I was deeply saddened recently to hear of the dire health circumstances faced by one of my favorite comics artists of all time: the legendary Tony DeZuniga, co-creator of the DC Comics characters Jonah Hex (don’t blame Tony for the abominable movie) and Black Orchid.
Tony suffered a stroke earlier this month in his native Philippines, since which time he has been hospitalized and breathing via a ventilator. He has at least partial paralysis, as well as other complications that frequently accompany a major stroke. Fortunately, the latest report from Tony’s wife Tina indicates that he is starting to show improvement, and may be disconnected from the ventilator with the next few days.
It’s hard to overstate the impact that Tony had on the comics industry, despite not being a household name on the level of Stan Lee or Jack Kirby. Tony was the first artist from the Philippines to be hired by either of the Big Two comics publishers. Rather than simply being satisfied with his own success, Tony facilitated the debut of numerous other Filipino artists into the American comics mainstream by persuading DC’s then-editor-in-chief Carmine Infantino to undertake a recruiting trip to the Philippines. As a result of Tony’s efforts, American comics readers enjoyed the work of such talents as Ernie Chan, Alex Nino, Alfredo Alcala, Nestor Redondo, Gerry Talaoc, Romeo Tanghal, and many others.
Having had the chance to get to know Tony and Tina DeZuniga at comics conventions over the past several years, I can attest to their generosity and kindness firsthand. You’re looking at a few of the amazing artworks that I’ve commissioned from Tony, demonstrating the level of creative brilliance he maintained before his recent setbacks. The greatest testimony to Tony’s genius is the fact that it’s his pieces other artists always admire when I break out my portfolio at a con. Hardly a con weekend goes by that another artist doesn’t ask to “see what Tony drew.”
Like most freelance artists, Tony doesn’t have health insurance to offset his medical expenses. Superstar artist Neal Adams and others are spearheading a fundraising drive for Tony and Tina. I understand that the DeZunigas are also receiving assistance from the Hero Initiative, the nonprofit charitable organization that helps comics creators in need. (I’ve been a proud member of the Hero Initiative since I first learned about it. Anyone who grew up loving comics, as I did, should consider supporting this group that does so much good for the folks whose talents enlightened our childhoods.)
Like dozens of other comics fans and industry insiders, I’ve contributed what I could share. If you’d like to chip in, you can direct funds to Tony’s PayPal account: email@example.com. The account is managed by Tony’s daughter, Cheryll Lim. Whatever amount you can offer will help, and will be sincerely appreciated by the DeZuniga family. (I received two lovely notes from Tina thanking me for my gift.) I know that times are tough for a lot of folks these days, but if you have a few uncommitted simoleons that you can donate, please be assured that Tony is well deserving of whatever help you can give.
And that’s your Comic Art Friday.