It's not everyday that I get to interview one of the most successful comic book artists in the known universe.
It's a big bonus that this artist also happens to be one of the brains behind DC Universe Online, a massive multiplayer online game based on 70 years of DC comics superheroes.
In the interests of understanding the man and the game, I put in some solid Google time learning more about Jim Lee, the comic book artist, creator and game designer.
In his senior yearbook, Lee's classmates predicted he'd start a comic company. For a while however it looked like Lee was to instead follow in his father's footsteps to a career in medicine.
Fortunately for comic readers the world over, Lee took an elective course in fine arts while studying at Princeton University and re-discovered his passion for drawing.
After graduating, he put his medical career on hold and took up comic book illustration. Like the bloke who invented the rear vision mirror, Lee has never looked back.
Were you into comics as a kid?
JL: Absolutely, as a child I grew up watching cartoons and reading comics. I moved to the US from South Korea and comics were great for helping me to learn English.
So what got you into drawing super heroes? Was it also a childhood thing that you always wanted to do?
JL: Strangely enough, rather than becoming a doctor like my Dad I instead chose to draw people wearing their underwear on the outside [laughing].
Who is your favourite superhero?
JL: My favourite is Matter Eater Lad he's a member of the legion of superheroes from the 31st century and his power is to eat anything, even an atomic bomb... there's not many characters like that.
So how long does it take to put the graphics together for a typical DC comic?
JL: It's supposed to take 30 days but it can take anything up to five months depending on what else I'm working on. I'm also the editorial director for WildStream and the executive creative director on the DC Universe Game.
How did you get involved in DC Universe?
JL: I got involved through my job at DC comics. I'm also a huge MMOG (massive multiplayer online game) fan and love to play World of Warcraft so I put my hand up and said I have to be involved.
So is DC Universe going to be faithful to the DC Comics tradition?
JL: I think it's very faithful and yet we've taken secondary characters and updated them. We've even updated the Daily planet! There's also going to be some cross-over and stuff we'd designed for comic books will end up in the game and stuff we'd intended for the game will also find its way into the comics
Was there much of a learning curve involved in going from pencils and ink to cross over into the digital 3D world?
JL: It was a pretty big learning curve; I even went to video game design boot camp and worked with designers and graphics people to learn their language which is so utterly different. As a kid though I often created my own board games so I had a little bit of a gamer in me from when I was 10 or 11...
So what are your favourite bits of DC Universe so far?
JL: Gotham City (the home of Batman) is a great city to draw and in DC Universe there are lots of fictional cities that are all distinct from each other, some like Metropolis are art deco whilst others like Gotham are Gothic.
How big will the DC Universe be?
JL: It's huge. For a start you've got Gotham and Metropolis plus lots of other parts of the DC comic's world. The cities really do feel huge and will have free form exploration whilst other areas might be more mission specific.
What will separate DC Universe from other MMOGs like World of Warcraft or Everquest?
JL: In DC Universe you can choose to be either a super hero or a villain. You get to create a costume, design your super powers, even who you want to help, be it a super hero like Superman or a villain like the Joker. As you spend more time in DC Universe you'll grow in power (or notoriety)... In DC Universe we really want you to go out and create your own legend, your own mythos.
So DC Universe will really draw on its comic book roots?
JL: Definitely, there's 70 years of comic book history to draw on. There's great story lines which can be adapted to the game and you'll get to play in the same stomping ground as say Superman or Batman. We're also trying to capture the dynamic game play aspects so you're constantly flying, running and then there's also real physics that involve parts of the city, so the game environment literally becomes your playground.
Sounds awesome and pretty full-on!
JL: Definitely, the city is persistent. Even after you log out other players are still running around. It can be mayhem in the city you'll see burnt out cars, people throwing water towers or flying around, blasting each other.
Here's looking forward to its launch!
Coming soon to a Super Hero near you: DC Universe Online
For comic fans, DC Universe has long been the fictional place where comic stories published over the last 70 years by DC have taken place. Super heroes such as Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman all hang here, more than occasionally having to kick some bad guy butt.
The DC Universe will also go online to become a massive multiplayer game for both the PC and PS3 where gamers (and comic book fans) get to wear their undies on the outside, create their own hero or villain and get let loose in locations such as Gotham City or Metropolis to play alongside along side Superman, Batman, Huntress, Joker, Wonder Woman and Green Arrow.
It will be available on both PC and PlayStation3.