Strange Tales

Strange Tales Spotlight: Jonathan Jay Lee

The talented young illustrator bridges East and West with the Punisher and explains how NYC is comic-book heaven

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By Sean T. Collins

He’s redesigned nightclubs and done comics for Hong Kong pop stars, but chances are STRANGE TALES will be your first exposure to the work of illustrator Jonathan Jay Lee. It’s the debut mainstream comic from this graduate of the prestigious Parsons The New School of Design, a Hong Kong native and New York City transplant. In it, he’ll be reversing that journey for Marvel’s premier gunslinging vigilante, the Punisher, placing the iconic character in the world of Chinese gangsters. Below, Lee dishes on his epic upcoming project and explains how just getting his hands on Marvel comics as a kid was an epic journey in and of itself.

Marvel.com: You picked the Punisher for your story. Why him?


Jonathan Jay Lee:
He is my hero. His skull emblem pretty much tells it all.

Marvel.com: It’s got to be one of the most striking logos in comics. I mean, 15,000,000 juvenile delinquents hanging out in malls nationwide can’t be wrong, right?


Jonathan Jay Lee:
[Laughs] Exactly right!

A page from Jonathan Jay Lee's STRANGE TALES #3 story
Marvel.com: What can you tell us about the plot?
      
Jonathan Jay Lee:
All I’m going to say is that I did a Chinese Triad gangster version of the Punisher. In Hong Kong!

Marvel.com: That almost sounds like “What if the Punisher were in an old John Woo movie?” Was that style of cinema an influence?


Jonathan Jay Lee:
I guess so. I haven’t really thought about it. But yeah, I love Hong Kong movies! I like exploring that kind of underground culture.

Marvel.com: What do you bring to the table as a writer and artist that’s different from the norm?


Jonathan Jay Lee:
I am self-taught like most of the creators are. However, I grew up in Hong Kong and I like to think my style and influences are coming from a clash of worlds. It took me two hours of traveling to even buy a Marvel comic over there. I think that kind of dedication gives me an edge, if anything. Or not.

Marvel.com: Wow. How often would you make that trip?


Jonathan Jay Lee:
At least twice a week. Until I discovered alcohol. [Laughs] No. But the American comic shops in Hong Kong were tiny and didn’t carry a wide variety of books. Comic shops here [in New York City] like Forbidden Planet or Jim Hanley’s Universe make me feel like I died and went to comic book heaven. Or reached enlightenment.

Marvel.com: What’s the first Marvel comic you remember reading?


Jonathan Jay Lee:
I remember UNCANNY X-MEN by Scott Lobdell and Joe Madureira as the first comic I ever read. I can’t recall the particular issue, but I do remember that they were awesome, and made me want to be an X-Man.

Marvel.com: What about more recently? And what’s your all-time favorite?


Jonathan Jay Lee:
Right now I’m a big trade paperback reader. My current favorite is DAREDEVIL, but I’m also a sucker for X-Men books and the Ultimate line. I just read the trade for 1985 by Mark Millar and Tommy Lee Edwards. It's a nice reminder as to why I love comics, and I especially liked seeing some of the behind the scenes of Tommy Lee's process at the back of the trade. I'm also reading everything on Marvel Digital Comics, as it's hard to get a hold of comics in Hong Kong! Favorite story of all time was the original "Age Of Apocalypse."

A page from Jonathan Jay Lee's STRANGE TALES #3 story
Marvel.com: Any other Marvel characters you’d like to try your hand at someday?


Jonathan Jay Lee:
Yeah, definitely Wolverine. Or Spider-Man. Or how about Wolverine vs. Spider-Man?

Marvel.com: Two great tastes that taste great together.


Jonathan Jay Lee:
Agreed!

Marvel.com: What else are you working on these days?


Jonathan Jay Lee:
I'm currently freelancing in Hong Kong, just finished a job with South China Morning Post and working on something for Pryde Group. I will also have some work up at a new gallery over here in Soho (HK), as well as some work for a show this December in Shanghai.

Marvel.com: For those fans out there who don’t know your stuff, what do you recommend they seek out?


Jonathan Jay Lee: I would say for now to just check out my website at www.jonathanjaylee.com. I will be a contributing artist to an anime book called Neo York to be published by IdN in collaboration with Freestyle Collective that will be coming out this winter. As far as comics go, I hope I'll be given more opportunities to do them in the near future!

 

Check out Jonathan Jay Lee's Punisher story in STRANGE TALES #3 on sale November 4!

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