THE GEORGE PEREZ INTERVIEWS: The issue that spoke to the master artist…
UPDATED 5/12/22: 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 #4 — The Avengers. (Click here.)
This week, it’s The New Teen Titans, which Perez launched with writer Marv Wolfman in 1980:
NOTE: Part of this segment was published before: Perez was originally to appear at the East Coast Comicon panel with Marv Wolfman, but the latter had to cancel because he’d taken a fall. Click here for more on that. I’ve chosen to repeat Perez’s comments about Wolfman here because it makes sense given the context of the installment. — Dan
Dan Greenfield: Again, as I mentioned, Anthony Durso was the one who actually put this (list) together — but this would’ve been my Number 1 pick, far and away: The New Teen Titans was, as it might be for many people in this room, an enormously important comic book in my life.
It hit me right at the right time: I was 13 when it came out and for the first 4 or 5 years, all through my teenage years, it was a book that spoke to me. Anyone who reads the site knows I have a thing for Batman — but this was far and away my favorite book for the entire time that both George and Marv were on the title. So, tell us about The New Teen Titans.
George Perez: As I commented earlier, the fact is New Teen Titans was something I was just going to do as a favor, because I just wanted to do Justice League of America. Marv, of course, he had the characters pretty much conceptualized. There were some holes in there, of course, that as collaborators we managed to fill together. Like, I became much more in charge of Cyborg because I was from the inner city and I understood him better.
It was about Issue #8 — A Day in the Lives – that I realized this book was more important than I thought it was, to me. … I think The Inhumans might have been one of the few books from Marvel that I started from Issue #1, but it had a history. With the Titans, some of these characters were brand new, they were being created for the first time. So, it was the first time the success or failure was going to rest on what Marv Wolfman and I did.
When we did A Day in the Lives and we did the personal lives of the characters out of costume for the most part. I figured, “Y’know, now I understand them — I’m growing with them.”
That was also the issue I was drawing when I had the first date with the woman who is now my wife of almost 38 years. So, it has a personal connection to me.
I regret that Marv couldn’t be here and I’ve said this to him personally, I’ve said it about him in interviews, and I’ll say it again today: Marv Wolfman is the gold standard by which I measure any collaborative effort.
The man not only is a talented writer, he’s the most generous of collaborators. He wants the person working with him to be at his best as well. He wants you to contribute.
At one point I remember reading the fan mail, and noticing one particular letter, commenting about the characters and the stories and everything else. But never once mentioned that they liked the art.
And I was like, “Yeah, y’know, did they like the art?” and Marv said this: “Look, they didn’t comment on the clever wordplay either. They commented on the story. We created a story that they’re alive in. It’s bigger than either one of us.”
So, the fact that one of the great things that Marv — who is a perfect example of it, and I’ve tried to emulate that ever since — ego has no place in the creative process when it comes to doing a story that other people have to relate to.
They don’t want to hear about me. They don’t want to hear about Marv. They want to hear about the characters and it has to be as alive to them as their own neighbors can be.
And for that, you sacrifice your own selves. Put yourselves into the storyline but that the story, the characters, are more important than either one of us can ever be.
Yes, the book would not have succeeded probably if it wasn’t for our collaboration – but it was our collaboration. It wasn’t only because I drew it or only because he wrote it, but because we worked together and it was lightning in a bottle.
And to this day, one of the greatest things that Marv and I are very proud of — unlike a lot of collaborations you’ve seen not only in this industry but other industries: He is one of the best friends I’ve ever had. I love him dearly.
I mean, I was hoping he was going to be here because I love sharing panels with Marv. And when I found out that he was hurt, my first reaction: contact his wife, making sure he was OK.
Because when I received the (Eisner) Hall of Fame award, that was the same year I had my heart attack, and Marv was the one who accepted in my honor. And when I saw the video of what he said about me, y’know, that’s what a friend is. And nothing else.
With all the success I’ve had, financially, thanks to the Teen Titans, I always thank Marv for. Neither Marv or I ever thought that book was gonna succeed, we just did the best we could. And if nothing else, more than the success of the book, is a lifelong friendship I’ve had with a man who is a major, major talent — and sometimes, because he’s the writer and not the artist, does not get the type of credit he should get as being, y’know, what comics are all about.
NEXT: CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS. 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.