200611090347Jim Lee is one of the superstars of comics, both as an artist and a person. His 12 issue runs on BATMAN and SUPERMAN in recent years were important steps in getting DC’s franchise characters back where they belong, and the HUSH collections are perennially strong sellers in comics shops and bookstores. However, his two most recent series, ALL-STAR BATMAN AND ROBIN THE BOY WONDER, written by Frank Miller, and the new Grant Morrison WILDCATS revival, have been plagued by delays. Only ONE issue of ASB&RTBW came out this year, and the second issue of WILDCATS has been pushed back until March.

Fans and retailers have been complaining about the delays, and there have been many rumors over the causes of the lateness, especially considering Lee’s strong track record for the past few years. Lee finally addresses the delays in an interview at Newsarama and it seems the frantic pace of being a DC executive, a full-time artist and an ambassador for comics just took its toll:

Obviously I got overextended. I think DC wanted to be extra cautious on release dates and pushed everything back to give me some breathing room and retailers and fans a guaranteed release date more or less. Again, the aim is to come out before. I’ve been in this spot before and I know how to get out. It can’t be done overnight. Drawing comics is like running a marathon; you take it one step at a time. 2006 has been really grueling for me, partly because of adjusting to new work responsibilities, partly for personal, family reasons.

2007 will be markedly different. It has to. No one wants to work with a creator who doesn’t deliver. Wildcats with Grant Morrison and All-Star Batman and Robin with Frank Miller are my dream projects…I want to give my all to make them as good as they deserve to be.

There’s more in the link. Frankly, we’ve seen Lee in action, and we were amazed that anyone could keep up the pace of drawing a monthly book, working on several collateral projects, like the DC MMO, drawing covers, running a studio, blogging, raising a family AND taking time out to be a friend and adviser to countless people in the business. That kind of workload takes a toll.

Newsarama posters laud Lee’s candor in the interview, but are still understandably peeved at the delay in the books, and of course they have a right to be. The many delays and postponements of books by top talents at both Marvel and DC are embarrassing and hurt retailers. While individual issues of ASB will sell like gangbusters whenever they come out, retailers would rather have three or four issues a year than one, we’ll wager. In a larger, meta sense, however, the superstars of comics are in higher demand than ever. Interviews, movie deals, comics, novels, video games, panels, signings, convention appearances…everyone is getting very over-extended. Lee is almost the poster child for the creator who tries to do it all, and pays the price in burnout.

And yes, we’re pals with Jim…but who isn’t? Like we’ve always said, he’s a class act, and he’ll be back.