While some might not consider the illustration work of George Perez to be classic, I would argue that he is a modern master. Moreover, I think time will vindicate my assessment of his work and Perez’s detailed and powerful drawings will eventually become heralded as some of the best DC/Marvel artwork of the Bronze/Copper Age.
Originally, starting in the mid-seventies, Perez produced artwork that was technically competent but indistinct. His early panels and covers looked much like the comic art produced by any number of other young John Romita/John Buscema influenced artists at Marvel at the time. As he matured, however, Perez came into his own. His sleek powerful line work soon began to manifest a polished and highly detailed and unique style.
Born to Puerto Rican parents in 1959 in South Bronx, New York, Perez reportedly began drawing at the age of five. From early on he set his heart on being an artist and through hard work he made his dream come true. Starting in the early 1970s he began working at Marvel Comics, where originally he was as an assistant to Rich Buckler. Perez’s earliest comic art for Marvel, in fact, were interior illustrations for Astonishing Tales #25 that helped bring Buckler’s creation of Luther Manning (aka Deathlok) to life.
Eventually, Perez was offered more important titles: Fantastic Four and The Avengers (he established himself especially through his work on issues #167–168; 170–177 of the latter). In 1980, George also began drawing for DC, where he contributed art for titles such as Justice League of America. It was, however, his role in revamping an old DC second-string team (‘The Teen Titans’ – in collaboration with Marv Wolfman on scripts) that saw Perez’s art really begin to shine.
This is as good a place to start as any in appreciating Perez. I became positively addicted to his pencil work from reading the original New Teen Titans comics from 1980 to 1984. Every month he seemed to outdo himself. I can distinctly remember buying each new issue off the newsstand and marveling at the detailed panels and covers, then grabbing a pencil and paper and trying to copy his figures. Although there are many standout moments within Perez’s NTT run, his introduction of Deathstroke the Terminator is memorable and a collector’s favorite in terms of both FMV and its place within modern comics. NTT #2 currently has a value of $650 in certified 9.8 condition.
Perez always seemed to do his best work on team books. As great as his early work on The Avengers and The New Teen Titans was, Perez actually outdid himself when he brought the twelve issue Crisis maxi-series to life in 1985. Now he had not only a team, but a universe of characters to work with. I’ve written about the importance of the series for modern comics here. Needless to say, while many DC books have recently dropped in value, Crisis #7, with its stunning Perez cover, is up in value in 9.8 certified grade by 27% over the last three months. It currently has a FMV in 9.8 of $100.00, but the last four sales have all broken the $120.00 mark. This may, in no small part, be due to the magic of Perez’s artwork.
Perez illustrated issues 1-3 of this classic Marvel mini-series (I was actually disappointed that issues four to six were drawn mainly by Ron Lim). The first issue shows off various traits that make Perez a standout illustrator. Dynamic, compact panels, emotional and stunning inter-character battle scenes (the Perez trademark). The Marvel film may have brought this comic to the attention of a new generation, but the artwork is what sold them on it, subsequently making it many a collector’s must have book.
At the beginning of this year, on January 19, Perez officially retired from comics. The world lost a great artist that day and I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that there’s currently no artist working that can compare, especially in the drawing of team books. Don’t believe me? Then check out the stellar pencil work Perez produced for the third volume of Avengers in the late 90s. Issue #4 features the first appearance of Warbird as drawn by Perez. If that isn’t enough to tempt you, you should pick it up just to see what a master artist at the top of his game looks like.