The following post was written by Deziree Arnaiz, a program specialist in Literary Initiatives.
“In my real life, I did not think I was a main character for a very long time because I just never saw that—I never saw Asian Americans centered in the kinds of stories I enjoyed, or a lot of times as creators,” says writer Sarah Kuhn. “Jim Lee was one of the few Asian American creators that I was like, wow, that’s someone doing that who is like me.”
This Thursday, in honor of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, DC Chief Creative Officer and Publisher Jim Lee is featured in a moderated interview celebrating his life and work that takes us behind the scenes of creating and publishing comics. He will be in conversation with illustrator Bernard Chang (“Generations Forged”) and writers Sarah Kuhn (“Shadow of the Batgirl”) and Minh Lê (“Green Lantern: Legacy”). Former National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Gene Luen Yang (“Superman Smashes the Klan”) will moderate the discussion. All of the panelists participated in the creation of DC’s first-ever anthology of Asian American superheroes, “DC Festival of Heroes.”
The event premieres Thursday, May 6, at 7 p.m. ET, on the Library’s Facebook page and its YouTube site (with captions). The event will be available for viewing afterward on the Library’s website. During the video premiere on Facebook, panelists Bernard Chang, Sarah Kuhn, Minh Lê and Gene Luen Yang will be available in the chat to greet attendees and answer questions.
Their inspiring conversation explores Jim Lee’s childhood and entry into the comics industry, as well as topics including fandom, artistic curiosity, how being an outsider can hone your observation skills, the importance of taking risks to pursue your passion and how meaningful storytelling can be.
When Minh Lê asks Jim Lee about his unique role as caretaker of a multiverse, Lee responds, “There’s that heavy responsibility … that you’re curating, or sort of safeguarding, these characters that have been around for 80 plus years at this point, right? They are beloved. They are fixtures of pop culture. They are iconic. They are all over the world.” He continues, “But at the same time, we recognize that over the years we’ve had to change them and update their mythology to keep them fresh and contemporary … How do we do that? What do we update? How do we update? I think that’s the balance we have to find.”
In his quest to update characters and create contemporary stories, Jim Lee has pursued diversity among characters and creators. “I think we owe it to our fans to continue to diversify, and make sure that our universe really reflects the diversity that we see in our readership all around the world,” Lee says. “And that doesn’t mean just sort of coming up with characters from this country and kind of checking the box. I think it’s deeper than that. It’s about finding … authentic voices from the countries themselves … It’s about diversifying our creative community as well.”
The Jim Lee and Asian American Superheroes event is a “Great American Publishers” segment of the “Behind the Book” series. These interviews focus on leading gatekeepers in publishing who bring great works to fruition—from the germ of an idea to the production of a physical book. Lee is one of the heroes of the publishing world who champion talent, create an overall vision for a house, and bring us the kind of publications critics will laud and readers will relish for decades, even centuries, to come. “Behind the Book: Great American Publishers” celebrates the crucial role publishers play and takes you inside America’s legendary publishing houses as top professionals discuss their careers with their most successful authors.
We hope you’ll tune in on Thursday for this very special program.