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Comic Book Artist: Jim Lee

I don’t know if it’s just my personal experience, or if it’s due to the fact that I grew up reading the X-Men, but Jim Lee is one of the defining superhero artists in comic books. His style instigated a host of imitators because it was the apotheosis of the slick and muscular mainstream comic book art of the 1990s. I haven’t done one of these in a while, so I thought I would start again with one of my favourite artists.

Uncanny X-Men #275 cover
Although born in South Korea, Jim Lee grew up in America, where he got a degree in psychology with the intention of becoming a medical doctor. However, he decided he wanted to be a comic book artist – an obvious decision – and that is exactly what he became. After working on Alpha Flight and Punisher: War Journal, it was his run on Uncanny X-Men with Chris Claremont that made his name and helped to change the face of comic books.

X-Men #1 wraparound cover
After having the best-selling comic book of all time with X-Men #1 (it was a shame that things worked out badly with Claremont being ditched in favour of the artist as the main creative force), Lee was one of the original founders of Image Comics in 1992, with WildC.A.T.s, as well as having a hand in Stormwatch, Deathblow and Gen 13. However, he returned to Marvel to work on the Heroes Reborn project, working on Iron Man and Fantastic Four, before taking over from Rob Liefeld on Captain America and The Avengers. He didn’t forget his company, Wildstorms Publication (including the Homage and Cliffhanger imprints, which produced many a great comic book), and even wrote and drew his own series, Divine Right.

Wild C.A.T.S by JIm Lee
In 1998, he sold Wildstorm to DC so he could concentrate on drawing again, where he would draw year-long runs on Batman (the Hush storyline) and Superman (with Brian Azzarello), and is ‘currently’ drawing All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder, although this might be tough now he is Co-Publisher (with Dan DiDio) of DC Comics. He is also an in-demand cover artist, providing variant covers and for trades. His highly rendered, strong-jawed, beautiful people look exactly how heroes should look – his dynamic interiors are exciting and well designed, and his ability to create new designs for characters is perfect for the mainstream comic book – and his covers show an excellent illustrator’s eye. New Jim Lee art is always a good thing.

Superman/Batman poster by Jim Lee
Jim posts sketches and finished art on the gelatometti blog and is a regular on Twitter. There are various places to see more of his art, such as the Comic Art Community and deviantART, but I hope there will be more Jim Lee art to come.

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