Today’s Guest: George Perez, comic book artist, “Avengers,” “Fantastic Four”
(Back in 1976, a Connecticut newspaperman named Anthony Scialis started a comics- and science fiction-oriented fanzine he called Compass. Among its many other accomplishments, it gave a raw, 16-year-old boy from New Jersey a chance to do celebrity interviews, op-eds and general reporting. That boy was me. I recently rediscovered my old copies of Compass, including what might be my first celebrity interview (two years before Frank Zappa), a conversation with a then 22-year-old Marvel Comics artist sensation named George Perez. Here is that interview, published October 11, 1976.)
Unless you consider an electric pencil sharpener and Herald Square #2 pencils to be special, Marvel Comics artist George Perez has no mechanical devices.
But Perez does have a fascinating array of artistic devices that he uses under his poetic license. All the more well-known artists use mechanisms to speed along their drawing. What does 22-year-old George have that he can shun technology?
“Immodest as it sounds,” says George, “I was self-taught.” Actually, Perez is not the whiz kid he sounds like. He readily admits it can take a good six or seven hours to complete one page of his art in either the Fantastic Four, Avengers, Logan’s Run, or Deadly Hands of Kung Fu (White Tiger).
GEORGE PEREZ interview excerpt: “I’m drawing comics because I want to. That’s why I enjoy drawing group books. When you get tired of drawing one character, draw another one.”
George never attended an art school. Oh, he applied and was accepted to one in his Bronx, New York, hometown, but Mrs. Perez felt that if he went to such a school, he might “lose his faith.” So, George continued in Catholic schools.
His interest in drawing continued, but it wasn’t until Tom Sciacca and Seaton Hancock got pushy that he became serious about comics.
Upon graduating from high school, George took his portfolio to DC Comics. “Sol Harrison tended to give newcomers a hard time, which is why I tried out for National six times—I never tried out for Marvel. Ironically, that’s where I’m working.”
Perez has been working in comics for only two years. He has never done any other professional art (besides a drawing in Science magazine) and recalls an early incident in his career as an artist on the Marvel B&W line.
“My slaughter field was Monsters Unleashed #8—Gulliver of Mars. I was raked through the coals for that.” On the other hand, when he began drawing the FF, this occurred: “When I did FF #165, Stan (Lee) saw it, and I received word from Sol Brodsky saying Stan wanted to see me. The jig was up. Stan told me when he first saw it he thought it might’ve been either Buscema or Romita. But he really liked it and asked me what I was doing, as if to make sure I had more work. At the time, told him, I was doing Inhumans, Avengers, Sons of the Tiger, and the FF. So, I think if he had any ideas about giving me another book, it was totally shelled by that.”
Stan Lee calling George to his office about the FF prompts the obvious “How’s it feel to do the Fantastic Four?”
“I was struck with a feeling of awe,” says George, who before his first four-issue stint as FF artist was Rich Buckler’s assistant. Roy Thomas then asked Perez to do the FF for various reasons.
“Even with me handling it now, Kirby’s still considered the definitive artist of Fantastic Four.
“When I look back at my first two issues 164 and 165, I do notice a bit of stilting because I tried to be a little too faithful to Buckler/Kirby because their styles were similar.
“The style I draw Fantastic Four is not much different from the style I would draw Logan’s Run or the two issues of Marvel Spotlight I’m drawing featuring ManWolf. But I was awed,” repeats George.
Perez doesn’t feel that Jack Kirby’s plusses lie in his style. “His strength really is not in the way he draws than in how he presents it. As far as an actual artist, he is obviously no da Vinci. Jack is a storyteller, par excellent. He is the epitome of all comic book story telling. Once Jack came back to the fold when he started drawing covers, I got letters saying that Jack doesn’t seem to be able to draw FF any more, that mine became definitive.
“And of course there are the Jack Kirby purists who prefer John Buscema. But I’ve learned to accept that,” Perez said.
Since Compass covers the massive Howard the Duck for President campaign, all staffers have been encouraged to get viewpoints from a variety of people as to their ambitions to draw da duck. George sez, “Howard, I think, is a pleasant thing to fool around with. If they gave me it to do one-shot, maybe, but I wouldn’t do it as a regular thing. I think Gene Colan’s doing a marvelous job on it.”
The new Logan’s Run book, according to Perez, is up in the air at this moment. He and Gerry Conway have finished the first four issues which adapted the movie, but that is enough for George. Conway wants to continue the book, but it’ll probably wind up a sales not editorial, matter.
George relates a recent incident concerning WGAN, wherein Gerry Conway wrote the script and never spelled ”Logan” correctly. Poor Joe Rosen, the letterer, who only writes what he sees, furthered the error by writing “Logen” throughout the book.
Regular inkers for the Perez pencilworks are Joe (FF) Sinnott, Pablo (Avengers) Marcus, and Klaus (Logan) Janson. “All 3 have diverse styles,” says George. “Marcus inks the Avengers close to Sinnott’s style, but obviously, Janson and Sinnott are far apart. It would be very boring if I had 3 books and all looked the same. So Logan—Janson really did a helluva job on it, and of course Joe always does good work, and Pablo- the first Avengers he did is 154 and he did a gorgeous job on that. Regrettably, it was colored by Don Warfield, which didn’t help it. The color came out a little dingy.”
GEORGE PEREZ interview excerpt: “When I did FF #165, Stan (Lee) saw it, and I received word from Sol Brodsky saying Stan wanted to see me. The jig was up. Stan told me when he first saw it he thought it might’ve been either Buscema or Romita. But he really liked it and asked me what I was doing, as if to make sure I had more work. At the time, told him, I was doing Inhumans, Avengers, Sons of the Tiger, and the FF. So, I think if he had any ideas about giving me another book, it was totally shelled by that.”
Having done 15 Sons Of The Tiger strips for Deadly Hands of Kung Fu, Perez still rarely sees sales figures for the book, but has been told it’s the top-selling B&W, surpassing even Savage Sword of Conan. He found that surprising, but noted that Kung Fu has had the national impact of movies that Sword & Sorcery did not.
George seems quite excited about FF #176. In it, he got the opportunity to caricaturize many of his bosses at Marvel when the Impossible Man came to town. After several staffers saw that book, “A lot of people want the I.M. to get his own comic.” A la Howard, adds George.
Most fans (something Perez still enjoys being) dream of the fun it would be to do comics. How about it George?
“I guess after working as a bank teller, knowing what business is, it has to be entertainment. You work at that job because you have to. I’m drawing comics because I want to. That’s why I enjoy drawing group books. When you get tired of drawing one character, draw another one.” Sure sounds like fun.
Perez speaks favorably about Roy Thomas, the man he feels is the top comics writer and was the top editor.
He also considers Archie Goodwin to be a good editor. As for fellow artists, George hesitated as he said John Buscema, adding it’s “regrettable he doesn’t enjoy doing superheroes.” He also admits to building a respect for John Romita. “The man knows what he’s doing and he knows what makes a good comic book.”
Tony Isabella, a recent defector from Marvel, strikes a vein of pain in most Marvel workers. “He’s an opportunist,” says George, adding, “When he was at Marvel, he sometimes put down National; now that he’s at National, he at times puts down Marvel!”
Referring to no one in particular, Perez stated, “I don’t like people who become prima donnas when they become professional, because who the hell are we drawing for, anyhow?”
George, who has a very quotable Freddie Prinze-like voice and says of his wife, “she loves me,” has ambitions of branching out in the directions of writing, painting, and his most fervent desire, filmmaking. He has scripted a number of horror flicks & hopes to direct his first, You Better Watch Out later this year. Perez is quick to point out that it is only an amateur production, though.
Tune in next time to find the answer to that musical question: Will Logan run?!?