The comics world has lost another creative giant
Slightly more than a week after the death of legendary artist Neal Adams, the comics world has lost another creative giant with the passing of beloved industry figure George Pérez. The influential artist, writer, and inker had fought a long battle against pancreatic cancer, succumbing to the disease on Friday, May 6th, 2022 at 67 years old. Pérez is survived by his wife Carol, brother David, and a niece and nephew.
Born in the South Bronx, New York City in June 1954 to Puerto Rican immigrant parents, Pérez and his brother (born a year later) both aspired to become artists, and George started drawing at five years old. Pérez got his foot in the industry door working as artist Rich Buckler’s assistant. His first published work was an untitled two-page satire of Buckler’s Marvel Comics character Deathlok, published in the August 1974 issue of Astonishing Tales. Pérez soon became a favored hand at “The House of Ideas,” drawing the “back-of-the-book” strip “Sons of the Tiger” for the popular title Deadly Hands of Kung Fu. With writer Bill Mantlo, Pérez co-created the comics industry’s first Puerto Rican superhero in the White Tiger, who would become a familiar character in the company’s smash hit Spider-Man titles.
It was with his art for Marvel’s The Avengers that Pérez made a name for himself; working with writers like Steve Englehart, Gerry Conway, Jim Shooter, and David Michelinie from 1975-1980, Pérez co-created several enduring characters, including the indominable “Taskmaster,” who would later make their way into the ‘Marvel Comics Universe’ movies. Pérez also illustrated other titles for Marvel at the time, including Fantastic Four, The Inhumans, and the horror/monster comic Creatures On the Loose. His first collaboration with writer Marv Wolfman came on a Fantastic Four Annual. Pérez also provided artwork for Marvel’s five-part comics adaptation of the movie Logan’s Run in 1977.
As a freelancer in 1980, Pérez went down the street and began picking up jobs from Marvel rival DC Comics while still drawing The Avengers. Accepting the opportunity to work with Wolfman on a revival of the moribund Teen Titans comic for DC (as The New Teen Titans), Pérez had an ulterior motive – the chance to draw DC’s popular Justice League of America series. He soon got his shot at the title, and while Pérez’s tenure on the JLA comic was popular with fans, his work on The New Teen Titans would become successful beyond anybody’s dreams, eventually spinning off an animated TV series. Pérez himself credited royalties earned on frequent re-prints of the Teen Titans with helping pay his bills in the 1990s and 2000s.
In 1984, Pérez took a hiatus from The New Teen Titans to work on DC’s company-wide, year-long crossover “event” mini-series Crisis On Infinite Earths. Working again with writer Wolfman, the “Crisis” storyline featured nearly every single DC character, the story radically changing the fictional universe’s continuity and providing a blueprint for future multi-character crossover events published by both DC and Marvel. The mini-series became a huge best-seller for DC, and served as the basis for the Infinite Crisis (2005) and Final Crisis (2008) sequels as well as inspiring “Arrowverse” crossover episodes across several CW network TV shows.
With everything he touched seemingly turning gold, DC tasked Pérez with the 1987 re-imagining of the Wonder Woman title, which had dropped in sales. Working with writer Greg Potter, DC credited Pérez as the plotter and penciler on the series, which took the character back to her roots in Greek mythology. The storyline served as a basis for the blockbuster 2017 Wonder Woman movie, with director Patty Jenkins specifically citing Pérez’s art as a major influence. During this time, Pérez returned as co-plotter/penciller of The New Teen Titans (later renamed The New Titans) as well as working on Action Comics and The Adventures of Superman titles for DC.
Disagreeing with editorial decisions on the Wonder Woman “War of the Gods” storyline, Pérez left DC Comics mid-project. Signed by Marvel in 1991 to draw the six-issue Infinity Gauntlet mini-series written by Jim Starlin, Pérez was unable to finish, leaving the project after the fourth issue and replaced by artist Ron Lim. His relationship with both major comics publishers damaged, Pérez found work with independent imprints like Malibu Comics, Tekno Comics, and Topps Comics, for which he inked the company’s comics adaptation of the movie Jurassic Park. Returning to DC in 1996, Pérez inked Dan Jurgens’ art for Teen Titans and wrote the Silver Surfer series for Marvel. Pérez returned to The Avengers in 1998 and would draw the title for three years, working with writer Kurt Busiek, including co-creating the long-planned JLA/Avengers inter-company crossover series.
He continued to work well into the new millennium, including drawing the first ten issues of DC’s revived The Brave and the Bold title in 2007, and working on the Infinite Crisis and Final Crisis mini-series. Pérez wrote and drew covers for DC’s new Superman series in 2011, inked Jurgens’ artwork for a new Green Arrow series, and provided art for a revived World’s Finest comic. From 2014 to 2016, Pérez wrote and illustrated his creator-owned, six-issue mini-series Sirens for Boom! Studios. Since 2000, Pérez served as co-chair of The Hero Initiative, a non-profit organization that assists comic creators with health, medical, and quality-of-life assistance.
Pérez suffered from ill health for quite a few years, but continued working until forced into retirement in 2019. In 2013, hemorrhaging in his left eye rendered him blind in that eye, the condition gradually improving after a few months without invasive surgery. Pérez experienced a heart attack in May 2017 while traveling to a comics convention, and was fitted with a coronary stent. By the time of his retirement, Pérez was juggling several health issues, including diabetes and vision problems. Diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer in December 2021, and given six months to a year to live, Pérez decided against treatment.
The industry honored Pérez with numerous accolades over the course of his 45 year career, including an Inkpot Award in 1983 and Jack Kirby Awards in 1985 and 1986. Always a fan favorite, the Comic Buyer’s Guide Fan Awards voted Pérez as “Favorite Artist” in 1983 and 1985 and “Favorite Cover Artist” for three consecutive years, 1985-87, in . Both DC and Marvel Comics included tributes to Pérez in issues published in early 2022, and the two companies jointly approved a limited-run reprint of the 2003 JLA/Avengers story Pérez had drawn (which had long been out-of-print due to arguments between the two rival publishers); proceeds from the reprint will benefit The Hero Initiative.
At a “Farewell Dinner” held upon his retirement by the East Coast Comic Convention in May 2019, Pérez was lauded by colleagues such as Jim Starlin and Ron Lim. In a transcript of the dinner published by the TwoMorrows Publishing magazine Back Issue, Pérez sums up his career and convention experiences for the fans in attendance, saying:
“I’ve had an incredibly, incredibly wonderful career! I love what I do! I have dozens upon dozens of people willing to pay money to pay attention to me! I mean, I have people who wait in line – that’s time out of their lives – who are willing to spend for me! For the work I’ve done, for the stuff I’ve done. Because I just wanted to draw comics. And look at my life now. And how many people can say, I know a few people here can, that they got to do all their lives what they’ve wanted to do since they were a child. How lucky can a person be?”