Jim Lee was born in Seoul, South Korea. His family moved to America when he was young and he grew up in St. Louis, Missouri. Jim began drawing at an early age. His high school classmates predicted that he would pursue a career in the comic book industry, however, Jim instead enrolled at Princeton University where he majored in psychology. His original idea was to become a medical doctor like his father. During his time at Princeton, he decided to take an art class as one of his electives. Taking this class made him realize how much he loved to draw. Jim eventually graduated in 1986 with a degree in psychology, but passed on a medical career to pursue a career as a comic book artist. Jim received his first gig drawing the cover of Samurai Santa #1 from independent publisher Solson Publications.
Jim Lee began his mainstream comics career working for Marvel on several projects including Punisher: War Journal and Alpha Flight. Lee eventually went on to revamp the X-Men under a new title after ascending to popularity drawing and writing Uncanny X-Men. During his work on Uncanny X-Men, he met inker Scott Williams. Scott would eventually become his inker of choice for many future projects. In 1991 Jim Lee and Chris Claremont launched a second series of X-Men comics, simply titled “ X-Men.” The scripts were co-written by Chris Claremont and Jim Lee, with Lee also doing the art. During his run on the X-Men, Lee helped co-create Gambit with Chris Claremont, and Omega Red with John Byrne. When X-Men #1 released, it came out with multiple variants that connected together to form a complete poster drawn by Lee. X-Men #1 sold over 8 million copies and still holds the record for best-selling comic of all-time. During their run on X-Men, Lee and Claremont had different ideas for the future direction of the title. This caused a power struggle that resulted in then X-Men editor Bob Harras stepping in. Harras sided with Jim Lee because of his popularity with the fans, and Claremont ended up leaving the book. Their rivalry didn't last though, and the two would team up again on different projects.
In 1992, Jim Lee left Marvel Comics along with Todd McFarlane, Jim Valentino, Marc Silvestri and Rob Liefeld to form Image Comics. He founded Wildstorm Productions and launched a number of successful titles, among them WildC.A.T.S. and Gen13. Lee would eventually expand the Wildstorm universe with more titles and characters. Most of the Image books were criticized for their high use of violence, sexuality, and their preference for art over story. Despite these criticisms, Jim Lee’s Wildstorm titles maintained high sales.
Lee later returned to Marvel in 1996 along with Rob Liefeld, to take part in the Heroes Reborn event. He wrote and illustrated Fantastic Four and Iron Man for a time, while Liefeld took on The Avengers and Captain America. With his run on both Iron Man and Fantastic Four, Jim Lee helped these two titles go to the top on the sales charts. After only six issues, Marvel attempted to renegotiate the terms of their deal with Lee and Liefeld, offering them a smaller amount of money for the projects. While Lee accepted the revised contract and continued his work on Fantastic Four and Iron Man, Liefeld rejected the new terms and his two titles were given to Lee. After that period he returned to Wildstorm and also became a comics author for the first time writing and penciling a 12 issue mini-series called Divine Right:The adventures of Max Faraday. This series lasted from 1997 to 1999, the eight first issues were published by Image, the remaining four were published by DC after Lee's Wildstorm productions joined them.
In 1998, Jim Lee left Image Comics and sold his Wildstorm Productions company to DC Comics. Lee decided to retire from producing and writing to concentrate on his art. In 2003 he began a run on Batman with writer Jeph Loeb. The series was titled Batman Hush and it became a big success for DC. The following year, he started a run on Superman alongside writer Brian Azzarello titled For Tomorrow. In 2005 Lee began drawing a new series for Batman, attempting to retell the character's origin. It was written by Frank Miller and the series was called All Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder. Lee has stated that he will not leave this Batman title until Frank Miller finishes his run on it, which is to date incomplete. Lee would eventually return to draw his first Wildstorm series, WildC.A.T.s in 2006 with writer Grant Morrison which is also to date, incomplete. He has sated that he plans on finishing both All Star Batman and Robin, The Boy Wonder and WildC.A.T.S. as soon as the writers get the chance to complete the scripts. Further cementing his growing relationship with DC, Lee drew the covers for the Infinite Crisis series, and he also accepted the art director position for the DC Universe Online computer game.
In 2010, Jim Lee was named Co-Publisher of DC Comics alongside Dan Didio (a post previously held by Paul Levitz) where, along with Geoff Johns, he spearheaded the 2011 DC Comics Relaunch in which 52+ books were launched with new first issues. The new costumes were at least in part designed by Lee. He drew the New 52 Justice League ongoing with Geoff Johns writing.
A new Man of Steel ongoing title to be penciled by Jim Lee and written by Scott Snyder was recently announced. According to Lee, he was always a big fan of Superman. It will be released in 2013.
2004 Favorite Comics Artist: Pencils
1990 Best New Talent
2009 Daughtry "Leave This Town" (album booklet artwork)
2011 DC Universe Online (Executive Creative Director)
- Backlash (Marc Slayton)
- Henry Bendix
- Condition Red
- Fabian Cortez
- Dark Riders
- Caitlin Fairchild
- Max Faraday
- Trevor Fitzroy
- David Graves
- Ivana Baiul
- Jade Dragon
- Kaizen Gamorra
- Lord Emp
- John Lynch
- Mister Majestic
- David North
- Sarah Rainmaker
- Omega Red