George William Roussos was born on August 20, 1915, in Washington, DC, according to his World War draft card and Social Security application (transcribed at Ancestry.com). He was the first of three children born to William Roussos and Mary Papagiosgiou, the name on his Social Security application, and Harriet Papageorge, the name on Alice Roussos’ marriage license.
Sometime after Alice’s birth, in December 1918, the family of five moved to Greece. In Comic Book Artist #17, January 2002, Jon B. Cooke interviewed Roussos who said he “was raised properly in Greece, went to school there, came back, and lived in New York pretty much the rest of my life …” He did not say what happened to his parents.
On September 17, 1928, Roussos and his sisters, Helen and Halli (Alice) were passengers on the steamship Byron when it departed Pireaus, Greece. They arrived in the port of New York on October 3, 1928. It’s not clear who arranged their passage. The passenger list had a Manhattan address, 1320 5th Avenue.
In The Comics Journal, #223, May 2000, Dylan Williams said Roussos attended P.S. 125 in Woodside, Queens, New York. It’s not clear when he started at this school that had grades up to eight.
The 1930 United States Census recorded Roussos and his sisters at the Orphan Asylum Society of the City of Brooklyn, 1385 Atlantic Avenue. Roussos was fifteen years old and probably at a high school that hasn’t been identified.
On July 20, 1936, Roussos and Viola M. Fink obtained a Queens marriage license according to the New York, New York Marriage License Index at Ancestry.com. The New York City Municipal Archives said they married on July 23, 1936. The license said Roussos was a bartender; he was also a self-taught artist.
In Alter Ego #39, August 2004, Jim Amash interviewed Jerry Robinson.
Jim Amash: Since the amount go work had increased, did you guys call out for more help?Robinson: Yes. We soon hired George Roussos as a background artist. Bob [Kane] rented a tiny studio—enough for two drawing boards, period—way up on top of The Times Square Building in New York. We could see the entire Times Square …
Bob advertised for a background artist, and we interviewed several artists. We thought George was the best, and he could letter, too. He proved to be very good. George and I worked together in the Times Building, up until we left to work directly for DC. He was a quiet, self-effacing guy most of the time. He was born in Greece, and while he spoke English very well, he may not have been entirely comfortable with it. We got along very well and became close friends. …
Roussos has not yet been found in the 1940 census. On October 16, 1940, Roussos signed his World War II draft card. His address was 41-41 46th Street in Long Island City, New York and later updated to 42-05 48th Avenue, Sunnyside, New York. Roussos was described as five feet nine inches, 140 pounds, with brown eyes and hair. His employer was Bob Kane.
In the 1950 census Roussos, his wife and three children lived in Queens at 4705 41st Street or 48th Avenue. He was a freelance artist.
Who’s Who of American Comic Books 1928–1999 has an overview of Roussos’s career. The Grand Comics Database lists his credits. Todd Klein examines the early Batman letterers including Roussos.
Roussos passed away on February 19, 2000, in Bay Shore, New York. He was laid to rest at Queen of All Saints Cemetery.
(Next post on Monday: Toni Bonagura, Lettering Artist and Painter)