Tentacle Tuesday: the Filipino cavalry

Today’s Tentacle Tuesday honours Filipino artists who laboured in the comics industry in the 70s. To quote from Power of Comics: Filipino Artists (read the essay here),

« The Filipino talent began to arrive in 1970, when immigrant Tony DeZuñiga began to work for National Comics. DeZuñiga began with assignments on various romance, horror, western, and war anthologies—a combination that many Filipino artists coming after him would also follow—but he made a lasting mark when he co-created Western anti-hero Jonah Hex in All-Star Western #10 (1972). By then, DeZuñiga had convinced then National Comics publisher Carmine Infantino that other talented artists were awaiting discovery back in his nation of origin. With a stable of graying veterans working for him, Infantino was faced with a paucity of new talent in the early 1970s and had trouble finding gifted artists who could work for what the going page rate in American comics would pay at the time. DeZuñiga accompanied Infantino on a recruiting trip to the Philippines in 1971.

As noted, first among the Filipino artists to make a move were Redondo and Alcala. Among his works, Redondo turned in a memorable run on Swamp Thing, and the prolific Alcala picked up a considerable fan following for his work on series like Batman and Arak. Other Filipinos followed. Alex Niño brought a distinct style to Warren Publishing’s 1984 and 1994 series. Ernie Chan’s talent for composition led to his becoming National’s principal cover artist between 1975 and 1977. Gerry Talaoc enjoyed an extended run on The Unknown Soldier. »

Without further ado, let’s have a look at some of the tentacles the artists mentioned above have dreamed up. In no particular order…

TentacleTuesdayIcon

I like the styles of all the artists mentioned in this post, but a couple of these names will make me do a little dance of joy when I encounter their art. Alfredo Alcala (b. 1925, d. 2000) is a definite favourite. He could draw anything he wanted, convincingly… at an amazing speed, and with the sort of detail that other artists would kill for.

Alcala drew for all genres in the early portion of his career, and developed the speed and work ethic for which he later become known amongst his fellow professionals. His fastest page rate was 12 pages in a nine-hour sitting, while in one 96-hour marathon he produced 18 pages, three wrap-around covers and several color guides. During the portion of his career where he worked solely for Filipino publishers, Alcala worked without assistants and did his own inking and lettering. “I somehow always felt that the minute you let someone else have a hand in your work, no matter what, it’s not you anymore. It’s like riding a bicycle built for two…” (source)

Here’s a gorgeous sequence from « The Night of the Nebish! », scripted by Arnold Drake and illustrated by Alfredo Alcala, published in House of Secrets #107 (April 1973).

HouseOfSecrets#107-AlfredoAlcala-01

HouseOfSecrets#107-AlfredoAlcala-02

HouseOfSecrets#107-AlfredoAlcala-03

TentacleTuesdayIcon

Ruben Yandoc (also known as Rubeny, 1927-1992) isn’t nearly as well-known as Alcala, yet he has a beautiful, half-decorative, half-sketchy style. He excelled at horror stories (published in DC’s Witching Hour, House of Mystery, Ghosts, House of Secrets..), and was a master at creating mood. His perfect grasp of architecture and anatomy enabled him to draw believable characters in incredible settings – none of this “figures floating about aimlessly” shit that you sometimes get from artists who can’t imbue their objects and subjects with mass. When Stefan gets grabbed by tentacles, you can feel their weight on his torso and feel the heat and painful brightness of the torch he’s holding, dammit!

SecretsOfSinisterHouse#11-Rubeny
« The Monster of Death Island », plotted by Maxene Fabe and illustrated by Ruben Yandoc. Published in Secrets of Sinister House no. 11 (April 1973).

TentacleTuesdayIcon

Alex Niño’s art doesn’t give me butterflies. His stuff is quite weird, sometimes far too detailed, but his talent is nevertheless undeniable. For a good appreciation of his style (and more examples of it), go to this entry from Wizard’s Keep. As for me, I’ll limit myself to this humble, one-panel mass of tentacles, eyes, teeth, spikes, and god knows what else.

WeirdMysteryTales#9-AlexNiño
“Something on me”, indeed! A panel from « Evil Power », plotted by Jack Oleck and illustrated by Alex Niño from Weird Mystery Tales no. 9 (December 1973-January 1974). Niño was born in 1940, which makes him 78. He’s officially retired, but still holds art classes and takes commissions, as well as making the occasional appearance at conventions.

TentacleTuesdayIcon

Redondo’s “memorable run on Swamp Thing” was mentioned at the beginning of this post. Well, we’ve already featured the tentacled robot who tries to finish Alec Holland off here, but rest assured – there’s more tentacles than just that in the career of Nestor Purugganan Redondo (1928-1995)! For example, this:

Unexpected195-NestorRedondo
Original art for “Monsters From a Thousand Fathoms”, published in The Unexpected no. 185 (May-June 1978). You’ll note the art is attributed to the “Redondo Studio”; Nestor and his brother, Frank, often collaborated under that name.

By the way, he’s most assuredly another favourite in this household. His women are believably sexy, his monsters inventive and scary, his animals pitch-perfect… His style is realistic but lush, his nature almost prettier than in real life. And I like him much, much better than Bernie Wrightson, as far as Swamp Thing is concerned 😉

TentacleTuesdayIcon

A perfect fit for any Tentacle Tuesday, here’s the requisite damsel-in-distress-with-tentacles:

ConanWenchandCoBook1ErnieChan
Wench & Co. Book 1, a collection of drawings – of mostly naked women, what else? – by Ernesto Chan (1940-2012), born and sometimes credited as Ernie Chua. Published by Big Wow, 2005. Sadly, we will never get a Book 2.

TentacleTuesdayIcon

We shouldn’t forget Tony DeZuñiga (1932-2012), who after all started all this. Among other accomplishments, he co-created Jonah Hex and Black Orchid, two pretty damn cool characters.

PhantomStranger18DeZuniga
Page from “Home is the Sailor”, plotted by Len Wein and illustrated by Tony DeZuñiga, published in The Phantom Stranger no. 18 (March-April 1972).

I hope you enjoyed this (non-exhaustive) romp through Filipino-American tentacles! As historian Chris Knowles (1999) has noted about Filipino artists, « Here was a group of immensely talented and hard-working draftsmen who could draw absolutely anything and draw it well. They set a standard that the younger artists would have to live up to and that the older ones would have to compete with. » Amen to that!

~ ds

9 thoughts on “Tentacle Tuesday: the Filipino cavalry

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s