Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Jim Lee (born August 11, 1964) is a Korean American comic book artist and publisher. He is known for his stylized, detailed and dynamic style. Some have called his work bombastic but he remains one of the most popular illustrators in comics, having won many industry fan awards and sales records.
In the early 1990s, Lee became an industry superstar without precedent for his work on Marvel Comics’ X-Men franchise. He later founded Wildstorm Productions, an imprint of the creator-owned Image Comics, which found success with such titles as WildC.A.T.s and Gen 13, selling millions of copies of the books each month though they rarely came out on-time. Most recently, he has done acclaimed artwork for classic DC Comics properties Batman and Superman.
Lee was born in Seoul, South Korea, but grew up in the United States. Lee attended Princeton University and majored in psychology with the intention of becoming a medical doctor and graduated in 1986, but decided to pursue a career in comic book illustration instead.
After inking one title for a small, independent publisher, Lee found success at the largest North American comics publisher,Marvel Comics, as a penciller. His early Marvel work included Alpha Flight and Punisher War Journal.
In 1989, he filled in for regular illustrator Marc Silvestri on an issue of the best-selling series Uncanny X-Men and became its regular artist when Silvestri left in 1990. During his stint on Uncanny X-Men, Lee first worked with inker Scott Williams, who would become a long-time collaborator.
Lee’s artwork quickly gained enthusiastic fan popularity, which allowed him to gain greater creative control of the franchise. In 1991, Lee stayed on as co-writer of Uncanny X-Men while illustrating a second series simply called X-Men, co-written by Lee and long-time X-Men scribe Chris Claremont. Lee also designed new uniforms for characters such as Cyclops, Gambit, Jean Grey, Rogue, Psylocke and Storm, creating the images that an entire generation of X-Men readers would associate with the characters. X-Men #1 still is the best-selling comic book of all-time with sales of 8 million copies of the first issue although multiple purchases of variant covers illustrated by Lee accounted for part of the sales frenzy.
Lee was not without criticisms though. Long time writer Chris Claremont found it harder to work with Lee as their creative visions of the characters and storylines diverged. There was a prolonged power struggle over the future of the X-Men and in the end, Marvel X-Men editor, Bob Harras handed over the creative baton to Lee causing Claremont to depart the series after X-Men #3. Oddly, despite this, Claremont and Lee later reunited on various Image and Wildstorm projects.
In 1992, Lee was one of seven artists who broke away from Marvel to form Image Comics (the others were Marc Silvestri, Rob Liefeld, Erik Larsen, Jim Valentino, Todd McFarlane and Whilce Portacio). Lee's group of titles was christened Wildstorm and published books such as The Authority, Gen 13, Stormwatch, and Lee’s pet title WildC.A.T.s, which was adapted into a short-lived cartoon series. Like most Image properties, these series were criticized for emphasizing art over story-telling (although not to the degree Liefeld’s were), but sold incredible well, often exceeding a million copies per month, charting new highs in sales from an independent publisher.
Lee and Liefeld returned to Marvel in 1996 to launch a revamp of classic characters known as Heroes Reborn. While Liefeld reworked Captain America and The Avengers, Lee wrote Iron Man and wrote and illustrated The Fantastic Four. Both of Lee's series captured the top spots on the sales charts although fan reaction to the revamp of classic characters were mixed at best. In the end, however, sales of Fantastic had multiplied tenfold.
Shortly afterwards, he worked on an original mini-series called Divine Right, in which an internet slacker downloads secrets of the universe and is thrown into a wild fantasy world. Wildstorm eventually broke away from the stereotype of Image comics as all style and no substance by publishing critically acclaimed series' The Authority and Planetary, adding depth and a mythology to the Wildstorm Universe and giving the comics industry a right kick in the pants(shot in the arm?) thanks to British author Warren Ellis. In publishing Alan Moore's America's Best Comics line(Tom Strong, Promethea, Top Ten...) Wildstorm brought arguably the medium's most gifted writer back into mainstream publishing after almost a decade of independent work on titles such as From Hell, Brought to Light, and Lost Girls. This was in large part due to Alan Moore's respect for Jim Lee as both a professional and as a gentleman.
In late 1998 Lee left Image Comics, selling Wildstorm to DC Comics. Lee's career as a publisher had mostly precluded any art jobs and he desired to return to his roots as an illustrator. In 2003 he collaborated on a year's worth of Batman stories with writer Jeph Loeb that became a runaway sales success (See Batman: Hush). In 2004 he began a year's stint on Superman, with writer Brian Azzarello.
Lee continues to run the company he founded, working side by side with new artists looking to break into the industry. Notable former WildStorm artists include Jeff Scott Campbell and Travis Charest.
Jim Lee is not related to fellow comic book artist Jae Lee.
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