Comic book icon George Pérez, one of the most popular and acclaimed American comic book artists of the last half-century, has died at the age of 67 due to complications from pancreatic cancer.
Pérez is probably best known for launching the New Teen Titans in 1980 with writer Marv Wolfman, where the two created Cyborg, Raven and Starfire and had Dick Grayson become Nightwing. Wolfman and Pérez later reshaped the DC Universe with Crisis on Infinite Earths, which, in turn, led to Pérez rebooting Wonder Woman in 1987 with a beloved five-year run that redefined Diana for a new generation. At Marvel, where Pérez got his start in comics, he is likely best remembered for two separate runs on the Avengers; with Steve Englehart in the 1970s and then with Kurt Busiek in the 1990s, where the two relaunched the series in 1998 to great acclaim.
Born in the South Bronx of New York City on June 9, 1954, Pérez knew that he wanted to be an artist from a very young age, starting to seriously draw when he was just 5 years old. He wasn’t even 20 yet when he went to work as a studio assistant for Marvel artist Rich Buckler (Buckler’s other assistants of that era included star artists like Denys Cowan, Arvell Jones and Keith Pollard). Pérez’s first published comic book work for Marvel (and outside of a short story in the indie anthology, Hot Stuf a couple of months earlier, his first published comic book work period) was a short satire of Buckler’s work on Deathlok in Astonishing Tales #25 in 1974.
Soon after, Pérez received his first regular feature, drawing the Sons of the Tiger feature (about a multi-ethnic team of martial artist heroes) in Marvel’s black and white magazine, the Deadly Hands of Kung Fu. Pérez did some other minor assignments before getting his biggest gig yet, drawing the Avengers in the summer of 1975. He quickly added the Fantastic Four and the young artist was doing regular work on two of Marvel’s biggest series for the next few years. During this period, while Pérez primarily worked with Jim Shooter and David Michelinie on The Avengers and Roy Thomas and Len Wein on Fantastic Four, he also did a Fantastic Four Annual with Wolfman that marked their first comic book collaboration.
In 1980, after Wolfman left Marvel for DC (joining Wein there, who had left a couple of years earlier. Roy Thomas then soon joined them at DC, as well), Pérez started getting his first work for DC, initially drawing the Firestorm back-up feature in Flash with writer Gerry Conway. Then, while still drawing the Avengers for Marvel, Pérez started drawing Justice League of America following the death of longtime Justice League artist Dick Dillin. This meant Pérez was simultaneously drawing the most famous heroes at both Marvel and DC. It was this remarkable achievement that led to Pérez wanting to draw the Justice League of America/Avengers crossover that was scheduled to be released in 1983. However, the project fell apart after Pérez had already drawn a number of pages for the book.
Before he got to that failed crossover, though, Pérez and Wolfman would relaunch the Teen Titans as the New Teen Titans, adding three new characters that Wolfman and Pérez created (Cyborg, Starfire and Raven) to the original Teen Titans (Robin, Wonder Girl and Kid Flash) with a renamed Beast Boy from the Doom Patrol (now going by Changeling) joining the team, as well. The comic book was a sensation and soon became DC’s highest-selling title. Pérez was heavily involved in the story of the series and would soon be listed as the series plotter alongside Wolfman. The two also created Deathstroke the Terminator and Vigilante for the series, both of whom would get their own spinoffs.
Pérez left The New Teen Titans in 1985 (after launching a second volume of the series in 1984) to work on the expansive crossover Crisis on Infinite Earths with Wolfman. The series, which would alter the continuity of the DC Universe, showed off Pérez’s uncanny ability to draw lots of characters in very detailed fashion. However, the scope of the event was so dramatic that Pérez was drawing practically hundreds of distinct characters in every issue.
Once Crisis on Infinite Earths was over, rather than returning to The New Teen Titans, Pérez instead rebooted Wonder Woman with writer Greg Potter (and then scripters Len Wein and Mindy Newell), relaunching the hero into a new series with a new background in 1987’s Wonder Woman #1. Pérez plotted the series and was the main penciler on the book for the first two years. He remained on the series as its writer for the next three. During this time, Pérez also took over writing and art duties on Action Comics after briefly reuniting with Wolfman as the co-writer/artist on New Teen Titans (with the book being re-titled simply New Titans).
As Pérez was wrapping up his Wonder Woman run with the War of the Gods crossover event, he was also drawing the first half of Marvel’s Infinity Gauntlet, with writer Jim Starlin. Pérez was replaced by Ron Lim for the back half of the six-issue series. The early 1990s were a bit of a strange period for Pérez, as the comic book industry was going through a speculator’s boom and the top artists were seemingly all doing creator-owned work, but Pérez’s only creator-owned work during this time was an Epic Comics miniseries with Peter David called Sachs and Violins in 1993.
After the hit prestige format miniseries Hulk: Future Imperfect with David (which introduced the evil future version of the Hulk known as the Maestro), Pérez was given a big contract (Pérez would later recall that it was three times his page rate that he was getting at Marvel at the time) to go work for Malibu Comics on its Ultraverse line of superhero titles. Pérez drew the Break-Thru crossover event and then helped launch the Ultraverse’s answer to the Avengers, Ultraforce. He was given an even bigger contract to draw the short-lived Isaac Asimov’s I-BOTS series for Tekno Comics.
During this period, Pérez was also doing some comic book writing work, including a Giant-Man miniseries and a run on Silver Surfer (which included writing a team-up between Silver Surfer and Superman) and Spider-Man: Team-Up. He also inked Dan Jurgens on Jurgens’ 1996 Teen Titans reboot. Pérez planned on using the money from Teen Titans to help finance his first solo creator-owned series, Crimson Plague, which was initially published by Event Comics. The cost of self-publishing was high, though, and Pérez also grew frustrated with his writing gigs, so he wanted his next big assignment to be purely doing art and luckily, he got an excellent opportunity, as he returned to the Avengers to relaunch the series following Heroes Reborn. Working with writer Kurt Busiek, the new series was a major sales success and also became a critical darling. Pérez remained on the book for three years before helping to launch a new imprint, Gorilla Comics (published through Image Comics), with a revived Crimson Plague series.
However, soon after Gorilla Comics launched, Pérez was caught up in a bit of a bidding war, as Marvel and DC were finally willing to do a crossover of JLA and Avengers, but CrossGen was also wooing Pérez with a strong contract plus benefits. Ultimately, Pérez worked out a deal where he would be allowed to do both (CrossGen typically required exclusivity, but made an exception for this one project). However, he had to abandon Crimson Plague for these higher-profile (and better paying) assignments. He had started doing the series Solus with writer Barbara Kesel when CrossGen went bankrupt after just seven issues were released. Around the time that CrossGen went under, JLA/Avengers was released to a rapturous reception.
In 2007, Pérez drew the first 10 issues of a new Brave and the Bold series for DC. The following year, he drew the Final Crisis tie-in miniseries Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds with writer Geoff Johns, one of the last comic book projects by Pérez showing off his legendary ability to draw gigantic crowds of superheroes. In 2011, he helped launch Superman for DC’s New 52 line of comics (Pérez would write the comic and do layouts for penciler Jesus Merino) and then split art duties on the first nine issues of Worlds’ Finest in 2012 (with Huntress and Power Girl teaming up).
In 2014, he drew his last regular series, the creator-owned Sirens miniseries for BOOM! In 2017, Pérez was inducted into The Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame. In 2019, he officially retired from regular comic book art due to his declining health.
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