Artist Jim Lee gets in on DC game

Comic-book artist Jim Lee, 43, has drawn iconic superheroes including Batman, Superman, the X-Men, Iron Man and the Fantastic Four. And he is an online gamer. So Lee was a natural to oversee DC Universe Online. "He speaks both languages," says Sony Online's John Blakely. Lee gave an exclusive preview of the game to USA TODAY.

Q: How will the DC Universe Online game fit into the DC Comics universe?

A: The game is based on the prime DC universe but not necessarily at the exact same point in time. That said, we are striving to have DC Universe-defining story lines unveil both in print and online as simultaneously as possible. … (From the beginning) we actually have a story line. I can't really divulge the details, but it's organic and it fits into the DC universe mythos. You understand why all these characters appear, there is a reason for it, and these characters are going to serve some bigger function in this bigger story down that line. And we're going to have something that ties into the print comics and some things in the print comics that tie into the video game.

Q: What other massively multiplayer online (MMO) games have you played?

A: I played a little bit of City of Heroes— they have a really great character generation system. I was pretty impressed with that. I played World of Warcraft with my kids. That's a lot of fun. And EverQuest and EQ II. I just loaded up Age of Conan but I haven't started that. I haven't had the time. … I prefer MMOs, honestly. I like the persistent world. I like being able to progress my character from the guy that kills rats to the "something" that kills giant rats.

What I really like about this game is they are doing a lot of secondary characters that you would never ever see in a first-person game. Longtime DC fans are going to get off on the fact they can see Zatanna and someone like Hawkman. Our hope is that a lot of gamers will come to this, learn more about the DC universe, and pick up the comics.

Q: How will DC Universe Online differ from other MMOs?

A: To me, a lot of MMOs are fairly, I wouldn't say static, but it's the kind of thing where you start, push "attack," and get a cup of coffee, come back and say, "I won." (In DC Universe), you are constantly moving and actually doing a lot more dogfight-type battles, running along on the ground and flying and going around buildings and blasting people. It's chaotic, but it's organized and it's very, very dynamic. To me, that is kind of how superheroes fight. It's not like they stand there and trade blows. The cities are their playgrounds, and they demolish them.

Q: What can you say about the artistic style of the game?

A: I actually spend a lot of time on the faces. As a gamer, I like to go up and look at people's faces and see how good of a job they did. For me, it does feel more alive because the video games have sound and movement. … To me, I'm not trying to get Superman to look like he is the guy who lives next door. To me, he should still look iconic and bold, and that's what we do best.

Q: How involved is DC in the game's development?

A: I'm real tight with Dan DiDio, who is the editor in chief of DC Comics. So a lot of times, we'll get on the phone and (he'll) say, "Hey, can you do a new take on Aquaman for us?" And we'll design Aquaman in the game, and they might introduce it (in print) either before or after the game.

But we are going back and forth, trading assets, because they like a lot of stuff that's developed for the game, and we want to make sure what's developed for the game is organic and tied into the DC universe. So there is more interplay than you would typically see in a franchise game.