By Jim Beard
The late Tony DeZuniga will be fondly and warmly remembered not only as a trailblazing comic artist and illustrator, but also as a unique talent the likes of which will not be seen again. Marvel Comics pauses to look back on his contributions to the industry and the House of Ideas in particular.
A native of the Philippines, DeZuniga started out in the comics industry at the tender age of 16, and though he’s best known for his penciling and inking, the young artist actually began his career as a letterer. After achieving a degree in commercial art in his home country, he arrived in the United States to pursue further study in graphic design in the early 1960’s. By the end of that decade, DeZuniga returned to the States and landed regular work at DC Comics in New York City.
Together with writer John Albano, DeZuniga illustrated the first adventures of the infamous Western anti-hero Jonah Hex and helped to shine a spotlight on the unique stylings of Filipino artists. Because of his work and the acclaim that it brought, he helped usher in to the industry such artists as Alex Niño, Nestor Redondo and Alfredo Alcala.
|Captain America #221 cover by Tony DeZuniga|
Marvel came calling and in the 1970’s DeZuniga began what can only be called a whirlwind art tour of the Marvel Universe. He illustrated for such varied series as CONAN THE BARBARIAN, DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU, MAN-THING, STRANGE TALES and X-MEN. For 1975’s MARVEL PREVIEW #2, DeZuniga helped deliver the never-before-told origin of The Punisher to eager fans, and then one year later returned to the crime-hating vigilante in the magazine-sized MARVEL SUPER ACTION #1. In fact, much of his work in the period could be seen in Marvel magazines like DRACULA LIVES, MONSTERS UNLEASHED, RAMPAGING HULK and SAVAGE TALES.
In the following decades, the artist would split his time between Marvel and DC gigs. In the 1980’s, he worked on CONAN THE KING, THOR and a SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL, and then into the 1990’s he drew for DOCTOR STRANGE and MARVEL FANFARE. DeZuniga’s art promised a fine line, fine detail and a fine eye for anatomy, all of which lent itself to characters that tended to lurk on the fringes and away from the light.
|Rawhide Kid #146 cover by Tony DeZuniga|
Later years found him working as a video game designer, creating concepts and seeing his work translated into a different medium, albeit one just as exciting as comics. He retired eventually, but only really in name, not in deed. DeZuniga continued to draw, paint and teach; all of the things he made a name for himself doing throughout the years.
Earlier this year, the artist suffered a stroke and complications set in almost immediately. So loved by the American and international comic art community, he became the focal point of a groundswell of support and fundraising. Sadly, DeZuniga passed away from the after-effects of the stroke.
Tony DeZuniga stands as a historic figure in comics, a singular voice of his own making. His legacy will be seen and felt in the multitude of fans he leaves behind and the incredible body of work of which he remained justifiably proud to his final days.