Superman Homepage writer Michael Bailey pays tribute to long-time comic book creator George Pérez, who announced his formal retirement via his Facebook page last week.
Back when I first started reading and collecting comics, I acquired a copy of CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS #5. I had only been reading comics for a little over a year and my knowledge of DC Comics was limited. This was the fall of 1988, so not only was this the fifth issue of a maxi-series that was designed to get rid of the DC Multiverse and establish a new, streamlined universe but I was reading it three years after it came out. I should have been lost and to a certain extent I was. The dense writing provided some explanation to what was going on, but it was the art that kept me going back to the issue again and again. I poured over that book and was gob smacked at how awesome every hero and villain looked, particularly the older Superman that had a different (and, to my mind, cooler) version of the S symbol.
That issue was my introduction to the art of George Perez.
To say that George Perez is a legendary comics creator is an understatement. He has drawn virtually every DC and Marvel character ever thanks to his runs on both AVENGERS and JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA, the previously mentioned CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS, several issues of INFINITY GAUNTLET, and the epic four issue JLA/AVENGERS mini-series. Along with writer Marv Wolfman, he revamped the Teen Titans as the NEW TEEN TITANS and co-created Raven, Starfire and Cyborg for that title. He relaunched WONDER WOMAN after CRISIS ended and stayed with that character for five years. Perez also worked on creator owned books and projects for other publishers, like Image and Ultraverse.
The word prolific doesn’t come close to describing his resume.
His style was clean, and his storytelling abilities were strong, even at the beginning. His characters all had a distinctive look. Hawkeye and Captain America may have been similar in height but their faces and body types were unique. Batman wasn’t Superman with a cape and cowl on. He designed incredibly complicated costumes and he crammed his pages with background details. If Perez drew a crumbled brick wall there was enough debris to rebuild five of them. He would add characters that the artist didn’t ask for to give his pages a more dramatic look but never at the expense of the story.
Perez was and is a master of the form and has inspired several generations of comic book artists.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the two occasions where he worked on Superman, considering this is the Superman Homepage. Perez came on board in 1989 at the tail end of the EXILE storyline that saw Superman leaving Earth after believing himself to be a threat to the people he protected with ACTION COMICS ANNUAL #2. Soon after that he was drawing and plotting ACTION COMICS and produced some of the most amazing covers the title had ever seen. From his homage to SUPERMAN #1 on ACTION #643 to the black and white, George Reeves inspired color scheme on ACTION #644 to the sinister visage of Brainiac on ACTION #647 these covers all stood out on the stands and are worthy of posters in and of themselves. Perez’s time with the Superman books was brief but noteworthy and it was a shame he didn’t stick around a bit longer.
His second time with Superman was even shorter. George was the writer on SUPERMAN during the first six issues of the NEW 52 and left due to the changes he was asked to make from issue to issue. At the 2012 Superman Celebration in Metropolis, Illinois Perez was asked about experiences he had where he wasn’t happy with the work he was being asked to do. Perez responded, “Unfortunately when you are writing major characters, you sometimes have to make a lot of compromises and I was made certain promises, and unfortunately not through any fault of Dan DiDio, he was no longer the last word, lot of people making decisions, going against each other, contradicting, again in mid story. The people who love my Superman arc, I thank you. What you read, I don’t know. After I wrote it… I told them here’s my script, if you change it, that’s your prerogative, don’t tell me. Don’t ask me to edit it, don’t ask me to correct it, I don’t want to change something that you’re going to change again if you disagree…”
I would also be remiss if I failed to mention what a genuinely nice guy George Perez is. I’ve had the opportunity to meet him several times at Dragon Con, a four-day fantasy/science fiction convention that takes place on Labor Day weekend in Atlanta, Georgia and even had the pleasure to sit on a Wonder Woman panel with him in 2016. Perez is a fixture at Dragon Con and when he isn’t signing and sketching, he’s mingling with the crowds and posing for pictures. I always got the sense that he was as much of a fan as the people going to the con. One year I was standing in line waiting to get a sketch and have some books signed when George spotted a cosplayer dressed as Herbie, The Fat Fuy, a character from the late fifties and early sixties that was published by the American Comics Group. Upon seeing the costume he yelled, “Herbie Popnecker!” and, to my memory, leapt from his table to get a picture with the cosplayer. It was one of the most endearing things I had ever seen at a convention. Here was George Perez…superstar artist and writer George Perez…geeking out because someone walked by dressed as one of his favorite characters.
It was amazing.
This is why Perez announcing his retirement gets to me. It’s not just that we won’t be getting any new writing or art from him. It’s not even that we’re losing him as a person, thankfully. I’m sure he’ll still attend conventions and meet with the people that love and appreciate his work. It’s that an era is ending. Characters Perez helped create are now fixtures in pop culture. His art is still held up as a standard to meet. His run on Wonder Woman comes up on nearly every “Best Of” list that you read on the Internet.
George Perez was and always will be a legend. I wish him well on his retirement and I hope to see him at Dragon Con, mingling with fans and getting all excited when a Herbie cosplayer walks by.