George Davis Wilson Jr.
PFC in 603rd Engineer Camouflage Bn : Co A
Born 1921 in NY, Died 1998
County of residence at enlistment: Niagara County, NY
Other residence(s): Buffalo, NY; Richmond, VA; Kenmore, NY; Hollis, NY; Hastings-On-Hudson, NY
United States Army, European Theatre of Operations
Occupation before the war: unskilled foundry occupations, n.e.c.
College education before the war: Pratt 3 years
George Wilson was born on August 2, 1921 in Buffalo, NY, the second of two children. His father was an architect.
In an interview conducted shortly before his death, he described his career path. "I knew what I wanted to be when I was 16. . . . Even when I was a little kid, I used to get up on a Saturday morning and sit on the couch and draw on the back of the dust jackets the rental library gave out."
George's mother died when he was 16, and soon afterwards he moved to Richmond, VA to live with his older sister and study at the Richmond Art School. In about 1939, George moved to Brooklyn, NY to study art for three years at the Pratt Institute. He registered for the draft on February 15, 1942, during his time at Pratt, and enlisted on September 29. Like many other Pratt art students, he was assigned to the 603rd Engineer Camouflage Battalion, and saw service in Europe during the war.
He was discharged on October 21, 1945 at Camp Sibert, AL, and returned to New York. Over the next fifty plus years, he worked as a commercial illustrator for ad agencies and for publishing houses such as Dell Publications, Bombay Boomerang, Jove, Avon, Western Publishing's Gold Key, and Harlequin Books. He produced illustrations for books, such as The Hardy Boys Series and Wild West and romance paperbacks. "From '83 to '92, almost 10 years, I was doing paperback romances for Harlequin. Funny thing . . . I thought I'd get tired of doing them . . . It's just one clinch after another . . . but would you believe I never did. It paid pretty well."
He began his work as a cover painter for Dell Comics in 1955. He produced 121 Tarzan covers, 13 Phantom covers, 20 Twilight Zone covers, 24 Ripley's Believe It or Not covers, 32 Star Trek covers, 54 Space Family Robinson covers, and many others.
A 2022 post in the Warehouse Find blog described his work as follows: "His illustrations featured realistically rendered people (males mostly) doing battle against some kind of foe, be it human, animal, robot, dinosaur, or some mythical creature. There were also covers with people being menaced by ghosts, monsters, or aliens. He did covers depicting scenes from conventional war to outer space battles. . . . Wilson's covers were all full color painting, not line art with color fill."
He produced art in pen and ink, as well as acrylics and oils. The contracts for most of his comic book art required that the illustrations be unsigned, so the general public never knew the man behind the work. The habit became so ingrained that he frequently forgot to sign commissioned work when he could have done so.
Not much else is known about George's life, outside his artwork. He married Elizabeth (Judy) Putnam Low, a New York City school teacher, on December 18, 1971. At the time he was living in Hollis, NY; later moving to Hastings-on-Hudson. He was also a competitive rifle shooter and an active member of the Society of Illustrators.
George died on December 7, 1998 and is buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, NY.
1925 NY state census
1942 draft card
1942 enlistment record
1971 wedding announcement in Verona-Cedar Grove Times (NJ)
1993 US Public Records index
1998 Social Security applications and claims index
1998 Find a Grave record
2002 interview by Ed Rhoades, entitled "The Phantom Painter," appearing in Comic Book Artist 22, October 2002
2022 Warehouse Find blog; article entitled "George Wilson, The Great Cover Painter," by Jim "Dr. Dim" Fitzsimons
Entry in Lambiek Comiclopedia
2023 (September 3) GALP Veteran Biography Worksheet from researcher Steve Keeley