THE GEORGE PEREZ INTERVIEWS: Stepping up to preserve an icon…
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 #7 — Justice League of America. (Click here.)
This week, it’s Wonder Woman, which Perez and DC relaunched at the end of 1986, post-Crisis on Infinite Earths, with co-plotter Greg Potter:
Dan Greenfield: We’re doing OK on time so we’re just going to keep pushing through. Number 6 on the list was Wonder Woman.
George Perez: Ah! Yeah, Wonder Woman is a personal triumph for me. As much as my fortune has been made because of Titans primarily, Wonder Woman was a book that, not until recently when the movie came out, did I realize how much of an impact I actually left on the character. Because it was an uphill battle.
Even though I had a wonderful champion in my editor, Karen Berger, a lot of the DC editors at the time really didn’t care for Wonder Woman. I didn’t realize until I came into the office of the then-editor Janice Race, and they were putting together a new Wonder Woman book, that there wasn’t a single woman working in that company — and you’re talking about a company whose publisher was a woman! — who was happy with the direction they were going to go in.
But they had to get the book published, or else they would lose the rights to Wonder Woman. I saw that, and at that point John Byrne was on Superman, Frank Miller had just done Dark Knight and was going to be doing Batman: Year One with David Mazzucchelli and I just, there was just part of me — the inner feminist in me — who was really bothered that she was just kind of being thrown out.
I mean without naming names, when I saw the artist who was going to be on that, I said, “The man is more used to drawing stuff like a Penthouse magazine.” Every woman will vilify this — the premier female character, and we’re going to make her into a raunchy sex object? Oh God, that is the worst direction you could ever take for this character!
And I already had a story in mind for Wonder Woman, but I abandoned it when she devolved at the end of Crisis. I thought, “OK, I’m never gonna have a chance to do it.”
So, when I was talking to Janice, I said, “I do have an idea for her. Do you want me to take a crack at doing Wonder Woman to start her off?”
And at that point I thought I was just replacing the artist, but then I had story ideas and they asked me what my ideas were. Until eventually by the second issue, the writer really realized it was becoming my book now. He bowed out gracefully, no rancor whatsoever. I think he actually left the industry.
So, I had ideas for her. I was inspired by Walt Simonson and his take on Thor and by Ray Harryhausen. If you’re looking to challenge the gods, fighting skeletons, hydras, I figured what if Wonder Woman were done, before CGI, by Ray Harryhausen? That became a focus for me.
Also, one thing that she is not supposed to be — she is not a female version of Superman, she is a character of mythology. Karen Berger agreed and said, “She’s a fantasy character; she’s not a superhero in the strict sense of the word. She’s a fantasy like Sinbad, all the great stories and myths, she’s a mythological character. Let’s play with that.”
I said I also needed to clean up her mythology because she was a mixture of so many Greco-Roman plus modern (influences). I said, “Let’s go back to classic Greek and let me do what I can with that.”
And I didn’t realize at the time that ever since the death of (creator) William Marston and H.G. Peter, the original artist on Wonder Woman, there hadn’t been a single writer or artist who ever volunteered to do that book. It was an assigned book. No one wanted to do Wonder Woman. I was the first person — particularly at a time when I could have asked for any possible project and they would have said yes to it.
Of all books I took on, with Wonder Woman I am incredibly proud that after all these years … people are saying (of the Gal Gadot movie), “they captured your Wonder Woman.” And the director, Patty Jenkins, even acknowledged me as one of the influences.
DC, being one of the great companies to work for — I didn’t expect anything because I didn’t create the character — they paid me a bonus of six figures for that movie.
NEXT: THE WHO’S WHO COVERS. 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.