While voices on bullhorns drifted over the heads of the shorts-clad crowd participating in the Baltimore Running Festival outside Charm City's convention center, a second crowd of people bogged down with backpacks and long boxes made their way inside. On a drizzle-filled Saturday, Baltimore Comic-Con had begun.
Among the first events to pull people out from lines in Artist Alley was the Spotlight on George Perez panel, highlighting the legendary artist and Guest of Honor's 35 years in the comics industry. Known for his work on titles like "New Teen Titans," "Crisis on Infinite Earths," "Avengers," "Wonder Woman," and most recently "Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds" with Geoff Johns, Perez - in a floral print shirt with a Diet Coke in hand - sat in front of a packed room full of comic fans. Though the thin, red riser walls of the panel room allowed plenty of ambient noise - and three bellowing PA announcements about a young girl named Grace Burns who had been separated from her family - to drift into the panel, fans sat with all eyes on Perez.
Perez began with some news for Titans aficionados. Though he said he is turning down more work than he can possibly accept right now, Perez's parter-in-crime Marv Wolfman apparently found the plot to a Titans graphic novel entitled "Games" that was lost long ago. The book will be out by October of 2010 and will run 120 pages.
"It cannot come out later than 2010 if we want the anniversary to mean a damn thing," Perez said, after explaining that the release of "Games" would mark the 30th year since his and Wolfman's "New Teen Titans" began.
The first five pages had already been drawn and inked by Perez, while the next 25 were inked years ago by Al Vey. Perez also related that DC would be resurrecting the comic book dimensions from when the book was initially drawn and plotted to print "Games." As Perez begins to draw the final 90 pages over the next year, Mike Perkins ("Captain America") will ink his pages. Perkins is now Marvel-exclusive but had a waiver in his contract that would allow him to help Perez finish this Titans graphic novel.
"Anyone who saw Mike ink me at CrossGen knows what a good match we make," Perez said.
After "Games," Perez admitted that he isn't sure what the future holds. He relayed that he had spoken with Gail Simone about a one-shot issue of "Wonder Woman," and would love to return to the character and work with Simone as he admires what she's done with the heroine. He's also spoken with upcoming "Adventure Comics" writer Paul Levitz, whom Perez has known since their teenage years, about some future projects, and has even spoken with DC Comics honcho Dan DiDio about a project.
Though Perez said he wasn't sure which of those projects he may consider after "Games," he revealed that he is doing plenty of private commissions and participating in his community theatre, which will keep him busy regardless of what project comes next. Theatre enthusiasts and Perez fans should be on the look out, as Perez announced that the program covers he completed for his theater would be going up on eBay to raise funds for the theatre.
Before opening the floor up to fan questions, the artist also explained that his busy schedule would only allow him to attend three domestic conventions next year: Mega Con, Dragon Con and New York Comic-Con.
The panel kept a casual air as Perez began to field questions from the audience. Among the first ones he was asked if there were any dream projects he would like to work on. "After 'Legion of 3 Worlds,' I pretty much completed the cycle of my fanboy dreams," Perez said
Perez then rattled down a list of his notable work from "Crisis on Infinite Earths" to "JLA/Avengers" as evidence he'd had plenty of worthy books in his career before adding, "I've never done a Judge Dredd story. That would be fun." But Perez said that at this point in his career he looks for writers to really wow him with something that will spark his interest as there isn't much within comics he hasn't had a chance to draw.
When asked if he'd be interested in writing again, Perez stated simply, "I don't think I ever want to write again." He expounded on that by saying that writing in comics nowadays takes a special kind of intestinal fortitude with the universes being so integrated and crossovers being such popular fare. Perez also explained that he was offered a position as the writer of "Teen Titans," but would have had certain story mandates he needed to follow and that didn't interest him. He explained it was the company's right to ask for these things with their characters, but if that is the case. he'd rather just draw.
"I'd rather leave it to guys with a lot stronger guts and a lot less fragile ego than I have," he said.
A few times throughout the panel, Perez was asked about big Marvel and DC crossovers, like "JLA/Avengers." Perez explained that he loves drawing tons of characters and would be very interested if the two companies ever crossed over again, but doubted they would any time soon. When asked what he would want to draw for this unlikely dream crossover, Perez said, "What would I pick? Everyone in the Marvel Universe. Everyone in the DC Universe. Page two…explosion."
When asked if he ever wanted to do another "Sachs and Violens" comic, Perez related he would love to but was woeful that his exclusive deal at DC and Peter David's exclusive deal at Marvel would not allow it to happen. Perez did express his love of drawing fetish art and followed that up with, "I would love to do 'Sachs and Violens.' That was fun. That was good, kinky fun."
The "Sachs and Violens" discussion led to Perez relating that his DC exclusiveness was up next year, but that DC wants him back and he'd be happy to continue working for them, citing DC's health insurance and foreign royalties policy as major reasons.
Perez was also asked about what writers he has enjoyed working with. The artist explained that while Marv Wolfman is the gold standard he judges all creative partners by, Kurt Busiek was a close second. Perez later said that Grant Morrison and Neil Gaiman are two writers he hasn't had a chance to work with, but would enjoy a chance.
Towards the end of the panel, Perez said he has two goals from here on out in his career.
"My goal is to die with an unfinished piece of work on my drawing board; my second goal is that it is not the one that is there now."