THE GEORGE PEREZ INTERVIEWS: A master teaches a superstar a thing or two…
UPDATED 5/9/22: 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 week was #10 — The Incredible Hulk: Future Imperfect. (Click here.)
This week, it’s 2008-09’s Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds, written by Geoff Johns:
Dan Greenfield: Just as a brief introduction, I had never in my entire life ever bought a Legion of Super-Heroes comic, just because it never really interested me. But I certainly did when I found out that George was going to do Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds, which came in at No. 9 on the list.
So, what can you tell us about that?
George Perez: Well, the irony is that the Legion, when I was growing up, was one of my favorite comics. I mean even over The Avengers because I loved all of the characters, all of the costumes, all the color.
I thought, one of the first comics I would ever do if I got the chance — other than well, I knew I wanted JLA, I knew I wanted The Avengers — but I really wanted the Legion of Super-Heroes. And then it took so long in my career to finally do a Legion of Super-Heroes story. I did a few covers, I did a few little pinups… but I’d never worked on a Legion story. They appeared in Crisis on Infinite Earths, but then again, who didn’t?
So I was working on Brave and the Bold, and (writer) Geoff Johns was saying he wanted to do a Legion of Super-Heroes story. I did not know it was going to be a part of Final Crisis. … I really didn’t like it being part of Final Crisis but that’s the company’s decision.
But the idea of doing the Legion of Super-Heroes. I said, “Yes, I grew up with the Legion, I really would like them to look closer to what I remembered them to be.” So, we came up with Legion of 3 Worlds. I got to draw every version of the Legion of Super-Heroes. And I told Geoff, “Don’t be afraid: If a character’s changed his costume, I’ll draw all versions of that same character in those different costumes. Give me more to draw.”
In fact, Geoff wrote in those days — they were going back to writing full scripts as opposed to a plot, then draw it, and then the script is actually written out.
Geoff wrote a full script, he wrote incredibly long descriptions of each panel. I thought, “Who the heck would draw all of that?” Until I realized what he was doing was deconstructing a George Perez panel he might have seen and this is what you’d have to do to describe it, that’s what it looks like.
But I also told him, “If you’re writing all this, then you’re giving me nothing to do. I can’t create anything if you’re telling me every single thing that has to be on there. Just say the characters appear, let me do it. That’s what I’ve been doing all my career.”
So, for the first time in Geoff’s career, he wrote it Marvel style where he just wrote a plot, let me choreograph it, put all the characters in, direct the characters in there, then you can add the dialogue based on what I’ve drawn. It was an education for him. Otherwise, I said, you really are wasting me.
Because that’s what I did for every book I’ve done. And every writer has said, I’m proud to say, I will never ignore what the writer has done. I think the word is important. The story is very important. How I get from A to Z, that’s my job. But everything is there. I just may put a little spin on it in order to make it what I think is more visually dynamic.
Marv Wolfman — he created the characters before I did the Teen Titans. So, I always give credit: Marv technically created the Teen Titans. And Marv would quickly correct me. He said, “Yes, I may have created the concept. You made them a comic. If you hadn’t drawn them, they would just be words on paper. So, together we created them.”
That’s the same thing I was telling Geoff. That’s the best way of doing comics. That’s what Lee and Kirby and Lee and Ditko and all these other people — because they were collaborating on it.
One person is not more important than the other. It’s the comic itself.
NEXT: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD. 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 slightly for clarity.