By Nick Eskey
One of the happy-highlights of San Diego Comic-Con is when DC Comics co-publisher, writer, and artist Jim Lee just sits down and draws. Well he doesn’t just draw. The talented artist also has the chops to be a regular comedian. Every year on Sunday, his “Drawing with Jim Lee” is a highlight of the convention.
The panel this year had a slight hiccup however. From what we were told, he had it on his schedule that it would start at 3pm to 4pm, not 1:30pm to 2:30pm. We wouldn’t have to wait till 3pm, but he wasn’t going to be there till 2:15pm. A number of people left, but a majority stayed the extra forty-five minutes.
When Mr. Lee did show, a wave of applause went through the room. He took to his chair, and looking out at the crowd said, “Thanks for staying. It’s a real testament to your guys’ love of a free sketch.” Everyone erupted with laughter.
He continued to thank the crowd as he pulled pencils, “Pigma” pens, inks, and brushes out onto the table. “Now, you see this? It’s a Pigma marker. It gives you a fine tip and you can go thicker. You can use it for defining, or shadowing… They always send me a bunch of these, so I use them. I’m still waiting on this year’s crate.” More laughter. “You’ll have to excuse me, it’s Sunday at Comic-Con, so I’m not all here. But really guys, I do enjoy this panel a lot. Compared to the other days, this one is just very intimate, and a fun atmosphere. So thank you.”
He proceeded to trace the lines on a “Wonder Woman” sketch that he had started earlier. “I thought I would get some drawings done beforehand so I had more to pass out to you all. So I… I got ONE. Yay!”
As he put the finishing touches on, he addressed the convention staff. “Is there anyone in here that works for Comic-Con? Do you know the difference between ‘Law’ and ‘Justice?’ Well, Law is what should be done. Justice is what needs to be done. So I know there’s some sort of rule forbidding panelists from handing out food to attendees in the room. But I got all these ‘Twix’ bars I want to give out.” Low and behold, Twix bars were passed out to everyone in the room. “We did an ad campaign back in June that took up a whole page… So yeah. That’s Law and Justice.”
While he finished his Wonder Woman, he had the crowd ask him questions. One person asked if he still did personal drawings from his Marvel days. “I’ll occasionally draw Marvel things for friends who like Marvel… It’s fun to draw these characters every now and then.” He was then asked if he would draw one. “Fine, I’ll draw Wolverine… but he’s got to wear the Batman suit.”
Jim gave out the first sketch, and then began on the second. He began with a circle, and built upon it. “Trace basic shapes. They are like the blue print.” With the skeleton of the drawing done, he started the detailing. “Wolverine is like Batman. But smaller nose, bad breath, and… 2.8 billion dollars.” As he began the lining, he added “Batman is a lot like Wolverine, but less feral in nature… DC has less angry characters.”
It’s obvious how much Jim Lee enjoys his art, and sharing it with others. The amount of care he puts into his work looks effortless. It comes from years of practice. As he’s working on Wolverine’s nose, he smiled and said, “Add the nose and the teeth that make him look like he’s going to drop a deuce.” The room erupts again in laughter. “No, see? He’s kind of hunched over. He’s about to sit on the toilet.”
Finished, he gave Wolverine away, and took the request of doing “Harley Quinn.” As he drew, an attendee asked, “With nine kids, what do you do to relax?” Jim Lee looked at him, and laughed a little. “I make nine kids… No really. What do I do to relax? I draw. When I draw, time goes by. I fall into my pocket dimension, which is full of shirtless, muscular men.”
As he finished the drawing and was going to give it out, another person asked, “Who’s your least favorite character to draw?” Without hesitation, he answered, “Spiderman. I do believe he’s one of the best creations of Jim Lee, but I don’t like drawing Spiderman. He has all that webbing…The webbing, it creates the form of the costume. And when it moves around and curves, it’s just hard to plot.”
For his last drawing, he asked who he should draw next. A flurry of responses came through. But the one he latched on to was “Aquaman.” “Look, this girl is putting her hands together and pleading! That’s the international sign of ‘I have to draw this.’”
While he drew the last sketch, the question of “What’s your favorite part of the costume to draw” came up. And this was probably my favorite response of the night. Jim Lee answered, “Oh you’re not going to trick me with that.”
The Jim Lee Sunday panel is probably the favorite of many. The fun and playful atmosphere is one that can be greatly appreciated on a Comic-Con Sunday. Though it doesn’t really explain much of the techniques in his drawing, it does allow everyone to see one of comic’s greats make wonderful art. Let’s all hope it continues for a years to come.