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Waiting For Tommy XXV
By Richard Johnston

Interview with Jim Lee
Jim Lee was a penciller for Marvel Comics. So were lots of other people. But Jim's fusion of manga-esque action scenes with John Byrne storytelling, Neal Adams layouts and Art Adams attention to detail saw him rise to the top of the A-list. As his profile grew, so did his fan base. At the height of his fame, drawing and co-writing X-MEN, a comic created to showcase his artistic skills, he left. Alongside a bunch of other A-list creators, he formed Image Comics, fundamentally shifting the balance of power in the industry.

Five years later, Jim Lee sold his Image studio, Wildstorm, to Batman, and his presence has seen that title top the charts month by month.

I first met Jim Lee at a British comics convention, where he bucked the trend by not doing sketches for the crowds. Still, my disappointed nineteen-year-old self hasn't held it against the man and we've talked occasionally on email since I took the role of industry muckspreader. Indeed, when the rumors arose that Marvel was to buy Wildstorm, I told Jim that there might be trouble with his then recent hire, Alan Moore, if Wildstorm went to Marvel.

You know, in retrospect, I should have told him there could be issues from another company as well, but hey, things worked out.

I've been chasing Jim for a Waiting For Tommy interview for a few weeks now. He's clearly a busy man. But it was worth it. Ladies and gentlemen, take your seats.

ROBOTECH #0 - SIGNED VERSION

RICHARD JOHNSTON: Wildstorm - when did it turn from a place you could express yourself freely into a place you could sell to the highest bidder?

JIM LEE: Rich, this is a bit of a loaded question, don'tcha think?

RICHARD: Yes. Welcome to Waiting For Tommy.

JIM: Oh yeah, sorry forgot. I'll try to be as evasive as possible. As far as your question--I have to disagree with your core assumption that WildStorm was in its infancy some sort of New Age commune.

RICHARD: No tambourines and kaftans? Okay, tell me about WildStorm in its infancy.

JIM: Although we have always fostered and nurtured new talent, new voices, and new directions, it's always been my shop. Informal as all get out, yes, but a publishing business which I wholly owned nonetheless... a line which was a mix of both work-for-hire and creator owned titles. And I think we did a pretty good job of involving the creative talent in all aspects of the work they produced...from marketing and promotions to formats and scheduling (or lack thereof). I don't think it is a philosophical contradiction to run a publishing operation as a business while being upfront, honest, and fair with your employees, freelancers and partners. That's what I have always strived for and I think we did a heck of a job towards that end.

RICHARD: Not quite what I was.

JIM: You mean as far as being sold to the highest bidder? The picture you paint is a bit exaggerated. It wasn't entirely about dollars and cents. There were other opportunities which would have made more money in the short term--a lot more in fact--but were probably detrimental to the long term health of the company. Without being overly specific, there were dot.com opportunities or other publicly traded companies which were interested, and as things turned out, given what's happened with the stock market, we clearly made the right decision. DC provided a fair, solid deal, but more importantly, respected what we were all about and we knew for the most part, there would be no horrible surprises down the road. It was as important to me that WildStorm stayed intact and healthy as much as what I personally got out of the deal. I certainly didn't want the company to head down the path of Valiant or Malibu. So far, so good.

Continued here...

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