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November 15, 2009
 

Those Who Came Before: George Pèrez

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Written by: Eli
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The focus of this month’s Those Who Came Before is one of my favorite artists, George Pèrez, pronounced “Pair-Ez” in case you were wondering. A writer, penciler, inker, cover artist – Pèrez has done it all. I was first introduced to George’s art while reading The Infinity Gauntlet. As I later learned, his work spanned much more than Marvel’s cosmic epic.

George Perez hard at work

George Pèrez hard at work

Most of Pèrez’s work has been done for DC and Marvel, with many of his notable works being team books and covers. He is known for creating scenes containing several characters, with great detail and clean lines. Although many of these may be busy, they aren’t distracting. You find your attention focused, and your eyes aren’t being drawn all over the place trying to make sense of what you’re looking at. His covers, one of which contains over 500 characters, can hold my attention like no other. As with a beautiful painting done on a canvas, I can stare at them for more than just a second or two, all the while finding more detail to take in. As far as I can tell, George Pèrez has created some of the most memorable art in the history of comics.

Early Life

For the third month in a row, our featured creator hails from New York. George Pèrez was born on June 9, 1954, to Puerto Rican immigrants. His parents had moved to New York from Puerto Rico in the 1940s, and they eventually settled down in Queens; it’s there that the story of George Pèrez & comics began. It was here that George would frequent his local comic shop, Mike’s Comic Hut. Having begun drawing at the age of 5, Pèrez became enamored with comics and their art.

His start

George Perez, <i>Factors Unknown #3</i> back cover, 1972

George Pèrez, back cover to Factors Unknown #3, 1972

Pèrez’s first published work was a 20 page story that he both wrote and illustrated, in Factors Unknown #2, published in 1972. He also did the back cover to issue #3. This wasn’t a huge break however, as this fanzine had a print run of only 250 issues. His first real job in the comic business was as Rich Buckler’s assistant in 1973. Buckler is noted for drawing the Fantastic Four for a couple of years in the early 1970s, and as the creator of the Marvel character, Deathlok.

The House of Ideas

Within a short period of time, Pèrez was in the employ of Marvel, and working regularly. His first published art for Marvel was in Astonishing Tales #25, in August of 1974. He also worked on Sons of the Tiger, with writer Bill Mantlo. He and Mantlo later collaborated to create the Puerto Rican superhero White Tiger in 1975, who went on to appear in some Spider-Man titles. Also in ’75, Pèrez made his debut with The Avengers, taking over the penciling duties in issue #141. From his work on The Avengers he gained recognition, and he went on to illustrate several other books for Marvel in the 1970s. These included Creatures on the Loose, Inhumans, and Fantastic Four. It was during his work on Fantastic Four that he got together with Marv Wolfman for the first time. These two guys would later team up to give us Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1985-86, which we’ll discuss later.

DC Comics

Justice_League_of_America_184

In November of 1980, Pèrez  made his DC debut with The New Teen Titans #1, & Justice League of America #184. He did the covers and more for both issues. He stayed on for some time with both titles, and did plenty of others for DC during the 1980s. His work on The New Teen Titans really gave his career a boost; not only was that book popular, but Pèrez’s work was seen to be refined over his four years on the title. He is now one of the premiere artists of the decade.

Crisis on Infinite Earths

This book was the first of its kind at DC. Published in 12 issues from 1985-86, this maxi-series was DC’s 50th anniversary event. It was supposed to have touched on every character that DC owned, and clean up continuity for the DC Universe. It even featured the first DC appearance of a character, Blue Beetle (Ted Kord), that DC didn’t own. Prior to this the Beetle was a property of Charlton Comics.

This series contained some fantastic illustrations, including one of the most iconic pieces of comic art of our modern era, if not all time. We’ve all seen it, that poster-like wraparound cover to the Crisis on Infinite Earths collections that was penciled by Pèrez. When you first saw that thing, how long did you stare at it? Did you count all the characters? According to the key to the numbered Crisis poster, there are 562 characters in that illustration. Here’s that illustration with pencils by George Pèrez, painted by Alex Ross.

Brilliant!

Brilliant! — (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

After the Crisis

New_Teen_Titans_Vol_2_130

Pèrez now delved into relaunching Wonder Woman in 1987, and continued with the book for 5 years. After a little while Pèrez was handling the full load of scripting the stories. This was definitely a success, and proved to be yet another bright spot in his career. One of Pèrez’s stories was even used as the basis for the Wonder Woman animated film.

Visiting the Titans once again in 1988, Pèrez handled various duties for The New Titans, as they’re now called, from issues #50 through #67. He returned again for the series’ final issue, #130 in February of 1996, to do the cover.

He then spent some time on Adventures of Superman and Action Comics during 1989-1990. Again, he handled several duties over that time. Then in 1991, his relationship with DC Comics hit some bumps.

Pèrez was still doing Wonder Woman, and having some editorial troubles with the War of the Gods storyline. There were disagreements about the story, and other things going on. This resulted in Pèrez leaving DC, and not working for them again for some time.

The Infinity Gauntlet

Infinitygauntlet_1

Now we come to one of my favorite books, from some of my favorite creators. With Jim Starlin writing, and Pèrez penciling (through issue #4), and doing covers, The Infinity Gauntlet has some very memorable moments. There are several things I like about Pèrez’s work on this 6 issue mini-series. Firstly, Adam Warlock has been drawn a few different ways over the years, but I prefer the way Pèrez does it here. Also, I love the covers, with the first issue’s being my favorite of the bunch, and one of the all time greats in my opinion. Anyone else notice the similarity between this cover (1991) and the back cover to Factors Unknown#3 that Pèrez did in 1972? Interesting.

This series had a lot of characters in action sequences, and Pèrez handled it fantastically. When you look at his work here, and on Crisis, you get the feeling that he just might be the master of big, sprawling action scenes with lots of characters to account for. Infinity Gauntlet and Crisis on Infinite Earths are definitely my favorite moments of his career.

The 1990s

Pèrez did a few Marvel titles, along with some from Malibu. He spent some time on yet another Titans book, Teen Titans, from 1996-1998. Then came a return to The Avengers, with the debut of volume 3 of that book in Feb. of 1998. Here, Pèrez met with success once again over his 3 years with the title. This also led to a JLA/Avengers crossover that Pèrez had been wanting to see happen since the 1980s. By the time the hardcover edition of the crossover was published in 2004, it contained art by Pèrez.

In recent years…

Crisis1

Pèrez has been involved with a few books over the past 10 or so years. There was his creator-owned Crimson Plague, which couldn’t really stay ongoing. He did some work for CrossGen, including Solus, though the company’s bankruptcy cut that book short. He’s done more work for DC as of late. The Brave and the Bold, Infinite Crisis, and Final Crisis have benefited from his talents. As you might imagine, he was at it once again with those nice covers of his. Working on these two Crisis books means he’s worked on all three official series’ of the Crisis trilogy. That has a nice sound of completeness to it. I know there’s probably not a better man for the job.

Awards & Recognition

As you might imagine, George Pèrez’s talents have been recognized. Here are some of those recognitions…

  • 1979 Eagle Award — Best Continued Story for his work on The Avengers #167, 168, 170-177
  • 1980 Eagle Award — Best Comic book Cover for The Avengers #185
  • 1983 Inkpot Award
  • Several Comics Buyer’s Guide fan awards, including…
    • Favorite Cover Artist award for three consecutive years 1985-1987
  • 1985 Jack Kirby Award — Best Finite Series for Crisis on Infinite Earths
  • 1986 Jack Kirby Award — Best Finite Series for Crisis on Infinite Earths
  • 1986 Eagle Award — Best Artist (Penciler)
  • 2000 Eagle Award — Best Artist (Penciler)

The Hero Initiative

The Hero Initiative, founded in 2000, is a federally recognized not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping comic book creators, writers, and artists in need. Pèrez is involved with this organization, and has been since it was known as ACTOR (A Commitment to Our Roots).

The Hero Initiative creates a financial safety net for comic creators who may need emergency medical aid, financial support for essentials of life, and an avenue back into paying work. — The Hero Initiative Official site

He serves as co-chair of the organization’s disbursement committee. So, he’s looking out for those who came before him. Nice work Mr. Pèrez!

The best that Wonder Man has ever looked?!?

The best that Wonder Man has ever looked?!?

The back cover

I have thoroughly enjoyed this look into the life and career of one of the best at what he does, George Pèrez. I won’t claim that this is a complete bio of the man, just a collection of some highlights. Some of which are widely recognized in the industry. Some, perhaps appreciated by only a few, for reasons all their own. Like how he drew one of my all time favorite characters, Adam Warlock. If artists were paid on a character-per-square-inch basis, George Pèrez would be a very, very rich man; which he might be anyway, I don’t really know.

I’ll always associate George Pèrez with huge, epic events, especially the cosmic variety which he illustrates so very well. He does, however, possess great talent in other areas, where the scope of his art isn’t so widely focused. I’ll leave you with another of Pèrez’s covers, which is distinctly different from many of his others.

Resources

Pèrez’ DC covers
Pèrez’ Marvel covers
George Pèrez fan site

Eli
eli@comicattack.net

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