TONY DeZuñiga did not leave the world for nothing.

After passing away last May 11 due to stroke, Tony’s legacy continues to flourish, inspiring Filipino comic illustrators to pursue a more global mindset.

His achievements would serve as a gateway for Filipino illustrators to gather international recognition.

At 16, Tony’s potential and passion in making comics was evident when he started out as a letterer for Liwayway’s Lagim comics.

He was initially reluctant to finish his studies for he was already earning money. But he changed his mind and went on to finish a Commercial Art degree through a sponsorship offered by the owner of G. Miranda & Sons Bookstore in Manila.

“He [the owner of G. Miranda & Sons] was fond of Tony, and he knew that going to college would enhance his skills,” said Tina DeZuñiga , widow of Tony.

Tony’s stint at UST had to be put on hold after he was accepted in the New York School of Design.

To support himself, he worked as an artist for McGraw-Hill and eventually found a career in DC Comics, Inc., the “home of the world’s greatest superheroes” such as Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. After his stint at DC Comics, Tony worked in Marvel as a contributor, drawing sketches of The Punisher, Dr. Strange, and his favorite comic book hero, Captain America.

He was the first Filipino to design his own action figures such as Conan the Barbarian, Black Orchid, and most especially Jonah Hex, which was made into a graphic novel and a Hollywood movie.

In the 1980s, Tony moved to San Francisco where he also worked as a conceptual artist for the Japanese video gaming company, Sega.

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‘God-given’ talent

After living in the United States for almost four decades, Tony moved back to the Philippines in September 2010.

Having a well-known illustrator as a husband, Tina finds Tony’s talent overwhelming and described it as “God-given,” which he humbly shared. She said Tony would have taught her how to paint if not for his untimely death.

“He worked very fast but you could see how detailed his illustrations were. In fact, whenever he conducted sketching lessons, he would teach them as if they were that ‘easy’ to learn and adopt,” she said.

Having accomplished a lot, Tony had some unfinished business. Tina said he wanted to create a comic book character that would promote the Filipino comic book industry.

“He was frustrated that it was always the Americans who were [seen as] better than Filipinos in terms of illustrating comic pieces,” Tina said.

But the frustration only fueled Tony to do even better and be “one step ahead.”

“He would always tell [his admirers] that one should not be contented with what you know or have because it is always a process of learning,” Tina said. “You always have to explore.”

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