DC Comics Boss Knows the Challenges Ahead – and Superhero Movies Trouble May :NPR
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Let’s start with the obvious point: superhero movies have transformed the film industry over the past 15 years.
Now for a not-so-easy question: how does the man in charge of some of the most beloved comic book characters plan for the years to come?
Who is he? Jim Lee, 58, is the new president of DC Comics, adding the title to his existing duties as publisher and chief creative officer.
- Born in Seoul, South Korea, Lee and his family immigrated to the United States when he was 5 years old.
- In the 80s and early 90s he was an illustrator for the hugely popular X-Men series with Marvel. He and his colleagues went on to found the independent publishing company Image Comics.
- Since 1998, Lee has worked at DC Comics, redesigning iconic characters like Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, while serving as a key decision maker in the company.
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What is the problem ? Even if you don’t like comics booksyou couldn’t have missed the huge impact that superhero movies have had on pop culture.
- Lee worked on X-Men Vol. 2, #1, released in 1991. It is often cited as the best-selling comic book of all time, with over 8 million copies sold.
- But since 2008 Iron Man, it’s superhero movies that make companies like DC and Marvel big money. Many, like The Avengers And The black Knight, grossed over $1 billion.
- Still, recent superhero films have been more critically acclaimed and less profitable at the box office than their predecessors, raising questions about superhero fatigue.
- NPR pop culture happy hour host Glen Weldon said the offerings are now so vast and spread across multiple platforms that studios can no longer expect audiences to know the backstory, which means movies will be under more pressure to stand on their own — not just ride the wave of the superhero genre.
- Lee told NPR that one of his main goals is to “protect this great mythology that was created nearly 90 years ago and keep it alive, contemporary and vibrant.”
Want to hear from more creators? Listen to the consider this episode with Thread creator David Simon, talks about AI, TV and the writers’ strike.
What does Lee say? Speaking to NPR’s Juana Summers, Lee talked about superhero movies and the evolution of beloved characters.
If he thought comics would translate into blockbuster movies:
No. Absolutely not. You know, when I was growing up – and certainly when I got into comics – it was a very specialized hobby. It was a very small business.
The fact that he transformed pop culture and became such a mainstay of everything that kids and people into that stuff love is just mind boggling to me.
On the problems it can cause:
Once you reach a certain number of people, it’s too big for everyone to like everything. And so, basically, they split into different groups. It’s almost like professional sports at this point.
Like, even when it was Marvel vs. DC, I still felt like everyone loved the comics. They embraced storytelling. They embraced notions of heroism and hope the stories reflected. And now he’s been elevated beyond that. It is almost independent of the object of the narration. And it’s more about commercial factors or political factors, a kind of societal discourse. It became very polarized.
The key to success was never to treat them like some sort of amber-scorched creature. We have to change with the times and we have to bring in new voices. We have to change elements of who these characters are. We need to diversify the “portfolio” of characters we have in quotes.
So what now?
- Lee says that in his new role, he will continue to prioritize telling great stories with comics, as they are the engine that powers the rest of the DC brand.
- “Yeah, you need a bigger, more laid-back audience to really hit those high numbers in terms of box office or viewership. But at the end of the day, if you don’t have that basic fan base who loves and knows the material intimately to help propel and drive that energy, it becomes very difficult,” he said.