Friday, May 11, 2012 / 3:20 pm

Tony DeZuñiga Draws No More

Another comics artist gets the short end in the end.

by Gary Phillips

Big bad Jonah Hex
Hex a la de Zuñiga.

Once again I remind you writing and drawing comics ain’t for kids.  Wonderful penciller and inker Tony DeZuñiga, 79, passed away this Friday, May 11 in the Philippines.  Not only being a masterful comics illustrator, DeZuñiga co-created the facially deformed ex-Confederate cold-blooded bounty hunter Jonah Hex with writer John Albano.  Hex first appeared in All-Star Western #10, February-March, 1972.  According to this entry on Wikipedia, DeZuñiga said this of his creation:

“When I went to my doctor, I saw this beautiful chart of the human anatomy. And I saw the anatomy of the figure was split in half, straight from head to toe. Half his skeleton was there, half his nerves and muscles. That’s where I got the idea it won’t be too bad if his distortion would be half.”

He also co-created a female superhero character, the Black Orchid with writer Sheldon Mayer.  DeZuñiga was considered the first Filipino artist to crack the American market working of the Big Two, Marvel and DC – leading the way for many others.  I was really pleased last year to get this compilation book of  the retro, original Doc Savage stories Doug Moench wrote and DeZuñiga illustrated for the short-lived black and white Doc Savage magazine Marvel did back in the ‘70s.

All that’s the good part.  The bad is DeZuñiga had a stroke in April that also caused some bran damage.  What with the hospital bill, operation and meds, he and his wife were paying something like $1,500 a day out of pocket because, of course, he had no insurance.  Also since he and Albano created the iconic Jonah Hex as a work-for-hire gig, they didn’t own a piece of the character.  So they didn’t share in the option money when the Hex movie, poor as its execution was, got made.  To his credit, Neal Adams, an artist-writer who back in the day was one of the comics biggies fighting for creators’ rights, helped organize some fundraising among the comics world.

Man, it’s hard as hell out here for an artist.

Gary Phillips' latest is Treacherous: Grifters, Ruffians and Killers, a collection of his short stories.


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