Oh, now you've got me interested in those specifics, but I take
your point. You've been accused of always aiming for the possibility
of building something up in order to sell it, is there any truth
Waiting For Tommy XXV
Interview with Jim Lee
Yes and no. Definitely not at the start. But of course, people
will believe what they want to believe. As embarrassing as
it is for me to admit, we were pretty much a fly-by-night
operation for quite some time, and I was always reluctant
to hire new people to build the company, even though we had
sufficient cashflow, because I didn't want to delegate. To
me, Image was all about controlling your fate. I did that
for about six years until I came to the realization that just
because you own your business, you're not necessarily "free."
In other words, that kind of control comes with a price. In
fact, you end up beholden to your employees, your vendors,
your payroll, to the IRS, etc. I was just burnt out from running
my own company at full speed for so long, and very unhappy
in that my personal artistic output had dwindled down to near
zero. But it was a hell of a ride and I don't regret a day
of it, as contradictory as that may sound.
Not at all, remember you're talking to a comics fan. Endless
frustration with many things, but would I give it up? Okay,
well, it's been a few years since the sale to DC went through
and you became a Vice President. How has Wildstorm and yourself
changed as a result of the process?
Almost 5 years in fact. Personally, I'm pleased to be back
at the drawing table. There was a time when I was in a deep
funk. I'd hesitate to say I was clinically depressed, but
I was definitely not my usual self. I think a lot of things
contributed to this malaise...the dismal climate of the industry,
a death in the family. I don't think I appeared significantly
different to the casual observer, but I just know that for
a period of time, the highs were not as high and the lows
were not as low. Everything was in the middle and while I
wasn't morose, I did feel like I was underwater sometimes.
#1 - SIGNED VERSION
It took some time for me to get out of my slump and find
the inspiration and motivation to come back to pencilling
(and no, it wasn't because of the publicized bet--that
honestly was just a good hook for press). Part of my "reawakening"
I attribute to being back around other artists. When I
was running the company on my own, I felt more and more
disconnected from the other artists who worked at WildStorm
and that was my fault. One of the first things I did after
the sale of the company was to get back into a studio
environment. So while I have a very large office, it sits
mostly unused. I do most of my work and business from
a shared space with fellow WildStormers Ale
Garza, Carlos D'Anda, Lee
Bermejo, Sandra Hope, Trevor Scott, and Richard Friend.
a result, I'm much more relaxed and happy. Now part of that
change has come from the fact that the business has finally
shown signs of new life, albeit faint. But it certainly beats
seeing 10% sales decreases each month. I just did a series
of store signings at Coliseum of Comics down in Orlando, Florida,
and the enthusiasm of the fans down there was really uplifting.
heat and sales of imported manga in the US is also refreshing
and a sign that there are untapped markets we still need to
explore and address. And frankly, I'm a bit wiser having been
in the business now for over 15 years. I've managed in that
time to have been involved with so many aspects of the publishing
business. The benefit being you have a knowledge and perspective
that say, just a regular freelancer, manager or executive
may not have.
as WildStorm, I'd be lying if I claimed that it hasn't changed.
Yes, it was more carefree and fun back in the early days...'92,
'93, '94. But I imagine every small company was like that...
those were the "glory days" when every single one of your
books sold great--120,000+--and everyone, whether they were
on staff or working as a freelancer was making pretty nice
paychecks, bonuses and royalties. But you know what, every
time WildStorm grew larger and moved locations, people would
grouse about how it wasn't like the good old days--even before
the sale to DC. Back then in the early 90's, we all used to
sit around and draw late into the night--then go work out
at the 24 hour gym at midnight--then draw some more, then
hit a late night snack at the local Denny's at 3am, and play
ping pong to work off the stress. Well, for some, those were
the good old days. I imagine the new employees will talk in
later years about how great 2003 was, etc. So it's a bit relative.
terms of statistics, yes, we are much changed. We're a much
smaller operation that we were before and more focused on
just comic book publishing than the myriad of different businesses
we were involved with pre-DC. I think it was a more difficult
transition for the long time employees than anyone else. Some
chose to move onto bigger, better things which means we hired
right. IDW which is a real up and coming small press company
is 90% WildStorm veterans, so even though those guys haven't
been with us for some time now, I still take some residual
pride in their accomplishments.
managed to retain a lot of our key personnel, which again,
shows that we've done right by the people who remained with
the company. The first couple of years involved a lot of logistical
work as so many of our systems and methods of doing business
had to be mutated and made to jibe with how DC runs things.
Conversely, some of the ways we tracked workflow and used
databases were incorporated by DC as well. Are you asleep
No, no, this is a real pleasure. Seriously, if someone wants
to do all my work for me, so I don't have to keep interrupting
to try and wrest the conversation in the direction I want,
that's fine by me. Makes a change from last week. So, any
Ultimately, I think the hard work has paid off. We operate
fairly seamlessly within DC but manage to keep a different
energy and vibe, which is what I think Paul was looking for
in the purchase of the company.
we're more structured--the upside being that we have become
more organized and efficient. WildStorm's track record of late
shipping has been vastly improved. The days of soliciting books
which arrive months and months late, or never at all, are officially
gone. We're so much better at trade paperbacks and keeping our
growing library in print than we were pre-DC.