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Brad Meltzer remakes history in ‘Detective Comics’ #27

ROBOT 6 EXCLUSIVE: Jim Lee's cover for "Detective Comics" #27

ROBOT 6 EXCLUSIVE: Jim Lee’s cover for “Detective Comics” #27

Over the past few years, Brad Meltzer has become one of the pinch hitters of comics.

Although his day job as a bestselling suspense novelist and TV host of History’s Decoded has kept him from taking on an extended comics project since 2006′s Justice League of America relaunch, Meltzer has stepped in for a number of comics projects over recent years, including an arc on Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8 and a recent short in Art Baltazar and Franco’s Aw Yeah Comics.

Next up for the writer is a special contribution to DC Comics’ Detective Comics #27, arriving next week. The spiritual heir to the first appearance of Batman will clock in at more than 100 pages to kick off DC’s 75th anniversary celebration for the Dark Knight, with contributions by Scott Snyder, John Layman, Mike W. Barr and more creators from the character’s past and present. And for his part, Meltzer will team with artist Bryan Hitch to retell “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate,” the Bill Finger/Bob Kane short that began the Batman legend in 1939’s Detective Comics #27.

We spoke with Meltzer about the legacy of the original story and the challenges of bringing it into the modern era – and not for the first time – while DC shared an exclusive first look at Co-Publisher Jim Lee’s variant cover for the issue.

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Jim Lee’s rejection letters should give aspiring creators hope

Lee header

Sean Howe’s Tumblr is full of interesting supplementary material that work as visual erratta to his great book Marvel Comics: The Untold Story. Now the author has highlighted a series of letters sent to the young Jim Lee (as recently posted by Lee to his Instagram account); they’re great, a fantastic lesson for any artist at the start of his or her career: keep trying, keep growing, keep submitting.

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Quote of the Day | Jim Lee on modernizing villains

forever evil

“What you’ve seen over these decades is less of a black and white between the heroes and villains. Back in the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s, you had clear-cut heroes, clear-cut supervillains. Today, you have more of a blend, more of a gray area between the two. You have the rise of the sympathetic villain and the rise of the antihero. You have a lot of characters who follow the motto ‘The ends justify the means,’ and depending on what the ends are, are they a villain or a superhero? That’s what makes supervillains today more modern. We’ll show their back story, we’ll show their motivation. It’s not just about robbing a bank of $10 million. They’re a lot more complicated and layered and thematically rich today than they were in the past.”

– DC Comics Co-Publisher Jim Lee, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times that touches upon Villains Month, digital distribution, and the whereabouts of Batman: Europa.

Comics A.M. | Chargers oppose San Diego Convention Center plan

San Diego Convention Center

San Diego Convention Center

Conventions | The San Diego Chargers are opposing the proposed $520 million expansion of the San Diego Convention Center — viewed as crucial to keeping Comic-Con International in the city past 2015 — saying it will interfere with plans for a new football stadium. Instead, the NFL franchise proposes building a second venue a few blocks away, which would be part of a complex that included the stadium but would not be contiguous with the existing convention center. [Los Angeles Times]

Conventions | Meanwhile, on the other coast, New York Comic Con is about to begin, and Luke Villapaz has seven tips for surviving the con. One additional point, though: While it’s nice that NYCC has its own mobile app, chances of its actually working inside the Javits Center, which is notorious for its many cell phone dead zones, are slim. [International Business Times]

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The DC Comics non-guide to responding to controversy

harley quinn

Harley Quinn #0

Apparently, it takes three respected organizations to reiterate what fans had been saying for a week in order for DC Comics to admit: Maybe the fans have a point.

As we reported Friday, the publisher apologized to anyone offended by the talent search tryout page that asked artists to depict Harley Quinn naked in a bathtub, seemingly about to commit suicide. While the apology is welcome news, the entire rundown of the event reveals an unfortunate approach to handling controversy. Let’s take a look at the timeline of the Harley Quinn suicide debacle:

• Thursday, Sept. 5: DC launches the contest with a script excerpt of four panels that culminate in an apparent suicide scene. Fans on Tumblr, Twitter and elsewhere begin to react.

• Saturday, Sept. 7: Co-Publisher Jim Lee posts a series of tweets explaining context and attempting to clarify the intent of the story.

• Tuesday, Sept. 10: Co-writer Jimmy Palmiotti posts an apology on his Facebook page, and clarifies the controversial panel is part of a surreal dream sequence. “I hope all the people thinking the worst of us can now understand that insulting or making fun of any kind was never our intention,” he writes. “I also hope that they can all stop blaming DC Comics for this since it was my screw up.”

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DC apologizes to those offended by ‘Harley Quinn’ contest

harley quinnDC Comics has apologized to anyone offended by the controversial Harley Quinn tryout page that asks artists to depict the fan-favorite character naked in a bathtub, seemingly about to commit suicide, and reiterated “the entire story is cartoony and over-the-top in tone.” However, the publisher appears to be continuing the DC Entertainment Open Talent Search.

The statement was issued Thursday, shortly after the the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, American Psychiatric Association and National Alliance on Mental Illness expressed their disappointment in the publisher, calling the contest “extremely insensitive” and “potentially dangerous.”

Their comments capped off a week of growing criticism about the panel, which Harley Quinn co-writer Jimmy Palmiotti clarified on Tuesday is part of a surreal dream sequence intended to have “a Mad magazine/Looney Tunes approach.”

“We believe that instead of making light of suicide, DC Comics could have used this opportunity to host a contest looking for artists to depict a hopeful message that there is help for those in crisis” the three groups said in a joint statement, published by USA Today and The Huffington Post. “This would have been a positive message to send, especially to young readers,” the statement continued. “On behalf of the tens of millions of people who have lost a loved one to suicide, this contest is extremely insensitive, and potentially dangerous. We know from research that graphic and sensational depictions of suicide can contribute to contagion.”

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‘Wonder Woman: Iron’ showcases Chiang & Lee’s Orion designs

jim lee-orion

Arriving on shelves Wednesday, Wonder Woman, Vol. 3: Iron not only collects issues 0 and 13-18 of the DC Comics series but also includes such behind-the-scenes material as Cliff Chiang’s character designs for Orion and a rough sketch for the zero issue splash page. While much of the art debuted last year at New York Comic Con during the “Concept to Page” panel, the trade paperback also features Jim Lee’s take on Orion, which DC has provided exclusively to ROBOT 6, along with some of Chiang’s art. You can see it all below.

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Johns, Lee and more talk villains in clip from ‘Necessary Evil’

geoff-johns-necessary-evil

To mark the launch on Wednesday of DC Comics’ Villains Month and Forever Evil, the much-publicized event series by Geoff Johns and David Finch, USA Today has debuted a clip from Necessary Evil: Villains of DC Comics.

Arriving Oct. 25 on Blu-ray and DVD, the documentary explores DC’s rogues in-depth through interviews with “with the famed creators, storytellers and those who have crafted the personalities and profiles of many of the most notorious villains in comic book history.” Legendary actor Christopher Lee narrates.

“The best supervillains, that resonate the most, they do it on two levels,” Johns says in the clip below. “They do it how they psychologically reflect or challenge your superhero and also, in the story, what they’ve done to affect the superhero’s life.”

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Unfortunately, mulleted Superman didn’t rate a Canadian stamp

superman-canada1

With the official debut today at Fan Expo Canada, Canada Post has revealed the designs for all five stamps in the series celebrating the 75th anniversary of Superman and the hero’s Toronto roots (co-creator Joe Shuster was born in the city, and the Toronto Daily Star building served as the model for the Daily Planet).

The stamps depict the Man of Steel in five eras, by five different artists: Superman #1 (1939), by Shuster; Superman #32 (1945), by Wayne Boring; Superman #233 (1971), by Neal Adams; Superman #204 (2004), by Jim Lee; and Superman Annual #1 (2012), by Kenneth Rocafort. They’re sold in sheets of 10, with the booklet covers featuring art by Shuster, Lee, Rocafort and Dick Giordano.

Although the stamps won’t be available until Sept. 10, people with Canadian addresses can pre=order them now on the Canada Post website.

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Grumpy Old Fan | Know your DC editors

"... this British guy says he'll kill you unless he can write Superman!"

“… this British guy says he’ll kill you unless he can write Superman!”

Students of DC Comics’ publishing history can probably rattle off at least a few editors from the company’s first few decades. Whitney Ellsworth edited the Batman and Superman books in the 1940s and ‘50s before becoming a producer on the Adventures of Superman television series. In the Silver Age, Mort Weisinger presided over an exponential expansion of Superman’s mythology, including all those varieties of Kryptonite, the introductions of Supergirl, Krypto and the Legion of Super-Heroes, and ongoing series focused on Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen. Similarly, as editor of the Batman titles, Jack Schiff supervised one of the character’s most recognizable periods, filled with colorful mysteries and giant-sized props.

Of course, the phrase “Silver Age DC” is virtually synonymous with Julius Schwartz, who worked with writers Gardner Fox and John Broome and artists Carmine Infantino, Mike Sekowsky and Gil Kane on rebuilding DC’s superhero line. One could argue fairly reasonably that without them DC Comics as we know it today might not exist (and neither would today’s Marvel).

However, while Ellsworth became DC’s editorial director in 1948, Schwartz Schiff, and Weisinger weren’t in similarly lofty positions. Today we readers hear a lot about “editorial control” and the dreaded “editorial interference,” charges aimed largely at the men at the top: Editor-in-Chief Bob Harras, Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee and Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns. We hear a lot from them (illuminating and otherwise) about the general direction of the company. We also hear a good bit from various writers and artists, including Johns and Lee, regarding specific titles.

Nevertheless, on the management tier in between are the books’ editors themselves; and that’s the area about which I’ve become rather hazy. Therefore, I started looking through New 52 credits boxes, and supplementing this research through the Grand Comics Database, to see who was editing what.

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Every issue is someone’s first: short reviews of four #2′s

astro cityAs Stan Lee sayings go, “Every comic book is someone’s first” isn’t quite as well-known as “With great power comes great responsibility,” but it’s nevertheless one that comics editors and creators should integrate and internalize just as thoroughly. It’s probably much less true today, now that comics are sold primarily through specialty shops (and, increasingly, online)  instead of on newsstands and spinner racks, than whenever Lee first said it.

But regardless of whether Executive Assistant Assassins #13, Fearless Defenders #7 or Tarot Witch of the Black Rose #81 — to pick three titles from this week’s shipping list — will actually be anyone’s first comic book, as long as publishers continue to sell comics as serialized stories, then the thought that one of those could be someone’s introduction is a pretty good guiding principle for creating those comics.

With that in mind, this week I read a handful of second issues of some prominent new books from the biggest players in the direct market, with an eye toward how friendly the material might be toward a new reader starting the series — or comics in general — with that issue.

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Comics A.M. | DiDio & Lee on digital, variants & creator turnover

Jim Lee

Jim Lee

Publishing | ICv2 has one of its periodic Big Interviews with DC Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee, this time covering how new readers are finding digital comics, how variant covers are working and graphic novel sales in bookstores, among other topics. Here’s Lee’s rather elliptical take on the flurry of recent changes in creative teams: “Without getting into the specifics, from the outside looking in, it might look like there’s a string of changes that point to one common theme, as you suggest. But from the inside looking out, you’ll see that each one has a different set of circumstances and conditions that ultimately led to the conflicts or the resignations or changes in creative personnel.” [ICv2]

Retailing | ICv2 also reports that Amazon and Overstock.com are having a price war on graphic novels, and readers are the beneficiaries. The website did a little shopping around and found a handful of graphic novels priced at up to 70 percent off full retail. [ICv2]

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SDCC ’13 | A roundup of pre-convention news

robotech-voltronPreview Night doesn’t begin for another 11 hours, but judging from the flurry of announcements, Comic-Con International has been well under way since, oh, about Monday. So, if it feels like you’re already falling behind, that’s because you probably are.

To help you catch up, we’ve rounded up early news from DC Comics, Dynamite Entertainment, Madefire and Marvel, along with a few other convention-related items.

• Dynamite Entertainment came out of the gate running this week with news that Steve Niles and Dennis Calero will reboot Army of Darkness, James Robinson will launch his crime romance Grand Passion, the Legends of Red Sonja miniseries will team Gail Simone with an all-female creative team that includes Marjorie M. Liu, Nancy A. Collins, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Mercedes Lackey, Nicola Scott and Devin Grayson, Peter Milligan will debut his sci-fi action series Terminal Hero, Duane Swiercyznski will expand the publisher’s crime line with Ex-Con, Howard Chaykin will return to The Shadow with the miniseries Midnight in Moscow, NBC’s Heroes will get a “fifth season” in a series written by Cullen Bunn, the acquisition of the Robotech license spawns a Robotech/Voltron crossover, and The Heart of the Beast, the graphic novel by Dean Motter, Judith Dupré and Sean Phillips, will receive a 20th-anniversary prestige-format edition.

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Comics A.M. | Dark Horse bringing Kazuo Koike to Comic-Con

Lone Wolf and Cub Omnibus, Vol. 1

Lone Wolf and Cub Omnibus, Vol. 1

Creators | Dark Horse announced that legendary Lone Wolf and Cub writer Kazuo Koike will be its guest of honor at Comic-Con International in San Diego, where he’ll sign July 18-19 at the publisher’s booth (#2615). In 2014, Dark Horse will debut New Lone Wolf and Club, the 11-volume series by Koike and Hideki Mori (original artist Goseki Kojima passed away in 2000) that picks up where the initial saga ended. [Dark Horse]

Awards | The Judging Panel for the British Comic Awards has been announced. This panel will choose the final winners from a shortlist sent to them by the Judging Committee, which screens nominations from the public. [Forbidden Planet]

Commentary | Steve Morris pens a thoughtful essay on cost versus content in comics and what exactly you are paying for with your $2.99 (or, more frequently these days, $3.99). [The Beat]

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Comics A.M. | ‘Superman Unchained’ #1 locks in $1.25M at retail

Superman Unchained #1

Superman Unchained #1

Comics sales | ICv2 reckons that at $4.99 a copy and more than 250,000 copies sold, Scott Snyder and Jim Lee’s Superman Unchained #1 brought in $1.25 million at retail. John Mayo has additional sales analysis at Comic Book Resources. [ICv2]

Creators | Stan Lee shows off his office, which is pretty darn nice. [CNN iReport]

Creators | Writer Steven T. Seagle talks about the genesis of his new graphic novel, Genius, which started with his wife’s revelation that her father was in on one of the secrets of the century. [Hero Complex]

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