Legendary artist and Eisner Hall of Fame member George Pérez passed away yesterday at the age of 67 from Stage 3 Pancreatic Cancer.
Pérez revealed his heartbreaking diagnosis last year and took every opportunity over the last few months to connect with fans of his work. The news was shared by his friend, Constance Eza, who manages his Facebook page.
“We are all very much grieving but, at the same time, we are so incredibly grateful for the joy he brought to our lives,” Eza said in the Facebook post. “To know George was to love him; and he loved back. Fiercely and with his whole heart. The world is a lot less vibrant today without him in it. He loved all of you. He loved hearing your posts and seeing the drawings you sent and the tributes you made. He was deeply proud to have brought so much joy to so many.”
The post states that a memorial service for the artist will take place at MEGACON Orlando at 6 p.m. on May 22. It will be open to all.
Pérez was born in the South Bronx in 1954 and got his start in the comics industry as Rich Buckler’s art assistant in the early 1970s. His first published work for Marvel appeared in Astonishing Tales #25, which featured Deathlok.
“He gave me a two-page cartoon sequence at the end showing how he and Doug Moench came up with Deathlok from discarded ideas in a trash pail,” Pérez said in an interview that appeared in Wizard Magazine back in the 1990s. “My art being what it was at the time, I penciled everything except the Deathlok figure.”
From there, he went on to work under his own name.
“By being Rich’s assistant, people at Marvel got to know me. And people like [editor] Jim Salicrup and [writers] David Kraft and Bill Mantlo saw my work, liked it, and got me my first work under my own name,” Pérez said in that same interview. “George Tuska needed a break on the Man-Wolf feature in Creatures on the Loose and Dave Kraft liked working with me, so he asked me to stay. Around the same time, I was given a fill-in on the Sons of the Tiger feature in Deadly Hands of Kung Fu #6, but Bill Mantlo asked for me to stay on as well.”
While working with Mantlo on that Sons of the Tiger strip in the The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu anthology magazine, the pair created White Tiger:
Pérez was only two years out of high school at the time, and when Buckler fell behind, Pérez was asked to pencil what was supposed to be a Fantastic Four Annual but ended up becoming a two-parter in the regular title, issues #164-#165. That issue featured the revival of the Golden Age era Marvel Boy, whose look was a precursor for the character Quasar.
That was far from his last work on the FF, as he drew several more issues, as well as issues of Inhumans, Luke Cage, Logan’s Run, Monsters Unleashed, What If?, Marvel Two-In-One and more for Marvel in the 1970s. But probably his best known work for the publisher during that time period was on Avengers. From 1975-1980, he drew several key stories for the title, including the beginning of the Korvac Saga, which allowed him to draw just about everyone who was an Avenger — something of a theme over the course of his career. He and writer David Michelinie also co-created Taskmaster while working on the title.
In 1980, while still working for Marvel, Pérez took the assignment of revitalizing the Teen Titans for rival publisher DC Comics. Working with Marv Wolfman, The New Teen Titans brought together classic Titans like Robin, Kid Flash. Wonder Girl and Beast Boy (whose name was changed to Changling) with some new characters created by the duo: Cyborg, Starfire and Raven.
Pérez also had the opportunity to work on Justice League of America around that same time. I’d say issue #200 is one of my all-time favorite issues of the title:
But still, his run was fairly short and overshadowed by the popularity and success of New Teen Titans, which he would draw for years. No other artist is as synonymous with the Titans as Pérez, and he and Wolfman even guest-starred on the Cartoon Network’s Teen Titans Go!:
Pérez’s career and talent skyrocketed around that time, and he and Wolfman became two of DC’s key creators. Pérez took a break from Titans for a few months in the mid-1980s to focus on what would become the grandfather of DC event comics, Crisis on Infinite Earths:
This comic was mind-blowing for fans at the time, as DC sought to combine all their disparate worlds within their multiverse into one single Earth. Many characters, including Supergirl and Barry Allen, died in the series, while several new characters were introduced. It also led to several characters and series being rebooted, including Wonder Woman, which Pérez would both write and draw:
Why yes, that is the cover to issue #20 of Perez’s run, which featured the mysterious death of Wonder Woman’s publicist. This was one of my favorite issues of his run, and I brought it with me to my first San Diego Comic-Con for him to sign. I still remember how utterly delighted he was when I pulled this issue out. Pérez drew the first 24 issues, and would write the comic through issue #62.
It should be noted that during that late-1980s/early-1990s time frame, Pérez was a workhorse; his other credits in that period included issues of Action Comics, Adventures of Superman, Deathstroke the Terminator, History of the DC Universe, Secret Origins and more. At DC, he co-created Deathstroke, Jericho, the Monitor and Anti-Monitor, Brother Blood, Blackfire, Cheshire, the Adrian Chase Vigilante, Silver Swan, the second Doctor Light and Dick Grayson’s post-Robin identity Nightwing, among others.
He returned to Marvel in the early 1990s after a split with DC over editorial interference on his work on Wonder Woman and the War of the Gods event series, and worked on what you could probably argue was Marvel’s biggest crossover event ever (based on the fact that it was the basis for the biggest plotline of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date): Infinity Gauntlet.
The series saw Thanos assemble the dreaded Infinity Gems to give himself the ultimate cosmic power, then face off with just about every superhero and cosmic being in existence. Pérez would pencil the first four issues (while at the same time trying to finish up War of the Gods).
Pérez’s work also expanded outside of the big two around that time; he’d draw Malibu’s Ultraforce title, and he and Peter David co-created Sachs and Violens, which was published by Marvel’s Epic imprint.
The late 1990s saw Pérez return to a title he was familiar with — Marvel’s Avengers, this time with writer Kurt Busiek. He also teamed up with David again for Hulk: Future Imperfect, where they introduced a villainous Hulk from a world where he killed all of the other superheroes and called himself the Maestro.
And then came JLA/Avengers. Following the X-Men/New Teen Titans crossover special in the 1980s, the two publishers had attempted to bring together their two flagship super teams for a crossover — but it never made it to the comics page (The Beat has a two-part oral history of the failed crossover attempt you can read here and here). It wasn’t until the early 2000s, after regime changes at both companies and several other crossovers between their characters came out, including the DC vs. Marvel miniseries where fans voted on who would win in inter-company match-ups, that the crossover to end all crossovers finally happened. Busiek and Pérez put together an epic story involving both teams, which was first released as a prestige format four-issue miniseries.
I still remember when this project was announced; it was really strange seeing this first cover and the mix of characters, and it took a few moments to register what I was seeing, that hey — these are characters from two different publishers intermingling here. Drawn by Pérez, they just naturally went together.
“George Pérez had an art style that was both dynamic and incredibly expressive,” said DC Publisher and Chief Creative Officer Jim Lee. “His art was the perfect storytelling canvas for some of the most important events in DC history. While he will be sorely missed, his work will live on with a countless number of fans, as well as all the talent he’s influenced over the years.”
It’s also fitting that he did so much for the Hero Initiative, an organization dedicated to helping comic creators in need.
Pérez was inducted into the Will Eisner Hall of Fame in 2017. His impact on the comics industry, superheroes stories and the language of comics storytelling will last forever. I’ll never be able to think of the Avengers, Justice League or Teen Titans and not see a George Pérez drawing in my head.