Just to warn you all, this is a bit of a ramble, but it is what was in my head.
On Saturday I learned of the passing of the legend that is George Perez. He died aged 67 after a long battle with illness at home, surrounded by loved ones. He had been ill for some time and he was aware that these were his last days.
A week after losing Neal Adams, this was a loss not just the devastating one to his family and friends, but to the larger comics community, both professional and fans alike and it’s hard not to feel saddened by this tragic event. So I wanted to write something about this man, whom I never met, but had an impact upon my life nonetheless.
George Perez’s career spans over 40 years, covers hundreds of characters for both DC and Marvel amongst other work and commissions from his early works for Marvel to his work during the New 52 era of DC and several places in between. Almost all of the work he did defined both what a penciller could do with a page and added depth and details to many characters. No one will argue how great Jack Kirby’s action packed panels were, but George Perez added a degree of soul to the Thing that transcended iconic.
After some stellar work for Marvel with work on the Fantastic Four and the Avengers titles amongst others, he leapt across the aisle to DC and along with Marv Wolfman relaunched the Teen Titans as the New Teen Titans. He brought back original members Kid Flash, Wonder Girl and Robin, adjacent member Beast Boy and introduced Raven, Starfire and Cyborg launching a comic that was well written and amazingly drawn. After a few years of this, in 1985 he went big.
The company-wide crossover wasn’t original, Contest of Champions was years earlier and the big 12 month event was done by Secret Wars, but it was this Wolfman/Perez creation that took the idea to an epic place.
I first got a few random issues of this comic in the 1990’s, seeing almost all of DC’s repertoire of characters for the first time, parallel earths, multiple versions of the same characters and a story both complex to read and beautiful to look at. With new characters like Harbinger, Pariah and both versions of the Monitor he created a story that has endured for the majority of 40 years and still stands up. I never got all of the issues, but I did manage to get one of the collected editions, the one with the Alex Ross cover and I re-read it. When my son was younger, I read it with him and I do a re-read every couple of years. That and his reboot and revitalisation of Wonder Woman cemented his reputation as a comic superstar. But I didn’t know this at that point.
His return to Marvel came with Infinity Gauntlet along with Jim Starlin which made Thanos ‘the’ Marvel villain as well as providing much of the plot for Avengers: Infinity War over 20 years later. But again, this is not where I had come in yet.
In the mid-90s, I started working in a comic shop in the centre of Merseyside, it was there I met my first comics professionals at signings and since I was being paid, was able to read comics that I might not have otherwise read. It was whilst being there, that I saw the announcement for and read the initial issues of volume 3 of Avengers.
I didn’t know the Avengers well and yet here they all were. It was part of Marvel’s Heroes Return initiative, with big stars on what should be big books, Ron Garney returned to Captain America, Alan Davies started off Fantastic Four and the Avengers were pencilled by George Perez and I was hooked. This is what the Avengers looked like with better colours, sharper inks, but the same excellent pencils by a more seasoned George. It led to me reading the Avengers long after I expected to be gone and his depictions of them are to me definitive. He is responsible for my favourite ever panel of Avengers:-
It was never bettered to my eyes and whilst the follow-up run with Alan Davies was good, it lacked that iconic quality that it had but a few issues before.
His work slowed down a bit after that, with the exception of the excellent JLA Avengers/Avengers JLA series that reunited him with Kurt Busiek from his Avengers run that gave us a 4 part prestige format series that is absolutely beautiful, worth the many years of waiting to see Batman meeting the Thing.
But afterwards, he became a face at conventions, all over the world, proving he was as kind as he was talented, I have many facebook friends and acquaintances that all have their tale of the lovely man who did a sketch and spent time with them. He was a lovely man who brought moments of joy to people with his work and his presence.
I was gutted to hear of his illness and the knowledge that he would retire, but he has left behind a library of work that is decades of exceptionally beautiful work, action packed and detailed that speaks to the heroic ideal in the same way Kirby’s did. News came out that he wasn’t going to get treatment for the illness and was instead going to spend what time he had with friends and family.
No, I never met the man, I don’t have a story of meeting him, or a sketch he did for me, but I do have comics that he did that enhanced my life by distracting me from my problems, or taking me into a world and showing me heroes and stories that lifted me up. The fact that there won’t be any more work from him is sad, that his family lost him is even sadder, but his work will endure and as a result, so will his legacy.
The last picture I want to put is his one of Superman, wielding Captain America’s shield and Mjolnir, the hammer of Thor, a picture that reminds me that no matter what, you have to keep going and use whatever you can to do the right thing and get the job done.
Thank you Mr Perez, for what you gave to me and many thousands of others who never met you, you gave us heroes and one of them was you.