In Memoriam: George Perez
It was at Dragon Con 2006 in Atlanta, my first ever con, perhaps this was the formation of a Core Memory al a’ Inside Out but I will leave that to the little people who live in my brain. My younger socially awkward self was nervously in-line to meet my first ever con guest, legendary comic book artist George Perez. He was there raising money for the Hero Initiative a charity that he was a tireless champion for as it raised money for so many former creators who have been left behind even as the stories they created have made billions for the media companies who now own them. My nerves cranked into gear as I not only decided I was going to ask him to sign my Teen Titans poster but also see if he were willing to take a picture with me. He happily signed the poster even making a point of saving room for Marv Wolfman who was also a guest at the convention and when it came time for the picture something happened that caught me off guard. While standing up to take a pose, this living legend of comicdom, the man who recreated the DC Universe, the man who introduced Wonder Woman to a brand new generation, the man who pitted the two greatest superhero teams ever against each other….laid his head on my should right as the picture was taken. The anxiousness that had been there melted away and in an instant my then girlfriend/now wife captured the moment where a dumpus like me got to share a fit of laughter with one of the most gifted people to ever pick up a pencil.
I am sure that anyone who has attended a convention with George Perez on the guest list, has a similar if not better story. The lines, sometimes wrapped around the room, and this great artist who brought to life some of the grandest and most epic moments in comic history sat there in one of his trademark Hawaiian shirts, lovingly made by his wife Carol seeming to have all the time in the world to sign autographs, draw sketches, and pose for pics with fans. Even away from the table Perez was never shy about interacting with fans often finding himself as the centerpiece in photo shoots featuring countless cosplayers. Fans loved George Perez and George Perez loved them right back. That makes it that much harder on the entirety of fandom that over the weekend Perez passed onto the other side.
Perez began his career at the age of 19 at in the 1980’s broke out as the illustrator on the New Teen Titans alongside his friend and frequent collaborator Marv Wolfman. The duo brought new life and energy to the team in the process turning the series into a critical and commercial smash for DC Comics. So many elements which they brought to the Teen Titans has been adapted to further media as well including their masterpiece “The Judas Contract”. The success of the Teen Titans led to Wolfman and Perez reorganizing the DC Universe a whole in Crisis on Infinite Earths. The epic scope of this story showed the world what George Perez could do with an entire universe filled with heroes, villains, gods, monsters, aliens across a grand saga spanning space and time. For a follow-up act, Perez spearheaded a reboot of Wonder Woman which reestablished the Amazonian Warrior as an icon.
On the subject of Wonder Woman, one particular talent of George Perez that fans have latched onto was his ability to draw women in comics. Eschewing the cheesecake stylings as was the style, he drew the likes of Wonder Woman, Scarlett Witch, Black Canary, and Raven each in their own distinctive styles. They were strong, heroic, powerful, majestic, and sexy without being exploitative. In this he played a massive role in pushing the medium forward in terms of gender equality.
As the years passed George Perez never lost a step doing pivotal work on the likes of Superman, the Hulk and the Silver Surfer. He even collaborated In 2003, he and writer Kurt Busiek would embark on one of the greatest runs on the Avengers as they reestablished who this team was and their position within the greater Marvel Universe. Following this George Perez would finally get the chance to illustrate his magnum opus, thirty years in the making JLA/Avangers. The legendary penciller depicted every member past and present of the two greatest superhero teams from two different universes battling each other and eventually joining forces against a greater threat. For those who had always wanted to see Captain America and Batman match wits or see Superman wield Mjolnir their wishes were granted in the best way possible.
This past December George Perez revealed that he had been in a battle with cancer and time was ticking. Rather than wallow over circumstances, Perez embarked on a victory lap worthy of someone of his stature. He and Wolfman got to appear in the Teen Titans Go! animated series. Legendary artist in his own right and Publisher of DC Comics brought in Perez for his own tour of the publisher’s headquarters as well as the Warner Bros. backlot. Famed horror movie host Svengoolie posted his own touching tribute to the great artist who famously helped him present Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll. Putting aside years of bad blood, Marvel and DC Comics joined together for a limited reprint of JLA/Avengers to raise money for the Hero Initiative (feel free to click on the link and donate). According to the frequent updates on social media, George Perez had no shortage of visiting friends and love from fans until the end. The comic industry and pop culture as a whole is a richer, more diverse, more grandiose, and overall better place because of George Perez.