[Visions of Horror] Jae Lee’s ‘The Illustrated Dracula’

jaeleebanner

It’s Thanksgiving weekend and everyone is blurting out their appreciation for friends and family members. Well, we’re thankful for Jae Lee. Without Lee’s unique art style, I (Lonnie) probably wouldn’t have this job. Jae Lee’s work on “The Dark Tower” is what got me back into comics, and I haven’t looked back since. His style is glossy, smooth, and full of glorious shadows that bring out the horror elements in everything he works on. His art is both meticulously detailed and minimalist making it one of the most recognizable styles in comics today.

While he is most well known for his cover art for the Big Two companies, one of his most highly praised works has been “The Illustrated Dracula”. Lee created a series of chilling portraits to accompany Bram Stoker’s classic vampire tale, adding a whole new element to the story. Quite simply, he’s one of the best, so it’s no surprise that his talents should be recognized in this week’s Visions of Horror.

Having left art school at the age of 27 and establishing himself as one of the youngest artists to begin a professional career at one of The Big Two comics publishing companies—specifically Marvel Comics—Jae Lee has expectedly built an impressive fanbase over the years. So unsurprisingly, anticipation for “The Illustrated Dracula” was high, even before the book’s initial release in 2006, thanks to his name being attached to the project. At the time, the artist had already won an Eisner Award for his work on Paul Jenkins’ “Inhumans”, and had long-since established himself as a recognizable name in the industry due to his artistic contributions to various Marvel and Image Comics titles, such as “Hellshock” and “The Sentry”.

Fans knew that Jae Lee’s darkly themed—and often times gothic—style of art was so perfectly reflective of the atmosphere in Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” that his illustrations could only add to the horror fictionalized in the influential novel. On September 21, 2006, “The Illustrated Dracula” was published, and the praises from fans and critics were extraordinary. He provided 40 original drawings to accompany the timeless tale by Stoker, and managed to breathe new life and emotion into a book that’s had its fair share of resurrections.

The majority of the illustrations inside the book are dark renderings of stylistically technical black and white pieces that mesh wonderfully with the novel. There’s some questionable timing and placement of the drawings within the pages, but Jae Lee’s pieces are even fantastic just as stand-alone portraits. They have a perfectly subtle sinister edge to them that effectively reflects Stoker’s intended mood and atmosphere for “Dracula”. His style is dark, modern, and so distinctive of this particular world. It’s a great fit.

A few of Jae Lee’s pieces for “The Illustrated Dracula”:

Another major beat in Lee’s career came only a year after the publication of “The Illustrated Dracula”, when he, Peter David, and Robin Furth set out to tell the prequel story to Stephen King’s magnum opus, “The Dark Tower”. Lee provided both cover and interior art for the series, and he perfectly captures the dark, eerie, mystical vibe of King’s novels. If you haven’t snagged up the trades for “The Dark Tower”, you’re seriously missing out.

A page from “The Dark Tower”:

If you want Bloody Disgusting to cover one of your favourite horror artists, or a fantastic piece of horror-related comic book art, head down to the comment section, or hit up Farah or Lonnie on Twitter.

  • GreenBasterd

    Jae Lee’s art is unreal. “Dark Tower” was one of the first comics i ever read and Jae Lee’s contribution is a main factor in my addiction to this fantastic story telling medium. If anyone enjoyed these trades but haven’t dabbled in the literature I’m currently on book 4 of the Stephen King’s series and it is worth every minute.