I remember when I first became a fan of George Perez. It was not long after March 10, 1983. That’s when New Teen Titans #32 hit newsstands. I was just 11-years -old at the time. In those early days, there were no video games of Pokemon to distract kids like me. Back then, most kids’ discretionary cash went to either baseball cards or comic books. For a while, mine went to both. But eventually comics won out and became my lifelong hobby.
But at the time, the medium was all new to me. I had been reading comic books all my life, practically, but only decided I wanted to collect then six months before. I was in the discovery phase of my hobby, and with comics only costing $.60 each and me having a $5 allowance, I had room to experiment. As such, I picked up New Teen Titans #32 on a whim just to try it.
The issue wasn’t a key issue. It introduced two new characters, antiheroes Thunder and Lightning, who only made a handful of appearance after that. It was pretty much a stand-alone issue that in the grand annals of comic book history doesn’t really stand out. Except to me. That issue blew mind. And it all had to do with George Perez.
Even though he was at the time a veteran of the comic industry for about a decade, it was the first time I had noticed his artwork. It was an eye opener. Perez drew like nobody else in comics at the time. He crammed more detail into every panel of every page than some artists supplied in entire books. His style could be described as the dynamism of Jack Kirby mixed with the realism of a Neal Adams, but that description does not come close to doing it justice. His figures were fluid and beautiful. They stood, moved and looked like real people. In an age were the typical comic book style was making your characters look like blocky marble statues come to life, this made him stand out. I immediately became a fan, and have remained one for almost 39 years.
But if you were like me and George Perez’s art struck such a strong cord with you that you became a fan of his forever, then today hit you like a ton of bricks. After undergoing surgery for a blocked liver, Perez was diagnosed with Stage 3 pancreatic cancer. The cancer is inoperable and Perez has decided to forgo chemo or radiation therapy. This doctors say that he has six months to a year left to live.
Perez is an uncontested legend in the comic book industry, as the well wishes on social media show. He has worked on all the biggest characters, from Fantastic Four to the Avengers, from Superman to Batman. His partnership with Marv Wolfman resulted in two of the most important series in the history of comic books: New Teen Titans and Crisis on Infinite Earths. And he helped refresh Wonder Woman post-Crisis.
But Perez should be admired and respected far beyond the realms of comics. Moviegoers and TV watchers all probably know Stan Lee. They probably know Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko by this point too. But Perez might just fly under a lot of people’s radar. I hope that this tribute rectifies this in some small way.
Did you enjoy Avengers: Infinity War? Well, you have Perez to partially thank for that. He provided the art work for the first four issues of Infinity Gauntlet, the miniseries that inspired that film.
Were you puzzled by how much outrage there was to the changes made to the Taskmaster in Black Widow? Part of that was because it deviated too much from the original character created by Perez and David Michelinie in Avengers #195 in 1980.
Were you happy to see Cyborg get a story arc in Zack Snyder’s Justice League? Perez co-created that character with Marv Wolfman.
Do you and your friends argue who did the best live action Deathstroke–Manu Bennett in Arrow or Esai Morales in Titans, then another friends check in to say how good a Deathstroke Joe Manganello would have made but it all goes off the rails when another friend brings up Michael Hogan in Smallville or Anthony Sabato, Jr in Lois and Clark? You wouldn’t be able to have that conversation without Perez, who co-created the character in New Teen Titans with Marv Wolfman.
Speaking of New Teen Titans, that series inspired Titans and Teen Titans Go series, and those series feature characters such as Starfire and Raven that Perez co-created.
And if you liked Wonder Woman, especially the tie-in to Greek mythology, you have George Perez to thank for that as well. His work revamping Wonder Woman in 1987 brought that to the forefront.
So while he might not have the extensive or wide reaching impact that a Stan Lee or Jack Kirby might have, his work has influenced others and seems to be the touchstone Warner Brothers keep returning to for their film and TV work.
On a personal note, I have met George Perez a number of times over the years, and each meeting as proven to be the antithesis of cautionary maxim, “don’t meet your heroes.” Each and every time he has been a true gentleman, kind and nice, more than patient while I was a stuttering buffoon.
The first time I met him was at a meet and greet to benefit The Hero Initiative that was held at the New York Comic Con in 2009. Part of the benefits of the meet and greet was that you got a sketch and a signature. I had him do a sketch of my favorite character, the Beast. He asked who to make it out to. My wife was pregnant with our daughter, and Mr. Perez made it out to me, my wife Jen, and an empty space to be filled in later after our child was born.
We got my daughter’s name filled in at the Wizard World Philly convention in 2012. Two years later, my daughter had started her own sketch book and we had Mr. Perez do he rendition of Elsa and Anna from Frozen in her sketchbook for her at Terrificon.
The last time I met George Perez was in May of 2019 at the East Coast Comic Con. There was a dinner at the convention to commemorate his retirement from comic book work due to health issues. I decided to get the picture I took back in 2009 of the two of us signed, then recreating the photo as seen above. I joked that I would have to have the new photo signed in ten years time, and keep the practice going from then on out. Sadly, that will not come to pass.
Perez has stated that he hopes to orchestrate one last mass signing and one last meet and greet before he passes. I am going to move hell and high water to be at that event, wherever it is. Perez has set up a special Facebook page to alert fans if or when that comes to pass. But if you wish to honor him in other way, may I suggest a donation in his honor to the Hero Initiative, a charity that Perez was a supporter and on the disbursement committee of, or the Lustgarten Foundation, a preeminent pancreatic cancer charity.
Or you can simply buy a collection of his stories, or a back issue of his work, and pass it on to a niece or nephew who you think might enjoy it. Because George Perez the man is not long for this earth, but George Perez the artist has achieved an immortality may people aspire to but few people achieve. His contributions to comic books will least until the end of time, and lucky future generations will experience the joy of discovering his work just like I did way back in 1983.
To Mr. Perez I wish that that the rest of his days be spent doing the things he loves with the people he loves. I hope for those days to be filled with joy and free from pain. And I wish that everybody recognizes that a true giant of the industry is about to leave us and pay him due homage.