Friday 20 May 2022

George Pérez: Infinite Titan

Poignantly, George Pérez's passing was announced on Free Comic Book Day (FCBD). An artist whose work I admired long before I knew of the man.

Nick Smith, our resident US-based comic book guru, remembers a beloved creative titan who has left an enduring legacy at both DC and Marvel Comics.

Guest post by Nick Smith

There has been a justified outpouring of tributes to artist George Pérez since he passed away on May 6th. The wealth of well-meaning is justified. Pérez was lauded as a man who cemented the modern look of comic book icons like Wonder Woman and the Teen Titans. He was also a joyful bloke with an infectious enthusiasm for his craft.

His death seems sudden, even though he announced last year that he had been diagnosed with Stage 3 pancreatic cancer. By that stage, cancer had spread beyond his pancreas. A late-stage diagnosis gives a patient less than a year to live.

Pérez faced the news with great courage and decided to ‘let nature take its course.’ Now he’s gone, leaving a mountain of treasure in the form of stories he wrote and/or drew. He’s being remembered as the man who could do anything - draw any and all characters in epics like War of the Gods; write character-driven drama, kung fu thrillers, monster comics or cosmic epics.

My first brush with the artist’s work was in a strip that showed his versatility – a short story called War Toy, originally published in Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction #2. I found it when it was reprinted during the Star Wars craze of the late ‘70s. Written by Tony Isabella with art by Pérez and Rico Rival, it tells the tale of robot soldier FM-1 (“Fighting Man-1”) blessed with independent thought, left to rust in a gutter in peacetime.

There’s action, as FM-1 aces a test run; an alien invasion of Australia; a tribute to “Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima;” and a touching relationship between a father and son, even though the son is a robot.

The story is a heavy-pistoned analogy for our treatment of veterans. Yet the way the characters are drawn shows great finesse and humanity, from FM-1’s military dad to a sympathetic reporter to the tin soldier himself, who bares his teeth-grille and flashes his eye as he considers his fate.

I could pick any one of a hundred Pérez tableaux and have positive words to share about them. But War Toy has stuck with me for over four decades and still gives me goosebumps when I read it today. Pérez had a way of heightening and humanising ideas and making them resonate with readers.

His legacy goes beyond comics, to TV (epitomised by The CW’s Crisis on Infinite Earths), movies (including 2017’s Wonder Woman and Marvel’s Infinity War, which pulled many details from the Infinity Gauntlet miniseries he co-pencilled) and cartoons (with at least one generation of children happily raised on Teen Titans). He has left a great gap in the creative world of comics, one that will never be filled.

What are your memories of comic book legend George Pérez? Let me know in the comments below.

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