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What can we learn from Icons: The DC Comics and WildStorm Art of Jim Lee (aside from the fact that Jim Lee draws really well)?

If you’re a habitual reader of superhero comic books, or, worse still, a writer whose primary focus is the comic book medium and industry, chances are you’ve been thinking about DC Comics pretty much constantly this summer.  It’s been hard not to, given the ambitious, controversial scope of the publisher’s upcoming relaunch, and the way they’ve managed to keep the conversation going by carefully doling out information about it at their own pace.

And, when you think about DC Comics these days, chances are you’re thinking of Jim Lee’s versions of the characters.

Beyond his current role as the company’s co-publisher, Lee’s become the company’s defining artist (ironically, perhaps, without actually working on a regular comic book series for quite some time). He’s the guy who draws the public face of the company’s stars.

Click on dccomics.com, and you’ll see Lee’s Justice League as the banner. Click to the company’s The Source blog, and you’ll see a Lee-drawn Trinity as the banner. Lee designed all of the characters for the publisher’s DC Universe Online video game. Lee redesigned much of the DC Universe for their upcoming relaunch (and quite radically so compared to the more modest DCUO designs). It was Lee who drew the company’s Google doodle a while back, and a great deal of DC-branded merchandise, from tennis shoes and to action figures, features Lee versions of the characters.

The pervasiveness of his visual influence extends to many of the artists chosen to work on the characters’ comic books, and the style in which they’re depicted—DC is too big a publisher to really have a house style, but there’s a loose majority style in which Lee’s influence is rather apparent.

So with visions of a high-collared Justice League dancing in my head as they usually do (Confession: I think about the Justice League the way some people you might encounter on a big-city street think about the CIA and mind control), I was at my local library the other day and noticed a big, huge, atlas-sized tome sitting on a cart, awaiting to be filed back where it belonged.

The cover featured a dramatically-lit Trinity, an outcropping of rock hiding their feet, standing above giant gold letters reading “ICONS” and “Jim Lee.” Picking it up—with an “Oof!” and the thought, I really need to start working out again—I saw that it was actually Icons: The DC Comics and Wildstorm art of Jim Lee.

Naturally I brought it home to pore over, thinking it might be some sort of Rosetta Stone to how Lee went from the guy who made Jeph Loeb’s totally random “Hush” story arc into something readable to becoming the guy who will define DC Comics for a generation (if the relaunch works out as they seem to hope it will, otherwise he might become known as the guy who made DC’s superheroes look silly for a few years in the 20-teens).

If nothing else, the book was about the size and weight of the Rosetta Stone.

I should note that this is not the Jim Lee book I would most want to read. The introduction gives a brief overview of his career, which I found fascinating enough to want to read more about it (Did you know he was studying to become a doctor, which might explain why his sense of anatomy is so much better than some of his early nineties superstar peers? Did you know he only gave himself one year to break into the comics industry, before returning to medicine? That’s crazy, but he did it!). And throughout there are quotes on various subjects from him regarding his technique and his thoughts on characters to be sort of tantalizing to process junkies, but it’s mostly just a tease of information here or there.

This, then, isn’t a work-focused biography of Jim Lee, nor a process-oriented survey of his work, nor an critical or aesthetic assessment of his work and influence between the time he founded WildStorm and the random, mostly non-comics work he did for DC after All-Star Batman and Robin, The Boy Wonder went on its hiatus. Icons came out in 2010, and thus doesn’t cover some of Lee’s work that is just now becoming apparent (His work on the relaunch, the fact that he’ll be drawing Justice League hopefully monthly-ish).

Now, while I’d prefer to read those sorts of books about Lee—books I imagine will come at some point—it’s not really fair to criticize a book for not being what I’d prefer it to be, is it?

Icons is a big (9.5-by-12 inches!), fat (296 pages!) collection of Lee’s covers, sketches, pin-ups, panels from his comics work and other, lesser-seen images. It’s a coffee table book devoted to a pretty big chunk of the artist’s career, and one that makes an extremely convincing case for why Lee is currently superhero comics’ most popular artist, and the fact that he deserves much of that popularity on the basis of how talented he is.

Appreciation of art—any art—is subjective, of course, but I don’t think the same can be said of the recognition of the quality of art, and seeing some of Lee’s work from the aughts re-presented out of context, and at such a huge size, and often in different states of completion, certainly drives home the fact that, love or hate certain aspects of his style and aesthetic direction, that Jim Lee cat sure can draw.

Rather than moving chronologically, the book is divided into chapters based on characters, which has the unfortunate side effect of putting most of Lee’s good stuff at the front of the book (his work on the big DC heroes), before it dwindles off into shorter and shorter sections featuring his WildStorm creations like WildCATS, Gen 13 and others I had forgotten even existed(Deathblow, DV8, Divine Right).

The effect, then, is that the book begins with Lee’s best work (his most recent) and going backwards to his earlier nineties stuff, when his skills weren’t as sharp as they are now, all of his characters tended to look alike, and he was working from designs that were springing out of his own early nineties imagination, rather than ones that were refined by decades of the greatest superhero comics artists.

Luckily, it ends with a nice a gallery of his Vertigo covers and pin-ups (and man is it weird seeing Lee’s Spider Jerusalem, Death of the Endless and DMZ) and then a gallery of random images from throughout the entire span of his career covered here. The book, then, does end on a high note. Oh, and then there’s a ten-page Legion of Superheroes story Lee drew exclusively for Icons, a story in which Lee and Paul Levitz appear as characters.

Fans of Lee’s should like this, skeptics might find themselves converted, or at least look at his work in a new light—myself, I was not a fan of his work until more recently, and appreciated the way in which the book allowed me to see Lee improving by comparing pieces from one period to another in the book.

As for what it says about the future of Lee and the DCU he’s become such a central part of, it was a reminder that costume design is not Lee’s strongest suit—there’s a brief section on his redesign of Kyle Rayner’s Green Lantern costume (the one with the ribbing and dog-collar, which lasted from 2002 to 2006), and sketches showing attempts at redesigning Batman and Robin for All-Star, although all of these were eventually abandoned in favor of fairly standard costumes for both (Batman getting a big, blocky, Sprang-y Bat-symbol to differentiate him from Lee’s “Hush” era Batman).

The costume design in the Wildstorm section strikes me as something of an aesthetic nightmare, although it’s difficult to judge the effectiveness of the design with the audience from a remove. Certainly many of those characters wore those costumes for a long time, without changing them, or changing them only slightly, so a significant chunk of readers must have been able to look at this

without getting dizzy and thinking they never wanted to look at another superhero comic. I can’t say the same.

I don’t know if it’s simply the demands of the format of this book or if it’s telling that the vast majority of it comes from covers and other such single-image work, rather than panels from inside comics, or sequences from comics.

Lee eventually got quite good at expressions and drawing emotions in his characters, but the panels chosen are almost all splash-pages, with the rare exception of a sixteen-panel grid page from  ASBaRtBW #2, in which Batman and Dick Grayson talk in the cockpit of the Batmoblie.Even stripped of words, you get a sense of the conversation, and the intensity of the emotional content.

After spending a few hours looking at Lee’s last few decades full of work, and thinking about where he excels and where he doesn’t, I’m actually more excited to read Justice League #1 later this month than I was before. I  still think all of the costumes look worse than they did before the redesign, and I still think Lee versions of the standard costumes would have been an even bigger draw to readers, but I’m intensely curious about how Lee and writer Geoff Johns will work together.

I think Lee’s best storytelling work was on All-Star Batman, and on that particular project  he was working with a writer who also happens to be one of the best and most influential writer/artists to draw superhero comics (Frank Miller). Johns’ scripting tends to play to the bad habits of artists—a lot of splash pages (too many for a 20-page book, if you ask me), pages with only three-to-five panels, climaxes that turn on sudden, unexpected appearances.

I hope Johns manages to bring out the best in Lee, or at least allow him to continue to grow as a storyteller as well as an illustrator, although the fact that Johns is “just” a comics writer, rather than being Frank freaking Miller, makes me have my doubts.

But either way, after this retrospective look, I’m curious to see what Lee can draw in 2011 and beyond. He’s become the face of the DC superhero line, and in the coming months he’ll have the opportunity to prove whether or not he can be a much more vital organ, perhaps even its heart.

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79 Comments

Jim Lee is the second worst yet most successful of the late 80s/ early 90s wave of Walt Simonson clones. There has never been a second of my life where the Jim Lee version of any DC character was the version that first came to my mind. I thought Wild C.A.T.s was pretty cool for a few months but I was young and drank a lot then.

“And, when you think about DC Comics these days, chances are you’re thinking of Jim Lee’s versions of the characters.”

Not really. Jim Lee’s version of anything these days still hearkens back to his 90s X-Men period. The man never evolved beyond this artistically-limited aesthetic , which has mis-informed the standards for today’s DCnU.

Jim Lee is God!

Jim Lee’s Icons is one of my favorite artbooks next to Alex Ross’ Mythology and the Frazetta’s trilogy of books Icon, Legacy, and Testament. If you are a comic art fan and don’t have any of these books, I strongly suggest you check them out.

He’ll have my respect again when he can stay on a deadline, which basically means he’ll never have my respect again.

His version of batman has become the standard and is definitely one of the first ones that comes to mind even though it’s not my favourite version, i prefer more stylised art; give me dustin nguyen, frank quitely, mike mignola or darwyn cooke any day.

Lee’s style is very straight forward but he is so good at it that it works in the same way that neal adams, george perez or, more recently, ivan reis’ work does.

Jim Lee is a phenomenal draftsman, and his panels are some of the most engaging and visually appealing in the history of the medium.

It is barely worth mentioning the vocal internet minority backlash that resulted from his massive influence on the industry. In reality, he is easily among the most influential and ground breaking artists in all of American comics.

His work basically serves as what regular people assume superhero comic books look like.

He is far from my personal favorite, and I have plenty of complaints about the lack of diversity or simplicity in much of his design choices, but none of that in any way negates his impact on sequential art.

And still, it is really hard to overstate the depth of Jim Lee’s influence…

http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2006/3/1/

Oh that filthy Mike Krahulik, just another shameless Jim lee clone…

Shannon: interesting that you compare Lee and the Image artists to Simonson. I never really thought of it that way…

“Jim Lee is a phenomenal draftsman, and his panels are some of the most engaging and visually appealing in the history of the medium.”

I’ll grant you the first half of that, but I couldn’t disagree more with the second. His stuff is and always has been about big moments and dramatic poses. He’s never been more than serviceable at the nuances of actual storytelling.

And there’s a long list of artists whose Batman I think of before Lee’s, including: Adams, Davis, Aparo, Newton, and Breyfogle for starters.

Jim Lee is overrated, but he’s not bad. But I agree that his costume design skills are not that good.

I’d much rather see George Perez artwork anytime.

Storytelling.

Perhaps the most important aspect of comic books (or for that matter, any form of visual entertainment.).

Unfortunately Jim Lee’s work has never grown to that of a master storyteller. Like many of his contemporaries Lee’s quite good at pin-up work. He’d be the type of artist that a fan could commission at a convention and be very happy with the result. But as for storytelling….

His panel layouts and construction, his page flows have never evolved past what he was doing over 20 years ago. When it comes to reading a visual story the art should aid the words, or for that matter, it should be able to tell the story without words. It shouldn’t stop the reader in his tracks and say, “wow, that’s a cool pin-up!”
That sort of work takes the reader out of the story and defeats the purpose of the artwork.

I love Jim Lee, always have always will, and clearly so do a lot of artists as he along with Rob Liefeld whom I also like (though his art style has gotten worse) influenced a ton of artists. Ton.

People can say what they like about the man, the truth is he’s very popular and his books sell. He’s not George Perez and he’s not Neal Adams but I think that he will be remembered alongside them in the future. He’s just that great. I don’t particularly care for his new costume designs of the DCNu, but I care for very little of the DCnu the more they tell, but the man is a master artist.

I would love him on Legion of Superheroes, and I hope he puts out JLA on time, every month and that the characters designs go back to their originals because his redesigns in some instances border on the comical (I’m eyeing you Barry).

All that said, I love his work and I will continue to do so for a long time in the future because unlike many of his contemporaries the man has strived to be different changing up his style on occasion and he’s experimented with his art as he did with Deathblow and you should have showed one of his water color pieces, Mr. Mozzocco gorgeous stuff.

But to date yes, his work on All-Star Batman was/is the gold standard.

I’ve been buying comics since 1975 and I bet I don’t own a single issue by Jim Lee. No idea what the attraction is. (And seriously, what comic artist worth his salt, pro or fan, couldn’t do that Batman and Robin page. That’s pretty basic.)

Sam Robards, Comic Fan

August 11, 2011 at 3:00 pm

I like Jim Lee’s work (not really his design-work, but his draftsmanship), but he’s not on my favorite artist list.

Some of those include (in no particular order):

Ivan Reis
George Perez
Ed McGuinness
Mike Deodato Jr.
Andy Kubert
Michael Turner

Those are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head.

And I think Geoff Johns is to Green Lantern what Frank Miller was to Batman in the 1980′s. That’s just my opinion, though.

Great article. Never cared much for Jim Lee, though. Or his multitude of clones.

I’ll grant you he is one of today’s most influential artists. But his figures all look the same, like he never took a life drawing class. His facial expressions range from scowls to grimaces. All his layouts are bombastic. His linework is scratchy and overdone, like he can’t decide which line is right, so he draws three lines instead.

Jim Lee could learn a lot from say, Jaime Hernandez or Terry Moore or Alan Davis. But who couldn’t?

And, when you think about DC Comics these days, chances are you’re thinking of Jim Lee’s versions of the characters.

Wait…WHAT? You can’t be serious?

Most his designs are usually pretty bad. They are often instantly dated, extremely busy and get redesigned fairly quickly. His Kyle Rayner, Huntress and Wonder Woman designs are not the first things people recall when imagining those characters.

I wouldn’t even say his designs are the first things people recall anymore when people think of the X-Men either even. Most of the redesigns of those characters since then are more remixes of their pre-Jim Lee looks. Cyclops’s look is more like his Neals Adam look. Storm is back to a Cockrum inspired look. Rogue’s costume looks inspired by her old Michael Golden suit. And so on and so on. The only ones are maybe Psylocke and Gambit.

Something else: DC really has to lay off the words Icon and Iconic.

They mention it in every convention panel, almost every interview, in press releases, even within the stories. Iconic Iconic Iconic Iconic. Now this book is called Icons.

It’s pathetic, and here’s why. It’s basically saying “Look, buy us because we’re old and you’re used to us.” Not because of any new merits we’re bringing to the table, because we have any good new ideas, buy us because we’re recognizable. Buy us precisely because of our old ideas.”

This current constant focus on being iconic and icons is almost like they’ve just given up. It’s like McDonald’s making a commercial saying “Look, you grew up with us. Just come to McDonald’s. Why not? You’re used to it.”

They’re whole identity, marketing focus, sales pitch these days is just relying on past glories. The problem is, none of the people who made it iconic work there currently. What does the fact that the characters are iconic have to do with whether or not I want to read books by the current crop of writers and artists?

Back in the late 80s and early 90s when DC was getting buzz for the first time in years with Dark Knight, Longbow Hunters, Man of Steel, Batman Year One and JLI, you never heard the word iconic. In fact, the whole vibe was “This isn’t your daddy’s DC.” They didn’t need to rely on past glories because they knew they were currently putting out some of DC’s best work ever and mentioning iconic iconic iconic ever chance they could didn’t even cross their mind as a result.

In reality, he is easily among the most influential and ground breaking artists in all of American comics.

His work basically serves as what regular people assume superhero comic books look like.

I think what you fail to realize is everything you mention isn’t stuff people fail to realize. It’s the exact reason many people can’t stand him. He was one of the most influential, meaning if you didn’t like his pinup style grimacy expressioned pencils, you were screwed because you couldn’t escape from them. He spawned a bunch of clones, and many of his clones pushed good artists off of books because people started chasing gimmicks.

In reality, he is easily among the most influential and ground breaking artists in all of American comics.

Yes, he broke ground in coming up with ways to sacrfiice basing storytelling in favor of lots of flash, cheesecake, women standing around with their hips constantly swayed back, really busy, ugly costumes, etc. It’s precisely because he broke ground a lot of people don’t like him. He broke ground in awful directions that were more style than substance.

What is this? When did it become so cool to dislike Jim Lee? I know I’m not the only fan he has — There’s no way I’m the only one buying everything he does — So where are the rest of his fans here? Or is it that just the haters who post?

He’s one of my all-time favorite artists and has been a great contibuter to the comic book industry for over 20 years now. And whether you like his work or not, you can’t deny his stuff sells — And there’s a reason for that!

I have this book, and there’s still something I don’t get: why doesn’t it have any of his Marvel work???? Why would you do a book about Jim Lee’s art without including his influential work on the X-Men???? He redefined them for the 1990′s! The animated series drew it’s look from his work!!! Why wouldn’t the book have his Marvel art????

Because he’s an executive at the other biggest company in the industry. Why would they promote the competition?

@bongoes
Why does it have to promote the competition??? Why couldn’t it be just an all-encompassing book of his work?? Not everything has to be squarely DC or Marvel, it can be both. Look at Mego’s World’s Greatest Super-Heroes, or that Comic Book Heroes documentary on History Channel narrated by Keith David.

Acer,

The Mego and History Channel reviews are done by third parties, not by either Marvel or DC, so it makes sense they would cover it all. They are not in competition with either company. This Icons book is specifically done by DC, so in their case it WOULD be promoting the competition.

@Acer
I’m not totally sure, but being that the book is published by Titan press, who has published many other books related to DC Comics, there may be some sort of exclusive contract with them that would not include anything Marvel related. Since Jim Lee is now strictly a DC man, it makes sense to only only compile the work he’s done for them.

Marvel could probably go out of their way and do their own Jim Lee book, and even make some money on it, but that might slight their current group of creators and it’s probably in their best interest to promote their own artists’ work and draw attention to the titles currently published.

Sorry, my mistake. Didn’t realize DC was publishing this book but rather Titan was. I also understand bongoes answer now and agree with it.

“He draws real well”< —- Since when?

Collar mania.

@Darkstream and T.
Maybe a third party should’ve been involved. And FYI, Titan’s done stuff for Marvel too; they reprinted the entire run of Marvel’s Transformers series, mainly G1, G2, and G1 UK.

“Marvel could probably go out of their way and do their own Jim Lee book, and even make some money on it, but that might slight their current group of creators and it’s probably in their best interest to promote their own artists’ work and draw attention to the titles currently published.”

They are re-releasing his X-men work recolored.

Haters gonna hate.

Jim Lee is one of the most successful artists out there because he has skills and he has a big following.

Don’t like his art, don’t buy his books!

Are all of you haters so lifeless that you need to anonymously trash the guy on a forum? Really tough, guys. You must piss yourselves when you see your reflections on the mirror, right?

Go out into the real world, socialize for Pete’s sake!

I agree (pretty much) with the article. Lee is excellent and his stamp on Batman is undeniable. Guy has defined the character for the modern generation. And I think you can say the same for Superman too. Nobody else has really taken artistic ownership of the character in a long time so he’s pretty much Jim Lee’s now as well.

But Wonder Woman will always look like the Perez version in my head. And I think its safe to say that Ivan Reis has a strong hold on our perception of Hal Jordan. And Catwoman belongs to Darwyn Cooke and Adam Hughes pretty much equally

So while I agree that Jim Lee has owned our perception of the big DC characters for this generation, there are enough exceptions to the rule to say that specific characters are also defined by other artists more.

Lee’s best work, when he was actually very focused was his 90′s Uncanny X-Men work.
Wildstorm occurred at the point when he was more worried about money and fame and running a very mismanaged company than quality so anything from that period is going to look loads worse than the current stuff at DC. He’s got loads of talent when he puts the time in and thinks about the story. Lets hope he cares as much about Justice League as he did about Uncanny X-Men.

Jim Lee an ‘Icon’? Please.

Can’t wait for Justice League.

That is all.

I liked Jim’s stuff back on the Xmen at first, then got tired of the visual overload and 2nd rate story telling. He is a great pin up / cover artist but thats where it ends for me. As to the DC redesign..ugh! No thanks.

Great linework, it’s fun to see his pencils sometimes to appreciate how well he lays things down on paper. I don’t always feel the coloring fully complements his art.

Jim Lee is very talented in my opinion.

Though I’m not one of those people who thinks all comic art should look like his, nor am I someone who talks crap about him just to show how cynical they are.

Still, It amazes me sometimes how many people talk crap about artists when they likely can’t draw more than stick figures themselves…

Cant think of an art book id rather read less. Give me a Sienkiewicz Icons instead.

Bland and soulless. God, the Image 90s really were all hype, no real substance.

“Bland and soulless. God, the Image 90s really were all hype, no real substance.”

I find this funny since one of Jim Lee’s greatest attributes is the dynamic style he uses. In fact one person has said they disliked him because his work is overly dynamic in poses and layouts. So which is it? Is he bland or bombastic? I actually agree largely about the 90s work Image put out, it hasn’t held up, but to say Lee has no substance as an artist is off.

Jim Lee has become a better version of himself over the years. He’s fixed weaknesses from project to project. Anyone who looks at his current work and see’s the same artist who drew the X-men 20 years ago is blind. The tools at his disposal are much broader. People complaining about him not changing “his style” are just foolish. Like every artist, that’s how he filters his influences and interprets reality.

Steve,

Something can be both bland and bombastic. Just think Michael Bay. Jim Lee is the Michael Bay of comics.

“give me dustin nguyen, frank quitely, mike mignola or darwyn cooke any day.”

Or Alex Ross. I bought comics from ’72 to ’77, then went back to it in ’92-93, and basically had the choice between Image comics and ‘Marvels”. Thank God for Alex Ross. And his redesigns works waaaay better to me.

Let me state I did not return to comics because of Jim Lee and his cohort of clones.

Jim Lee is easily the best of the artists that created Image… But that’s really not saying too much. He’s good at covers, he can splash pages… But people give him a pass on his storytelling because of his splash pages. Also, people don’t like Jim Lee’s designs. People like seeing Jim Lee draw someone ELSE’s designs. Case in point: All Star Batman. His Batman looked awesome because it was like like looking at the anniversary edition, with cgi fixes done to the Dark Knight Returns. All of those guys from the ’90s boom that created Image… They almost killed comics. Marvel went bankrupt around 96-97, right when Liefeld (Ugh… Don’t get me started. I don’t give a crap if Kirkman is writing it… The art will suck ass.) Anyways, the point I’m making is this:

Splash pages are part of comics. Can’t change that, and we shouldn’t. But when the storyline of a comic book is less important than the art… You get god-awful comics.

Yeah, that was me that typed the previous comment. I pressed “publish” before I edited. Here goes:

Jim Lee is easily the best of the artists that created Image… But that’s really not saying too much. He’s good at covers, he can draw splash pages… But people give him a pass on his storytelling because of his splash pages. Also, people don’t like Jim Lee’s designs. People like seeing Jim Lee draw someone ELSE’s designs. Case in point: All Star Batman. His Batman looked awesome because it was like like looking at the anniversary edition, with cgi fixes done to the Dark Knight Returns. All of those guys from the ’90s boom that created Image… They almost killed comics. Marvel went bankrupt around 96-97, right when Liefeld (Ugh… Don’t get me started. I don’t give a crap if Kirkman is writing it… The art will suck ass.) Sorry, right when Liefeld & Jim Lee came back to Marvel for Heroes Reborn. Jim Lee is a perfect, shining example of why comic book companies go out of business. They focus everyone’s attention on the cover, and there’s absolute crap in between that cover and the letters page. I’d rather read a well written, poorly drawn comic than a well drawn, poorly written one any day of the week.

“Haters gonna hate. Jim Lee is one of the most successful artists out there because he has skills and he has a big following.”

So what? That’s hardly the measure of QUALITY. “Jersey Shore” has a “big following” too. Some of the worse pop culture garbage has managed to win over huge audiences. That’s what appealing to the lowest common denominator is supposed to accomplish.

Having said that…I liked Lee’s 90′s X-Men work. It wasn’t the best art in the world, but it was fun and attractive and had a certain energy. His DCU re-designs, however, are pretty horrendous. This whole effort by DC to recapture the 90′s Marvel/image experience is inexplicable at best. Let’s face it; the guys running DC now do not understand DC characters at all. As someone recently said to me, DC needs to stop apologizing for its characters; no truer words, as they say.

Lee is hugely over-rated. Handing DC over to him visually was a terrible mistake. Interestingly, his designs for the video game (which tried to build upon the characters classic looks) weren’t that bad. but this new stuff is just poison for the eye.

I agree with you John…I don’t understand why DC is re-shaping itself into something that has already (spectacularly) failed.

Meh. Lee’s all right, I guess. I much prefer the José Luis Garcia Lopez character company designs.

One last comment about the “Icons” book…it’s amazing how much “sameness” there is to everything in it. I’ve looked at it a couple of times at my LCS. Some of it is quite pretty, if very cartoon-ish; but some of it is quite charming. It does strike you, as you leaf through the pages, how much alike everything is. The poses, the perspective, the lines and angles; it gets tiresome rather quickly. Meant to look very dynamic and energetic, it begins to bog down in its lack of variation and progression. It’s very eye-catching, at first, but wears out its welcome through its pin-up repetition; it doesn’t seem to know how to move in ways that can subtly and subversively push the readers vantage point around the page. It’s all the same speed, and the angles and shapes rarely change. He’s a good cartoonist perhaps, but not a terribly good artist/illustrator. As someone else stated, he knows how to draw a pin-up, but his story-telling doesn’t advance much beyond that. Adam Hughes also draws great pin-ups, but he can also illustrate stories in more subtle and interesting ways. lee can’t seem to do that.

The other thing you notice from “Icons” is how horrible Lee is at designing costumes. His X-Men uniforms were great at the time, but his Wildstorm and image work is a fashionista’s nightmare. It makes you wonder…how on Earth did this guy get the costume designing gig at DC??

Jim Lee is undeniably a super star artist with massive talent. He is a master of every aspect of comic drawing. Anybody disciplined enough to hold a full time corporate job, while working the incredibly rigorous schedule of penciling on a monthly deadline; when he frankly probably doesn’t need the money, deserves a lot more respect than what I am reading here. It may not be every bodies top choice of what they seek in the comics medium, and one can always find legitimate areas to critique, especially since art is subjective, but unmistakeably he is a master of this art form, and in some areas he is actually top of the class and has served as a trend setter and artistic icon.

I agree with everything you’ve said, John.

Jim Lee is the best practioner of an art style that I despise. That he is at the helm of the new DCU is something that has turned me off way more than any changes to the characters.

Hard to care about him.

His work on Hush was good but truth be told similar artists like Silvestri and Turner tell a far better story.

Him and DiDio are destroying DC.

“Anybody disciplined enough to hold a full time corporate job, while working the incredibly rigorous schedule of penciling on a monthly deadline . . .”

You’re kidding, right?

Regarding Kalorama’s comment: “You’re kidding, right?”
My question would to Kalorama would be, have you tried it? Have you experienced, the pace, focus, concentration, endurance, and adherence to quality that is required to pencil a monthly book, and to which Jim Lee has demonstrated, even if we just use as examples, his X-Men, Batman Hush and Superman runs?
I am of no authority to judge that aspect of his body of work, because I cannot even touch the scope of impact and devotion he is accomplished. Somebody not liking his work, I can totally respect, truly, that is not mine to judge in anyway, but the dude deserves way more respect than what is here. Way more.

Jim Lee is a great businessman .. I mean, he left MARVEL .. set up a competing company .. MARVEL did a deal to bring him back to rebirth their universe .. and then DC bought his company .. and now he runs DC .. and is now rebirthing their universe ..

say what you will about his art .. that’s pretty slick ..

artwise .. I like his art when he is with a good writer .. but then you could say that about a lot of artists ..

Man, after all that fanboy venom do I still want to draw comics now? Of course I do, @#%* you guys.
Do comic book artists tell you how to pour coffee, or answer phones, or flip burgers or whatever you do to support your comic book habit?…assuming that you critics are actually buying anything.
So what’s up with all the malcontent? If any of you were to say even half the trash you’ve commented here about me or my work to my face I would happily sit in jail and scratch out layouts on the grimy cell wall with my broken fingernails for repeatedly punching you in the face while my henchmen gang bang your workplace reputation.

While I hesitate to follow suit by asserting my opinion as a fact, as is often contorted by fools, I will say that I love Jim Lee’s work. I love the pinups, the storytelling, and his costume designs, especially the Wildcats.
I feel that he is the best thing to ever have happened to DC comics and therefore is the only reason that I would consider subjecting myself to drawing their silly @$$ characters.
That said, I am super excited to see what Jim and company have in store for us.
And I hope that he continues to rock comics, despite the fanboy faggotry exemplified here.

lol @ cache
Attack of the clones!

I really can’t understand what some people see in Lee. At best he’s mediocre and at worst he draws like Liefeld. He also seems to like working on books that have terrible stories. If anyone should be the “face” of DC its JH Williams III.

Sigh… angry comicbook fans. If only you’d heeded your Grandma’s advice – if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all…

I love the nah sayers they sit here and over think Mr Lee’s work. EVERYTHING he touches sells period. It was him that got the X-men popular and some of his work can still be scene today. The Wildcats books were awesome just wished that book made it into the DC universe. JIM LEE is GOD!!! And if every one else is copying his work maybe they know he is the best, and we all want to be the best so copy the best!!! Right?

I really like Jim Lee’s work even if his “style” isn’t my favourite overall look for the artwork in a comic. It’s too bad his style was so overly (and poorly) copied through the 90s or his work might have stood out as more of an original. I remember when even Andy Kubert became a (quite good, actually) Jim Lee clone when Lee left Adjectiveless X-Men. Lee defined much of a decade and came out the other side of it succesfully when the look he helped create suddenly went out of vogue and his clones fell away. I’m looking forward to his work on Justice League!

lol @ defectivedrone
@ Scud : your comment gives me the distinct impression that at best you’re JH William III’s mom (if so ma’am, yo boy good)
and at worst you’re a disgruntled hack,
yeah..sigh @ Jamie
bdcool6: no he’s not God, not even close but definitely blessed..worthy of an icon for sure.

Jim Lee is certainly a talented artist. I’ll even go as far as to say he is an excellent comic book artist (despite what others here would have you believe). That said, his influence at DC over the last decade isn’t really all that special. Lee was part of a group of young talent that helped define the “slick” and “splashy” look that has permeated comic books for over two decades; it just took DC a while to get on board that late 1980s bandwagon (for better or worse).

Still, it’s funny when people want to lump Lee in with guys like Liefeld. Get real people, Jim lee is light years ahead of Liefeld in just about every conceivable artistic and storytelling category. Does his work play out too much like an explosion filled Micheal Bay movie? Sure, but don’t try and reduce his body of work to ridiculous notions like “At best he’s average”; that just makes you look like a pretentious douche (though his costume design work has been – and continues to be – truly awful, so I’ll give you that).

Anyway, I’m looking forward to seeing Lee’s latest work of Justice League. Lee is one of the few artists in comics who has actually gotten better with age (a fact that few people give him credit for), and I’m hoping to see that improvement continue here. As for the disparity in writing talent between Frank Miller and Johns, I wouldn’t worry too much. Truth is Miller hasn’t done much of anything good since the turn of the century, and All Star Batman and Robin was just terrible. I do understand your concern about Johns playing into Lee’s weaknesses though; I just fell that if Lee can make the poor writing of Jeph Loeb and an over-the-hill Frank Miller look good, he’ll do fine with Johns.

Good artist… horrible, horrible person in real life. And he is the most arrogant man alive to boot, no one thinks Jim Lee is the greatest artist known to man more than himself.

I have no problem with people not liking or “getting” Jim Lee’s art/style. What I find both funny and sad is when people attempt to justify their dislike with “facts” that not only aren’t facts but are even wrong as opinions. It’s perfectly okay to not like Jim’s art without coming up with justifications presented as facts when they aren’t even true.

Jim Lee’s art does have it’s flaws and shortcomings and he doesn’t do everything perfectly. There are artists who do some aspects of comicbook art better. But that’s true of every artist who’s ever worked in comics. The thing is, fans who can find things wrong with his work isn’t important really that important in the grand scheme of things. The most important aspect of Jim Lee’s art is that he developed an art style that many people like and support and continue to do so many years later. That’s something that’s extremely hard to do. There have been many many artists over the years that may have been very good at certain aspects of comicbook art but haven’t been able to get or keep people excited about their work and last for long in the comicbook industry. Meanwhile here we are over 20 after Jim’s debut and fans are still so into his work any book he draws is a huge deal within the industry.

“It makes you wonder…how on Earth did this guy get the costume designing gig at DC??”

Well, just a hunch, but I’m gonna go ahead and assume he gave it to himself.

“My question would to Kalorama would be, have you tried it? “

My answer to Rob Doria would be: It doesn’t matter whether I’ve tried it. Utterly irrelevant, really. Praising Lee for his ability to “to hold a full time corporate job, while working the incredibly rigorous schedule of penciling on a monthly deadline” is nonsense because, as he’s proven time and again, he can’t actually pencil a book on a monthly deadline while “hold(ing) a full time corporate job.” His books are routinely late and delayed. So why should he be praised for taking on a task he’s repeatedly proven unable to successfully accomplish?

As for all the nonsense about “angry fans” and “if you don’t have anything nice to say . . .” Welcome to real world folks, where opinions differ and free speech is still in effect. Last I checked, no one was constitutionally required to (A) love Jim Lee’s work and/or (B) keep quiet about it if they don’t. For those that love him . . . so be it. That’s fine for you. But not everyone thinks the way you do. (I know this is a shock, but some deep breaths into a paper bag might help you deal with the anxiety brought on by this stunning revelation.)

Love him or not, he’s here to stay (after 20 years I think we can safely say that). Say what you will, but the Wild Storm universe was very successful given its non Marvel/DC status. I respect that. I also loved his take on Fantastic Four during Heroes Reborn – the few issues that he actually drew anyways (and this is coming from a guy that owns every issue of FF from 200 on). That said, all of his DC redesigns aren’t perfect. It’s funny how the little things stick out, like the Superman shield on Superman’s belt. Either way I’ve been looking forward to Johns/Lee JLA for quite some time. So I’m down if no other reason than to see how long it takes before a fill-in artist is needed.

As a counterpoint: Jim Lee is really smart guy and very good at his job.

@ kalorama

I always find it amusing when posters behave rudely and/ or like jackasses online and excuse their behaviour by bringing out the “differing opinions, free speech, and the constitution” chestnut.

The Real World? I don’t think so. The internet is an artificial world that allows people to write comments about someone/ something etc that they would never, ever have the guts to say to their face. It doesn’t get any more “unreal” than that.

As for sarcasm – I’ve always been fond of the quote that said it was the lowest form of with and the last recourse of a weak mind.

I’m always amused at the posters who are “too cool” for any artist that was successful in the early 90′s. Get over yourselves. You bought X-Men and WildCATS just like the rest of us.

Jim Lee is one of the best comic book artists out there. And he has been for a very long time.

@Jamie,

“I always find it amusing when posters behave rudely and/ or like jackasses online and excuse their behaviour by bringing out the “differing opinions, free speech, and the constitution” chestnut. “/i>

As opposed to posters who behave rudely and/or like jackasses and excuse their behavior because they’re pissed off that other people don’t all like the same things they do?

“As for sarcasm – I’ve always been fond of the quote that said it was the lowest form of with and the last recourse of a weak mind.”

Well, you should know:

Jamie

August 15, 2011 at 4:42 am

“Sigh… angry comicbook fans. If only you’d heeded your Grandma’s advice – if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all…”

Except, as near as I can tell, it was actually your first recourse. I guess your mind was too weak to wait for the last one.

Wow.

When i read the majority of the comments being made I swear I’m reading comments from ignorant people.

First of all, anyone who compares Jim Lee to Rob Liefeld needs better eyes or a new brain ’cause one, or both, aint working right.

On his best day+100 ghost artists Rob could never pull this off
http://latimesherocomplex.files.wordpress.com/2010/11/xl_dc_comics_17.jpg?w=600&h=447

I dont see any useless lines, there’s no guessing which line to use, I see precise command and complete dominance of the artform.

Second, if you’ve actually SEEN Jim works over the course of his career, not just a page here and there or stopped with his X-Men work, then you have absolutely no idea how much he’s improved in every aspect.

i’m an average comic book reader, i can follow his artwork (storytelling) just fine through a page, what’s this BS that it’s all pin ups? More blind judgemental opinions based on false perceptions that simply because he became popular in the 90′s, that he was an Image guy that automatically = he sucks. Far from it. If he sucked he wouldve faded away, that simple. Yet, here he is, 20+ years later and atop DC. You dont get to the top by sucking at what you do.

It’s funny, people TRYING to trash Jim by comparing him to Michael Bay; last time i checked Bay is laughing all the way to the bank because A LOT of people go see his movies. Oh i get it “those people have low (or no) standards for quality”. Get real.

Jim Lee is the top dog in the biggest comic book niche there is: super hero comics. You want instant sales? you put Jim Lee on that book. It’s been proven, over and over again. People badmouth All Star Batman and Robin, yet, it was always the top book solicited, and it sold.

You know what it is? it’s petty jealousy, petty that some feel another “deserving artist” doesnt get the recognition, yet fail to even recognize a true “deserving artist” when he’s right infront of your face.

Nemesis Enforcer

August 16, 2011 at 6:53 pm

@EVH

I agree with you 100% and I couldn’t have said it better myself!

@ kalorama

I think you just proved Jamie’s point. I’m surprised you didn’t hit back with a witty, “I know you are but what am I?”

@ kalorama

“As opposed to posters who behave rudely and/or like jackasses and excuse their behavior because they’re pissed off that other people don’t all like the same things they do?”

Your attempt at logic is flawed here as I’m not a huge fan of Jim Lee (although I believe he is quite talented), and am certainly not pissed off that other people don’t all like the same things I do (if you can find anything I’ve written to infer this feel free to quote me). In fact I couldn’t care less if someone likes or dislikes something I enjoy. I will be getting JLA, but the drawcard for me is that Aquaman is appearing in the title. I’ll drop it if/ when he leaves.

“Well, you should know:”

Yep, and apparently Cjorg2 does as well. My first post had no sarcasm whatsoever – just a general observation of some behaviour here, and my mild exasperation at that same behaviour (as evidenced by a sigh). If you view this as “sarcasm” and/or me being pissed off because I have some kind of rampant Jim Lee love then you’re ill-informed.

Have a nice day : )

@ Jamie

I agree with everything you’ve said. The main problem here, and elsewhere on the internet, is that certain posters like kalorama are more interested in “scoring points” instead of having a good hard look at their own silly and immature behaviour.

There is nothing wrong with what kalorama said. He was exceptionally rude or anything. He made some good points and I don’t see what people are getting all over his case about.

I was never a 1990s mutant fan, and never understood why kids and teens loved X-Men and X-Force from that era. Same goes for those Image titles that are currently in 25-cent bins at the local comic book shop. Never saw the appeal of WILDCATS (however it’s spelled). I think it was all Wizard Magazine hype. “Steady” and “traditional” artists were looked down upon.

I thought Marvel’s Heroes Reborn was a tragic disaster, and Jim Lee’s Fantastic Four run was the worst in FF history.

Therefore, I was never a fan of Lee’s. But Wizard Magazine said he was the best, so as a prospective buyer I felt the pressure to purchase his comics, expecting…something.

I liked Hush, but it felt dated. It was overkill. I would have preferred someone more subtle or dark. At the time people complained about the storyline on the DC forums.

His current JLA run reminds me of DCU Online- a video game.

Lee is very friendly, professional, good looking, a personable minority in a white man’s field, and available for interviews and LCS, which explains his good press (including this main article). He also pretty much runs DC now, so he is Mr. Access. If you own a website or trade publication you need him. It is accepted that you write good things about him, but never admit the conflict of interest.

He is a great pin-up and splash page guy, not a storyteller. He’s not as bad as some of his clones or other old Image guys, but Jim Lee is overrated as a storyteller and writer.

I found this page by typing Jim Lee Overrated in a search engine. I was reading about Rob Liefeld being awful and wanted to see if people thought Jim Lee is bad like Rob is.

Regarding the Image Founders:

I was in Marvel and Image’s target audience (age-wise) back then, but was never sold on the whole 1990s mutant craze/Image mercenaries with pouches. Never was into Cable, Gambit, or female ninjas. I was sold on Todd McFarlane’s cartoon style and lines as seen in Hulk, Spider-Man, and Spawn. But I will not defend him or say he was the best if someone disagrees. I saw Eric Larsen as a Todd clone, but not as good. Silverstri and Portacio? More mutant artists I didn’t care about. Valentino? What was he doing with those guys?

Anyway, Jim Lee is a pinup guy. A fantastic one. One of the best. When his fans are challenged, they post images of his pinups. But a modern artist like Ivan Reis is better at facial expression, motion, flow, anatomy, and storytelling.

So Jim Lee fans: you actually liked those 1990s storylines and his Image creations? You actual believe his Batman work is on-par with the classic artists of the past?

Let’s get the facts:

Jim Lee adds scratches/lines to characters.
His characters look like they are grimacing.
His women wear thongs.
He can’t design good costumes.
He’s great at covers, pin-ups, and splash pages.
He has a way of making character look “cool”. Mortal Kombat cool, not classic cool.
His high-profile runs on X-Men, Punisher, Fantasic Four, Batman, Superman, and JLA, have been sub-par storylines compared other creators, and they don’t rank as the best.
He lead to the collapse of the comic book industry (the speculators and gimmick covers).
He couldn’t hold a monthly schedule.

Wow..i cant take it anymore. All of the haters on this board echo each other. Truth is…when compared side by side with most all the “greats” his stuff blows all that dated crap away. If emmitt smith says barry sanders is the best running back of all times…f what cowboys fans think. All of these artist u guys cling to..that are still alive praise his work to no end. It is comic art..and i have seen nobody better…period. He delivers all the time…maybe not on time but… Im a pretty decent artist myself..and i can tell u…he is a beast. half the people on this board are not qualified to judge him and the rest are biased. btw i love all the same guys u people love…but please take off the blinders stop following ..and stop hatin… he is the god of comic art..for now

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