Happy Wednesday, friends. I’ve been making Wednesday posts to talk about what I have out this week, and this week was huge, with a new launch and everything. But I want to talk about something else, today. I want to take a break from all of the promotion and the noise to just tell you a story about one of comics’ greatest creative minds, who recently passed: George Pérez. Avengers. New Teen Titans. Crisis on Infinite Earths.
If you’ve been paying attention, you might notice that it seems like almost everyone has a George Pérez story. Every costumer, every fan, every professional seems to have a story about the time they approached one of the greatest artists of all time and he lit up like a Christmas tree and was incredibly kind. Statistically it seems impossible, but here’s the thing - I know they all are true. They just make me believe, even more, in the impossible magic that is my own George Pérez story, one I’ve been telling for years, because it’s always seemed too good to be true. So here it is:
I’m at Dragon*Con in (oh boy, years blurring together, I’m getting old, pick a year, Tini!!!) 2012. There’s a costume contest for comic book characters, and it’s called “From the Page to the Stage.” I find out about it a few months before the con.
If you’ve never attended Dragon*Con, it’s a little different from every other convention I’ve ever been to. Fan-run and fan-funded, folks get invited to Dragon*Con because they have fans there, and for no other reason. As such, Dragon*Con attendees tend to go year after year to attend Dragon*Con specific events, prepare for the same parties and contests, and see the same friends and creators. Instead of taking place at a convention center, it takes place over five hotel spaces (and truly, the streets in between) in downtown Atlanta. There are literal parades. It goes all night, every night. It is four days long.
Creators who attend Dragon*Con notoriously do so for the love of it. And you either love it or hate it. I can’t do a lot of things like Dragon*Con? But I can do D*C. I love it.
George loved it too. He was one of those creators who was there almost, if not every year. He and his wife hosted panels, judged contests, went to parties, and basically did everything they could to be down in the wild, electric fan fun of Dragon*Con. He was part of what made it electric.
Anyway, I’d never met him - I’d been too nervous. But I did decide on a costume to make for Dragon*Con 2012. I loved his redesign of the Scarlet Witch - Wanda had long been one of my favorite characters, and I wanted to show up as her at that year’s contest. It’s a gorgeous design, who wouldn’t?
And look - there are a few reasons I wouldn’t make this costume again now? But at the time…the belt, the cape with the lovely arm loops, the big gorgeous hair - I was truly feeling myself once I got this outfit together. I made it all myself out of the softest red fabric and the shiniest PVC. But nothing compared to the feeling of finding out that George Pérez was going to be one of the judges of the contest.
My logical mind said something in that moment like ‘ah cool! an advantage!’ but my stomach dropped into my knees. I went cold. The George Pérez? What if he didn’t like it? What if he thought I was trying to gain some kind of advantage and didn’t think I was a real fan!? Panic. The totally logical kind.
Thankfully, I was at Dragon*Con, so there were drinks I could have to calm my nerves.
Night of the contest, I’m in my heels, a shot or two in me, posing. Something the Dragon*Con costume contests do that I always really like is before you walk on stage, everyone gets their photo taken. There’s a backdrop and a photographer, and it’s a great way to make sure everyone ends up with at least one good photo of their costume.
I wish I knew where to find those photos, because what happened next I’ll remember forever.
Through the champagne I’ve imbibed to dull my anxiety and shoe/wig pain, I hear a gasp. And whoever’s just gasped has caused everyone on his side of the room to gasp with him. I turn my head, and George Pérez is walking toward me, beaming, the biggest smile on his face. “It’s her!” he beams. “My Wanda!” In my huge shoes, I’m taller than George, and I’m red, stuttering, thanking him, and trying to smile in the flashes. We loop an arm around each other for the photos and I’m dazed.
After a moment George steps away, my hand in his, his other hand on his heart, like he was Prince Charming and had to go dance with the other princesses now. I don’t remember what he said, but I knew I’d see him on stage later.
Each cosplayer got a brief 30-60 seconds to walk across the stage, introduced by the contest’s hosts: George, and comics writer Peter David.
When it was my turn to walk across the stage, George turned to Peter and asked if he could read my introduction personally. (Everyone writes up a little intro about who they’re dressed as. No, I no longer have whatever ridiculous purple prose I wrote to introduce Wanda Maximoff, but I’m SO embarrassed that George read it, haha.) I stepped out on the stage to my music and to my mark under the center spotlight, marked on the stage with a little tape X for each of the cosplayers.
I got to my spot, dazzled by the lights, and George picks up the mic, stands up, has them pause the music, and comes to stand with me. He hadn’t done this for anyone else so far, but I feel tears hit my eyes as he gestures to me like I’m a giant doll, like I’m on the red carpet, and says: “I designed this.” I was beaming. And we hug.
Making that genius, who had brought so much into comics, smile? Felt magical.
George loved cosplayers - he literally made them superheroes in Sirens. But it was that kind of acceptance and embrace from one of comics’ true legends that made me think that maybe there was a place for me here among the stories I loved. That being a champagne-tipsy cute girl in high heels and a corset didn’t keep you from being a real fan or a real writer, from bringing this medium to life like anyone else. And if no one else recognized it, the man that brought the insane amounts of beauty and magic to every page did. If no else had cosplayers, George had cosplayers.
I knew I’d get emotional writing this, and I did. It’s pretty vulnerable stuff. This one hit me hard, like it hit a lot of us.
I’ll end this with talking about my two favorite things in George Perez’s art - beefcake thighs, and the use of white space as a background for deeply emotional moments.
What are yours?
Stay weird. Talk soon.
-TH 5.11.22 14:33