Leaving a positive legacy

Published 7:05 am Monday, December 13, 2021

George Pérez is a comic book artist who has long been a favorite of mine. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say he redefined what comic book art should look like. He rose to prominence on a run of The Avengers in the late 70’s but reached new heights with The New Teen Titans in the 1980’s. His unmatched skill, along with the creativity of writer Marv Wolfman, took a failing comic book and launched it into the stratosphere. There is a level of detail and precision in his work that is truly unmatched. People are always imitating Pérez but never achieving his level of perfection. I first encountered his work when Marvel Comics relaunched The Avengers in 1998, and my 13 year old eyes simply couldn’t believe what I was seeing on the pages of those early issues. Most people agree, however, that his artistic magnum opus was drawing a 4-issue crossover between the Justice League and the Avengers. There’s a scene where Superman lifts Thor’s hammer and holds Captain America’s shield. It’s something quite beautiful to behold.

Monday, George announced via Facebook that he is battling Stage 3 pancreatic cancer and has 6-12 months to live. To say the comic book community has been ravaged by this news would be an understatement. Without George Pérez, comics simply would not exist in their current form. Too many artists cite George as their primary influence that if he would never have picked up a pencil, I believe the medium would never have achieved its current popularity.

This brings me to the idea of a legacy. In the few hours after George’s announcement, Twitter was flooded with words of support and encouragement in his medical struggle. But it was also flooded with artists across multiple mediums giving thanks for the influence of George on their career. What George is leaving behind is not just a collected body of work, but rather he leaves a wake that anyone in comics must contend with. Everyone, and I mean everyone, is creating comics after George Pérez. He is that significant.

While most of us won’t have the notoriety that George Pérez has, we still leave a legacy after we die. Have you ever stopped to think about what kind of legacy you desire to leave behind? Have you ever evaluated what kind of legacy it appears you are actually leaving behind? So often what we desire and what we accomplish are two different things. When we aren’t paying close attention to the interplay between our desires and our reality, we might wake up one day and find out that we do not like the person we have become. We do not like the influence we have had on our environment, our friends, or our family.

Here’s where the medium of comic books works so well as a metaphor for life. The great gift George Pérez gave to the world was to see unencumbered creativity on the page. He used pencils and inks to create brand new worlds, to re-write the stories of some of the most well-known super heroes. He refused to be encumbered by the past. Influenced by it, yes, but not beholden to it. That’s how we should live our lives, too. We imagine the best version of ourselves, then we live in such a way as to make that version a reality. We do not regret the past, nor wish to shut the door on it. Rather, we live into the future. It’s never too late to leave a legacy that builds up and encourages those who follow behind you. So, before you put this newspaper down or click to another page if you are reading online, take a moment and explore what kind of legacy you are actually leaving behind. Decide if you like it, or if it’s time to make a change.

 

Chris Adams is the Rector at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Washington.