Race + Comics: R.I.P. Tony DeZuniga

By Arturo R. García

Courtesy: Examiner.com

The comics world lost a pioneer last week with the passing of artist Tony DeZuniga, who died in the Philippines from complications from a stroke. DeZuniga is best known for being the co-creator of DC Comics characters Black Orchid and Jonah Hex.

DeZuniga’s association with Hex would span almost four decades: 38 years after introducing the character in All-Star Western in 1972, DeZuniga returned to draw Hex for a stand-alone graphic novel, Jonah Hex: No Way Back.

DeZuniga began working as an artist in his native Philippines as a teenager in the 1950s, during the country’s boom period for comics (or Komics, as they were called). In the early 1960s he moved to New York to study graphic design and advertising, a career he would pursue for a few years before returning to the U.S. toward the end of the decade and earning art assignments from DC editor Joe Orlando. DeZuniga became the first Filipino artist to break into the American comics market.

But more importantly, DeZuniga made sure he wasn’t the last to do so, as Comic Book Resources’ Kevin Melrose noted:

He used the opportunity to open the door for other Filipino creators, convincing Orlando and DC Editor-in-Chief Carmine Infantino to visit the Philippines in 1971 to recruit such artists as Alex Niño, Alfredo Alcala, Nestor Redondo, Fred Carrillo, Vicatan and Gerry Talaoc.

That same year DeZuniga collaborated with writer John Albano to create Jonah Hex, the disfigured Western antihero with whom the artist is so closely associated. “[John] asked me to draw the concept for the character, and one day I was at the doctor’s office and I saw this chart with a man, showing him half muscle and half skeleton,” DeZuniga recalled in a 2010 interview with Comic Book Resources. “I thought to myself, ‘This is neat,’ and I got the concept. When John Albano saw it, he was very happy.”

Under the cut you can find just a few examples of DeZuniga’s work with a variety of characters.

Storm From The X-Men. Image: Keaneoncomics.tumblr.com
Conan The Barbarian. Image: thecomixverse.com
Jonah Hex. Image: Comicartfans.com
Red Sonja. Image: Marvel.Wikia.com
Black Orchid. Image: Comicartfans.com
Page from "Jonah Hex: No Way Back." Courtesy: DC Comics & Los Angeles Times.

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Racialicious is a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture. Check out our daily updates on the latest celebrity gaffes, our no-holds-barred critique of questionable media representations, and of course, the inevitable Keanu Reeves John Cho newsflashes.

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