George Pérez: From Comic Book Artist to True Superhero


George Pérez started sketching superheroes while he was a child growing up in New York’s South Bronx. His parents were Puerto Rican immigrants who were too poor to afford drawing pads so George sketched on his mom’s torn-up grocery bags, just to be able to put pencil to paper. 

Since then, George has become one of the most influential leaders in comic book history.

He died in May 2022 after battling pancreatic cancer, having spent years drawing Captain America and Superman with distinction. It is his humanity, humility, and generosity, however, that will ensure George’s immortality. 

George Pérez: True Superhero
George Pérez holding his Wonder Woman drawing

From humble beginnings to superhero artist

Not all heroes wear capes, but some draw them exceptionally well. George Pérez is one of the most influential - and inspirational - artists to have ever graced the comic book field, having fallen in love with superheroes the moment he set eyes on them. 

Born in 1954, Pérez was fascinated by comics before he even learned English and, from the very beginning, his colorful characters went into battle on scraps of paper and grocery bags. 

By the time he was 19, Pérez was married and working in a bank but still harbored hopes of becoming an illustrator. Entirely self-taught, he was motivated to prove he could make the grade by a harsh-yet-fair critique he had received from the legendary comic book artist Neal Adams.

George Pérez: From Comic Book Artist to True Superhero

BY
Jess Harrold
5
MINUTE READ
Share with Twitter
Share
Share to Facebook
Share to Twitter
Share with email


George Pérez started sketching superheroes while he was a child growing up in New York’s South Bronx. His parents were Puerto Rican immigrants who were too poor to afford drawing pads so George sketched on his mom’s torn-up grocery bags, just to be able to put pencil to paper. 

Since then, George has become one of the most influential leaders in comic book history.

He died in May 2022 after battling pancreatic cancer, having spent years drawing Captain America and Superman with distinction. It is his humanity, humility, and generosity, however, that will ensure George’s immortality. 

George Pérez: True Superhero
George Pérez holding his Wonder Woman drawing

From humble beginnings to superhero artist

Not all heroes wear capes, but some draw them exceptionally well. George Pérez is one of the most influential - and inspirational - artists to have ever graced the comic book field, having fallen in love with superheroes the moment he set eyes on them. 

Born in 1954, Pérez was fascinated by comics before he even learned English and, from the very beginning, his colorful characters went into battle on scraps of paper and grocery bags. 

By the time he was 19, Pérez was married and working in a bank but still harbored hopes of becoming an illustrator. Entirely self-taught, he was motivated to prove he could make the grade by a harsh-yet-fair critique he had received from the legendary comic book artist Neal Adams.

Article Ad


George Pérez: True Superhero
The Marvel art of George Pérez, a true superhero 

Breaking into the profession

George was soon hired as an assistant to professional artist Rich Buckler, with the hard-working Pérez toiling at the drawing board late into the night after his shifts at the bank.

In 1974, Pérez’s first published art saw print in Marvel Comics’ Astonishing Tales #25 and, by the decade’s end, his flair for incredible detail, exquisitely choreographed action and character-fueled storytelling had established George as one of the premier talents in the field, with acclaimed runs on titles including Avengers and Fantastic Four

He made the leap to DC Comics with Justice League of America, then, together with writer Marv Wolfman, enjoyed incredible success with the 1980s phenomenon New Teen Titans. The pair collaborated further on Crisis on Infinite Earths, a blockbuster series that set the bar for universe-shaking comic book ‘event’ stories. 


George Pérez: Comic Book Artist and True Superhero
Art by George Perez and Tom Smith

George’s return to Marvel in the 1990s included the Infinity Gauntlet series that much later inspired the movies Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame - he was the first to draw Thanos’ cataclysmic snap of the fingers - as well as the seminal Hulk story Future Imperfect, and a return to the Avengers series in which he and scribe Kurt Busiek restored the team to its former glory. 

George Pérez: True Superhero
George Pérez was the first to draw Thanos’ cataclysmic snap of the fingers 

The superpowers of George Pérez 

In 2003, Pérez - at the very peak of his powers - painstakingly penciled and inked his dream project, the long-awaited JLA/Avengers crossover. 

Written by Kurt Busiek, the book gave Pérez the opportunity to indulge in his lifelong fantasy of drawing as many superheroes as humanly possible, all in one series - and, for the third issue, all of them on one spectacular, character-filled cover

George Pérez: True Superhero
George Pérez’s spectacular dream cover

Revered by Marvel and DC

While the respective fandoms of the ‘big two’ publishers, Marvel and DC, are all-too-often bitter rivals, George Pérez achieved the rare distinction of being equally revered by both - and, when he was forced by ill health to announce his retirement in 2019, the outpouring of love from creators and readers alike was colossal. 

Through his phenomenal list of credits, and the many awards and accolades he received over the years - both too numerous to list here - Pérez has drawn himself into the annals of comic book history. But his professionalism and tireless work ethic were always matched by his generosity. 

Just as working with George Pérez enriched the lives of his many collaborators, including Wolfman, Busiek, Peter David, and Mark Waid, his style and approach had and continues to have a phenomenal influence on the generations of comic book artists that followed him, with notable devotees including Alex Ross, Phil Jimenez, and Rob Liefeld. 


George Pérez: True Superhero
Fans feel so close to the true superhero artist they call him ‘Uncle George’

George’s rapport with his legions of fans, cultivated over decades of public appearances at comic book conventions - where he has long demonstrated his warm enthusiasm for those who cosplay his signature characters - means that he has established a closeness with them that few creators can match. Not for nothing do so many of them affectionately know him as ‘Uncle George’. 

Even in announcing his retirement, George Pérez proved inspirational. While many might have reacted with bitterness over a career cut short by cancer, he expressed only gratitude that he could do the job he loved for so very long - and that, unlike so many of his predecessors and contemporaries, he could retire in comfort. 

In The Marvel Art of George Pérez, published in 2021, Pérez said: “If this was going to happen to any artist, I am glad it happened to me. I would hate to think how for another artist, who has to work in order to pay their bills and meet the everyday expenses of life, this would have been a fatal blow. I am well aware how lucky I am. The industry has been very kind and generous to me. I have no reason to look back with any kind of resentment or regret. I have ended up luckier than a lot.” 

George Pérez: True Superhero
Marvel art by George Pérez


The Hero Initiative

For many years, George Pérez had also been involved with the Hero Initiative, a charitable organization that, since its founding in 2000, has donated more than $1m to veteran comic creators in medical or financial need.

Philanthropy had always been hugely important to George - for years, any funds raised from his highly sought-after private commissions have been donated to children’s hospitals, veterans’ groups, or family and friends in need.

Pérez reportedly raised more than $100,000 personally for worthy causes - a phenomenal legacy for a boy who started out needing to sketch on grocery bags. As Pérez put it: “I wanted to draw because it’s who I am, it’s what I do. To be able to say that, for over four and a half decades I got to do exactly what I wanted to do, I was incredibly lucky."

“The comics industry got me out of what could have been a tragic life in the ghettos and gang-infested South Bronx,” George added. ”It gave me what I never expected to have - an influence. I have inspired and influenced and actually made a difference.”

Indeed he has - an influence worthy of Captain America, Superman, and countless other superheroes he has drawn with excellence and grace.

Read mORE

RELATED aRTICLES

Gadgets & Gifts

Put your spy skills to work with these fabulous choices from secret notepads & invisible inks to Hacker hoodies & high-tech handbags. We also have an exceptional range of rare spy books, including many signed first editions.

Shop Now

Your Spy SKILLS

We all have valuable spy skills - your mission is to discover yours. See if you have what it takes to be a secret agent, with our authentic spy skills evaluation* developed by a former Head of Training at British Intelligence. It's FREE so share & compare with friends now!

dISCOVER Your Spy SKILLS

* Find more information about the scientific methods behind the evaluation here.