BY MATT TUCK
As the world laments the news regarding famed artist George Perez, it’s a seemingly insignificant meeting 30 years ago that illustrates the character of one of comic’s greats.
Whether you are a longtime comic reader or simply a fan of the MCU, you are familiar with George Perez’s work. Since the 1970s, he has been one of the most influential artists of his generation, helping to create some of the most iconic stories of the last 50 years. There’s Deathlok, Crisis on Infinite Earths, his take on Wonder Woman, the Infinity Gauntlet, Deathstroke, Taskmaster, and the JLA/Avengers crossover from 2003. His influence spans decades, and it is still being felt today, especially in both Marvel and DC’s cinematic universes.
Sadly, George is facing a dire circumstance. As he explained on social media last week, the legendary artist and creator has terminal cancer. He has chosen not to undergo treatment in order to enjoy his remaining time. Instead of writing a premature obituary, let me share an experience of mine that accentuates the kindness of George Perez.
This would have been in the early 1990s. We were still decades from comics being cool for teenagers to collect, so I kept my love of superheroes under wraps. At this point, I hardly read the comics I was buying; I was in it mostly for the art. I would have been 12 or 13 years old at the time, and I was just beginning to seriously collect comics. Most of the issues I picked up were there for me to copy the spectacular artwork of the time. At the time, I was convinced I would someday be an accomplished artist, writer, or both.
To be honest, I did not know who George Perez was, but I knew he was a professional artist, and that made him a superstar in my eyes. For those familiar, there were regular comic conventions inside Riverbend Mall in Rome, Georgia, in the ‘80s and early ‘90s. Since comics had not taken off in the mainstream consciousness, these were very small, but they were exclusively for comics, toys, and baseball cards. With the public having a love affair with all things Marvel in the 21st Century, conventions have taken on a life of their own, and they are enormous. Even the smallest of cons today are still bigger than the cons of the early 1990s in Northwest Georgia. Yet here was George Perez in the flesh.
By this point in his career, George was well established as one of the premiere artists of his generation. Among the comic faithful, he was a bonafide superstar. Here I was, not quite understanding why he had a modest gathering of people making conversation with him (although I did buy an Infinity Gauntlet #6 for him to sign. Since he didn’t want to write on the comic, he autographed a card instead, both of which I still own). All I knew was that he was doing what I hoped to do. And I was so nervous about the experience. I had no idea how to approach him.
It’s been about 30 years since this happened, so I won’t pretend to have the entire experience ingrained in my memory. What I recall is that George seemed a bit bored with an endless conversation about the impact of mutants on the superhero landscape. I patiently waited my turn to introduce myself. I asked for advice on how to get started, and George was as amicable and pleasant to me as I could have asked for. Our conversation probably didn’t last for more than a few minutes, but it felt like an hour for a starstruck kid.
What really stuck with me the most was that he was genuinely interested in seeing my drawings. I didn’t have much of a portfolio, and most of them were copies of other people’s drawings (there may have been an original portrait of my cat, if I recall). The next day, I begged my mother to take me back to the mall to show George my little portfolio. To give my mom credit, she was as excited as I was. No, she wasn’t a comic fan by any stretch, but she shared my enthusiasm. When I got back to George’s booth, he remembered me, and he took the time to give each drawing a close inspection. He patted me on the back, and he recommended that I take some art and anatomy classes when I got older, but that’s not what stands out to me. All these years later, it’s the man’s heart that I remember more than his words. Just him taking the time to be nice to a kid with little artistic talent speaks volumes.
While the encounter was brief, and I doubt any of it stands out to him, the impact he had on me has been more extensive than I realized at the time. He was the first comic artist I had the chance to meet, and it facilitated a lifelong love for the hobby. Here I am, making a living writing about comics, and it’s that brief moment that, looking back, I can see was pivotal. At that impressionable age, a snarky comment would have destroyed my self esteem, and I would have been done with comics and art. Instead, I walked away from the mall that day with my head held high, and all it took was a few kind words.
On the off chance that he ever sees this blog, thank you, George. Your kindness has meant more than you know.
Matt Tuck is the author of the novel, Lost Bones of the Dead. He is a professional writer, avid comic collector, former teacher, and the Blogger Supreme. You can follow him on his Facebook page, The Comic Blog, or on Instagram at matt.tuck.writer.