A Tribute to George Pérez’s Greatest Comic Book Hits

May 21, 2022 | News



Following the passing of George Pérez, we wanted to go over his career and highlight some of his most iconic works.

As a legend in the industry, George Pérez has influenced some of the most significant stories and characters to ever feature in comic books.

I remember my first exposure to Pérez. I must have been 11 or 12 and was just starting to discover the exciting world of comics. I was on my way home from a day out with my family and had a while to wait for our train, so we decided to pop into a close-by newsagent to see if there was anything to read on the journey home.

While browsing the Panini Comics reprints of the US Marvel and DC comics, I came across something that blew my mind: Avengers United #37 featuring JLA/Avengers #3.

I didn’t even know so many superheroes existed, let alone knew who most of them were. I remember thinking ‘No way someone drew all those characters. It must be some photoshop collage.’ Little did I know I had just discovered the most prolific artist for cramming as many heroes and villains into one page, as they’re probably ever will be.

Breaking into comic books

Born in New York in 1954, Pérez’s foray into the comics industry came in 1973 as assistant to, at the time Marvel artist Rich Buckler. With his first Marvel printed work coming a year later in Marvel comics Astonishing Tales #25.

Following his debut, he went on to work on several works including Deadly Hands of Kung Fu, creating comics first Puerto Rican superhero White Tiger, Fantastic Four alongside future frequent collaborator, Marv Wolfman, and a title Pérez would later become synonymous with, The Avengers.

Taking on the Titans

In 1980, Pérez moved over to the competitor, DC Comics, along with Marv Wolfman to begin their seminal run on the Teen Titans, building on the roster, and challenging them with their most dangerous adversaries yet.

The pair created iconic members such as the half-teen half-machine Cyborg, alien princess Starfire, Trigon’s daughter Raven, and introduced Doom Patrol member Beast Boy to the team (then going by Changeling), changing the face of the group forever and inspiring the line-up for the hugely Popular Teen Titans animated series.

In New Teen Titans #2, we were introduced to Deathstroke the Terminator (that title didn’t last long after the James Cameron films). The character has since gone on to be a household name with his appearances in the Arrow series and  Batman: Arkham games and was also toted to be the main villain of Ben Affleck’s The Batman project, along with starring in a plethora of solo comics series.

Over the first 3 years of his on the title, Pérez developed his recognizable, ultra-detailed design. Culminating in his most recognized story of the series, The Judas Contract. Introducing the world to Dick Grayson’s Nightwing persona (popping disco collar and all) and Pérez’s first sole designed character, Deathstroke’s son, Jericho.

With the inclusion of the latest member of the team came a new challenge for the creative duo. Jericho was mute, and Pérez and wolfman agreed to only convey his feelings through Pérez’s greatly expressive art alone. No thought bubbles allowed. A challenge that Pérez excelled at cementing Jericho as a fan favourite for years to come.

Creating a Crisis

The next project for Pérez and Wolfman came in 1985 and was probably the most grandiose series the pair would work on together and affect the entire DC universe going forward, Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Originally conceived as a way of cleaning up continuity for the universe, that had been going on for around half a century at this point and had become a  convoluted mess. The title allowed Pérez to truly flex his ability to cram as many heroes and villains into a page at once, and also gave him the chance to co-plot the series from issue #6.

Introducing DC’s most dangerous threat to the multiverse, The Anti-Monitor, and featuring the Deaths of Barry Allan and Supergirl, tragically depicted on the excellent cover of Crisis on Infinite Earths Issue #7.

Culminating in a universe-wide reboot and allowing modern interpretations of cornerstone characters such as Batman: Year One, Superman: Man of Steel, and Pérez’s Wonder Woman series.

Back to Marvel

Over the next 5 years continuing to work on Wonder Woman among other DC titles, Perez also began to work again with Marvel and was tasked with drawing Jim Starlin’s seminal crossover event that inspired both Avengers Infinity War and Endgame, Infinity Gauntlet. However, the task proved too much for him to handle as over at DC, he was trying to put together a crossover event of his own.

With the coming 50th anniversary of the Wonder Woman title, Pérez tasked himself to create a crossover event focused on the amazon princess, War of the Gods. However, due to struggles with editorial, Pérez was left to try and organize the entire event himself. Leaving him little time to work on other projects. Following the dispute with DC, Pérez would separate himself from the company to primarily work for the competition for several years.

Once an Avenger…

Following years of acclaim and recognition as a sensational artist, proven to be able to draw a vast amount of heroes, Pérez returned to the Avengers following their steady decline in popularity following Heroes Reborn.

He worked alongside Kurt Busiek to return the team to its former glory, including the iconic team line-up of Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor, alongside newcomers like Firestar and Justice.

And making the focal point of the stories the dynamics and personal relationships of the team, more so than the bombastic superhero action (though the book also had that in spades).

Busiek labelled Pérez “the definitive Avengers artist” in the series’ first hardcover collection and won the 2000’s Wizards fan award for Best Series and Best Artist. Following these achievements, where could Pérez go from here?

Justice League of America meet Earth’s Mightiest Heroes

Little known fact, Pérez’s first published DC/Marvel crossover was in fact 1997’s Silver Surfer/Superman, illustrated by the artist who took over duties from Pérez to finish the art of Infinity Gauntlet, Ron Lim. And which pair of villains were chosen to team up to take on this powerhouse team-up? Thanos and Darkseid? Galactus and Brainiac? Nope! It was The Impossible Man and Mr. Mxyzptlk. Crazy stuff right?

JLA/Avengers began publication in 2003 with Pérez and Busiek reunited. The Avengers and JLA are put into conflict by the machinations of Marvel’s Grandmaster and DC’s Krona, to find 12 items of power from across the two universes.

The two teams put their differences aside to thwart Krona’s plan to discover the ultimate truth of the creation of the universe. Spotlighting great fan service moments, such as Darkseid receiving the infinity gauntlet, Hawkeye referring to the League as a group of “Squadron Supremes wanna-be’s” and Superman wielding Mjolnir and Caps shield.

Featuring a plethora of cameos from heroes and villains from each universe, the series best represents Pérez’s talents as a true one-of-a-kind artist. Showcasing his skill, attention to detail, and his passion and understanding of all these unique and wonderful characters from across two universes.

Later years and passing

In the years to come, Pérez continued to write and illustrate comics up to his retirement in 2019. Titles he worked on in this time included creating art for the follow-ups to Crisis on Infinite Earth, Infinite Crisis, and Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds.

Reuniting with Marv Wolfman for the original graphic novel The New Teen Titans: Games and a short-lived stint writing the New 52 Superman title.

In December of 2021, Pérez revealed he was terminally ill and had decided not to seek treatment. Following the news, DC and Marvel united for the first time since the original publication of JLA/Avengers to republish the graphic novel with new material, limited to 7000 copies, with proceeds going to The Hero Initiative. A charity organization, that Pérez had been involved with for many years. Dedicated to financially supporting struggling comic book creators.

He sadly passed away on May 6th, 2022, in Sanford, Florida in the presence of his wife Carol and family.

There truly never was or probably ever will be another artist the likes of George Pérez. He truly was one of the forefathers of modern age comics but unlike other key creators of the time, he never fell into the trappings of making his books dark and brooding. He kept the same hope and optimism from the classic stories of the silver age of comics he grew up with. His love for these characters shone throughout his career, with every furrowed brow and battle cry, every smile, cheer, and tear shed. He will be forever missed but never forgotten.

What are your favourite George Pérez stories? Are there any we missed? And were you lucky enough to get your hands on the new printing of JLA/Avengers? Let us know through social media.

By Liam Priestley

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