Tony DeZuniga, R.I.P.

Filipino comic book legend Tony DeZuniga has died at the age of 71. Tony suffered a major stroke in mid-April which led to a range of infections and other medical problems. While no cause of death has been announced, it's likely that it was the culmination of what he'd been going through. Many in the comic book community had chipped in to help with hospital bills and other expenses because he was so well-liked and respected. He was among his many other accomplishments, the co-creator of the popular DC properties, Jonah Hex and The Black Orchid.

Tony entered the flourishing comic book industry in The Philippines in 1957, working as a letterer to finance his college education at the University of Santa Tomas. Despite warnings that a Filipino artist could not crack the American marketplace, Tony came here several times to try and do so and in 1970 secured work at DC, inking other artists at first, then doing complete art. His style was unique, at least to American comic books, and exciting for its blend of realism and energy.

He told the editors at DC that there were many other fine artists back in The Philippines. At first, the notion of working with talent so far away (and not well-schooled in English) scared DC's management away. That was until they learned how inexpensive it would be to have comics drawn there. Even with the expense of shipping work down there, it made it possible to get a comic book drawn (and drawn well) for a fraction of what American artists were paid. At first, Tony served as a kind of agent as dozens of Filipino artists began drawing for DC and later for Marvel and other companies. They included Nestor Redondo, Alfredo Alcala, Alex Nino and Ernie Chua (later known as Ernie Chan). Some of these artists later relocated to the United States and Tony spent much of his time here.

Tony is probably best remembered for Jonah Hex and for the work he did on DC's mystery comics and on Marvel's Conan the Barbarian. He drew very powerful heroic figures and very beautiful women and I always enjoyed talking or lunching with him and his wonderful wife, Tina. Our thoughts and condolences go out to her tonight along with the knowledge that Tony and his fine work will not be forgotten.