WonderCon 2012: JIM LEE Spotlight Panel


Jim Lee often participates in spotlight panels at conventions, and this year at WonderCon he decided to change up the format. He said it seems like many of the same people attend each time, and he feels like he just goes over the same questions. He wanted the audience to get something fresh and different, so he spent half the panel going through photos he took with his iPhone.

Fans didn't mind at all and were happy about the change. More than a couple probably expected to see some kind of exclusive. Though Lee did point out before the laid-back presentation that he misses the time before the internet when you could say stupid stuff or actually have exclusive content without it going out to the world in seconds, he didn't share any sketches or images that were complete surprises. He did, however, ask audience members not to photograph a picture of his leg that he used for reference.

After scrolling past a family vacation photo and a picture of his dog and remarking those were for the moms and girlfriends in the room who weren't into comics, he dived into pictures of his artwork. The library of images definitely had some highlights. Lee showed his process for figuring out how comics would look displayed on a iPhone. He drew panels on the back of business cards and laid out a story. He said he altered his detailed art style for the experiment because he thinks the medium requires big and bold graphics. “You need to be able to look at and interpret what you're seeing very quickly.”

Lee mostly showed pictures of works in progress for variant covers he's completed over the past year and all were received with approval from the audience. They seemed to enjoy seeing the process shots. Lee also snuck in a peek of a couple different iterations of Superman's New 52 costume. The biggest change was a version without the signature red trunks. While showing a picture from the DC Universe online, Lee said the platform emboldened them to take more risks and changes like with the Superman costume. “It was a good build-up towards the new 52; we realized maybe these things aren't as sacred as we thought they were and more importantly, maybe there are things we can do to make them more exciting to the audience.”

On a humerous note, Lee shared a drawing of Batman he did for a school fundraiser. He gets asked to contribute drawings to his kids' schools, and the drawings usually end up going for a pittance. In fact, for this sketch, they specifically asked him to put the school's bell tower in the image so it would garner more bids and money.

Lee left a little time after flipping through the images to answer audience questions. The first person at the mic dived right into the new 52 and asked how much backlash and controversy DC has received over the character changes. Lee replied that the danger would have been not changing things enough. “You could have done a smaller tweak that people would have been initially less concerned about, but if we're going to the trouble of renumbering an entire universe, you have to push it a little bit.” He said he'd rather have people debating it online rather than being apathetic about it, and he reminded the audience that costumes changed drastically from the Golden Age to the Silver Age.

A fun fact about his time at Marvel emerged from the Q&A portion as well. Lee worked on an original Punisher and Nick Fury graphic novel that was lost. Literally. He drew about 22 pages, and when he left Marvel to go to Image, most of the pages (about two thirds) disappeared. Lee said the story was an adaptation of a Joseph Conrad book called Heart of Darkness. The film Apocalypse Now is essentially the same story, and Lee cited it as an influence and one of the most disturbing movies he's seen. It would have been a buddy type story.

He wrapped up by encouraging fans to Tweet him (@JimLee) with feedback on the panel. It seems as if he'll use this format again.

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