This September, the iconic writer/artist George Pérez eschews the worlds of Marvel and DC to create his own heroes, villains, and epics in the new series, George Pérez’ Sirens. Taking his passion for storytelling and creation as seen in everything from New Teen Titans to Wonder Woman to the Justice League and the Avengers and blending it with his own love of action, diverse eras and female characters, Sirens follows a titular team of disgraced female heroes who are called back in action to save the same people who turned against them.
Culled from various eras and locales in world history, the heroines of Sirens strike upon Pérez’ diverse love of fiction and also a little support from friends and family – the writer/artist is basing virtually all of the characters in Sirens after people he knows, including his wife Carol. Unlike other projects of Pérez’ in recent memory, Sirens strikes home as it’s the beginning of a new era outside of Marvel and DC and on his own creations.
Newsarama: George, what excites you about doing Sirens?
George Pérez: Well, the chance to write and illustrate my own stories is definitely a big plus, but I think the greatest thrill for me is using so many of my friends, fans and even family members as cast members. This makes it more of an artistic challenge for me and the idea that is causing so much personal excitement for so many others is a real thrill. I tried it once with the unfortunately short-lived Crimson Plague PLAGUE in the late 90s, but that was a book I was financing myself. This time BOOM! is handling all the marketing and promotion stuff. I can just sit down and be as creative as my imagination and ability will allow.
Nrama: This is creator-owned, so I imagine you’d have your pick of what genre and what settings to explore – why this specific kind of story in Sirens?
Pérez: I chose a story that featured a lot of time travel so I can dabble in various genres and time frames that I could come up with. It’s a way to challenge myself and stretch my artist muscles beyond the comfort level .For instance, I don’t particularly like to draw horses, yet I’ve set a scene in the Old West. I’ve also drawn scenes in a Roman coliseum and a dragon’s keep in 12th century Iceland. I will also be drawing samurai, geisha, Victorian England, some contemporary stuff featuring a standard superheroine and scenes in the far-off future, where the bulk of the story takes place, so there will be aliens and spaceships galore.
Nrama: Who exactly are the Sirens, as a group?
Pérez: Individually, they were all uniquely gifted women, either by birth or experimentation who come from various colonized planets. Through some plot element I don’t want to spoil here, they united to prevent an alien obliteration of the Terran homeworld and eventually the human race itself. They are considered rebels by many of their fellow Terrans because they don’t believe the alien threat is real. The Sirens’ leader, Highness, actually worked with the alien terrorist, whose known to the public simply as Perdition. In fact their relationship was a lot more personal at one time, which brings about its own bit of melodrama.
Nrama: The marketing for Sirens say that the universe at large thinks they're villains – how exactly are they seen by people, and why?
Pérez: As I said, they are initially regarded as terrorists and rebels because many of the colonized planets— and even Earth itself, are controlled by different alien factions. Terrans have actually become the minority party on their own world. All this is backstory which will be revealed as the story progresses. One thing that is alleged is that, before they went into their respective temporal hideouts, the Sirens went beyond merely being troublesome rebels; there is evidence, seemingly incontrovertible, that they committed mass, global genocide. But all is not what it seems as the Sirens, or what’s left of them, come together again to not only face a new threat, but to vindicate themselves— if the Terran forces don’t execute them first..
Nrama: What brings the Sirens out of retirement here to reunite once more?
Pérez: Ahh, this is where it gets tricky. The chief architect of the Sirens’ return is Professor. Denise Falgout, commander of the Time Ship, the Paradox. Falgout and her crew, in order to prevent a reality where humankind, and other oppressed races would be decimated, quite literally brought the Sirens back from the dead in order to change history. It doesn’t seem to go as planned— or does it. There’s a lot I can’t say now since it would spoil a lot of the surprises, but, if you’ve ever seen an episode of Doctor Who, you’ll have a pretty good idea of the type of mind-bending time travel stuff I hope to achieve with Sirens.
Nrama: Can you break down who the main members of Sirens are now, and where (and when) they hail from?
Pérez: Only the basics, since I have way too much backstory to tell about each one. The leader is Madame M. Vizcarra, AKA Highness. Highness used to be pretty much everything in what turns out to be a very long life, stretching over millennia. She’s been a pirate, a smuggler, an astronaut, a bordello mistress and so many other things, including the consort of the alien terrorist Perdition. When she has her epiphany and turns against Perdition, it’s only partly altruistic. She wants possession of Perdition’s Blade, a weapon of incredible power which will play a pivotal part in the history and future of the Sirens.
Fanisha, modeled after my wife Carol, is the mystic of the group who wields telekinetic energy and other powers due to her discovery of and emersion into the buried secrets of a long-dead race of aliens. Her dedication to the legacy of this dead race becomes her religion and she is the high priestess.
Miracole Burns is Skywire, a former space-hooker (along with Highness) who is the sassy member of the team, always looking for a good time. Able to harness and wield electrical energy, she is one of the more spectacular Sirens. When she’s plucked out of the past, she’s found in Whitechapel in London, where her promiscuous demeanor make her a tempting target for a well-known 19th-century fiend.
My niece Milla Bishop is Ammo, a former futuristic assassin and weapons maker who hides out in the old west as a schoolteacher. Ammo has developed a moral core and now refuses to kill again—which becomes a stumbling block when she’s plucked back into the future to fight in a war once again.
Such moral concerns are alien to the big brawny wrecking machine, Agony (April Hunter) who simply relishes warfare, the more violent, the better. She’s quite at home fighting in the Roman arena in the first century A.D., but is even more elated to be involved in something grander.
Sherita Dunbar is Interface who can infiltrate and control any computer. Unfortunately she can only speak through the computers she merges with, which puts her at a distinct disadvantage when she’s trapped in 1959 Alabama as a menial servant whom her employers and fellow help assume is a dull-witted mute.
Then there’s the futuristic ninja with strange ghost-like powers called Kage (Japanese for “shadow”) who hides out as a geisha in medieval Japan. When a samurai warlord comes looking for a mysterious “Shadow-warrior”, he soon learns that the petite Asian is not all she appears to be.
Then there are the two Sirens ensconced in what we would regard as current time, Bombshell and Figurine.
Nrama: Reading up on previous interviews, Bombshell appears to be at the center of this story and she doesn’t remember much about her history – or the Sirens. Can you talk about her particular situation and predicament?
Pérez: Again, I don’t want to give too much away, but Bombshell, under the name of Chan Graves (the woman she’s modeled after) is now a comic book writer and artist who created a very popular series called Bombshell & The Sirens. The twist here is that all the stories she’s creating, which she thinks are coming from her imagination are actually her memories of her days as a Siren. Another twist, however, is that the continuity she’s creating doesn’t seem to jibe with the history the reader is being told. Unbeknownst to Chan, she is being watched over by what appears to be an action figure of her Bombshell character, which is actually Figurine (Jen Richards), whose connection with Bombshell is its own tale to be revealed, but she acts a bit like Chan’s sounding board when Bombshell is recalled to the future and is totally at a loss as to what’s happening. She thinks she’s in one of her dreams again. Bombshell will act as the reader’s proxy as story elements that led up to the current storyline are explained to the reader through her.
Also, Figurine turns out to be more than another version of Shrinking Violet, and she may be the most deadly Siren of all.
Nrama: Sirens is said to take place in the future – just how far in the future is it, and what is the world like then?
Pérez: I never really specify how far in the future this is, but it’s definitely a few millennia away.
Nrama: From what I’ve read, this is a dense and layered story you have mapped out in your head. Boom! says Sirens is six issues, but I easily imagine you doing more. How would you describe this first miniseries in relation to the larger story you want to tell?
Pérez: The first mini-series might actually be considered the final Sirens story, the culmination of a history that I will hopefully get to explore if this series is successful enough to warrant it.
Nrama: One of the many interesting facts of this is that all of the characters in Sirens are based on real people you know. This isn’t the first time you’ve done it, but it seems more pronounced here with the marketing materials. How does basing it on real people help you? Are you drawing them from memory, or are they participating in posing sessions or the like?
Pérez: I find that using real people as models keeps me from getting too formulaic in the designs of characters. While I’ve been well-known for trying to keep my fictional characters individual in their looks, it’s an even greater challenge not only to make them individual, but also identifiable. It’s also a way to get more friends and fans involved in the great world of comics that I’ve called home for forty years. Another plus, and not something I’m coy about admitting, is that there are going to be a lot of family members of all the cast who are going to want to purchase multiple copies! No fool, I. Many of the models have sent in posed pictures based on guidelines I posted on Facebook almost a year ago. Inevitably, however, there is always going to be an angle or expression that I won’t have and so I have to do the best I can to figure out how to stay on model when that happens. It’s a challenge, but I hope it just makes me a better artist.
Nrama: You’re always a friendly face at conventions, and fans seem to be drawn to you – especially cosplayers who dress up as some of the characters you’re known for. As a fan-turned-profession-turned-legend, what do you think about the proliferation of cosplaying as a part of fandom?
Pérez: Why do you think I’m even doing a series like Sirens and using so many cosplayers? Because I absolutely adore them! What an incredible honor it is to have affected fans so much with your creations that they want to recreate it. Many of these fantastic people are so devoted and inspired to the super-heroes we embue with life on paper that they go out to perform in charity events as embodiments of those ideals in the flesh. I consider myself the friend of so many of these wonderful people. Even when they’re decked out as villains— it’s all with a wink of the eye, acknowledging that this all a fantasy, a world one can escape to for a few hours and revel in the magic. I am humbled and flattered that many of these costumed cavorters call me Uncle George. I’ve been to hundreds of conventions in my career. Sometimes I’m afraid I may get jaded by them. But, then I see a figure in bright colors walking up to me, and I smile. I thank them for reminding me of just how lucky I am to do what I get the honor to do every day of my life.
Nrama: You’re best known for your work-for-hire superhero work at DC and Marvel, but this isn’t your first creator-owned book; you did Crimson Plague in the late 1990s as equivalently a self-publisher. I know that didn’t last as long as you hoped, so how have things changed to give you the support to try it once more?
Pérez: I think I answered that earlier, but I just want to say how thankful I am that BOOM! is allowing me to venture into the world of creator-owned properties. One of the great things about Sirens that, regrettably, did not benefit Crimson Plague, is the substantial royalties I’ve been receiving from all the licensing of characters I helped create decades ago. I don’t play video games, but I sure am grateful for the many who do, since it allows me the luxury now to work at a more leisurely pace, putting that extra time and energy on each page that brings me personal satisfaction without worrying that any extra time spent per page means a bill not getting paid on time. I’m drawing fir the sheer love of it— and that is so exhilarating. I can only hope those who pick up Sirens will feel that.
Nrama: Sirens is part of an exclusive agreement you made with Boom! Studios, a rare one in this day and age. You’ve had exclusives with DC, Crossgen and Marvel (I believe) in the past – why is it so important for you?
Pérez: Quite honestly, one of the unavoidable considerations in going exclusive with any company is being put on a company’s medical insurance program. Even though I’ve truly enjoyed most of my years with the big companies, the need to stay insured did sometimes force me to work on projects I did not feel comfortable doing since losing that coverage, especially as I’m getting older and dealing with myriad health issues, would be a major hardship. Not a complaint, mind you, just a reality. One major difference with BOOM! though, is that I’m actually an employee of the company, with all the benefits such employment brings.
Nrama: And what’s it like for you working full-time for Boom! as opposed to the Big Two or Crossgen?
Pérez: I can sum it up with one story. It was the day I went to the Los Angeles offices of BOOM! for the first time. I mentioned in passing that it felt a little strange going to a job interview after all these years. I was quickly corrected on that. “You think we’re interviewing you!? Oh, no, we know you! We’re the ones being interviewed here. With your reputation, all you ever need to do is say yes!”
Later when I started rattling out story ideas that would eventually form the basis of Sirens, the publisher, Ross Ritchie, asked to be excused. “I don’t want to hear the story details now. I want to be surprised when I read the comic!” A publisher who didn’t want to poke his fingers in the pie! Now that really sold BOOM! to me. The fact that everyone there are genuine fans and accomplished business folk just made it all even sweeter.
Nrama: If I may, I’d like to ask about your health. You recently had surgery on your left eye, with some more to come in the future. How are you feeling today here at the drawing board, especially now that you’re back in the thick of writing and drawing a series?
Pérez: My eyes are still an ongoing deal. I have to undergo cataract surgery soon after over a year of injection and laser therapy for my diabetic retinopathy. I was feeling quite guilty, like an athlete injuring himself in the first game after signing a million-dollar contract, but the folks at BOOM! were incredibly patient and supportive. It just makes me want to work harder, to warrant that trust.
Nrama: In an interview at CBR you said you were altering your inking style due to your eye issues. Can you describe that for us?
Pérez: I had to adjust my inking a bit, using markers instead of quills due to depth perception issues, but I’m happy to say that most of my current work has been received with the same words I’ve been hearing most of my career and which I never get tired of hearing: “You’re insane!"