Jim Lee’s $20,000 commission price causes uproar

Date:

It was a pretty dumb uproar, as uproars go

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What’s going on with Jim Lee? These are strange times. Something can be sitting there for months (or years) and no one really notices but then someone makes one little TikTok and it’s all the rage.

So it is with a notice on art dealer Albert Moy’s webpage, listing prices for a Jim Lee commission at SDCC:

For the first time in over 15 years, Jim Lee will be taking commission requests to be delivered exclusively almost all shows he is appearing.

This offer is an exclusive for show attendees only and won’t be shipped out. There is a limit to six per show so act fast to get yours.

Penciled and inked by Jim Lee. 

11 by 17 inches, full figure one character with limited backgrounds for $20,000, if more than one character or extra backgrounds or recreation of other covers not drawn by Jim will be $25,000 to $35,000

9 by 12 inches, waist on up figure with limited backgrounds is $9,000 to $15,000, will have  backgrounds and more you pay can have other characters or scenes.  

small head shot, sample is shown, $1000. Size is 3.25 by 7 inches and side profile only.

Blank cover comic, only bust shot with no background $8,000. And 12k if it a wraparound.  Jim Lee will supply the blank cover comic but you can supply at the show if you like.

Jim Lee will ultimately choose which commissions request he wants to fulfill. Once chosen, payment must be paid in full before the show. He may choose to live stream the creation of the commissions at his studio or at the show. 

Payment by Paypal or Credit Card only in US dollars with a 5% service fee. 

In the way of the internet, someone expressed shock over this and then even though there wasn’t really a “backlash” that wasn’t from randos, almost all of the comics industry (myself included) felt compelled to point out that these rates are the market price for one of the most acclaimed artists of his generation.

But in the interests of history, I dug in a little and found out a few facts.

First off, this is NOT the first time in 15 years Jim Lee has been doing commissions! This page went public months ago and though there was a little talk at the time it escaped becoming the main topic of the Internet Comics Community for quite a while. Apparently Moy – who is very respected in the original art community – posted this in anticipation of SDCC ’24.

It’s my understanding that these have been his rates for a while. And judging by the prices Lee’s art goes for on the after market, they are justified. One frequently linked to ebay listing has a Ghost Rider sketch going for $26,000. Something I’d classify as a very nice marker sketch sold for more than $1500.  (The seller notes “I received this as a tip for bringing Mr Lee lunch at the San Diego Comic Con in the late 80’s.”) An Action Comics cover sold by Moy goes for $26,000. For a few thousand less you can get to pick the subject! And as the sample shown on Moy’s site reveal, above and below, these are beautiful, fully rendered art pieces. Definitely something to show off to company.

And as Comics Pro Twitter was quick to state, why shouldn’t the ARTIST earn the money instead of the reseller? The industry discourse was decidedly pro-Lee.  A sampling:

Scott Cohn: I see ppl bitching about Jim Lee’s commission prices. X-men, Punisher, Batman, Superman, Fantastic 4. Over decades. This wasn’t just work, they were passion projects. No one bitches when entertainers get paid a lot. You do the work, the companies make big $, you earn your shots.

Tom Taylor: The Jim Lee discourse is very funny. “So, there’s this guy who painted the ceiling of a chapel. But he thinks he’s too good to paint a cool picture on my roof for a hundred bucks and a few beers.”

Kevin Maguire: Some people are upset that Jim Lee is charging $20,000 for a commission. Are you equally upset if someone got a $1,000. commission from him then later sold it for $20,000.? At least the artist is getting the money.

Bengal: No one is shocked when a youtuber, an onlyfan star or an influencer sells a toenail for a fortune, or when a hollywood star asks hundreds for a photo with them or when a signature by a music artist goes for thousands. But god forbid a comics legend would ask for money for his art.

Fabian Nicieza: Tomorrow, Jim Lee should DOUBLE his current commission prices. Anyone who wants to whine about it can still whine about it. And Jim will still get what he should be getting because if someone is willing to pay those sums for the art, then that’s what the art is worth.

Andy Khouri: I’m not sure who’s unhappy with Jim Lee’s commission prices, but it should be noted those are COMMISSION prices. Jim is extremely generous with his readers and has signed countless autographs and drawn zillions of sketches for fans at events all over the world — for decades.

Jimmy Palmiotti: Jim Lee can charge anything he likes for a commission, just like you don’t have to get one if you don’t want to. Really that simple.

Gail Simone told a story in her signature style, about Lee doing a drawing of Batman AND Wolverine for a charity DURING a panel and staying until he finished it.

And that prompted other Jim Lee stories, about his generosity and commitment to producing art. Indeed let’s step back for a moment: the guy is currently both the COO (Chief Creative Officer) and President of DC Comics. These are jobs that take up a lot of time. He also has a very large family (nine kids). And yet he also still produces art for DC, and I can honestly say I’ve rarely seen him at a panel or appearance where he isn’t constantly sketching.

I don’t think there’s anyone who has even a brief impression of Lee who doesn’t know he’s very generous with his art. He gives away FREE sketches at his panels and on his Twitch stream (which people can turn around and sell for $1000 as we’ve just noted.) He sketches for free for fans all the time, as his time allows. Frankly, I don’t know how he does it all. You’d think with all the hullabaloo and corporate fooferaw he’s been through as a comics executive he’d be sick of it, but he keeps on drawing. We’re lucky to have him. (And yes, disclosure, I have my own stories of Lee’s kindness, as do many others.)

I do understand the sorrow of fans who are bummed they can’t afford a Jim Lee commission but if you can scrape together $1000 (the price of a few dinners in NYC) you can get “small head shot, sample is shown, $1000. Size is 3.25 by 7 inches and side profile only.” That’s a pretty good deal, all things considered.

And if that saddens you, imagine what it would cost to commission a painting by Alex Ross or a Hellboy by Mike Mignola – if they even do such things.

And if that REALLY saddens you, I advise you to go to artist alley at your local con, and see who is a future super star and get in on a commission while they are reasonable. Seriously, there are so many talented artists out there, and they are readily available at shows. You can buy something beautiful and priceless for under $100 at any comic con or indie comics show. Being able to get affordable original art is one of the great things about this industry. GET IN ON THE GROUND FLOOR. Daniel Warren Johnson was just a guy at a con once, and now his art goes for thousands, if you can even FIND any.

Of course, as an executive at a major corporation, Jim Lee most likely can not publicly comment on all of this. Curiously, he did post this on his insta the other day:

A Jim Lee ORIGINAL PAINTING! Time to update that price list, Albert.

Anyway, this was all a pretty dumb discourse: we live in a capitalist society, and the market will bear prices of $9,000-35,000 for a Jim Lee commission. Case closed. Art has value, and the artist should benefit from that value. Case closed again.

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Heidi MacDonald
Heidi MacDonaldhttps://www.comicsbeat.com/
Heidi MacDonald is the editor-in-chief of The Beat and an award winning author and editor. She is the co-author of The Secret Teachings of a Comic Book Master.

1 COMMENT

  1. I don’t understand the uproar. If Jim can find original art buyers who pay $35K, why would he charge $5K?

Comments are closed.

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