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Alumni create Marvel comic starring Justin Trudeau

July 13, 2016

Award-winning illustration grads Ramón Pérez and Chip Zdarsky have brought several comic super-heroes to life through their work. But the artists have suited up Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as the hero in issue No. 5 of Marvel Comic’s "Civil War II: Choosing Sides" which comes out on August 31. Pérez (1995), provided the illustrations and Zdarsky, a.k.a. Steve Murray (2000) wrote the story for the all-Canadian issue. The variant cover features Trudeau in a boxing ring surrounded by Canadian superhero squad Alpha Flight.  It’s an appropriate setting for the Prime Minister on several levels, according to Pérez, whose work for Marvel includes illustrations for Wolverine & the X-Men.

“With Trudeau’s presence in social media and popularity with a younger demographic, I wanted to convey him in a different light from the traditional suit-and-tie political image. Plus, because boxing is part of the story, and Trudeau is himself a boxer, I thought it was the perfect layered image to represent him and Canada, in a way,” added Pérez. “He’s brought us back into the global ring if you will, so he’s a bit of a superhero, really.”

Trudeau was a natural choice as the centre of the Canadian-based Alpha Flight story, but the project had own unique challenges, said Zdarsky, whose credits include comics for Marvel and several other franchises. “It’s one thing to write a story based on fictional characters but voicing a real person, especially one so high profile, was tricky. It’s much easier writing dialogue for Spider-Man, because I’ll never receive an angry phone call from Spider-Man or have the RCMP knock on my door as a result.”

Both alumni figured the Trudeau-based comic would draw attention here in Canada but they weren’t ready for the worldwide buzz surrounding the project. “I didn’t expect all the international coverage. Somebody sent us a clip from an Australian talk show about it,” said Zdarsky. But the strangest experience was seeing an editorial cartoon in the Ottawa Citizen about the comic, added Zdarsky, former columnist for The National Post. “I feel very blessed to have made it into one of those without having to have a political scandal first!”

Pérez and Zdarsky are part of a thriving hub of artists and graphic designers in Toronto who contribute to mainstream comics as well as web and independent comics. For the past 10 years, Pérez has been a member of the co-operative art studio, RAID (Royal Academy of Illustration and Design). Zdarsky co-founded RAID in 2004 with a group of artists including fellow alumni and highly accomplished illustrators, Kagan McLeod (1999) and Ben Shannon (1998).

Now role models to other artists, Pérez and Zdarsky remember the influence of many Sheridan instructors, most of whom were working professionals themselves. “Lorraine Tuson was a big inspiration for me,” recalled Pérez. “She pushed me to reach goals beyond my abilities, and made me unafraid to fail. This is still something I bring to the table today as a professional, always trying new things and pushing the envelope with the kind of work I aspire to create.”

Click here to read an interview with Chip Zdarsky in the National Post.
Click here to listen to an interview with Ramón Pérez on CBC Radio.
Click here for the Canadian Press story in The Globe and Mail.

Chip Zdarsky
Chip Zdarsky

Ramon Perez
Ramón Pérez