George Freeman was born on May 27, 1951, in Selkirk, Manitoba. He studied at the Red River College in Winnipeg and after graduating worked as a graphic artist. Around this time, a new comic book hit the newsstands, Captain Canuck, created by writer/artist Richard Comely and Ron Leischman. Inspired by Leischman’s concept and the iconic costume he created for Cap, Comely ran with the concept but quickly realized he needed help to grow the character. Fate introduced him to George Freeman. George’s inks brought a solidity and nuance to Comely’s pencils. Confident in Freeman’s abilities, Comely soon left the art chores to George and artist Jean Claude St. Aubin so he could focus on his Canuck writing and publishing duties.
Freeman illustrated Captain Canuck from the second issue through to the unpublished 15th issue in 1981. With the additional Summer Special he worked on a total of 15 issues for Comely Comics – all but one of which were recently reprinted in two gorgeous hardcover collections published by IDW in 2009. Comely and Freeman developed highly sophisticated, animation style colouring techniques for Captain Canuck that gave the series a look that was years ahead of the industry standard at the time.
Freeman’s dynamic pencils and unique style was a hit with young Canadian (and US) fans, and his images of the Captain were everywhere in the late 1970’s. His work showed that Canadian superhero comics could be just as exciting as their American counterparts. It was no wonder that after Captain Canuck’s initial run ended in 1981 that he would be snapped up by American publishers and George would eventually work for most of them in some capacity. In the early 1980’s George was hired to ink or draw stories for Pacific, Marvel, DC and Eclipse Comics.
In 1984 he landed more high profile gigs. He was the artist on the Marvel Comics mini-series The Jack of Hearts. From there he replaced P. Craig Russell on the comics adaptation of the second Michael Moorcock Elric novel – The Sailor on the Seas of Fate for publisher First Comics, along with artist Michael T. Gilbert, who would go on to become a frequent collaborator and friend. Freeman would collaborate again with Michael T. Gilbert on his revival of golden age Canadian comic book character, Mr. Monster, illustrating the graphic novel, Mr. Monster vs. The Nazi-Men from Mars for Penthouse Comics.
In the late 1980’s Freeman was a popular artistic partner for some of the industry’s top writers, becoming one of our most recognizable artistic exports. Some highlights from the period include:
- A retelling of the origin of the Golden Age Green Lantern in Secret Origins 16, published in 1986
- “Mortal Clay” a story that appeared in 1987’s Batman Annual 11 that was written by Alan Moore.
- Penciling the 1988 Aquaman one-shot that returned the King of the Seas to his original costume.
- The artwork for the 1990 graphic novel Black Widow: The Coldest War for Marvel Comics, written by Gerry Conway.
In the early 1990’s, Lovern Kindzierski and his cousin, Christopher Chuckry, founded Digital Chameleon. When their success resulted in far too much work for two men, one of the first colourists they turned to was the man who gave them their start in the business, George Freeman. Freeman went on to become Digital Chameleon’s Art Director, building on his Captain Canuck colouring experience and a belief in the potential for computers to change the way comics were made. For the next 12 years, the Winnipeg-based comics coloring and inking studio revolutionized comic book colouring techniques and Freeman worked on many different comics for some of the industry’s largest publishers. Digital Chameleon was the home and proving ground for many of today’s top industry colourists, several of whom have been nominated for Joe Shuster Awards.
In 1996 Freeman and his wife Laurie were nominated for the prestigious Eisner Award for their colouring of the Topps Comics X-Files series. Aside from colouring work, Freeman continued to work an inker for comics titles since the 1990’s – working on titles such as Avengers, Tarzan, Gen 13, Leave it to Chance, the Justice League, Wonder Woman andAlan Moore’s Albion mini-series. Freeman recently worked with Canadian artist Dave Ross and Shuster-Award nominated writer Kelley Armstrong on an arc of ANGEL: AFTER THE FALL. He is currently colouring Trevor Von Eeden’s “The Original Johnson” for ComicMix and drawing a graphic novel for Renegade Arts Entertainment.
Last year, Freeman and Richard Comely came full circle – reuniting to prepare two IDW published hardcover collections reprinting their classic Captain Canuck issues. The pair carefully reconstructed not only the original art, but also the glorious colour from that inaugural run.
-bio compiled by Kevin Boyd