If you’re not familiar with the name Tony DeZuniga, you’re not familiar with one of the most talented and generous personalities in the comic book industry. I had the good fortune of knowing Tony and his wonderful wife Tina after inviting them to the Dallas Comic Con in January 2008, at which Tony was our Guest of Honor. After that show, during which almost our whole staff and comic fan community quickly fell in love with the couple, I would frequently see them out and about at other conventions. I always admired Tony’s dedication to the con circuit, and eagerness to interact with fans. Then there was his art, his incredibly detailed and breathtaking art. Tony could sit there at a show and knock out stunning convention commissions one after the other – these could not be called quick con sketches, they were works of art.
Tony was instrumental in kicking off the Filipino comic artist movement back in the 1970′s, which also introduced the industry to names like Alex Nino and Ernie Chan. Those days weren’t his first exposure to comics, as he had done work in the Philippines dating back to the 50′s. While making a name for himself with American audiences, he co-created characters like Jonah Hex and Black Orchid for DC. Tony also did work for Marvel on titles like CONAN THE BARBARIAN and THOR. I’m proud to own a few originals by the man, and they are some of my most-treasured pieces of original art.
In April of 2012, Tony suffered a stroke while visiting The Philippines. While he fought through it, there were several side effects, and hospital bills became nearly impossible to manage. Many prominent creators in the industry, including Neal Adams, Steve Niles, and Neil Gaiman did their best to encourage donations from other industry professionals and fans alike. Tony passed away at 1:25am on May 11, 2012 due to heart failure. It was a devastating blow to friends and fans who were hoping he’d pull through after his tough ordeal. Comic Book Artist Gerry Alanguilan had the following to say regarding DeZuniga’s impact on the current generation of Filipino comic book creators:
Tony DeZuniga mattered a lot to us because he became one of us. He joined us at our conventions, he hung out with us, interacted with us, and by doing so, he showed that he embraced us and accepted our contributions to the comics industry. He was our friend…. On a personal level, I found Mang Tony’s presence at conventions gave me a sense of security. He was a rock. An anchor. A steady presence I knew I could count on. He was there every time without fail. I knew that if I went to a comics convention, he would be there. And that was comforting to me.
Please read Gerry’s full post about Tony on his site HERE. It breaks my heart to write this, as I had genuinely hoped to have Tony back in Big D once more, and was thinking he’d get past all of this and be smiling and sketching at San Diego Comic-Con. I know he’s now in a better place, and my thoughts and prayers go out to Tina and his family. Many sites have reported Tony’s age to be 71, but he was in fact 79… a rather youthful 79 if I may say so. If you’d liked to post condolences, you may do so at Tony’s official Facebook page HERE.