Sunday, March 10, 2013

Spotlight On: The Filipino Masters

Doug:  You know these guys, some of whom have been featured in the past on the BAB.  Nestor Redondo.  Tony DeZuniga. Rudy Nebres.  Alex Nino. Romeo Tanghal. Ernie Chan. Alfredo Alcala. E.R. Cruz.  More recently, in the modern age -- Whilce Portacio.  Rafael Kayanan. Leinil Francis Yu.  Whether you love 'em or hate 'em, this group of talented illustrators was seemingly everywhere in the Bronze Age.  Most notably, their work was featured in Marvel's stable of black and white magazines, but guys like Ernie Chan (Chua) had lengthy runs either penciling or inking such titles as Conan the Barbarian, the Incredible Hulk, and the Batman mags.  Lovers of the Teen Titans will recognize Romeo Tanghal's name from the Baxter paper era, and anyone drawn to Rima the Jungle Girl by Joe Kubert's covers would have found the work of Nestor Redondo between the covers.

Doug:  Today let's hear some reminiscences, preferences, pans -- whatever you got.  There's plenty to discuss under this Spotlight.

Nestor Redondo

Inks by Alfredo Alcala

Romeo Tanghal


Edo Bosnar said...

I don't think the importance of the Filipino artists to what we called the Bronze Age of comics can ever be overemphasized. And I think a few of them, like Nino, Alcala, Chan and De Zuniga especially, merit their own spotlight post. Seriously, this field is so big I can't even think of anything to say without writing a whole book (by the way, has anyone written a book about the Filipino masters?)

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Edo, the subject matter is just too wide.
The master, Big JB, hated been inked by 'them' BUT who can deny that Alcala just complimented him perfectly on Conan...who remembers, Conan standing, fully garbed in armor for the first time, in SSOC #2 in the 'novel-length' Black Colossus.

Doug said...

I guess I've underestimated the legs these guys would have to carry individual posts.

Very busy day today, so no time for a re-work. Do with this what you will, and somewhere down the road maybe we'll revisit some of these men as individuals.

My finger seems to be losing the pulse of the BAB community. Between starting the "Under Siege" post on the "wrong" issue, the 10-issue requirement for discussion earlier in the week and now this, perhaps I should go back on vacation!


Rip Jagger said...

While I agree that many of these guys can support a full thread, heck all of them can. I think examining them as a group has real merit.

The discovery of the Filipino artists might have saved comics as we know them. The price of talent in comics has always caused editors to search for the cheapest solutions.

Whether it's hiring kids who work out of a love of the form and so will work for meager funds, or to find a goldmine of relatively cheap talent ready and able to go full steam makes the editor's job easier when it comes to managing costs.

Jim Warren struck a rich vein of talent when he found his Spanish artists, those guys who made later Warren magazines so lush and distinctive.

Thanks in no small part to Tony DeZuniga, the editors at DC at access to absolute world class talent, artists able to produce high quality pages on time at relatively small wages. Without the influx of these guys, I daresay in the darkest times of the woeful 70's Marvel and DC might well have considered calling it a day. They almost did anyway.

We call it "outsourcing" in the modern marketplace, but that's what publishers did back then (and today still) to save a nickel and cut the margin so they could stay in the game. It's hardball, and it was and is exceedingly tough on some veteran talents who need better compensation in their later lives, but it's the brutal beast of a business that comics have always been.I'm not apologizing for them, let me make that clear.

We remember DeZuniga, Nino, Alcala, the Redondos, and the others fondly. They were great great talents, but we perhaps owe them a debt of gratitude that our beloved hobby still exists, though of course at the time they like most of us only wanted to make a decent living.

Rip Off

Doc Savage said...

I wish Redondo had drawn the Rima covers as well as the interiors. His style seemed better suited for it; Kubert to me is always so grainy/sketchy his work seems like it was meant for more "realistic" subject matter.

Those Spanish and Filipino artists were pretty great for the most part. Considering how bad many of the homegrown artists were by comparison--to the point that I couldn't believe they were being offered work as professionals (and it's worse today)--the arrival of the foreign talent was a godsend.

Anonymous said...

Yes the arrival of the Filipino and Spanish artists in the 70s revitalized the comics industry, and added a whole new depth and style to an industry which was in danger of becoming too formulaic.

Even though such giants as John Romita Sr, the Buscema bros and Jack Kirby were around, they couldn't do all the work, so the publishers had to import talent form somewhere, and in came these foreign masters. Some of my favourites include :

(1) Tony DeZuniga (especially when he inked Big John on Conan - I have an old issue of SSOC which was adapted from the Conan the Buccaneer novel. Just classic, exquisite art!). Still miss you, Mr. DeZuniga. Thanks for the art and memories.

(2) Ernie Chan - I loved his rendition of the Hulk. While most people think of Happy Herb Trimpe as the definitive Hulk artist, one look at Chan's powerful Hulk is enough to convince me he belongs in this elite group. Oh yeah, he inked Conan too, didn't he?

(3) Rudy Nebres - like Gil Kane, Nebres had a distinctive style. No matter what title he was drawing, once you saw the figures and faces he drew, you immediately knew it was a Nebres masterpiece.

(4) Alfredo Alcala - again, another artist with a unique style. Like Tom Palmer or Klaus Janson, Alcala wasn't afraid to splash a lot of ink onto his pages! The art supply department must have ordered the extra large inkpots whenever these guys were inking!

Oh, yes, I do agree that any one of these gentlemen merits his own discussion page in the future. I'd love to have one of those soon. What say you, Doug & Karen?

- Mike 'to all the Filipino masters - thanks for your contribution' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Doug said...

It's funny, somewhat. Karen and I were musing that if we'd have run any of these guys as a single spotlight, we might have gotten only 3 comments! Yet toss 'em all together and no one feels right about discussing any of them!

(With his hands in the air) Doug

Edo Bosnar said...

All right, I'll try to focus my thoughts on this; first, I'd have to say that my absolute favorite of the Filipino artists is Alex Nino. He was equally at home doing science fiction, horror or sword and sorcery (as in that beautifully drawn Conan story in an early issue of Savage Sword). I love his intricate attention to detail. Every panel he draws is always so beautiful - in fact, his art at times really raised the level of the stories. A case in point is the graphic novel Space Clusters: the story is actually pretty unimpressive, but you can just slowly flip through it and savor Nino's beautiful artwork throughout the book...

I also think it's worthwhile giving a shout-out to some of the Filipino artists who perhaps weren't considered A-listers but who still produced some pretty solid work: Rico Rival, who did a whole bunch of stories in DC's horror books, and Sonny Trinidad, who, among other things, drew much of the Son of Satan series, either on his own or doing finishes over P. Craig Russell's layouts.

Garett said...

I love DeZuniga and Alcala on Savage Sword. They don't work for the John Buscema purists who want Buscema inking himself, but I think they add a wonderful touch, each in a different way, to the Conan tales. DeZuniga draws beautiful women, elegant! Plus he has a great brush technique that looks quick and effortless and expressive. Alcala adds details, the feeling of lush details--I think of the foliage in some Conan stories. I think both of them lost some of Buscema's figure drawing snap, but added in other ways to the overall look.

Chan was better early on, in my opinion, like the early Conan regular comic. More gritty inking style, like Conan's rough world. But in the later Savage Swords, gritty turned to sloppy! Not good.

Tanghal was fantastic over Perez on Titans. Did they work together after that?

Whilce Portacio and Leinil Yu--I appreciate the skills of both, and have read books by them, but my initial excitement fades the more I read. Again, there's something about their styles. Maybe it's Portacio's faces--and an overly stylized look to Yu, despite his ability to draw great crowd scenes. A darkness to them?

DeZuniga did some nice work on Jonah Hex. I found his penciling somewhat stiff compared to his inking, say for action scenes.

Steve Does Comics said...

My favourite DC Comics in the 1970s were their horror mags, and the likes of Nino, Cruz and Alcala were largely responsible for that.

Nino was probably my favourite. His work seemed so alien. I also loved Cruz's work on The Shadow, and Redondo's work on the Black Orchid and Swamp Thing.

I'd love to see a post dedicated to Cruz in particular. As I discovered when researching him for my own blog, it's surprising how little info there is about him online.

Edo Bosnar said...

Out of the "new" guys mentioned, I'm unfamiliar with Yu, Portacio's art I don't like at all (too Image for me), but Kayanan does beautiful work. I remember seeing some of those Hawkmoon books he drew in the late '80s (published by First Comics I think) - really, really nice (and I think Rival did some of the inking). I've also seen scanned pages and panels of that Conan the Adventurer series he did with Roy Thomas in the early 1990s - it kind of reminds of the early issues of Conan drawn by Smith.

david_b said...

Nearing the end of this afternoon and only 11 comments thus far..?

Great comments thus far, but doesn't seem to me individual posts are necessary..

Simon B said...

Personally, I would have thought that at least Nino, Alcala, De Zuniga and ( Nestor ) Redondo were worthy of individual posts. All highly talented artists who added class and individuality to whatever they were working on. And probably saved the bacon of various, Deadline Doom-battling editors over the years with their reliability and work ethic.

Edo Bosnar asked if there was ever a book devoted to the Filipino artists. I'm not sure about that, but I'd recommend anyone interested check out Comic Book Artist, Vol. 2, Issue 4, from Top Shelf Productions. It features around 80 pages devoted to the history of Filipino comics and the "Filipino Invasion" of the 1970s, with some absolutely beautiful artwork and a useful check-list of artists.

Edo Bosnar said...

Thanks for the tip, cerebus!

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