Mega Con 2009: Talking to George Perez

Mega Con 2009: Talking to George Perez

Perez and his Proclamation

This year at MegaCon in Orlando, Florida—the special guest of honor was none other than the legendary comic book artist, George Perez. During the DC Universe panel on Saturday afternoon, DC Comics Executive Editor, Dan Didio, presented Perez with an official proclamation from the Mayor of Orange County Florida, Richard Crotty, stating that February 28th, 2009 was officially ‘George Perez Day’. Perez took the time to thank his fans and colleagues as well as meet and greet two fans dressed as characters he had made popular during his career—Wally West and Starfire. Over the course of the weekend, Perez provided auctioned sketched artwork to help raise money for the Heroes Initiative.

Newsarama sat down with George Perez on Sunday as the convention began to wind down to talk about his award, his career, and the next healthy 35 years of his career as a comic industry legend.

Newsarama: First off, let’s talk about ‘George Perez Day’ yesterday in Orlando. What was your reaction to that?

George Perez: Well, to say that I was blown away is an understatement. Not only was I surprised by [the award] but I was totally impressed by how many of my friends—and, of course, my wife—knew about it for weeks now; I had absolutely no clue. It was a very big surprise and my wife was there—I’ve won awards before but she’s rarely at conventions with me—so I was able to thank her publicly for all of her support and everything she’s done for me in all of our years of marriage during my career.

NRAMA: Right now, you’re working on Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds with Geoff Johns; what are some of the challenges of a book of that magnitude? At the panel on Saturday afternoon, you mentioned that you were “loosening up a little bit”...

GP: By “loosening up” I meant that I can draw faster—when I’m drawing faster every ruled line may or may not be ruled as precise, or there may be X’s where blackened areas are supposed to be. Everything can wrench tight by the time an inker goes over it—when things are loose, it gives an inker more play so that they can add more detail to it as well. For those fans who picked up issue #3, those big battle scenes with the Legion and the villains over Metropolis—there were all these characters, all these buildings, all these blasts, and there was all this Interlac; well, I’ll be the first to tell you all that Interlac was done by Scott Koblish. If anything, that should tell you how much detail Scott added to the book.

NRAMA: Looking back, since you’re at a benchmark in your career, what do you think is your greatest work to date?

GP: Oh, well, there are actually quite a few things I’m proud of. The Teen Titans for helping salvage DC Comics in a time when it was in trouble and now the company flourishes again. Crisis on Infinite Earths because it’s a book that still resonates today. JLA/ Avengers—because it was a fan-boy wet dream project that I finally got to do. It’s good to see that my Wonder Woman is still the version that everyone is working with now. There are just so many things out there that I’m proud of—my opinion of them might change every day, as far as, what I am most proud of now.

One of the biggest stories of my career was not even a story I penciled—inking ‘Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?’ with Curt Swan. Working with Curt Swan was an absolute joy; I just wish I had been able to do both chapters—and that book is still being reprinted! Such a wonderful script by Alan Moore. It’s easily one of the biggest highlights in my career. The fanboy in me wanted to absolutely die when I got to work with Curt Swan.

Legion of 3 Worlds #2
Legion of 3 Worlds #2
Perez's art from Legion of 3 Worlds #2

NRAMA: On the flip side, is there anything at this point in your career that you’d like to revisit? Artists can sometimes look back on projects and be fickle with their own work; do you ever look at any of the work you’ve done and say, “I wish I could’ve done this differently?”

GP: There are many times that I have looked over some work and thought to myself that maybe I should have inked the project because they didn’t quite bring something to the project that I was wanting—or they didn’t get right or understand in the pencils. For the most part, I don’t look back and changing too many things. I don’t want to come off as a nostalgia artist—hanging onto something for nostalgia value. One of the great things I really appreciate about DC is that they keep me moving forward with momentum as opposed to re-living past glories.

NRAMA: On that note, are there any concepts or characters that you’d like to tackle that you haven’t had the opportunity to yet?

GP: After doing all those crossover books—there are very few that I haven’t done yet.

NRAMA: True.

GP: One of the things I absolutely enjoy is working with writers. I like when writers surprise me. Something that makes me say, “Oh, I want to do that,” or I didn’t know that I wanted to do that until they actually offered it to me. I love being surprised—so, writers, surprise me, so I can find out what it is that I want to do.

NRAMA: You mentioned your wife quite a bit yesterday and today—I also noticed that a lot of people who know you have been referring to you as “half of George Perez”—has your improved health and weight-loss improved your career?

GP: You know, I only started the diet I’m on a year ago and I lost most of the weight by August of last year—so it’s only been about eight months that I’ve maintained this weight. It did affect my career actually—adversely. One of the things I had to do in order to lose the weight was make time to exercise. Making time to exercise meant taking time away from my drawing board. I think that might be partially what happened to Legion of 3 Worlds as far as delays but it was a conscious thing I needed to do. I’m a diabetic—which is a health issue I have to deal with.

I’m also realizing that if something were to happen to me that I have enough insurance to pay for my home but my wife could never maintain the house. I’m the income earner in our home and I want to be here for a while. It’s my 35th anniversary in this industry—I would love to be able to celebrate a 70th anniversary in this industry and I would like to celebrate every single one of them with my wife, Carol Flynn. She’s my rock; just so you know, she didn’t force me to diet. I told her I was going to do it—and she said she had heard that before—and I succeeded. She was very pleased and I have to keep it off because it’s been a real thrill to run into friends at conventions who haven’t seen me in a while and surprising them with my results. It’s been a great joy to see peoples’ eyebrows practically raising up through their scalps when they see me and being able to reassure them that I’ve lost it all deliberately—so they know that there’s nothing wrong with me.

When anyone asks me how I lose the weight—all I tell them is diet and exercise. And most of them all say, “Damn.” (laughs) I’ve been exercising at home and using some walking videos by Leslie Sansone which have been an absolute godsend to me.

NRAMA: Excellent—

GP: And I just plugged. (laughs)

NRAMA: (laughs) You did. Let’s talk about changes to the medium over the past 35 years. Your career has traversed a wide berth of changes to the medium. You got witness the dawning of the digital age; what do you think about the technological developments that have occurred within the comic book industry?

George Perez Auction Piece
George Perez Auction Piece
Perez's Superman piece for the Siegel House Auction

GP: I think it had been great for comics—as long as we work on remembering that, like a pencil or a pen or any magic marker, a computer is a tool. [The industry] needs artists who know when to use the appropriate tools. At the dawn of digital coloring, everything was over-colored. Everything was, “Hey, let’s show these things off…”—computers were just a brand new toy for artists. Creators must understand that coloring and digital lettering are all in service to the story; we must make sure that people do not lose sight of what the story is. You don’t want them stopping in the middle, distracted and saying, “Oh my God, look at how brilliant these colors are…”—it still has to be in service to the story—the story has to come first.

I think it’s great—we’re able to do things we were never able to do before. Color was always a vital part of comics before digital coloring—it was always sort of third place to pencils and inking. Now, colors are almost as important as penciling and as important as the inking in that final look of a book. So much has changed—I don’t have to draw clouds in the sky anymore. Someone else can digitally paint them better than I can do a line drawing of them. It’s a wonderful tool—but that’s all it is—a tool.

NRAMA: Where do you see the future of comics heading?

GP: Well, obviously, with the internet, and comics having a much more intertwined relationship with other digital mediums—comics going online is an inevitable future. From a totally tactile point-of-view, I never want to not be able to hold the books in my hands. To me, it’s not the same on a digital screen—but I think there is room for both.

As far as drawing, I actually like to feel the paper underneath my pen; I like to hear the scratch. I can’t ever see myself drawing digitally first and foremost—coloring…yes, I’m lousy with a brush. A digital stylus will work wonders for me—but from a sensory perspective—we have all these senses involved with the process. Even a slight sense of smell—when you’re enjoying your comics—I don’t think we should lose that.

NRAMA: What sorts of projects are you working on in the near future?

GP: Ah, I wish I could tell you.

NRAMA: Anything epic?

Legion of 3 Worlds #3
Legion of 3 Worlds #3
Legion of 3 Worlds #3

GP: Yes, those were the exact words that Dan DiDio said to me when he was describing the project. He said, “We’d be foolish not to have George on something epic.” That’s just one of three projects that I may or may not be working on in 2010. Again, I say 2010 because of the time sensitive nature of the project—it’ll have to be done around 2010 because of the event planned for 2010 that they’d like me to be involved in.

NRAMA: Earlier you mentioned JLA/Avengers being a fanboy dream project—is there any thrill left for George Perez? I mean you’ve handled nearly every single modern comic character in some facility; is there another HUGE project you could imagine doing? Or do you just want to be surprised?

GP: That’s what I said—I think it’s a writer’s job to come up with those sorts of projects. The JLA/ Avengers, by concept, and because I had done both books during my career, that was a fanboy wet dream project. I always thought I’d do a Legion story—I never thought I’d get to draw the entire Legion until Geoff Johns’ story fell into my lap. Again, I want to be surprised—I want them to thrill me. I’m very flattered by the number of writers who want to work with me—the legendary George Perez—and after 35 years, I’m still in the trenches.

It’s like I’m the old master gunfighter still proving to every young buck in town that I can still draw—both literally and figuratively here.

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