In an unexpected visit to Cairo, comic book legend Jim Lee surprised his Egyptian fans with a discussion held at Al Kotob Khan bookstore in Maadi on Friday.
The creator of the “X-Men” series and “All Star Batman and Robin,” Lee — one of America’s most celebrated comic book artists — was in Egypt celebrating his wedding anniversary with his wife. Three of his biggest Egyptian fans — Adham El Khorazaty, Ali Nasr and Marwan Imam — took notice when he tweeted about plans to visit Egypt and decided to act upon it.
The group approached Lee for a public discussion at Kotob Khan, which is owned by friends of theirs.
Over 200 people crammed the bookstore in spite of the short notice. An astonished Lee said: “I did not expect the amount of fans that came to the talk; I honestly thought it would only be two or three Twitter fans!”
Born in Korea, Lee moved to the United States with his parents at a young age. After earning a degree in psychology from Princeton, he began his professional career working for Marvel Comics. He went on to create popular series such as “The Punisher,” “War Journal” and “Alpha Flight.”
His rise to fame though came with the revamped “X-Men.” Lee’s aptitude to expand the series’ universe drew million of readers, making the “Uncanny X-Men” books — which he also co-wrote — an instant success.
His first issue of “X-Men” sold over 8 million copies, the best-selling comic book of all-time.
The audiences asked him how he was able to bring his characters to life. “Well, I just picture them in my head and imagine their reactions and then I just draw them, so the reader will be convinced that the characters are alive,” he answered.
Lee said he doesn’t have one but several role models. “I would say I was inspired by Frank Miller, David Ross, Kevin Nowlan and Whilce Portacio. All are great artists.”
In addition to the critical acclaim, Lee is also one of the most commercially successful comic artists in the US. He has received a great deal of recognition for his work in the comic book industry, including the Harvey Special Award for New Talent in 1990.
He is also the founder and publisher of WildStorm, an independent company that later became an imprint of DC Comics.
Lee is currently working on a rerun of Batman and Robin and considering future work with the famous Middle Eastern comics “The 99.”
As for the movie adaptations of his work, Lee said: “You have to consider the different environment, but I think the ‘X-Men’ movie was wonderfully made as well as the ‘Dark Knight.’ It’s really good to see comics turned into films.”
Lee’s Egyptian fans were not shy to express their excitement. Ahmad Rady said, “The event was small but great. Jim Lee was awesome and I would consider him as my role model.” He also pointed out that the comic book community remains relatively small.
“Our problem is that graphic novels are not popular in Egypt and comics [of this type] are not available in Egypt.” Rady added that there are many hidden talents in the local industry that need to be appreciated and nurtured.