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Comic Book Superstars 2: Jim Lee

The comic king on signing body parts and why Batman is a douchebag.

Jim Lee is the definition of a superstar when it comes to comics. His X-Men #1 from 1991 still holds the record as the best-selling comic of all time, with over 8 million copies sold. Lee, a former Princeton pre-med major, went on to found IMAGE comics - the first independent company to rival Marvel & DC - and later founded Wildstorm Comics, which would eventually be folded into the the DC Universe. Now Co-Publisher of DC Comics, Lee was responsible for the controversial redesign of Wonder Woman’s costume last year, as well as the revamping the overall look of the DC line for the fall relaunch.


What would you tell someone who thinks comics aren’t cool?
I would probably custom tailor it to the person I was talking to… you know, a girl or a guy, older or younger—I would say that they are one of the truly unique American art forms, like Jazz, and we should be completely proud of it. It’s an unlimited budget: you’re only restrained by your imagination.

Marvel or DC?
As a kid DC, as a teenager Marvel, and then as an adult, both: As a kid, I loved the whimsical Superman and Batman stuff, and as a teenager Marvel was more angsty, and that appealed to me. Marvel dealt with more stuff I could relate to as a teenager.

Which superhero is the biggest douchebag?
There’s so many. One man’s douche bag is another’s hero, so I guess I’ll answer this as positively as possible—Batman for me, because he’s always got the answer and he’s always five steps ahead of everyone else. He’s the kinda guy who says there’s 574 ways I can hurt this guy—I’ll choose the one that’s the most painful. But that’s also what makes him appealing: you can say the same thing about someone like Wolverine.

In all-companies cross-over, can you assemble your ultimate five-hero team?
Matter Eater Lad, Nick Fury, Voodoo, and I would want the team to sell, so Batman and then Jughead—Jughead would be the comic relief, he would have all the answers and be the most sensible guy on the team.

Who’s got the stupidest costume of any hero or villain?
Bullet Man: He’s got a giant sliver pointed hat like a bullet. As an artist I feel like I could draw any character and make them look cool—except him.

Have you ever had a story or character rejected by an editor?
I’m generally so late with my work that they are just thrilled to get my pages…

Which are the best and worst comic book movie adaptations?
The Dark Knight, The Rocketeer and definitely the first Superman movie by Richard Donner are the best. I tend to be softer in my judgment about what’s a bad movie—I don’t think anyone intends to make a bad movie and sometimes it just doesn’t click for some reason.

What’s been your strangest Comic Con experience?
Signing people’s body parts. At the last con, there was this guy and he wanted me to sign a tattoo of an illustration, and the next day he had it tattooed on his skin.

If you were going to do Cosplay, who would you dress up as?
I actually have cosplayed—I have three teenage daughters and they were heavily into anime and manga and Cosplay. I took them to Anime Expo, and for the first time I dressed up as the older guy from Naruto with the blades. The great thing about Anime Expo is that there are very few Western comic book fans, so it was an opportunity for me to wander around unnoticed and just take it all in without being mobbed.

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