For about 24 years the superstar artist has been bringing his unique artistic flare to the everything from Transformers to Stephen King’s Dark Tower.
By Troy-Jeffrey Allen
I remember the first time I opened a comic book and saw Jae Lee’s artwork. It was X-Factor #84, the middle of a major Marvel crossover featuring practically every “X-man” in existence. It was the early 1990s, a time in comics where anime-lite action and biceps the size of banana boats stood as not just the industry standard. Smack dab in the middle of Marvel Comics’ most popular line of titles — during a wonderfully bloated yet high profile crossover — stood Jae Lee’s pencils. His art was spindly, slightly gothic, slightly abstract, and a complete and total visual departure from what other artists were doing in their respective tie-in issues.
I hated it.
Admittedly, at the time, I only understood comic book art as one thing. A steady diet of Erik Larsen, Jim Lee, and Rob Liefeld had convinced me that there was only one way to draw characters. I hadn’t yet crossed over into discovering the visual diversity that guys like Mike Mignola, Jamie Hewlett, and Barry Windsor-Smith could offer (to name just a few).
Still, I kept re-reading that one issue of X-Factor out of the tons of other books that were part of that crossover. Whenever I did, I began to notice something different each time. I would discover that artist Jae Lee was reveling in the intricacies of Peter David’s script. Instead of having character’s trudge through expository dialogue (a norm for comics at the time) David was letting Lee tell the story with him. With each re-reading a new detail arose. Under David’s smirky dialogue and Jae Lee’s moody pencils, what should have been a series of run-of-the-mill tie-in issues became dark comedies that just so happened to be part of a crossover. Simply put, for the first time, Jae Lee’s artwork showed 12-year-old me that comic artist are storytellers too.
23 years later and Jae Lee is now making his home at DC Comics. For the first time that I can recall, his unique, angular art style is being commemorated with an upcoming series of toys based on his run on Batman/Superman. You can check them out in the following video or skip ahead for more Jae Lee art.
From what I can tell from this little sneak preview, these figures really do make a solid attempt to bring Lee’s unique illustrations to these intricately sculpted three dimensional figures. I might just have to line up to score one for my inner 12-year-old when they hit store shelves.
Curious about more of Jae Lee’s work? Well, it just so happens that I’ve managed to pluck a few of my favorites from online below. If you like what you see then, by all means, head on over to theartofjaelee.com to find more.
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Troy-Jeffrey Allen writes about action/adventure for Action A Go Go. He is a comic book writer whose works include BamnComics.com, The Magic Bullet, Dr. Dremo’s Taphouse of Tall Tales, and the Harvey Award nominated District Comics. In addition, Allen has been a contributing writer for ComicBookBin.com, OfNote Magazine, and ForcesOfGeek.com. His work has been featured in the City Paper, The Baltimore Sun, Bethesda Magazine, The Examiner, and The Washington Post. Yes, he wrote this bio.