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Massively Exclusive: Jim Lee talks Batman, canon, and DCUO

Jef Reahard

This is a big week for DC Universe Online, mainly because Sony Online Entertainment is forging ahead with its "megaservers" population consolidation. To mark the occasion, we sat down with DC Comics legend Jim Lee for a brief Q&A.

OK, you got us.

We sat down with Jim Lee because he's Jim Lee, and we're unabashed Batfans who will jump at every opportunity to talk to the artists behind the cowl. In any event, Lee did have some interesting things to say about MMOs in general, canon in particular, and his experiences with SOE and DCUO. Join us after the cut to read all about it.

Massively: What's next in terms of your involvement with DCUO? Are you working on the game on a regular basis or is it more of a consultant thing?

Jim Lee: It's definitely different producing a game versus adding new content to the game. One is building something from scratch that doesn't exist and adapting it to the game space. When a game launches, certainly an MMO, it's all about adding new content, building on to an existing universe. But at that point, the team knows the universe, the material, and what the game is about, so there's a lot less education going on as compared to maybe the first two years.

Jim Lee's BatmanSOE has a very clear idea and vision for the game, and our job is really to make sure that the plans the company has fit into canon, that the characters are acting the way they're supposed to act. If the developers have questions about cool spaces or environments that we can add or some functionality for a certain room or this or that space, we have suggestions and then help them build that out. But at this point, they really understand the DC Universe in many ways as well as we do.

We're more support than hands-on.

Have you played DCUO since release, and what are your favorite aspects of the game?

It's very unique in the sense that it's very fast-paced and the game moves quickly, so I think it definitely appeals to the casual side. When I got into the MMO gamespace with EverQuest, it was a huge timesuck. I was playing it 12 hours a day, and it really kind of took over my life. Then when I got to World of Warcraft, it was less so. I can see the appeal of a game like WoW, where you can jump in and jump out and get things done. That's the great thing about DCUO. You log in and you can get some really cool stuff done in an hour or two.

DCUO has a real nice blend of allowing you to get to high levels quickly and then doing cool stuff after you've achieved those levels. And I think it's really spot on in terms of what the brand is all about, which is doing fantastical things, being larger than life. It's not just about stopping bank robbers; the action's on a much larger scale. It's a fun, fun game.

Was your experience working on MMOs a rewarding one, and would you do it again?

Yeah. Yeah sure, why not! It is absolutely a lot of work. I think these types of games are very different. First of all, it's very different than working in comic books, so right off the bat, it's a different kind of creative exercise, and to me that's very appealing -- it exercises different muscles. And then in terms of being an MMO, it's about community, and it's about building a game that lasts -- not forever, but for a very long time. It's not about a game that comes out, sells well for six months, and then is gone. There's a certain appeal in building something that will exist and then be enjoyed by so many people going forth for many years.

Batman is awesome in the CG movies.

Yeah! He's unkillable!

Any chance we'll see him or the lore brought back into canon?

What's great about any fictional universe, especially one that's collaboratively created, is that there isn't one set destiny for everything. For example, Dark Knight Returns, a phenomenal book by Frank Miller, was not set in continuity, but it has this dramatic impact on all of these other books, the tone of the books, the characters in the storylines. So people who play DCUO can spawn the next generation of comics, or players playing the game now could end up writing comics. You might see that kind of influence seep in through osmosis. It's not necessarily directed, it's just that if anything's done well, if anything's exciting about the storylines that are presented in the game, how can you not have an impact on this stuff, even on a tonal level?

Regarding DCUO, Arkham City, and transmedia and video games in general, do you think DC has a responsibility to incorporate these things more closely?

I think it's too confusing to try and tie it all together. When you get a gifted filmmaker or an awesome game developer, you got to let him do what he does best. To constrain him and say "Hey, this is what we do with Batman across all media, so you gotta do it this way -- he can't punch anyone in the face because he doesn't in the cartoon" just doesn't work. If you look at our strategy, it's been the exact opposite: A character like Batman exists on the Dark Knight level, he exists on an Arkham City level, he exists on the DCUO level, DCU vs. Mortal Kombat, Brave and the Bold, and all of these different games. He acts a little differently, but everyone still recognizes that it's Batman, and it allows us to tailor each "version" of Batman for the appropriate medium or even the appropriate game or project that's being developed.

Thanks for chatting with us!

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