Jim Lee on Drawing Comics and the WildStorm Legacy

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When you started WildStorm, what was the look and feel you had in mind for it?

When I started, it was just comics I wanted to read. At that time there was a lot of distrust about the government, conspiracy theory–I think The X-Files was really big at the time–and so a lot of the stories revolved around secret government conspiracies or plots or projects that happened in the ’50s and ’60s when the populace was more trusting and the press was working more in cahoots with the government. It was just trying to explore more of the phenomenon of superheroes using the filter of reality: if superheroes existed, would they be more secretive? Would they be the result of government technologies? Or would they be accidental creations from a bolt of lightning that hits a guy? Every decade, you see the origin of superheroes updated. They started out very whimsical, and then in the ’60s you got that radiation as we entered the nuclear age: genetic abnormalities making a big impact on our perception of how people become super-powerful. Later, as we started thinking about government testing, not just on soldiers watching nuclear blasts but the doping that you saw in the Eastern Bloc, it was fertile ground for a realistic or plausible explanation of how some people might have supernormal abilities.

Now that WildStorm is wrapping up, what do you think is its visual legacy in comics?

I think we introduced a lot of new talent to the business, both writers and artists, but particularly artists. A lot of big names in the industry started out as interns–guys that I hired when they were 19 or 20. We did a couple of projects that have become sort of the norm, like Absolute editions. The Authority, by Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch, really pioneered the widescreen, action-packed style of storytelling. We tried to do a lot of cutting-edge comics–when we started, there were really just two flavors, Marvel and DC,  and they played within a certain set of parameters. Image was really, for lack of a better word, a bad-boy publisher, and we really tried to break the mold of what you could show in a comic book. We also changed the way people were compensated, and gave rights and money to creators, and I think all that stuff made an impact that’s still ongoing.

(More on Techland: DCUO Trailer Director’s Cut Explains Why You Must Become a Superhero)

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