Hero worship pays
Marvel Comics penciller is living out his childhood dream
Ron Lim is an amiable, unabashed night owl who, according to his Web site, “draws until the wee hours of the morning watching late-night talk shows and bad kung-fu movies.”
Yes, the 43-year-old Lim is living the life of an in-demand comic book penciller. He recently signed a contract with Marvel Comics to be the official illustrator for the popular Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter comic book series, based on the erotic fantasy novels by Laurell K. Hamilton.
Until his recent gig with Anita Blake, Lim made his career as a freelancer, having drawn a number of characters for various companies over the past 20 years. Some of the notables: Sonic the Hedgehog, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Superman, Hawkman, Green Lantern, Spiderman, the Fantastic Four and the very popular Silver Surfer.
Lim is a life-long lover of comics, both as a reader and as a sketcher. He remembers being a young child tracing Disney characters and trying to draw Mickey Mouse. His parents encouraged the young artist’s pursuits, and even sent off one of Lim’s drawings (the elephants from the Disney animated movie, The Jungle Book) to the makers of the film, only to receive a polite “nice job.”
Lim’s favorite comic book characters, however, were always the superheroes—Superman, The Hulk, Batman (he said he has trouble recalling specific dates, but describes long being able to draw such details as “Spiderman’s underwear.").
It soon became evident what he wanted to do for a living, and in his teens Lim began submitting drawings to the big comic publishers like Marvel and DC.
“I kept getting rejection letters. I’ve saved them, but they’re in piles that I can’t find,” he said with a laugh from his Sacramento home he shares with his wife, Stephanie, and their 15-month-old son, Brandon. “All those rejection letters just made me want to try harder.”
When Lim reached his early 20s, he attended the first WonderCon, the Bay Area’s now-well-established and well-attended comics convention, with his portfolio in hand. He showed his work to the editors of Marvel Comics who were in attendance, and they liked what they saw. The young artist was given an eight-page trial story to illustrate—and a deadline.
“It was probably the most nerve-wracking thing I’ve ever done,” Lim said of his first work for Marvel.
But his foot was in the door. Lim became a freelancer for Marvel when he was a junior at Sacramento State. The job enabled him to abandon the business major he was working on at the advice of his parents ("Always have a back-up idea,” they told him), and he went on to receive his bachelor’s degree in graphic arts. Lim began working for a number of other major comic book publishers as well, including DC, and found himself situated firmly in the career he had longed for all his life.
Lim laughs at his good fortune. He recalled that about six or seven years after pencilling that eight-page “audition” story he had achieved some degree of fame in the world of comics. Lim was “knee-deep in Silver Surfer” at the time when that little comic story was actually given a title, The Black Panther, and put into an anthology of other short comics.
Since then, Lim has pencilled countless characters and heroes. He even did sketches of Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi for George Lucas’ latest Star Wars trilogy.
When asked who his favorite character is of the many he’s drawn, Lim easily came up with Thanos, the master villain from the planet Titan, whom Lim was a huge fan of growing up. Lim was chosen to pencil Thanos for Marvel’s 1990 two-issue series The Thanos Quest, and six-issue sequel The Infinity Gauntlet. Both were written by one of Lim’s childhood heroes, comic writer and artist Jim Starlin, who created the character back in 1973.
“I love drawing Thanos,” Lim gushed. “He’s a big, bulky alien. His face is very expressive. And he squashes anything that gets in his way. People love him!”