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Why Marvel Was Nervous Over Jim Lee Boarding Marvel's Trading Card Project - Exclusive

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Well before Jim Lee became DC Comics' CCO, he started out as an up-and-coming phenom in the making at Marvel Comics. Lee's growing recognition came with his stunning artwork in the widely popular series "The Uncanny X-Men," as well as its 1991 spin-off "The X-Men." For increasing swaths of Marvel fans, Lee's artwork became synonymous with the titanic team of Marvel's mutants. This association was only further cemented when Marvel commissioned Lee to draw the artwork on a brand-new set of X-Men trading cards in the early nineties.

As Lee's art had already become the widely beloved look for these popular characters, Lee was the obvious choice to draw these characters for the new trading card series. Nonetheless, a surprising fact that many may not know is that Marvel initially had some concerns over the prospect of Lee boarding the project. In a new exclusive interview with Looper, the cards' editor, Marvel writer and editor Bob Budiansky, revealed the source of Marvel's surprising concern.

With great projects come great deadlines

On the one hand, bringing Jim Lee on to the new trading card set was, in Bob Budiansky's words, a "no-brainer." He explained, "The idea came up to do an 'X-Men' set, and Jim Lee being the superstar artist he had become, especially on 'The X-Men,' it was the obvious choice to me." Unfortunately, all this popularity had a catch: Phenom that he already was, Jim Lee was already attached to work on the same comic series that made him Marvel's go-to X-Men artist (so popular that the legacy of his work still persists today).

Budiansky explained that "poaching other people's talent" was frowned upon at the famed comic publisher, especially with Jim being "the artist on 'The X-Men,' Marvel's top-selling book. It wasn't my privilege to go over there and say, 'Hey, Jim, stop working on "The X-Men," work on my trading cards.'" It's an understandable barrier, but a barrier just the same. Budiansky had to speak to Lee's editor on that series, Bob Harris, to get the all-clear to ask Lee about his interest in the project.

"Bob was a bit nervous about the prospect, because every editor's worst nightmare is his creative talent not meeting their deadlines," Budiansky clarified, "and then he has to pull in people to fill in, or whatever it takes to get that monthly comic book out the door." Eventually, Harris agreed, and Budiansky approached Lee with the project. It took a little thought, because Lee "did have to juggle in his head doing the "X-Men" comic book, and meeting deadlines that were required of him, as well as trading cards at the same time," but Jim Lee agreed — and the rest is history. 

"The Uncanny X-Men Trading Cards: The Complete Series" is available for purchase on Amazon and wherever books are sold.