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Jonah Hex co-creator Tony DeZuniga passes away at age 79

Legendary comic artist Tony DeZuniga, co-creator of Jonah Hex and Black Orchid, passed away early Wednesday at Las Piñas Doctors Hospital in the Philippines after suffering from a stroke, heart failure and brain damage, GMA News reports. The 79-year-old artist was surrounded by wife Tina, his daughter Sheryl and his sisters-in-law.

“Tony is very smart, clever, and funny,” Tina DeZuniga told the website. “He is my knight in shining armor.”

DeZuniga was admitted to the intensive care unit in mid-April following a stroke, leading friends and fans to rally to help cover his medical expenses. On Free Comic Book Day, Filipino artists came together to sell sketches and T-shirts to raise money for the fund.

Born in Manila, DeZuniga began his comics career at the age of 16 as a letterer for a weekly magazine then moved to the United States in 1962 to study graphic design. He returned to the Philippines to work in advertising before heading back to New York City, where he was hired by DC Comics editor Joe Orlando, making DeZuniga the first Filipino artist to work for a major American comics publisher.

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.”

Although perhaps best remembered for his work on DC’s Jonah Hex, Arak, Son of Thunder, The Phantom Stranger and Weird Western Tales, he also drew Dracula Lives, The Savage Sword of Conan and Thor for Marvel.

“He was, and still is a huge inspiration,” cartoonist Gerry Alanguilan wrote on his website. “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. Now that he’s gone, I have no doubt that he will continue to inspire us. And while our conventions may seem empty now without him, as if something would always be missing, his memory will help keep us going, and keep us making comics.”

DeZuniga returned to Jonah Hex in 2010 with No Way Back, a 136-page graphic novel written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, and released to coincide with the character’s big-screen debut.

“I really enjoyed doing Jonah Hex again,” he told CBR at the time, before expressing his distaste for the way the character has been depicted in more recent years. “I have seen the new comics, and I am not too happy with some of the artists making him [more like] Clint Eastwood; exaggerating the scars; wrong hats,” he said. “See, small things are important in a character. That’s always a part of making it whole.”

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10 Comments

please change the year of birth. he’s 79 years old so that means he wasn’t born in 1941.

This one really hurts….

I met Tony a couple of times at FallCon, and he was a lovely man, a true gentleman. My heart goes out to his wife, who was also a real treat. This is just so very sad.

Tony was a talent of the first order. He was an artist in the truest sense of the word. For my money he was on a level that only names like Kubert, Adams, and Kirby occupy. Anyone who doubts that has never really looked at his work, and if you haven’t, seek it out. It’s some of the finest comic book art ever published.

In speaking about Tony with other creators, like Palmiotti and Saviuk, you get the sense of what a great person he was. He will be missed. I have no doubt he is on his way to a better place.

Goodbye Tony. Godspeed, and God bless…

Man, why all the good people are the ones taken away, not those philistines, scumbags, nonsense, rubbish, and more particularly, politicians and lawyers!? We will miss you, Tony! Thank you for Jonah Hex and Black Orchid! Thank you for opening the doors for true Filipino artists/maestros in the international comics arena! And muchas gracias for the inspiration you often gave to us comic believers! Tony is dead! Viva Tony!

I agree that his work was fantastic and am grateful for his contributions.

God be with you Tony

R.I.P. Tony.

Thank you for the damn fine dusty, crusty and mean Jonah Hex.

So sad to hear this news. I fondly remember Tony de Zuniga distinctive work, and Black Orchid, but I didn’t realize he was influential in bringing all those other artists that I’ve enjoyed over the years. Thank you Tony and condolences to his family.

This sad. I really enjoyed his art.

Vaya con dios, Tony. You made me like Western comics, and I loved your horror stuff as well.

Thank you for all your wonderful work, Mr. DeZuniga, and God bless you…

I have been a very long time admirer of Tony DeZuniga’s work and the man himself. Some 30 years ago I was privileged to be invited to his home for Sunday dinner when he lived at that time south of San Francisco. A more friendly, talented, and elegant gentleman has seldom been my pleasure to meet. Still remember when I first saw the first Jonah Hex story, have been a fan every day since. Rest in Peace, Tony, Rest in Peace.
Larry Fuller

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