Current Issue

Nov. 17, 2010

Vol. 111, No. 4

alumni spotlight

Jim Lee '86

Comic-book illustrator and publisher

Published on November 10, 2010

Résumé: Co-publisher of DC Comics, one of the world’s largest comic-book publishers; headed WildStorm, ­producer of “WildC.A.T.S.” comics (later a CBS cartoon show); ­illustrated “­X-Men I,” the ­best-selling comic book of all time. Majored in psychology.  

A PASSION BECOMES A CAREER

In the world of comics, Jim Lee ’86 is almost as famous as the superheroes he draws. Batman, Wonder Woman, Punisher, Gambit, Superman — Lee has sketched them all over the years as an artist for Marvel, Image, and DC Comics. A self-described “fanboy” of comics before the term was coined, Lee says he doodled con­stantly while growing up in St. Louis. On track to become a doctor, Lee took two fine-arts classes in his senior year at Princeton and was encouraged by his teachers to take a year off before medical school to see if he could make it as an artist. His career took off in 1991, when he illustrated and co-wrote Marvel’s X-Men series.  

SUPERHEROES DRAWN FROM HISTORY

When developing stories and characters, Lee — whose illustrations have been described as “hypermasculine” and “supersexy” — finds inspiration in ancient Greek and Roman history and modern European history. Modern superheroes are “very much like modern mythological figures,” he says, adding that superheroes always represent an idealization of the human form. His curiosity helps him get into his characters’ heads and create art that carries emotion through to the reader. “What happens in between the panels, how you set that up so that the mind fills it in — that’s the kind of stuff that ... comic readers remember and appreciate,”
he says.

PUSHING INTO THE DIGITAL SPACE

Though comic-book readership declined in the late 1990s, it has stabilized in the past six years, Lee says. DC Comics is moving into digital initiatives (applications for the iPad and smartphones debuted in June), and Lee is helping to integrate comics with the video game, interactive, and theatrical divisions of parent company Warner Bros. Box-office superheroes — in films such as Iron Man and ­X-Men Origins: Wolverine — are more popular than ever, Lee says. “It’s our priority to keep spreading the word that, hey, all this cool stuff that you love, it all sprang from these comic books that have been around for decades.”

By F.H.

Photo: Victor Ha




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CURRENT ISSUE: Nov. 17, 2010
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Video: Sketching a superhero
Watch comic book illustrator and publisher Jim Lee ’86 draw the character Gambit.

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