We are just losing too many good ones lately. Tony DeZuniga has passed away at the age of 79, following a stroke.
Most of the obits are probably going to mention his work on Conan and on Jonah Hex, and rightfully so. He was brilliant on those books.
But he could do other stuff too. Horror….
Even science fiction.
However, he was always at his best doing two-fisted macho adventure. That was what I liked best, anyway, especially the non-spandex stuff. I was tickled to see Tony DeZuniga doing a new Jonah Hex graphic novel a couple of years ago and I was one of the first in line to get it the week it came out. He hadn’t lost a step in all the decades since he first drew Hex.
Anyway. Lots of people are going to be talking about DeZuniga’s western and adventure comics, but the one that hit me right between the eyes was his Doc Savage. It was just a few weeks ago I was looking back fondly on the run of Doc Savage that DeZuniga did with Doug Moench. That’s the only time I ever felt like the character actually looked like the super-adventurer promised on the Bantam paperbacks cover copy, and that was all Tony DeZuniga… he took that James Bama painted characterization of Doc and made it move.
DC’s got a nice Showcase volume collecting it and I’d recommend it, if you really want to see Tony DeZuniga at his best.
I only got to meet him once, at the Emerald City show in 2009.
He was a little brusque at first, until he saw that I’d brought one of his Doc Savage books for him to sign. That lit him up. “That was a good format,” he said. “I don’t know why they don’t do books like that any more.”
I didn’t know either. We commiserated a little about that, and then when he found out that I was a teacher and my students had a booth, he insisted I come back and bring some of the kids’ books. His wife Tina was also very interested in hearing about the class, and we had a nice chat. They introduced me to Ernie Chan, with whom they shared a table, and both Tony and Ernie then signed a Savage Sword I’d brought that they both had work in. Later that day I found a moment to run a couple of the student ‘zines over to them, and though both Mr. DeZuniga and Mr. Chan had a line of fans and were busy sketching, Tina DeZuniga made it a point to say thank you and that she knew Tony would like them.
It’s not much of a story, at least from the outside. But I was delighted to get to meet two of the guys whose work had made my turbulent teenage years bearable and thank them for that.
Recently, we got to make those thanks tangible by contributing to the DeZuniga hospital fund. Those bills are still going to be hanging over his family, so I hope fandom doesn’t lose interest just because they lost the patient. The link to contribute is here.
As for me, knowing I got to actually say that ‘thank you,’ at least, has made me feel a little better about Tony DeZuniga’s passing.
Thanks again for all the good stuff, Mr. DeZuniga. Our condolences and best wishes to his family.