Tony DeZuniga, co-creator of Jonah Hex and The Black Orchid, has passed away at age 71. He suffered a stroke in April and had been battling a series of health problems since then. DeZuniga was a seminal figure in the “Filipino Invasion” of the ’70s and ’80s which saw artists like Nestor Redondo, Alex Nino, and Alfredo Alcala entering the US market. He helped introduce many of the artists to US editors and then served as an agent for several years. Like most of the artists in this wave, DeZuniga was an impeccable draftsman who could draw just about anything. He’s best remembered for his contributions to the barbarians and Westerns of the day, but he also drew romance, adventure, superhero, horror….like we said, he could draw anything.
Mark Evanier offers some history:
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.
Here’s a longer piece with much more of this history.
On a personal level, I found Mang Tony’s presence at conventions gave me a sense of security. He was a rock. An anchor. A steady presence I knew I could count on. He was there every time without fail. I knew that if I went to a comics convention, he would be there. And that was comforting to me. He was, and still is a huge inspiration. I’m not exactly a very young man anymore, but whenever I think of Mang Tony, who was still active and still pushing his artistic boundaries well into his 70′s, it was terribly, terribly inspiring. I wish I could be as active and creative when I reach his age.
DeZuniga and his wife Tina were kindly and much liked on the convention circuit, as testified to by collaborator Jimmy Palmiotti:
Tony, always a smile and a hug…always interested and focused …always an inspiration. He had a style that was all his own.
— Jimmy Palmiotti (@jpalmiotti) May 11, 2012
Here’s a video interview with him from a few years back.
The legends are leaving us. Condolences to his many friends and family.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.