If we were to construct a pantheon of the greatest comic books artists, the pinnacle of that list would include George Perez.
After a battle with terminal pancreatic cancer, George Perez passed away peacefully with his wife and family by his side on Friday, May 6th. He lived his last months like he lived his sixty-seven years: with grace and love for both his family and friends and the industry which adored him.
It’s fitting that I was first introduced to Perez’s work at the time that I first started reading comic books in the early 1980s. It was also very lucky. Here was a future great, drafting highly detailed expressions of outer space action and explosions on the covers of DC Comics’ Star Trek series, albeit for just the first three issues. His thunderous visuals got me to buy and read the books – exactly what cover artists were meant to do. But that visual experience was also an enticement to search the artist out for more of his work.
Perez had already made a name for himself as a fan-favourite artist. He had worked at Marvel Comics on an acclaimed Avengers run in the 1970’s and then at DC Comics with one of the high watermarks of comic book publishing on The New Teen Titans in the early 1980’s. That particular series remains beloved by readers who experienced it on a monthly basis during that decade or in its various collectible formats since.
Still, it was that mid 1980s earth-shattering Crisis On Infinite Earths twelve-issue series that cemented Perez’s reputation as an artist synonymous with the biggest bombast of comic book stories. The advertising for that series truthfully promised that “Worlds will live, worlds will die and the DC Universe will never be the same”. It was a tale that wove through the fabric of every character and world that DC Comics had ever published, streamlining a frayed tapestry of multiple universes, timelines, characters and histories together into one coherent existence. No easy feat. And with his detailed linework and attention to minutia, his masterful experience with page layout and panel structure and his strength at expressing bombast and pathos, George Perez blew minds and had readers shed tears over the heroes they so adored. He was an artist’s artist, surely, but George Perez was a comic book fan, first. Only he could make the death of Supergirl and Flash as memorable and as meaningful as Crisis readers know them to be.
Perez was an all-time great.
In the late 1980s, as both artist and writer, Perez re-birthed Wonder Woman for a new generation, enshrining the character squarely into the pantheon of Greek and Roman gods and imbuing her with more relevancy than she perhaps ever had. His highly acclaimed run on that series lasted for five years with that distinct version of Wonder Woman, and the stories she appeared in, inspiring the beloved character we see in films and comic books today.
In the early 1990s Perez crossed back over to his first home, Marvel Comics, and illustrated the highly successful Infinity Gauntlet miniseries, another space-age tale of bombast and human emotion, featuring many of Marvel’s stable of superheroes. It was a blockbuster from the start, again having readers salivate over detailed linework and page and panel layouts with scenes full of action and emotion. Still, within all of the explosions and mayhem were found quiet moments of grief, love and loss, expressed as no other artist could, emoted by the characters on the page and felt by readers holding the comic books.
George Perez had further memorable work on Avengers, Batman and Titans, to name a few, including a much-loved, and unprecedented, JLA/Avengers crossover tale – a book only Perez could ever be contemplated to illustrate. He lent his famous style to larger-than-life stories like Infinite Crisis, The Brave and the Bold and Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds. He would also work on his creator-owned stories with independent publishers.
I was lucky enough to meet George Perez on a few occasions at various comic book conventions over the years. There was always a line of fans, admirers and industry veterans near him and Perez always had a smile on his face, thanking each and every one of them, always giving of his time for a chat, a warm handshake or his resonate signature across the cover of one of his many works.
During an illustrious career drawing and writing the greatest and most memorable comic book stories and superheroes with unbridled enthusiasm and love, George Perez scaled the heights of the industry’s pantheon of legendary creative figures and will rightfully stand there for all generations and across all times.
Rest in peace George Perez and thank you for all the stories.