BRIDGEPORT — Leo Perez was a Pilsen kid obsessed with street art and comic books.
At long last, the 33-year-old Bridgeport resident is making a career out of combining the two.
"A lot of my art work goes back to graffiti. More than anything else, I'm obsessed with color," he said.
A late bloomer of sorts in the comics art scene, Perez's first comics work was published in 2011 after a pal invited him to contribute one page for Cheeselord Comics, an independent producer of wild and weird illustrations.
"Leo may have only been drawing comics for a couple years but he's been "training" as a comic book artist his entire life," said Cheeselord creator Jon Michael Lennon. "Leo's art isn't the kind of work you would see in a DC or Marvel comic but it should be."
Invited back to Cheeselord for a six-page story, Perez says he has been exploding with creativity ever since.
His work can now be found in Chicago comics stores, on the expo circuit and even on windows of a handful of Bridgeport businesses like Jackalope Coffee and Tea House.
"Growing up, this would've been a pipe dream," Perez said. "A lot of times I feel like I'm doing this for everyone who saw me drawing when I was a kid ... but I'm still paying my dues, man. I'm no big deal."
Perez works part-time at a grocery store and recently moved to Bridgeport with his wife after stint in the suburbs.
In his spare time, he's sketching characters, creating concepts, hustling his original illustrations and buddying up with Lennon at Midwestern comic shows, where "complete strangers will actually give you money to draw them pictures of Superman and Wonder Woman," he said.
But his work also extends off the page.
Drive around Bridgeport and you'll see his handiwork dotting a landscape of small businesses, including a dentist's office and Bark N Bites pet supply store, where owner Laura Fratto commissioned him because his "work is just so eye catching."
His Instagram account is packed with his take on modern superheroes, and he's having a blast contributing to the offbeat, macabre, perverted comics of Cheeselord's "Product of Society" series, a darkly funny anthology rife with death and sex and bodily functions.
Perez does it all with a smile and is planning to publish more work this year.
Together with his cousin Audel Oceguera, he's starting a series about a masked Mexican Luchador wrestler who crusades against conspiracy theories. A plan for a "humorous" horror anthology is also getting hatched.
Don't expect any superheroes.
"The world," he says, "has enough superhero stuff."