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George Pérez obituary

George Pérez, who has died aged 67 after suffering from pancreatic cancer, was a master of all aspects of comic book creation, and won fans for his artistic talents – both pencilling and inking – and as a writer of leading characters in the universes of Marvel and DC Comics.

Photograph: Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty ImagesProvided by The Guardian Photograph: Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images

In the 1980s Pérez helped revive the fortunes of Wonder Woman for DC Comics. He had grown interested in mythology while co-plotting and drawing the Teen Titans series, in which he had introduced Donna Troy, the younger sister of Wonder Woman. Diana, the princess of Themyscira, was re-established as the daughter of immortal Amazons on hidden Paradise Island, and Pérez went on to shape the series as penciller and then as writer for five years, establishing the foundations for the modern character seen in comics and on cinema screens. And when Teen Titans became an animated show in 2003, it was the Pérez era it drew upon.

As an artist Pérez was known for his meticulous attention to detail. An obsessive and patient craftsman, he would even draw in individual rocks, known among his fans as “patented Pérez rubble”. He won numerous industry awards, and in 2022 was given the Stacey Aragon special recognition award for his lifetime achievement in inking.

He was born in the South Bronx, New York, to Luz Maria (nee Izquierdo) and Jorge Pérez, immigrants from Puerto Rico who met and married in New Jersey, where Jorge worked in the meat-packing industry. George and his younger brother, David, were both aspiring artists, encouraged by their parents to read comics as it helped them learn English. The boys would tear open grocery bags to use as drawing paper and, from the age of five, George began creating his own characters, with names such as Rubber Band Man and The Kleptomaniac Kid.

George graduated top of his class at junior high school and was accepted by the New York School of Art & Design, but his mother insisted he continue his education at Cardinal Hayes high school. A classmate introduced him to comic conventions and fandom, and Pérez drew his first published comic strips for the fanzine Factors Unknown.

After graduating, he worked for a year as a bank teller until he was fired for filing $500 in the rubbish bin after a particularly onerous 12-hour shift. Fortunately, the following day he received a call from Rich Buckler, a busy Marvel artist looking for an assistant. Buckler asked Pérez to draw a small gag strip for Astonishing Tales #25 in 1974 – this was his first professionally published work. Pérez also drew Gulliver of Mars for Monsters Unleashed #8 before an argument with Buckler caused him to walk out.

He was offered work at Marvel, drawing Man-Wolf, an astronaut-turned-wolfman, and Sons of the Tiger, a martial arts adventure strip for Deadly Hands of Kung Fu magazine, starring the first Puerto Rican superhero, White Tiger. Its author, Bill Mantlo, suggested that Pérez should draw his new superhero team for the bi-monthly The Inhumans and he was also offered The Avengers and Fantastic Four. Suddenly Pérez was drawing four team books, three of them monthly.

The pressure led to a trapped nerve, and Pérez was forced to slow down, concentrating for a while on a spinoff to the movie Logan’s Run before returning to The Avengers and Fantastic Four. He also began drawing covers for his and others’ titles and began experimenting with the layouts of the pages he drew; among experiments in design were The Beatles Story for Marvel Super Special #4 (1978) and its follow-up, an adaptation of the Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band for Marvel Super Special #7 (1979).

After he had been at Marvel for only three years, a portfolio of his work, Pérez: Accent on the First E, appeared, for which he produced more than 30 new pieces, including characters from Marvel’s rival DC Comics.

Pérez was shortly to begin drawing for the latter. Offered work on a new DC series, Pérez began drawing other strips while the newcomer was in development, including Firestorm and Justice League. But when Teen Titans launched, it was so well received by fans and dealers that Pérez, credited as co-plotter as well as penciller, dropped Justice League to concentrate on developing the Titans characters and backgrounds, as well as a Titans story about drug-awareness with a foreword by Nancy Reagan.

In 1984, Pérez began drawing Crisis on Infinite Earths, a DC Comics-wide crossover that was intended to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the company as well as rationalise the continuity and alternate realities of the DC multiverse. Pérez was attracted by the idea that he could draw every DC Universe character that had ever existed, co-plotting some episodes and drawing a number of iconic scenes and covers, including the deaths of Barry Allan’s Flash and Supergirl. He also contributed to the celebratory Batman #400 and the final issue of Superman (#423), written by Alan Moore.

One of the artists’ finest achievements was his work on Wonder Woman, which he pencilled for two years, but co-plotted (at first) and later wrote for five. He returned to work on The New Teen Titans as co-plotter and penciller, but left after a year to ink a Superman/Wonder Woman story for John Byrne’s Action Comics #600; he subsequently took over that title in various capacities as writer, penciller and co-plotter.

Pérez departed from Wonder Woman when the War of the Gods miniseries, planned to celebrate Wonder Woman’s 50th anniversary, was caught up in another company-wide crossover, Armageddon 2001, that was given greater publicity. This unpleasant experience coincided with an invitation by Marvel to pencil Infinity Gauntlet but problems with deadlines and a lack of enthusiasm meant he was replaced after four issues. He took greater control over his next project, the two-part graphic novel Hulk: Future Imperfect (1992-93).

In 1998, he joined the writer Kurt Busiek to relaunch The Avengers, and the two also produced a long-in-the-making Justice League/Avengers crossover, which had originally been planned in 1979, and partly drawn in 1983 before stalling. A new project was agreed in 2002 and published in 2003-04, with Pérez’s earlier artwork finally seeing print in a hardcover Collector’s Edition.

In 2005-06, he contributed to DC’s Infinite Crisis, a follow-up to Crisis on Infinite Earths in which heroes from other universes try to replace Earth and destroy its champions; and he was also involved with Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds in 2008-09, in which a time-travelling villain tries to remove Superman from history.

First mooted in 1989, Teen Titans: Games was a graphic novel worked on in fits and starts that finally appeared in 2011, in which year Pérez began inking the new Green Arrow series, and wrote six issues of a new Superman series.

After undergoing surgery to correct a haemorrhage in his left eye, the artist launched his own six-issue series, Sirens, in 2014, featuring a group of time-travelling women who reunite in the future to battle an intergalactic gang of slavers. Pérez based each of his sirens on women he knew. This proved to be his final work. Various health issues led him to announce his retirement in 2019.

Pérez is survived by his second wife, Carol Flynn, whom he married in 1981.

• George Pérez, comic book artist and writer, born 9 June 1954; died 6 May 2022  

Reference: The Guardian: Steve Holland

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