The Comic Artist Who Drew For Marvel And DC – Pat Lee
For a certain generation of youth who grew up in the 1980s comic books were their world. It was a golden age with classics from Marvel such as The Amazing Spider-Man and The Uncanny X-men taking people off into the world of superheroes with mind-blowing powers.
“It was actually at high school,” says Pat Lee when asked when he decided to become a comic artist. “I would always get in trouble at school. I’d be drawing on the desk and drawing in my math book. In science class I’m meant to be dissecting a pig, but I’m drawing Wolverine. My teachers were like ‘you’ve got to focus’.”
Pat currently has an exhibition in Shanghai. It is a preview of a larger show that will be held in November 2017 at Paper, a new communal workspace that also acts as an artist residency.
Originally from Canada, Pat currently resides in Hong Kong where he has been living since 2008. In a way he’s returned to the home of his parents, who were born in China but moved to Hong Kong before settling in Toronto in their teens.
He tells me about his first time going to a comic convention when he was young with two friends: “We hopped on the TTC and off we went,” he says nonchalantly, before explaining that after this he was hooked.
He soon started hanging out at a place called Hobbyshack with his brother and then started drawing comics himself around the age of 9 or 10. “After doing that in my backyard for a few years I ended up writing my own comic book.”
From grade 11 Pat says he became frustrated. “I went to my art class and my teacher Miss Low, I still remember her because she helped spawn me into drawing comics. She said ‘you already know what you want to do so why don’t you just go do it. There’s no university that’ll teach you how to draw comics’.”
Although he already had a place to study 2D animation at CalArts paid for, he took a year out to focus on breaking into comics. It paid dividends as he ended up working for Image Comics. “My biggest inspirations for comics are two people in particular. Todd McFarlane, who is one of the founders of Image Comics and the creator of Spawn, and another artist named Jim Lee, who ended up becoming my boss later on in my life.” At that time in the mid 1990s comics were booming. They were selling in the millions. There was no big gaming sector, the internet wasn’t really around and people needed to be entertained.
The exhibition with Paper in Shanghai came about after Pat met owner Pei Pei after being put in contact by a friend. One of the most interesting pieces in the preview show is the Monrobot. “The concept is the difference between human evolution and technical evolution.” This series of paintings explores how humans are evolving into technology.
It features a bust of Marilyn Monroe, but part of the face is a droid. Although each piece is drawn from the same base picture, every painting is different in very subtle ways. There is no plan as to how the series will finish as Pat wants to let it evolve naturally. “A question I always raise is are humans actual ready to use the technology that we’ve developed and created? We still have malevolent humans, that still exists, who have an extraordinary amount of power. Would these people use technology for something very negative?”
As for the exhibition in November, what should people expect? “We’ve got so much stuff. We’re working on some giant robots, we’re doing some 1:1 scale busts made out of vinyl. We have a lot of sculptures and toys.” There will even be some Monrobot sculptures too.
Is sculpture something that he’s now doing? “I’ve dabbled into the concept design of toys, but this is my actual first time producing collectable toys,” he says, explaining that him and his business partner plan to build this into a toy brand. Initially they will start off as limited edition collector’s products, but it’s more about the art of the toy and the sculpture. The toys at the exhibition are all based off of the paintings.
Pat has been in the comic game a long time. What are his views on the changing industry and what advice does he have for any aspiring comic artists out there? “It’s the evolutionary process of content,” he says about the development of CGI and comic movies, and the diversity of distributed content and platforms these days. “Back then comics were a great way to escape into content. Now there are so many channels of content. People are primarily focused on their mobile phone.”
“Build a solid fan base. Get people to be interested in your art or your stories,” is his advice for aspiring comic artists. “Be consistent, because consistency is very important. It takes time to build an audience.”
“I think people like creative process. People like to know how did you build this character from the ground up.” With platforms such as Instagram it’s possible to show the process these days. Of course there’s concern with copyright, but if you can show and express the development of your idea then it’s organic and people feel a part of it growing. “When they see the IP expand then they don’t mind paying for a graphic novel.”
Paper Shanghai is a full-service collaborative workspace and social membership club, that combines the hospitality of a boutique hotel with the services of a world-class professional office and meeting space.
All members receive access to a full range of dedicated services including a concierge service, executive administrative support, production assistants, onsite tech support for day-to-day problem solving, scanning, printing, a notary service and personal assistants available on request.
Members’ benefits include also a privileged access to an innovative cultural calendar with exclusive invitations to openings and events in design, art, film, fashion and music.
Members will also enjoy discount membership rates at Paper Partnered lifestyle companies including museums, restaurants, spa and fitness clubs and more.