The Evolution of Jim Lee's Batman

The DC Comics co-publisher discusses the Dark Knight saga, working with Frank Miller, and finding his own style.

DC Entertainment and The Howard Stern Show have teamed up to bring you, the fans, exclusive content and giveaways in honor of the release of "Dark Knight III: The Master Race." Check out an exclusive interview with DC co-publisher and artist extraordinaire Jim Lee below and stay tuned for an COLOSSAL GIVEAWAY to be announced soon!

Photo: Facebook

Where were you when you first read "The Dark Knight Returns?" What impact did it have on you wanting to get into comics? And on your drawing style?

I was a senior in college, just about to graduate and that book changed my life forever -- I kid you not. Drawing comics was something I always dreamed about from about the time I was a kid, 8, 9 years old. By the time I got to college, I had lost some interest in the content ... the types of stories that were being told and Frank Miller's "Dark Knight Returns" changed all that.

Photo: DC Entertainment

From the powerful narrative to the format to the blue-line process hand coloring by Lynn Varley, it completed redefined what kind of stories could be told with these iconic 4-color superheroes and made me want to create them myself. It inspired me to find a way to get into this business. As far as my drawing style, it really impacted me more in terms of the incredible storytelling. How the use of structured, cropped little panels on a page paired with larger, intense splash pages creates a visual rhythm, like a musical composition that is as moving and powerful as the story itself. Frank is just a genius the way he uses words and pictures to tell his stories ... it really opened up my eyes to the full potential of this unique medium.

You first worked with Miller on "All Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder"; what was it like teaming up with a living legend?

Intimidating for sure. To work on Batman is always a challenge. You have to bring your 'A' game as so many of the greatest of the greats of our business have worked and made their names working on the "Dark Knight." Now here I was working with the man who inspired me to become a comic book artist. Knowing he could draw the story he was writing for me was something that kind of sat on my shoulder for a large chunk of the first issue.

Photo: DC Entertainment

It only opened up and started working for me once I realized I needed to push out those thoughts and bring my own style of art and storytelling into the mix. I still think it's some of my best Batman work to date because of that self-created pressure.

You've drawn some incredibly iconic Batman books, namely "To Become the Bat" from "Batman: Black and White," "All Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder," and, of course, "Hush." How much of an influence did "The Dark Knight Returns" have on your depiction of the Caped Crusader?

Well if you look at the first splash of Batman in "Hush," he starts out very bulky. I was clearly homaging Frank's own Dick Sprang-inspired blocky, chunky Batman but as I drew him more and more, Batman got leaner and more lithe 'til he started resembling more of a Neal Adams' Batman by the end of "Hush."

Photo: DC Entertainment

So I was still searching for my take on the character. I started finding that on "All-Star" but what's interesting is that over the many years, you find yourself not wanting to repeat yourself so I enjoy changing the way I draw not just him but also the Joker.

Photo: Facebook

I really want my interpretations of any character I draw to get the fans and readers excited and nothing is more boring that repeating yourself; hence, my watercolor approach to my most recent work with the Caped Crusader on "Batman: Europa."

What were some of the visual stylistic choices you made to relay how the characters have evolved over time?

Well, I am only doing the variant covers for "DKIII" and the mini-comic for Issue #4 -- it's one that's focusing on Carrie Kelley. I think that's been announced … if not, it is now [laughs]. I haven't started the mini-comic yet but having gotten to draw some covers featuring Frank's versions of Superman and Batman … wow, all I can say is how much fun it is to play in this world. There's a lot of cartooning in it, in the over the top boldness of the shapes and silhouettes and the sheer iconography that Frank has created. That makes it fun to push the normal constraints and patterns of my own art aesthetic and create some art which evokes the work of the "Dark Knight" but again, is of my own personal style.

Photo: The Howard Stern Show

That's been one of the delights of "DKIII," above and beyond the fantastic art and story created by Frank, Brian Azzarello and artists Andy Kubert and Klaus Janson ... the amazing celebration of what Frank created 30 years ago and how his work changed and shaped the future of the comic book industry.

The launch of "DKIII," a Superman/Batman movie, the "Flash," "Arrow," "Gotham" and "Supergirl" all on TV. Is 2016 a good year to be excited as a DC Comics fan?

Don't forget Suicide Squad, iZombie, Lucifer, Legends of Tomorrow [laughs]! A true golden age for the DC comic book fan for sure. And it's just the start if you think about it. As technology changes, I can't wait to see where it takes our business and how we get to create and share the epic stories we all get to tell. I know we have HUGE plans for the publishing side, and the fans haven't seen nothing yet as we plan for our biggest and most audacious year to date!

Read More:

Frank Miller Talks "DKIII," The Batman Legacy, & Where "DKIV" Stands

Exclusive Images From DC Comics' "Dark Knight III: The Master Race"

And be sure to make the trip out to your nearest comic book store to grab the first issue on 11/25!