What you see there is my one collaboration with Jim Lee. Jim drew the characters and asked me to draw the background. I have no idea what this was for. I think it was just some concept art. If I recall correctly, this was done not long into my ten-week internship at Wildstorm. I was super nervous about doing this background. I really wanted Jim to like it.
We're going back to 2003 in this, the 15th, Blast from the Past entry.
One day I was working on a drawing. (Not the one you see above.) And Jim Lee came and told me to use a lot of vertical lines. I had no idea how that bit of advice could have applied to what I was drawing, but I just said, "Okay," part of me wondering if he was just messing with me. Only much later did I realize that he wasn't talking about the drawing I had in front of me, he was talking about this drawing, the one above. By the time I realized that I had already finished it. After putting a lot of effort into it, when I gave him this drawing with my background he seemed blasé about it, even a little confused. Later when I realized that his "vertical lines" comment was for this drawing, I wondered if I had not put enough vertical lines in the buildings for his tastes. But now I think his reaction didn't have to do with the vertical lines at all. He always responded to my work that way.
Jim would often look at my drawings and tell me what could be better or how he would have done it. He would sometimes give me little assignments that he could then critique. He'd have me make a photocopy of my work so that he could draw over it and show me how it should have been done.
At some point he gave me a script to draw. It was actually a story outline created by him and his WildC.A.T.S. co writer Brandon Choi. It was a whole new comic idea. Jim told me to take it and do some layouts. He sort of made it sound like, if I did a good job, maybe it could be something they could publish. So I took the task really seriously. I set out doing a bunch of sketches.
Here are some of my early drawings for this project that i will refer to as Project X.
These don't seem that bad do they? Jim didn't seem to like any of it. He seemed disappointed every time I showed him anything. He never seemed to care for my drawings and he didn't like my designs. Here are some set designs I did.
By the way, these sketches were my first time using gray tone markers.
I remember Ali Garza looking at these and saying that he thought Jim would really like them. His comment buoyed me. But when I showed them to Jim he didn't seem to like them. He had nothing but criticisms.
Here are my layouts for the first issue. Keep in mind, this was an open story outline. That means I could set the pace and create the storytelling however I wanted.
My layouts really were this detailed, though I added the gray tones to make them a little more presentable for this blog entry.
When I showed these layouts to Jim, once again, he seemed unimpressed. (Keep in mind, these pages didn't have the gray tones at that time.) He felt I had taken too long to get to the point in the story where the team is suiting up. He didn't seem to like anything before that point and thought I should have compressed it. Looking back on it, I kind of agree with him.
That's the thing, Jim seemed to be disappointed in everything I showed him and when he criticized it and showed me how it could have been done better he was almost always right. His version was always better. I mean, whatever you think about Jim Lee's art, the fact is that he had decades of experience over me. When it comes to drawing comics he knows what he's talking about, and I appreciated what I was learning from him. But he always seemed so confused and disappointed in my work. I began to think that he regretted giving me the internship and I genuinely started to wonder if I was a good enough artist to draw comics. My confidence was fading.
Here are some more sketches for this "Project X"
It became clear to me that this Project wasn't going anywhere. I don't know if Jim ever considered it something that could possibly be published or if he just wanted to have me draw something so that he could give me critiques.
After my internship I continued coming around the Wildstorm studio to show Jim and everyone what I was working on and to continue trying to get work. When I eventually started getting work from Dark Horse Jim told me that it was good-- I could go off and work for someone else and when I got better I could come back to work for them.
I remember thinking, yeah right. Like I was going to come back. His dismissiveness of me and how he made me feel like I wasn't good enough to draw comics had filled me with resentment and all I could think was, I'll show you. I don't know if it's healthy, but for a long time I was driven by my spite for Jim.
Eventually, I did get some complements from Jim, and one of those complements was over stuff that I showed him during my internship. It seemed like during my internship he was holding me to a higher standard and once I was gone he could see that I wasn't so bad.
I don't know where he was coming from. What I do know is that I became a better artist because of Jim Lee, and when he did eventually tell me that I was good it meant a great deal to me.
Also, during my internship, he did get me a job that became a pretty big deal for me. I'll be talking about that in my next Blast from the Past entry.
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