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Jim Lee

Jim Lee at the CBLDF Drink and Draw at San Diego Comic Con 2007.
Born November 8, 1964 (1964-11-08) (age 45)
Seoul, South Korea
Nationality Naturalized American
(immigrated Korean)
Area(s) Writer, Artist, Publisher
Notable works All Star Batman and Robin
Batman: Hush
Superman: For Tomorrow
Awards Harvey Award , 1990
Inkpot Award, 1992
Wizard Fan Award, 1996, 2002, 2003

Jim Lee (Korean: 이용철, born August 11, 1964) is a Korean-American comic book artist, writer and publisher. Lee is currently one of the most successful artists in American comics. He has received a great deal of recognition for his work in the industry, including the Harvey Special Award for New Talent in 1990.

Lee is the founder and publisher of WildStorm, currently an imprint of DC Comics

On February 18, 2010, Jim Lee was announced as the new Co-Publisher of DC Comics with Dan DiDio, both replacing Paul Levitz.[1]



Early life and career

Lee was born in Seoul, South Korea,[2] but grew up in St. Louis, Missouri. Lee's St. Louis Country Day School classmates predicted in his senior yearbook that he would found his own comic book company. But, initially, Lee seemed resigned to following his father's career in medicine. Lee attended Princeton University and obtained a degree in psychology with the intention of becoming a medical doctor.[3] An elective course in Fine Arts reawakened his love for drawing; he graduated in 1986, putting medical school on hold to attempt a career in comic book illustration.

That same year, Lee traveled from St. Louis to a New York City comic book convention to show his work. Shortly thereafter, Lee was hired by Marvel Comics editor Carl Potts to work on the Marvel title Alpha Flight, seguéing from that title in 1988 to Punisher: War Journal.[4] Lee's work on the Punisher was inspired by artists like Frank Miller, David Ross, Kevin Nowlan, and Whilce Portacio, as well as Japanese manga.[4]

Rise to fame on X-Men

In 1989 Lee filled in for regular illustrator Marc Silvestri on Uncanny X-Men #248 and did another guest stint on issues #256 through #258 as part of the "Acts of Vengeance" storyline, eventually becoming the series' ongoing artist as of #267 when Silvestri left. During his stint on Uncanny Lee first worked with inker Scott Williams, who would become a long-time collaborator.

Cover art from X-Men #1

Lee’s artwork quickly gained popularity in the eyes of enthusiastic fans, which allowed him to gain greater creative control of the franchise. In 1991, Lee helped launch a second X-Men series simply called X-Men, not only as the artist, but also as co-writer with long-time X-Men scribe Chris Claremont. Lee designed new uniforms for characters such as Cyclops, Jean Grey, Rogue, Psylocke and Storm, creating the images that an entire generation of X-Men readers would associate with the characters. He also co-created Gambit with writer Chris Claremont and the villain Omega Red with Brandon Choi. X-Men #1 still is the best-selling comic book of all-time with sales of 8 million copies of the first issue, although multiple purchases of variant covers illustrated by Lee accounted for part of the sales frenzy.

However, Lee ran into some creative hurdles. Claremont found it harder to work with Lee as their vision of the characters and storylines diverged. There was a prolonged power struggle over the future of the X-Men and in the end, Marvel X-Men editor Bob Harras favored the wildly popular Lee, causing Claremont to depart the new X-Men series with issue 3. Despite this, Claremont and Lee later reunited on various projects and are reportedly on friendly terms. Claremont and Lee even engaged in a mutual interview for Wizard magazine in 1995.

WildC.A.T.s promotional artwork.

Image Comics and WildStorm, return to Marvel

In 1992, Lee was one of six artists who broke away from Marvel to form Image Comics.[3] Lee's group of titles was christened Wildstorm Productions and published Lee's pet title WildC.A.T.s, which Lee pencilled and co-wrote, and other series created by Lee in the same shared universe. The other major series of the initial years of Wildstorm, for which Lee either created characters, co-plotted or provided art for, included Stormwatch, Deathblow and Gen¹³.

Wildstorm would expand its line to include other ongoing titles whose creative work was handled by other writers and artists, some of which were spinoffs of the earlier titles, or properties owned by other creators, such as Whilce Portacio's Wetworks. As publisher, Lee later also expanded his comics line creating two publishing imprints of Wildstorm, Homage and Cliffhanger (that years later merged and were replaced by a single Wildstorm Signature imprint), to publish creator-owned comics by some selected creators of the US comics industry.

Lee and Rob Liefeld, another Marvel-illustrator-turned-Image-founder, returned to Marvel in 1996 to participate in a reboot of several classic characters; the project was known as Heroes Reborn. While Liefeld reworked Captain America and The Avengers, Lee plotted Iron Man and wrote and illustrated The Fantastic Four. Halfway through the project, Lee's studio took over Liefeld's two titles, finishing all four series.

Lee returned to Wildstorm, where he would publish series such as The Authority and Planetary, as well as Alan Moore's imprint, America's Best Comics. Lee himself wrote and illustrated a 12-issue series called Divine Right, in which an internet slacker inadvertently manages to download the secrets of the universe, and is thrown into a wild fantasy world.

Lee's depiction of DC Comics' Superman and Batman.

Move to DC Comics

In late 1998, however, Lee left Image Comics and sold Wildstorm to DC Comics. Lee's career as a publisher had mostly precluded art jobs and he desired to return to his roots as an illustrator.[3] In 2003 he collaborated on a 12 issue run on Batman with writer Jeph Loeb. Batman: Hush became a runaway sales success. This was followed by a year's stint on Superman, called For Tomorrow, with writer Brian Azzarello, although this did not replicate the earlier success. In 2005, Lee teamed with Frank Miller on the new series All Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder, a series plagued by delays.

Lee continues to run the company he founded as Editorial Director, working side by side with new artists. Notable former WildStorm artists include J. Scott Campbell and Travis Charest. In September 2006, Jim Lee returned to WildC.A.T.s with Grant Morrison as the writer. Lee pencils both WildC.A.T.s and All Star Batman and Robin. Both titles have been plagued with delays. The gap between All-Star Batman and Robin #4 and #5 was one year, and to date, only one issue of WildC.A.T.s (Vol. 4) has been published. Lee claims he will not leave the Batman title until Frank Miller has finished his run on the series. He also drew alternate cover art for the Infinite Crisis series.

In February 2006 it was announced that Lee would be involved with the concept art for the upcoming DC Comics MMORPG, DC Universe Online.[3] In 2008, Lee was named the Executive Creative Director of the forthcoming game, which at that time was expected to be released in 2009.[5]

In February 2010 Lee was named alongside Dan DiDio as Co-Publisher of DC Comics.[6][7]

Other work

Jim Lee provided artwork for the album booklet for Daughtry's 2009 album Leave This Town.

Technique and philosophy

Lee is known to use F lead for his pencil work.[8] While inking his own pencils on Punisher: War Journal, Lee began using a crowquill nib for the first time.[4]

In talking about the artist's work ethic, Lee has said, "Sometimes I wonder if we ever really improve as artists or if the nirvana derived from completing a piece blinds us enough to love what we have created and move on to the next piece. If we could see the work as it is, with years of reflection in the here and now, how many images would end up in the trash rather than on the racks?"[9]


Selected bibliography

Lee at San Diego Comic Con 2009

(Interior pencil art is included in all the comics listed, except where noted)

DC Comics

Marvel Comics

Image Comics

Marvel and Image crossover

  • WildC.A.T.s/X-Men: The Silver Age (1997)


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ "Guests of Honor," New York Comic-Con #4 program booklet (Reed Exhibitions, 2009), p. 12.
  3. ^ a b c d Tantimedh, Adi (2006-02-25). "New York Comic Con, Day One: Jim Lee Spotlight". Retrieved 2009-05-19. 
  4. ^ a b c Gaffney, Suzanne. "Co-Conspirators Talk," The Punisher in "An Eye for an Eye" (Marvel Comics, 1991).
  5. ^ LeTendre, Brian (2008-07-15). "E3 2008: Jim Lee talks DC Universe Online". Retrieved 2009-05-19. 
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ Artist's Comments;; 2008
  9. ^ Blog entry on Lee's blog; January 27, 2005.

External links

Preceded by
Marc Silvestri
Uncanny X-Men artist
(with Whilce Portacio from 1991-1992)

Succeeded by
Brandon Peterson
Preceded by
Chris Claremont
X-Men (vol. 2) writer
(with Chris Claremont)
Succeeded by
Fabian Nicieza
Preceded by
Tom DeFalco
Fantastic Four writer
(with Brandon Choi)
Succeeded by
Scott Lobdell
Preceded by
Terry Kavanagh
Iron Man writer
(with Scott Lobdell)
Succeeded by
Jeph Loeb
Preceded by
Jeph Loeb
Iron Man writer
(with Jeph Loeb)
Succeeded by
Kurt Busiek
Preceded by
Scott McDaniel
Batman artist
Succeeded by
Eduardo Risso
Preceded by
Scott McDaniel
Superman artist
Succeeded by
Ed Benes

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