Jae Lee

Posted: October 5, 2007
Hi Jae, first let me thank you for doing this interview. I know how hectic your schedule is.

Lilja: For those of us that aren't that familiar with the world of comics, can you tell me a little about yourself and what you have done before The Dark Tower?

Jae Lee: I've been drawing comics for 17 years. I started at the age of 18 with a book called Marvel Comics Presents. I've worked on books such as Spiderman, Batman, Uncanny X-Men, The Inhumans, Fantastic Four, and my own creation, Hellshock which I also wrote.

Lilja: How did you get involved with The Dark Tower comic?

Jae Lee: Joe Quesada called me out of the blue. I never thought it would actually happen though. He told me not to get my hopes up too high. There were a lot of variables. The biggest hurdle of course was that Stephen would have to approve of me as the artist. If he didn't like my work, I probably would have quit comics. How would I recover from having missed out on getting a job like that?

Lilja: How does it work practically? Do you get a script from Robin that you then illustrate? And how does that script look? Is it a text manuscript, rough drawings or something else?

Jae Lee: Robin sends me a plot that's broken down into scenes. I then determine how many pages each scene will be. A standard comic is 22 pages. Most of the issues of Gunslinger Born ended up being well over that. Issue 1 was 31 pages and issue 7 was 35 pages. If some scenes need room to breath, I ask my editor if I could have some extra pages in this issue to do the story justice. When I do the layouts, sometimes I'll come up with a visual approach that's very different from what's in the plot. If that happens, I trade e-mails with Robin and Peter with suggestions. It's a very cool working process where everyone is working together to create the best story possible. Once I finish the art, it's sent to Peter to script and for Richard to color.

Lilja: When you send the pencils of to Richard who colors them? Do you work together on the pencils and coloring or do you strictly keep to your own work?

Jae Lee: The line art is done by me, and Richard does the colors. When I send Richard the finished black and white illustrations, I provide certain notes. Time of day, what the mood should be, etc. Usually just story specific things. Then Richard works his magic.

Lilja: Do you get requests from Richard to change things and if so, what can those changes be?

Jae Lee: Yes. Sometimes as the deadline approaches, I may not have drawn something very well. If it's poorly drawn, it makes Richard's job harder. So he'll call me up to change this horse or that face. It's great to have a second opinion, because if something really sucks, he'll tell me.

Lilja: Do you ever feel that the coloring is all wrong and ask Richard to change things?

Jae Lee: We can be honest with each other. If there's something I don't like, I tell him and he ignores me. :-)

Lilja: I read that you originally wanted two versions of the comic. One as it is today and one with your pencils, tell me about that.

Jae Lee: Joe Quesada wanted Richard to color over my pencils. I never worked that way before and I didn't really want to. I never worked with Richard before except on a cover 10 years ago. I wanted to ink it and have traditional comic coloring, so we were going to do 2 versions and show both to Stephen. But when Richard sent me the first page where he colored over the pencils, I called him up and said, this is it. It's not going to get better than this. I don't even want to do the other version. So we never did.

Lilja: Where you a fan of Stephen King and The Dark Tower before you got attached to this?

Jae Lee: Huge fan. This really is the best project I've ever been on. I feel so incredibly lucky that I was the one that Joe called to do this. Thanks Joe.

Lilja: Do you feel you need to be a fan and have a lot of knowledge about The Dark Tower to do the pencils? Or is the manuscript so good that you don't need that?

Jae Lee: You really so need to know this stuff inside and out. I read all the novels and like to think of myself as knowledgeable about the material, but how am I supposed to know Gabrielle's eye color? Simple. I look it up in Robin's excellent Dark Tower Concordances. And if it's not in there, I can ask her.

Lilja: How nervous where you about working on The Dark Tower? After all, it's King's master piece.

Jae Lee: Very nervous. Very, very. He's lived with these characters for most of his life. I had no idea how he'd feel about seeing them.

Lilja: These first issues where pretty much a direct adaptation of King's book and I guess you got a lot of guidance from the books. But how about when it comes to the new material for the second story arc, do you find that to be much harder? Are you nervous about how the fans will react?

Jae Lee: The new stuff is actually much more liberating. It reads better as a story because they were written for these comics. Whereas the Gunslinger Born was an adaptation, so we had to cut so much out. I'm very nervous about the fans' reactions. I hope we can live up to their expectations.

Lilja: I understand that King has the last word on everything. Has he asked you to change anything so far and if so, can you tell me what?

Jae Lee: So far, nothing.

Lilja: How far in the series are you now? I'm guessing you have done quite a lot on the second story arc, right?

Jae Lee: I'm chugging along on the second arc. I hope to be done before the first issue hits in Feb 2008.

Lilja: Are you still enjoying it as much now as when you started with issue 1 of the first story arc?

Jae Lee: Absolutely. I could never get tired of this. I get to play with so many genres. One minute I'm drawing horses, the next, someone getting electrocuted by a robot. How crazy is that?

Lilja: How about the upcoming story arcs? I take it that you are in for all 30 something, right?

Jae Lee: I'm on for all 30.

Lilja: OK, thanks for your time. It was very nice to talk to you.