THE GEORGE PEREZ INTERVIEWS: You loved them then. You love them now…
UPDATED 5/11/22: The great George Perez has died at the age of 67. This first ran in June 2019 as part of THE GEORGE PEREZ INTERVIEWS. We re-present it here. Click here for our complete index of Perez features. — Dan
Welcome to THE GEORGE PEREZ INTERVIEWS, a weekly series where the comics master discusses his greatest series.
Over 13 weeks, Perez, who’s retiring from the world of comics, gives you his take on each installment of our recent TOP 13 GEORGE PEREZ COUNTDOWN, which was written by 13th Dimension contributor Anthony Durso. (Click here for much more on that.) The segments are culled from a panel Perez and I did at East Coast Comicon.
Last time was #6 — Wonder Woman. (Click here.)
This week, it’s the covers for Who’s Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe, which began coming out in late 1984:
Dan Greenfield: The next one is kind of a curveball. Number 5 on the list was your Who’s Who covers, which were an extraordinary tapestry of work for DC comics. What can you say about that?
George Perez: Well, for one thing, again, it was natural for me but I did not realize it was so unusual. I remember I had all these characters and I thought, OK — again, my team book mentality — have them interact on a cover. I couldn’t just draw them standing there like, y’know, gallery models.
Remember I was doing Crisis on Infinite Earths too (but) how many other chances would I have to have Arion together with Anthro, or all these other characters. Let me have them interact. Then I realized that that was what made them unusual. That no one had ever done a cover like that: They were basically like an encyclopedia or a glossary of characters — but I didn’t want them to just stand there and not acknowledge each other. That became the theme.
It was natural for me because, again, the characters are not just costumes, puppets that are on a string. They are living characters to me. So, when I did the first cover I got people commenting on it, which I didn’t expect. Like OK, it’s just what I do.
Of course, I couldn’t do all of them, I was doing Crisis as well, so the ones I missed, the other artists were trying to emulate the same thing. Some better than others. I know that it was John Byrne who did the one where Superman appeared. Superman is just standing there looking at the reader, he’s not interacting with anyone else on the cover — that’s the whole point of it! But for some it was easier to draw pinups of characters than it was to remember what each character can do and then have them interact with each other.
It’s very hard for me to be objective about my own artwork because I can’t see what other people are seeing. For me, it’s so natural I don’t realize it is unusual. But I guess the reason I became such a natural at doing team books is because of that, because of the fact that I was different. For me it wasn’t a chore drawing a lot of characters, for me it was my way of having social interactions.
I’m working alone in a studio. My social interactions are on the page with the characters interrelating with each other. In order to interrelate with each other, you have to ask questions, you have to talk to each other, you have to know each other. Which is kind of missing in the day of the internet now. The idea of a person having a one-to-one connection with another person. That’s what was so natural for me.
I regret not being able to draw all of them. Again, I’m not the fastest artist in the world, and I had a lot of work, and as much as it is natural for me, it’s time-consuming. You’re drawing each character, it takes the amount of time it takes to draw them. But it was one of those things that I was given a lot of kudos, for something that I never really even realized was different until I saw other people trying and coming to me saying “How do you do that?”
NEXT: THE AVENGERS. Click here.
— The GEORGE PEREZ INTERVIEWS Index. Click here.
— GEORGE PEREZ’s TOP 13 Comics Series — RANKED. Click here.
NOTE: The text has been edited and condensed for clarity.