Authorities in the Cayman Islands have called off the search for Norman Lee, a well-known inker for DC Comics and Marvel Comics, who went missing Thursday during a snorkeling trip with his wife, Jan.
Lee, 47, was last seen about 250 yards off of Grand Cayman. The Weymouth, Mass., artist was separated from his wife and, when she returned to shore and he didn’t, she reported him missing.
“We put all assets available to us, both law enforcement and privately owned,” Police Chief Inspector Brad Ebanks told Cayman 27. “We thank all those who assisted us in this time of need. Unfortunately we were unable to find or recover Mr. Lee.”
Recently, Lee worked on “Spider-Man,” “Avengers” and “X-Men” and had also done work on the DC series “Supergirl” and “Starman.” He was a fixture at comic conventions as well.
“We here at Marvel were saddened to hear of Norman Lee’s disappearance while vacationing in the Cayman Islands this past weekend. A veteran comic book artist and inker, Lee’s work on Marvel’s Avengers, Runaways, X-Men, and X-Force brought unique depth to the published page and excited fans around the world,” Marvel Editor in Chief Axel Alonso said in a statement to the Washington Post. “An exceptional talent and supreme professional, Norman’s premier artistic skill brought life to our characters, and our hearts here at Marvel go out to Norman’s loved ones.”
Lee’s agent and longtime friend, Bob Shaw, told New England Cable Newsthis was Lee’s first vacation in 10 years.
Inkers are a crucial part of what makes comic art look the way it does. They are responsible for the black that you see on the page, including the cross-hatching or feathering artists use to add depth and perspective. Comics are typically drawn in pencil, which allows for much more subtle degrees of shading.
Historically, inkers were needed to go over the pencil lines in comics with ink so that they could be printed with presses not advanced enough to pick up the range of blacks and grays from pencils alone. It’s a tradition that’s survived even in the era of digital comics, and it’s a job that takes skill and precision. Lee, who began working for Marvel in the 1990s, was well-respected as an inker.
Authorities sent two vessels, a dive team and a helicopter in search of Lee. “The currents in that area are strong and it is unlikely that we will make any recovery at this stage,” Ebanks told WMUR.
Friends mourned the missing artist on social media. His wife has reportedly left the Caymans and returned to the United States.
“Dumbfounded to hear about Norman Lee,” friend Jeff May wrote in a Facebook tribute. “He’s literally one of the most warm and positive people in comics. When I decided to move out west, he was unquestionably supportive and said some of the kindest things because that’s just how he does it. For now I remain hopeful and my thoughts go out to all of his family and friends.”