Despite Eye Surgery, George Perez Keeps His Focus on "Sirens"

George Perez just couldn't deny the siren song of comics any longer. The prolific writer and artist, who has drawn just about every Big Two character thanks to stints on books like "Teen Titans," "Wonder Woman," "Justice League of America" and "The Avengers," not to mention the grandfather of all crossovers "JLA/Avengers," announced in July of last year that he was BOOM! Studios exclusive, mainly due to the opportunity to develop his own ideas. In September, BOOM! told the world about Perez's new book, then titled "She-Devils," but production plans got put on hold the following month when Perez revealed that he had to undergo surgery to help repair vision in his left eye. While he's not completely done with his procedures, Perez has returned to the drawing board in order to bring his comic, now called "George Perez's Sirens," to the masses.

Launching on September 17, the six-issue miniseries features a group of nine intergalactic warrior women known as the Sirens who have all spent time in Earth's past, where they developed a certain set of skills or powers. The group re-forms in the far future to stop an intergalactic slaving organization, but there's a pair of problems -- they don't remember who they are, and the people who do know them believe that they're villains.

Perez revealed to CBR that each of the Sirens, as well as members of the supporting cast, are all based on actual women he knows personally ranging from his wife Carol "Phoenicia" Flynn and niece Milla Bishop to cosplayers like Margie Vizcarra Cox and Miracole Burns. We also discuss his return to the drawing board, creating his own stories and basing the entire "Sirens" line-up on women he knows in real life.

CBR News: First off, I just want to say that we're all glad to see you making comics again after your surgery. What was it like for you getting back to the drawing board? Have you had to alter your approach to drawing?

George Perez: Actually, my surgeries are still ongoing; I'm scheduled for cataract surgery in a couple of months, after some more treatments for my diabetic retinopathy. I've had to alter my inking style a bit to accommodate the optic issues, but I seem to be impressing a lot of people with the quality of my work despite my handicap. I must admit, I had some trepidation about taking up such an ambitious project, especially after nearly losing full use of my left eye, but it does feel pretty darn good to be at the drawing board again.

Were you working on "Sirens" during your recovery process? If so, would you say the extra time helped the creative process?

I was initially feeling quite guilty during the worst of my visual problems since I was on salary, but was really producing so little actual work, especially art work. The folks at BOOM! have been so supportive and encouraging during all this, and it did allow me some extra time to work out story elements and character ideas. The cover to "Day Men" was the first thing I actually drew for BOOM! I was still wearing an eye patch at that point.

When the series was first announced, it was called "She-Devils" -- now it's titled "Sirens." What brought about the change in title?

That's something I was pretty much expecting from the start and am actually a little surprised it took this long for the issue to come up. The owners and current publishers of the Red Sonja character, who do use the title extension "She-Devil With a Sword," expressed concern about possible confusion or infringement. I was more surprised that the owners of "Shanna the She-Devil" didn't chime in first.

I had used the title "She-Devils" for a fanzine called "Hot Shot" way back in 1974 and had wanted to use it again as a tip of the hat to that original series. I was not bothered by the change and am pretty pleased with the new title, which my wife Carol came up with.

The Sirens line-up looks to incorporate a variety of characters, from gunfighters and those with super powers to swashbucklers and magic wielders. What can you tell us about them as a group?

The Sirens are all characters who exist in a far-flung future and who have hidden out in various points of Earth's history after a dramatic event that branded them as criminals in their own time. One Siren, Agony, became a gladiator in ancient Rome. Another, Ammo, a schoolteacher in the Old West, who also happens to be the town's gun-toting protector. Other locations and timeframes include Iceland during the age of Vikings and dragons, medieval Japan with samurais and geishas, Victorian London during the reign of terror by Jack the Ripper and even 1980s New York, where one Siren is working as a comic book artist.

There's a really interesting dynamic going on in "Sirens," where the team doesn't remember who they are, but the world does -- and thinks of them as villains. Without giving too much away, how do they realize they're supposed to save the universe? 

Some of the Sirens remember more than others about their lives prior to their temporal displacements. One Siren -- Bombshell -- remembers a little about her history, which allows me the narrative device of explaining to the reader events that have transpired prior to the main story's timeframe through Bombshell.

When the heroines are recalled to the future, it's because a new threat has arisen that jeopardizes their hopes of being vindicated as well as threatening the destruction of the Earth, called Terra-Prime in this story.

What can you tell us about the enslaving force the Sirens will face in this series?

Hmm, this is not going to be easy to encapsulate. Not wishing to spoil anything, I can say that a lot of the turmoil that propels the story is brought about by the past -- at least to the Sirens -- colonization of other planets by the populace of Earth, and vice versa, which bring about, as these things often do, some political, territorial and environmental consequences.

One of the main villains is a former alien space pirate named Niada, who once joined forces with a universe-spanning terrorist called Perdition, who was initially motivated by past grievances involving the incursion of the Terrans on his homeworld. The stakes became more universe-threatening when Perdition happened upon a weapon that could potentially have torn apart the fabric of both time and space, as such weapons are wont to do.

However, at the start of this story, Perdition is more of a legendary bogeyman believed to be long dead. It was reported that he met his demise at the hands of the Sirens, who were formed and led by one of Perdition's former lovers -- and Niada's rival -- Madame Vizcarra, taking on the Siren codename "Highness." His death, as it turns out, may have been slightly exaggerated. Or not.

There is also a sub-story regarding a millennia-spanning feud between two alien races that actually has some of its roots in Earth's past. Not to mention a scientist named Professor Falgout, captain of the time vessel called The Paradox, which is the vehicle for all the time travel stuff. Yeah, this is going to be one dense and complicated story. I'm nothing if not masochistic.

Fictional characters like Princess Leia, Ripley and Starbuck have been mentioned as reference points for the Sirens, but what real life women did you take inspiration from when developing the characters?

Well, I know that it wasn't I who made those particular references, but I can understand how that perception can exist. Many of the characters would be considered archetypes and can be compared to other fictional characters like She-Hulk, Raven, Morgan Lefay, Starbuck, Shi, Starfire and others.

The key difference here, though, is that every Siren, and much of the supporting cast, is modeled after a real person, many of them cosplayers I've met during my many years of convention-going. The time-spanning Highness is modeled after a beautiful cosplayer and fitness trainer named Margie Vizcarra Cox. Ammo, the former assassin and weapons maker, is my niece Milla Bishop. Agony, the battle-loving brute, is a model/wrestler named April Hunter. Bombshell, the energy blasting powerhouse is a lovely mother of three named Chan Graves Everest, and the other Sirens are famed cosplayer Miracole Burns as the electricity-wielding Skywire, fetish model Akira Lane as the sword-wielding warrior with ghostly abilities Kage (pronounced KAH-Jeh), cosplayers Jen Richards-Spooner as the doll-sized Figurine who packs a lot of punch for one so small, and Sherita Dunbar as the humanoid Interface who can merge with any computer. Last, but certainly not least, my dancer wife Carol "Phoenicia" Flynn as the mystic Fanisha -- who has a way with dragons.

The previously mentioned scientist Prof. Falgout is modeled after a friend from my community theatre group, Denise Falgout Truscott, while the villain Niada will bear the countenance of lovely model Diana Knight. Perdition will be modeled after a gentleman named John Clark -- and these are just the main leads. The first issue alone has over 40 characters based on real people. I'm still casting for parts, including aliens, military officers, petty thieves and zombies!

Using real people as models is certainly not new for me, especially since I did do it on my earlier, unfortunately short-lived, creator-owned series "Crimson Plague," but I find it makes me a better artist and helps bring even more personality to the characters.

A lot of longstanding issues in the comic community about female fans, creators and characters have come to the surface lately. Has any of that influenced the creation or development of this series? 

I'm not exactly sure what issues you are referring to, but I do take some pride in the positive reaction I've received throughout my career in my handling of female characters. The great thing about using so many real women as my models is that it allows me the pleasure of including heroines, and villains, of varying races, sizes and ages. I didn't want to simply draw the typical Barbie doll heroine. While many of my models are indeed beautiful, I hope I can show that beauty, integrity and personality, as well as heroism and villainy, come in all forms. And that also includes the male cast members as well.

Is there potential for more "Sirens" comics beyond this first six issue miniseries?

I can only hope so. That will definitely depend on the reception and reaction of the readership. Considering all the backstory that, due to limited space, I can only hint at in the first story-arc, I've got quite a lot of ideas I would love to explore. After all, I'm introducing nine major heroines -- who themselves are the survivors of what was once a bigger team -- so each one of them should provide me with lots of story potential.

Do you see yourself sticking to the miniseries format for the time being, or do you have ongoing ambitions?

It was BOOM! that recommended the miniseries format, and that seems to work very well. It forces me to plan out complete story arcs that, while still providing sub-plots that can be used in future stories, do provide a completely-told tale that can stand on its own, if that makes sense. It also allows me the luxury of getting some rest between stories, which is a nice perk for a man my age.

What has your experience been like, making your own comics with BOOM! Studios?

It has been an absolute joy! While I have had some major success working on both new and established characters for the major publishers, it does feel great to be in full charge of the stories and characters I create and to be working for a company run primarily by comic fans, albeit fans with a healthy bit of business and promotion smarts. The only corporate mandate at BOOM! that I've experienced is for me to be as creative as I want to be, and for the company to provide an environment that nurtures and supports that creativity. Not a bad way to celebrate what is now my 40th year as a comic book artist.

I will never regret any of my time working for DC and Marvel, especially in light of the fact that, especially with DC, I have been earning considerable money in royalties that allows me the option of not drawing comics at all if I were crazy enough to consider that.

But, times have changed and I needed to find new worlds to conquer. Thanks to BOOM!, I get to continue to do what I love, and thanks to my past success, I can afford to do so without worrying about rushing through a job in order to pay my mortgage. I get to draw just for the sheer fun of it!

This industry has been very good to me and hope to continue producing comics for as long as I'm physically able. 40 years in, and I feel just like I did when I drew my very first page. I have been a very lucky man, indeed.

"George Perez's Sirens" #1, written and drawn by George Perez, hits stores on Sept. 17 from BOOM! Studios.

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