Last week, I looked at the first half of George Perez’s career (so far), from the time that he broke in with Marvel Comics in 1974 to the end of his Wonder Woman work at DC. Now, it’s time to pick up where we left off, with the second half of Perez’s career (so far) from 1991 to now.
VI. The Infinity/Imperfect Years (1991-1993)
The early ‘90s were a difficult time for George Perez. He has mentioned that he was beginning to become bored, having accomplished pretty much everything he could have ever wanted in the field. Plus, as comics embarked on the speculator boom, he felt that he started to make the wrong decisions for his career. He was chasing projects based on the money that was being offered rather than on his own level of interest. The lack of interest made it difficult for Perez to complete the projects he committed to, and he began to develop a reputation for lateness and not finishing his work. That was quite a turn-around for a guy once nicknamed “Pacesetter.”
This ennui had already started to affect his later work at DC. He abandoned the Titans graphic novel “Games” that he had been working on with Marv Wolfman. And he had difficulty getting “War of the Gods” in on time. (9)
Even so, George Perez kept on working. He dedicated himself to shorter projects. Fans may have complained about his inability to finish books on time (or at all) but they weren’t complaining about the quality of the books that did arrive.
Perez delivered two major projects for Marvel during this time. The first was the Marvel crossover, The Infinity Gauntlet, beginning in July 1991. It was supposed to be his triumphant return to Marvel after having been with DC for nearly a dozen years. It was a modest success, but not nearly the blockbuster it was expected to be. And Ron Lim was brought in to finish the series, after Perez ran out of steam half-way through issue 4. The second was a prestige project with Peter David called The Incredible Hulk: Future Imperfect. This time, Perez finished the project and it was published in two issues (December 1992 and January 1993). (10) The two series did have their side benefits as well. Ron Lim would go to work on two Infinity Gauntlet sequels (War in ’92 and Crusade in ’93), while Perez would continue to partner with David.
VII. The Independent Years (1993-1996)
As the comic book industry continued to boom, George Perez started to work more and more for companies other
than the big two of Marvel and DC. A number of factors all came together to make this possible. Altruistically, Perez knew that lending his name to a fledgling company could help it garner some attention and increase its chances of survival. So he readily provided covers and centerfolds to companies like Boneyard, Chaos, Continuum and Crusade. However, there was also an issue of interest. The new companies were readily interested in having George Perez work for them. The big two were not, having been burned recently by late and abandoned projects.
George Perez worked on too many projects for too many companies to mention them all here. But there are five worth noting. First, George Perez accepted a dream job of inking over Gil Kane’s pencils for the Topps adaptation of the Jurassic Park movie (4 issues, June to August 1993). Second, Perez re-teamed with Peter David for a creator-owned project under Marvel’s Epic imprint. They came up with the investigative team Sachs and Violens, who appeared in four issues between November 1993 and July 1994.
Next, George Perez signed a major deal with Malibu Comics to work on their Ultraverse superhero line. He started with the two issue Break-Thru event (December 1993 and January 1994). Then he moved on to their new premiere
team, Ultraforce, for 12 issues (including 2 zero issues and a 2-part crossover with Avengers). He also drew covers, illustrations and a complete issue of Prime (#15, Oct. 1994).
Perez left Malibu at about the same time the company was bought out by Marvel. He landed at Tekno*Comix, where he worked on an Isaac Asimov concept with writer Stephen Grant called I-Bots. That lasted half a year (December 1995-April 1996). Finally, he tried his hand at another creator-owned concept, Crimson Plague, through Event Comics. The title was announced in 1996 with an ashcan and first published in June 1997. (11)
Even though Perez jumped through a lot of different projects, he insists that he was actually doing some of his best work at this time. He got to ink himself on Hulk: Future Imperfect, which was a major step for him. He built a rapport with Al Vey, who was his inker on Ultraforce. And Crimson Plague challenged him to draw real people and not just superhero archetypes. Perez claims that this work is disregarded only because he was working on unknown characters, and not because it doesn’t measure up (12)
VIII. The Rebuilding Years (1996-1997)
And yet, Perez himself grew tired of drawing second-rate characters. Why work on Prototype and Prime when you could be drawing Iron Man and Captain Marvel? Plus, the comic book boom was coming to a crash. His creator-owned project, Crimson Plague, could barely make a splash in the quickly diminishing market of 1997. Perez needed a safe harbor. In order to fulfill his renewed career goals, he also needed to rebuild his reputation.
First, George Perez got his foot back in the door at Marvel. However, he did so as a writer and not as an artist. Perez wrote a year’s worth of stories for a Silver Surfer series (#111-123, December 1995-December 1996 and a Silver Surfer/Superman crossover in January 1997). He also wrote a couple of issues of Spider-Man Team-Up (#2 and 4, March and September 1996). And, as he had done when he was first trying to break in back in 1974, Perez did odd art jobs like a couple of pages in Thunderbolts ’97.
Then, George Perez got his next big break at DC. Though it’s hard to imagine a 20-year veteran needing a big break, DC’s editors were skeptical about giving Perez another job. Dan Jurgens, who was working on a new Teen Titans revival, had to vouch for Perez. The editors still doubted that Perez could handle a monthly workload as a penciler, but they were willing to let him work as Jurgens’ inker on the new Titans series. That chance was all that Perez would need. He worked on 15 issues from October 1996 to December 1997. In doing so, he re-established himself as a reliable professional. His renewed reputation and contacts were about to pay off.
IX. The Avengers Years (1998-2000)
In 1998, Marvel re-launched many of their core titles like Captain America, Fantastic Four, Iron Man and The Avengers. They wanted superstar creative teams for each of the titles. Kurt Busiek, of Marvels and Astro City fame, was set to write the Avengers. And George Perez was added as a penciler. Some fans were still skeptical. Would Perez manage to draw more than three issues in a row? But Perez was committed to proving his critics wrong.
Avengers #1 (February, 1998) debuted as the number one selling book of the month. Marvel Comics, Kurt Busiek and George Perez had a smash hit on their hands. The book stayed at number one for a couple more months, and remained in the top five for the rest of the year. Perez drew all of the first 15 issues, including an over-sized issue 12. After a scheduled break, he then drew 15 of 16 issues from #19 to 34 including the instant classic “Ultron Unlimited” in issues 19-22. When Perez finally left the book after nearly 3 years, it was still one of the top ten selling titles in the industry.
George Perez was a superstar once again. He won the Comics’ Buyer’s Guide and Wizard Fan Awards for Favorite Penciler several years running and the Eagle Award for Favorite Penciler in 1999. (13)
X. The CrossGen/Crossover Years (2000-2004)
As always, George Perez’s attention started to wander. With his reputation restored and the industry on slightly firmer footing, Perez set out for independent ventures again. He joined several writers, such as Kurt Busiek and Mark Waid, in Gorilla Comics. He gave Crimson Plague a second shot, printing an updated first issue and a second (June and August 2000). And he provided a few extras for other members of the company. Unfortunately, the industry wasn’t quite as stable as the group had thought. Their funding fell through and George Perez was forced to leave several solicited projects unfinished (including Westwind with Kurt Busiek and several more issues of Crimson Plague). (14)
Then, George Perez shocked the comic book industry by signing with upstart publisher CrossGen. The new company was based in Tampa Bay, which was only a short drive from Perez’s home in Orlando. Plus, Perez was starting to tire of superheroes. That’s one reason why he had been participating in decidedly non-superhero work for Gorilla. CrossGen would allow Perez to draw science-fiction and fantasy. Plus, once again, he could lend his name to a company trying to get a good start in the industry. Perez drew four issues of CrossGen Chronicles (#2-5, March to December 2001), which allowed him to dabble in pirate stories and magical fantasy.
However, George Perez included a special clause in his contract with the company. Years before, he had been forced to abandon a major crossover between the Justice League of America and the Avengers when editors of the two companies couldn’t agree on the story. CrossGen agreed to give him a leave of absence for a new JLA/Avengers project. The deal was already in the works before Perez signed (that’s why he included the clause in the first place), but the publicity around the deal helped push it forward. Perez joyfully took a break from CrossGen to work on the project he described as his “valedictory address.”
JLA/Avengers was huge. It was the talk of the industry for nearly two years, as fan anticipation for the project grew (hence, the many career retrospectives of George Perez in 2001). And JLA/Avengers delivered. It debuted as the number one selling comic in the summer of 2003 and set new industry records. For Perez, it was a suitable swan song as he planned to leave superheroes behind for good.
Perez’s other project that year wasn’t nearly as successful. Upon his return to CrossGen, Perez reportedly asked for a monthly title. He was given his wish, and went to work with Barbara Kesel on Solus, a title that would focus on CrossGen’s inner continuity. The debut issue (in April, 2003) was CrossGen’s highest-selling single issue in the company’s history. But it’s sales paled compared to comics from the big two and comics news agencies falsely reported that it was the lowest-selling comic Perez had ever drawn (not true, considering some of the titles Perez worked on in the early ‘90s as well as his Chronicles issues only two years earlier). Fans were also dismayed by the continuity-heavy title. Though Perez drew 6 of the first 7 issues, sales dropped quickly and Perez was pulled from the title for a higher profile crossover between Lady Death and Sojourn. That crossover would be added to the long list of Perez projects that never saw the light of day.
XI. The DC Years (2005-present)
For the second time in less than 5 years, George Perez was out a company. First, Gorilla had folded. Then, CrossGen declared bankruptcy. To the delight of many fans, George Perez returned to superheroes. This time, he signed a contract with DC. He initially mentioned two projects he wanted to work on. One, he hoped to finally finish the Titans: Games graphic novel. Two, he wanted to work on the Legion of Super-Heroes, one of the few team
books that he had never tackled. The editors at DC weren’t as interested in past projects and the Titans story was shelved again.
Instead, one of his first big assignments was to provide covers and occasional pencils for yet another major crossover: Infinite Crisis, which came out in 2005 and ‘06. He went on from there to provide art for an issue of JSA (#82, April 2006) as well as several more covers. DC teamed him with Mark Waid for a high-profile re-launch of Brave and the Bold. Unfortunately, that series was received about as well as Solus. Perez was supposed to finish the first year, but DC pulled him off the title after issue 10 (April 2008).
Finally, the editors at DC gave in to one of Perez’s expressed wishes. Outside of a half a dozen covers, Perez had never drawn the Legion of Super-Heroes. In 2008, he was paired with Geoff Johns on the mini-series Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds. The story would feature the Legion from three different continuities and set them up for future adventures. The first issue was cover dated October 2008 and the project is still ongoing.
(9): Sketch Magazine No. 10, November, 2001, George Perez: The Ultimate Team-Up, pp. 14-15.
(10): The Perez Archives, by Andy Mangels, 2001, pp. 15-16.
(11): The Perez Archives, by Andy Mangels, 2001, pp. 72-90.
(12): Sketch Magazine No. 10, November, 2001, George Perez: The Ultimate Team-Up, p. 15.
(13): Wikipedia: Wizard Fan Awards, Favorite Penciler, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wizard_Fan_Awards#Favorite_Penciller)
The Eagle Awards web-site, Previous Winners: 1999, (http://www.eagleawards.co.uk/previousyears.aspx?YEAR=1999)
(14): The Perez Archives, by Andy Mangels, 2001, pp. 76-80, 109.