can do that. Great. I drew Spider-Man….Okay…but now there’s a topography to this head. There’s a way this works. I’m still not done. These concentric circles,” Lee explained, talking about the iconic web pattern on Spidey’s mask, “You can’t just put the pattern on him. You have to figure it out.”
“This is a serious dissection. I’m going to be mailing this to Stan Lee right after this. I don’t know how John Romita or John Romita Jr made it through this,” Lee continued sketching his Spider-Man to highlight how challenging he is. “People have said it’s therapeutic but–” Lee joked, shaking his head.
“People complain about New 52 costumes like — screw that! I’ll draw Aquaman’s tunic any day of the week before I do this.”
The final question came from a fan who wanted to know what Lee’s view for the future of creator and fan interaction would be. “Communal bubblebaths,” Lee laughed. On a more serious note, he then highlighted social media’s insight in incentivizing fans to be engaged as comics as a medium.
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