Legendary Marvel and DC Comics artist George Pérez dies at 67
Best known for his extensive crossover books, George Pérez died Friday at the age of 67, from pancreatic cancer. Pérez’s work defined superhero comics in the 1980s and 1990s, and his impact on the genre still resonates in superhero media today. During the artist’s prolific career in comics, he’s done his best to draw every iconic DC and Marvel superhero, preferably all at once as part of an epic double-page spread.
Pérez is survived by his wife of over 40 years, Carol Flynn; his parents, Jorge and Luz; and his brother George. In December 2021, he announced that he had been diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer and would not be pursuing treatment. In the months that followed, colleagues and fans to have paid tribute to his outstanding career and his sustainable kindnessa fitting send-off for the beloved icon.
‘Introducing Our New Vengeful Ace’
George Pérez was born in the South Bronx, New York, in 1954, the son of a Puerto Rican couple who had recently moved to the city. He discovered superheroes at a young age and comics helped him learn English. The Color Adventures also offered respite from the violence of his tough neighborhood, and at the age of 5 he knew he wanted to be an artist when he grew up.
He was 19 when he got his start in the comics business, landing a job as an assistant to artist Rich Buckler in 1973. His first published work appeared the following year, a Deathlok story of two pages in Marvel’s amazing tales #25. More Marvel gigs soon followed, and in 1975 he co-created White Tiger, the first Puerto Rican superhero, with writer Bill Mantlo.
That same year, Pérez began his much-loved tenure drawing Earth’s Mightiest Heroes beginning with avengers #141. Team books were not popular with artists at the time; the compensation was minimal and a large number of characters meant a lot more work. But Pérez happily took the chance to draw so many of his childhood idols and channeled his artistic heroes, like Sal Buscema and Curt Swan, to create a distinctive, realistic take on the Avengers.
In 1980, writer Marv Wolfman offered Pérez a job at DC Comics on The New Teen Titans, a contemporary update of the young team. Pérez wasn’t particularly interested in the project, but the offer came with the opportunity to draw Justice League of America too, so he agreed. Then, a few months after working on The New Teen Titans, he fell in love with the concert. Wolfman was a generous collaborator, and Pérez felt a sense of belonging to the team as they worked together to revamp existing characters like Beast Boy and Robin, as well as introduce new ones like Cyborg, Raven, and Starfire.
The book focused as much on the characters’ civilian identities as on their superhero antics, and this combination of drama and action proved to be a surprise hit for DC, which needed a hit after a series of disastrous cancellations. Pérez and Wolfman won numerous industry and fan awards for classic storylines that remain popular today, including The contract of Judas. In the kind of creative team consistency that has all but disappeared in modern superhero comics, Pérez stayed with the Teen Titans for the entire decade and returned for another run in the mid-1990s.
Pérez developed a reputation as a master of team books, but one of his most beloved projects was a solo venture. When DC Prepared to Reboot wonder woman by the late 1980s, all arguments received by the publisher were violent and hypersexualized, an approach that did not align with Pérez’s feminist sensibilities. He offered himself as an alternative, despite the series’ perennial poor sales: wonder woman had been a book DC had to attribute, not one the creators claimed. Pérez traded in all the cachet he had accrued at the publisher to make another version of Wonder Woman, rooted in mythology and female power.
The revival debuted in 1987 and was an instant hit. Pérez wrote and drew the book, bringing dignity and excitement to the long-floundering title. It rebuilt the Wonder Woman mythos from the ground up, honoring her feminist origins while updating the character and her rogues gallery for the present day. Its five-year run has also brought female creators into the fold, including co-writer Mindy Newell and artists Colleen Doran and Jill Thompson. (Doran and Thompson went on to Eisner Award-winning careers, with Doran winning for Snow, Glass, Apples by Neil Gaiman and Thompson for her scary godmother.) Today, Pérez’s revitalization of Wonder Woman is widely considered the definitive version of the character, and her passage in the book has remained an inspiration to everyone who has written or drawn her since.
Beyond his long-term character work, Pérez was also the master of epic event books. In 1985 he teamed up with Wolfman to Crisis on Infinite Earths, a 12-issue maxi-series that allowed him to draw all the characters in the DC Comics universe against a backdrop of multiversal destruction. He returned to Marvel in 1991 for the Infinity Gauntlet miniseries with Jim Starlin and Ron Lim that saw Thanos destroy half of all life in the universe. Then he united the two universes in 2003 with JLA/Avengersa massive crossover written by Kurt Busiek.
Pérez threw himself wholeheartedly into these projects, and his boundless enthusiasm for the characters was evident on every page. Bringing together all the DC and Marvel heroes was especially exciting for Pérez, who tackled JLA/Avengers with such passion that he developed tendonitis while designing a cover featuring over 200 different superheroes.
The entertainer slowed down in his later years, trading long-term jobs for special appearances. After a series of medical issues during the 2010s, he officially announced his retirement in 2019.
A lasting legacy
If you’re a comic book fan, you’ve no doubt come across Pérez’s work – but even if you’re not, you’ve probably felt his influence elsewhere. His Teen Titans have appeared in several TV shows, both animated and live-action, while Crisis on Infinite Earths ripped the CW’s superhero programs in 2019. wonder woman Director Patty Jenkins cited her run on the character as a major inspiration for the film, and Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet played key roles in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
After Pérez announced his cancer diagnosis, the comic creators shared their thoughts on his legendary impact. avengers scribe Jason Aaron wrote: “George Pérez made me a comic fan. His art took hold of me as a child and forever imprinted on my mind as what a comic should look like,” while the writer Vita Ayala, who is, like Pérez, of Puerto Rican descent, said, “The impact of George Pérez, on our culture as well as on an individual level, cannot be quantified. Perez is a legend. He helped shape the world as I know it. His longtime collaborator, Marv Wolfman, wrote, “I can honestly say that I have never known a better or more caring person,” and the former wonder woman writer Steve Orlando echoed those sentiments, calling Pérez a “great person and a role model for all creators.” Writer Gaelle Simone summed it up succinctly, simply calling it “the best ever, that’s all”.
In a message to fans, Pérez wrote: “It’s quite uplifting to hear that you led a good life, brought joy to so many lives and will leave this world a better place because you were a part of it. He leaves behind a library of iconic superhero stories for new generations of fans to discover, all infused with his enthusiasm and love for the genre. It is certain that George Pérez will continue to bring joy to many for centuries.