This post is a few weeks coming, mainly because I wasn’t exactly sure how to add my voice to the many who have paid tribute to George Perez. From posts to podcasts, I’ve heard and read so many great words about him that what I have to say here is another voice in a very large chorus.
Still, how could I not say something about the person who was one of the biggest reasons I got into comics? One of my earliest entries on this blog was about Crisis on Infinite Earths #12, a book that a friend gave me at the start of my collecting career and that I became wholly enamored of. The story was exciting and Perez’ artwork elevated it above anything I’d ever read before. Plus, it looked like a DC Comics superhero comic book should, at least to my twelve-year-old eyes, which had been raised on Super Friends reruns, the Superman and Batman live-action films, and the licensing artwork of Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez (praised be his name). From there, I discovered Perez in back issues of The New Teen Titans and got the full … well, picture of the enormity of his talents. To this day, if you ask me for my favorite issues, stories, series, or covers, a number of my responses will feature some contribution from George Perez.
He could do big, sweeping, epic scenes–the two-page splash of Trigon in New Teen Titans (1984) #1, the scene on the Monitor’s satellite in Crisis on Infinite Earths #5, the cover to JLA/Avengers #3–and every one of them was immortal. But more importantly, he could do quiet and intimate moments in a way that so many of the “Go Big, then Go Bigger” artists I was seeing in the early 1990s couldn’t. Just look at Dick Grayson quitting his Robin identity in The New Teen Titans #39, Donna Troy’s wedding, the “Day in the Life” story of The New Teen Titans #8, or “Who is Donna Troy?” He puts as much into those moments as any of his big set pieces, and they have become just as iconic.
And he did it all with such joy.
When I was fortunate enough to meet Mr. Perez at the 2013 Baltimore Comic-Con, it was like meeting Bruce Springsteen. And though he was a … well, a Titan … he graciously took the time to sketch Wonder Woman (a sketch that hangs on the wall of my wife’s office) and talked to me while I Chris Farleyed my way through questions for my podcast. This was at the very end of what had to be a long day for him, but he was as nice and exuberant as if it were still 9:00 in the morning. It’s a few minutes I’ll never forget–I got to watch the master at work and as an artist and a person he lived up to everything I’d hoped he could.
The unique thing about Mr. Perez’ passing is that we all knew it was coming, as he’d announced his cancer diagnosis as well as his intention to not seek treatment. Moreover, he and his family posted updates and shared moments with his fans on social media, providing a collective opportunity to say goodbye and offer up at least some sort of appreciation for what to some is a lifetime of greatness. And thankfully, he’s left a legacy that we comics fans will certainly pass on.