The following interview was conducted on September 16, 2014.
Q: How did SIRENS come about?
GEORGE PEREZ: Well, it was one of those things that was almost on the fly.They [BOOM!] asked if I had any ideas, and I really wanted to do a series that was female-centric and do basically a George Pérez book for everything that George Pérez is known for: team books, as many different locales as I could come up with, and female characters -- most have very fond memories of my doing Wonder Woman plus the female characters on the [Teen] Titans. And, of course, I was also inspired a bit by Doctor Who for all of the time travel stuff. Basically, I wanted to treat it as the George Pérez series to end all George Pérez series, and I want to put everything in. By doing time travel, I was able to do as many genres in one book as I could do. Westerns, there's a section in Feudal Japan, there's obviously stuff in the far, far future. Basically, anything that would challenge me as an artist. I wanted George Pérez, the artist, to curse George Pérez, the writer, as many times as possible! Whenever I work with a writer, if I curse his name while reading the plot, I know I'll be a better artist when I finish the book. It challenges me, that's why I'm trying to do it myself.
Q: What makes these characters unique and what could potentially turn them into fan favorites?
GEORGE PEREZ: Well, one of the things I have learned in the industry is that you don't create a character in order for them to become a fan favorite. You hope they become a fan favorite. You have to have a character serve the story first. In the case of Sirens, I wanted this to be almost a love letter to my fans by using real people as my models, including not only their likenesses but their names. I get more people involved in the story and that energizes me. You can feel that excitement from your readership even before you get the book started. If that creates a fan favorite when the book comes out, that's fantastic. But, my goal is to produce a good story. I never would have imagined -- thirty something years after the fact -- that Deathstroke would be a popular character; that the mask would be iconic. That wasn't why he was created. He was created because Marv [Wolfman] came up with an idea for a character, I designed it, and we tried to tell a good story. I'm hoping SIRENS will be fan favorites -- people will cosplay as them, there will be merchandise for them -- but that's not my responsibility. My responsibility is to produce the best comic I can with interesting characters. And, if the fans like it, they will determine if they become fan favorites.
Q: You have a lot of strong female characters in SIRENS. How do they stand apart from what we see in comics right now?
GEORGE PEREZ:I'm using real people as my inspiration. Their personalities and their characterizations are things that'll determine how they'll respond to any particular plot contrivance. The one thing I'm trying to do is just understand -- as women in obviously in very extraordinary circumstances -- that everyone reacts differently. One character is motivated by her religious belief, another person is a warmonger, and things like that. Basically, it's trying to find the little character bits with them and that becomes a part of who they are. Once I find their personality, that dictates what I can do with them when they're all in the same predicament. They should all react slightly differently if I've done my job right and given them a grounding as far as what type of people they are. And of course, in some cases, this will cause conflicts in between them. If someone's a pacifist and someone's a warmonger and they're all involved in a war, that's going to cause a bit of a hassle there. That's what I'm hoping to experiment with and hopefully not get too caught up with that that the story suffers. Obviously, I have to progress the story and that's always a challenge, particularly when you're handling a large cast. But, I've juggled large casts before and one of the things I enjoy about doing that type of a book is the interaction between the characters.
Q: Like many creators from DC to Marvel or vice versa, you have worked with both companies. Why did you go to BOOM! for this series?
GEORGE PEREZ: Actually, the industry has changed so much. While I’ve had great times at Marvel and DC and with DC I’ve had the most successes. Things were starting to change in the industry and a lot of the story content was being dictated by others that were not the creative group. A lot of the characters I grew up with were becoming strangers to me. I realized I was not creating comics, I was manufacturing comics. I needed some kind of creative stimulus. Thankfully, a friend of mine told me that BOOM! was looking for someone of known repute to create something new, something the creator wanted to work on. At my first meeting with BOOM!, I saw how incredibly energetic they were, how they were comic fans, how much creative freedom they wanted me to have. I was sold! I thought of it as a job interview, my first job interview in 30 years. But, they said they weren’t interviewing me,that I was interviewing them! It was so great to meet them they had so much energy. Everything they said reminded me of when I first got into comics. One book I read was Day Men. It reminded me of an old Vertigo book. It was such a good read. Such a strong story. That is a challenge I hope I could meet.
Q: In Issue 1, we meet 5 of the Sirens so far. When can we expect to meet the other and learn their backstories?
GEORGE PEREZ: Thereason I only focused on five Sirens in issue 1 was I only had 22 pages. I will be filling out the back stories as we go along. Issue 2 spotlights two more Sirens. The 3rd issue has spotlights on the final two. I couldn’t spend the entire time just on backstory, since I wanted to move the main plot forward as well. Most of the story will take place in that far-flung future.
Q: What drew you to the other settings?
GEORGE PEREZ: The primary focus of the story will be in the sci-fi setting of the future; however, portions will take place in those period pieces. I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted to explore genres outside my comfort zone. I hate drawing horses but there is a western scene. You only get better if you challenge yourself. A lot of the story will focus on the current menace in the future, but I love the idea of challenging myself. In subsequent story arcs, hopefully, I will be able to experiment with other time frames and challenge myself by doing stuff I have not had many chances to do in my career.
Q: Since Sirens focuses on female leads, how is it different drawing women vs. men?
GEORGE PEREZ: The thing is all the women are real women. Some are models, some are everyday women. One is modeled off of my wife. I take great pride that I have women who are older and who are different body types and different ethnic backgrounds. I chose one woman, Professor Fargo, who is noticeably older and a bit heavier but an authority figure. I wanted to show beauty, intelligence, strength, as well as good and evil have no boundaries as far as their looks go. I did this a bit with Wonder Woman. Having a varied cast makes them more interesting. If I draw them well and distinctively enough, then having them raise an eyebrow tells the reader more than any dialogue would.
Q: SIRENS is dealing with multiple genres, so which one did you have the most fun working with?
GEORGE PEREZ: I enjoyed the futuristic stuff because you can create anything. There is no limit to what I can do there. As an artist, I also enjoy the challenge of having to be reasonably historically accurate. They're both enjoyable for totally different reasons. One is for sheer leaps I can make in my fantasy and how I design everything. When I had to do a sequence coming up in Feudal Japan -- researching that, that's fun. I don't know, maybe I'm a masochist, but I enjoy that extra challenge of trying to get it right. After 40 years in this industry, I want to be able to feel like I have to prove myself all over again. That any audience who picks up my work, I have to take into account this could be the first time they've ever seen my work. I've got to be able to keep up with the young boys!
Q: You have often turned to the past and to myths in your stories. What lessons do you feel the past hold for us in the present?
GEORGE PEREZ: Unfortunately, like in real life so many of us don’t learn from our lessons from our past. Sometimes, you have to point that out. The issues I have dealt with in these stories propel this plot. In this story we explore everything from colonialism to imperialism to prejudice. In order to get along we have to get past that. There are certain parts that are just human nature. Some Sirens who have gone back to the past learn certain values that have been forgotten in the future. Some have developed techniques to blend into the past that will affect how they re-adapt to the future. Some are returned to the future against their will and that will cause some character interplay with them.
Q: Why did you pick the title Sirens?
GEORGE PEREZ: It was originally She-Devils, but we changed it to Sirens, because we thought there could be copyright problems. My wife thought up Sirens. It was clear legally to use, and we liked how it had mythic undertones, as well. I think Sirens is a much better title. She-Devils was more antagonistic, which didn’t fit them, as well. You can thank my wife Carol for that.
Q: Journalists like Brett Schenker of Graphic Policy have talked a lot about how the demographics of comics readership have changed over time. Do you think you could have pitched a book like this at the beginning of your career? Has anything changed in the industry that will help Sirens find its audience nowadays?
GEORGE PEREZ: This definitely wouldn’t have been championed at the beginning of my career. The lost female readership has burgeoned since my career first started. The audience we were aiming for back then was very a young adolescent boy audience. It wasn’t until Wonder Woman that we tried something like this. We went for a more general audience. There was a female audience for comics out there at the time, but it wasn’t being served. I’ve been flattered that doing Wonder Woman, I developed a large female and gay following that I am very proud of. Nowadays, comics can please a lot of tastes. I think nowadays we can please a large and diverse audience. I hopefully will have a large female readership but I also hope i don’t disenfranchise a male audience or any audience. Hopefully, this is something that will make everyone happy. Wonder Woman was my watershed. I realized there was an audience thatwasn’t being served. But, they were there and happy with my Wonder Woman work. That inspired me that when I got to do another creator owned book it would be very female centric. I love exploring female characters and their relationships. For many men, it is like visiting another planet. You learn a lot more as you go along. I find it a fascinating creative atmosphere where not a lot has been done yet.
Stay tuned to the Fanboy Comics website tomorrow for Part 2 of the George Perez interview.