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George Perez Leads First Annual MegaWalk for Hero Initiative

by  in Comic News Comment
George Perez Leads First Annual MegaWalk for Hero Initiative

As MegaCon Megawalk is a charitable fundraising event, CBR is happy to provide a platform for the President of Hero Initiative, Jim McLauchlin, to discuss the inaugural walk with one of comics’ greatest living legends — and a member of Hero’s Board of Directors — George Perez.

George Perez is going to stroll into his hometown comic con in a whole new way.

Perez is the “grand marshal” for MegaWalk, a fundraiser for Hero Initiative which will kick off 2015’s MegaCon on April 10 in Orlando, Fla. The simple and fun 1-mile walk takes place inside the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando.

Perez does a lot of walking these days. A few years ago, he dropped 52 pounds (!) in an effort to change his lifestyle and get in better shape. He’s largely kept the weight off, and his efforts provided the seed that grew into MegaWalk.

Jim McLauchlin: I recall our having a discussion once — and this became a bit of the genesis of MegaWalk — that you have a bit of a “tradition” where you take a long walk around the convention floor before the con day starts, right?

George Perez: Yes. And a lot of it is to get some exercise in, because I know I’m likely going to be sitting down for several hours during the con. Having been a good deal heavier in the past, walking was the primary way I eventually lost a lot of weight, and keep myself fit.

How important have the simple things like maintaining health and fitness become to you as you get older? Hey — you’re now 60 years old!

The amount of energy I gained after I stopped carrying the weight equivalent of a pygmy on my back — or perhaps more correctly, around my waist — was a life-changer. And in my case, being a diabetic, it became a case where if I didn’t start doing something, I wouldn’t be talking to you now. I realized I had a lot to live for, a lot to enjoy, and I wanted to be there to enjoy it. [My wife] Carol tried helping badger me into I-don’t-know-how-many diets, but finally there came a time where I said, “It’s all up to me. No one else will do this.” So I started walking. It became the low-impact system that worked for me. Now, I’ve been up and down the weight ladder a bit, but since dropping the initial 50-plus pounds, I’ve thankfully never been back to the larger size I once was.

You’ve been around the convention scene forever, since when we had the joking truth that comic cons were “90 percent male and 35 percent body fat.” Certainly we’ve seen more women and more families join the crowd, and I think the stereotype of the Simpsons-esque Comic Book Guy is going away. Do you share in that observation?

I have noticed that, and I think it’s at least partially because of the incredible proliferation of cosplayers who have come in. There are more women who look more comely in a superhero costume, but now you see more men catching up, going into training and getting fit so that they look good in costumes, too. Comics have become more mainstream to the point where it’s no longer the outsiders who read comics. No one does it in the closet anymore. It’s now a badge of honor for many people.

And you’re right, you see so many families these days, multi-generational families as well, from grandparents to grandchildren, coming to the cons together. Parents love anything that will get their kids to love reading, so parents are way more open-minded about comics now.

I think one small contributing factor that’s helped is that many of us in the profession seem to be losing weight. I know several artists who have gone into exercise routines, and with some, as in my case, it’s because they have diabetes. It’s better to make a change before you get long-term health problems.

As you are going to be the grand marshal of MegaWalk, one thing I’m seriously thinking about is getting you a “staff of office” for the occasion, some big honkin’ drum major baton thing. What do you think about that?

Eh — that’s not really necessary. With that, I wouldn’t be able to shake hands as much, or hob-nob with the other walkers. I want this to be more an everyone-get-together kind of event, where we can all have a good time. I think I’m “leading” in name only. I’m more in the crowd. I intend on doing a lot of zig-zagging, meeting people and making sure everyone feels like they’re a part of a fun event. I like the idea of not being so much a parade leader, but a parade participant.

So at the end of this event, what do you hope happens? What would be your perfect result from all this?

Well, obviously one main focus is Hero Initiative, and making a great event and raising some money there. I’m pretty confident, knowing the MegaCon crowd as I do, that people will be willing to join in and participate.

I think that when I dropped weight and spoke openly about my diabetes, it may have given people the incentive to look at themselves and decide to make some life changes. It may sound corny, but it’s one of those cases where “if just one person” says, “Hey, walk a mile? That’s easy. I’ll do it. And maybe I’ll start to do it every day,” well, then, that makes this all worth it.

I’d like just one more nice thing associated with comics. So many things in the mainstream tend to be, “Oh, comic movies are making a lot of money!” with no real mention of the comics themselves, or on the negative side, people being treated unfairly. This industry has been very good to me, and I’d like to see everyone prosper. I think it will be very good publicity for MegaCon, which is truly a wonderful show. I think it shows comics people as being involved with a good cause. I think it can show that comics people are all people.

The inaugural MegaWalk will take place at MegaCon in Orlando, FL on Friday, April 10, 2015 at 11 AM.
You can, should you so desire, “follow Jim McLauchlin on Twitter,” as the kids say. It’s @McLauchlin

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