[UPDATED] In today’s column: We look at examples of American comics work from Jun Borillo, Danny Bulanadi, Val Calaquian, and Mel Candido.
Author’s Note: If you have been following me on Tumblr, you’ll know that I’ve recently started a series of weekly posts highlighting the works of the “Filipino Wave” artists who worked on the horror, sci-fi, western, war, fantasy, and sword-and-sorcery comics published by DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Warren Publishing, and other outfits in the 1970s and 1980s. Today’s column is a collection of the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh posts in the series, with additional art samples, so there’s something new here for you, even if you’ve already read the original Tumblr articles.
As with all the art I post in this blog, the images below are being shared in the spirit of fair use.
One of the most well-regarded artists in the Filipino komiks scene of the 1970s and early 1980s, Jun Borillo’s domestic popularity perhaps left little room to do much American comics work. But part of the reason for his modest American comics record might also be due to his commitments outside of comics. A deeply religious man, Borillo swapped the funnybooks for the Book of Mormon sometime in the early 1980s, actively serving in the Church of Latter-Day Saints for the next several years.
Before switching careers mid-stream, however, Borillo illustrated two short strips for DC Comics, published several years apart: “It’s Your Funeral” (which appeared in The Witching Hour #29, March 1973) and “Signal from a Dead Soldier” (which appeared in G.I. Combat #227, March 1981).
Below is “It’s Your Funeral,” presumably written by The Witching Hour editor Murray Boltinoff and a showcase for Borillo’s detailed rendering and clear, compact storytelling:
Born in Manila in 1946, Bulanadi honed his craft as an art assistant for the late Tony DeZuniga before becoming a featured serial artist on Filipino komiks anthology titles like Tagalog Klasiks and Liwayway.
Bulanadi went to ply his trade in the United States in 1975, where another Filipino artist, Romeo Tanghal, introduced him to the editors at DC Comics. His earliest works include illustrating interstitials for an issue of Tarzan Weekly (a UK comics anthology that reprinted DC’s Tarzan and Korak strips) and inking short strips on DC’s G.I. Combat, House of Mystery, and Kamandi, The Last Boy on Earth titles. The first strip where he handled both the penciling and inking duties was “The Day After Doomsday,” a four-pager written by Watt Gwyon, published in Weird War Tales #64 (June 1978). That story is reproduced in its entirety below:
The publication of “The Day After Doomsday” coincided with the publication of a strip (“Gargoyle Twice a Day,” in House of Mystery #258) drawn by Bulanadi and inked by veteran inker Bob McLeod, one of the relatively rare instances at the time of an American inking a Filipino, and not the other way around:
A solid draftsman with a reputation as one of the fastest embellishers in a community of artists already famed for their speed, Bulanadi was primarily assigned inking work, collaborating with some of the most highly-regarded pencilers of 1970s and 1980s at both DC and Marvel, including John Buscema, Sal Buscema, David Mazzucchelli, Val Mayerik, Ross Andru, and Herb Trimpe.
Like many of the Filipino artists who went from working primarily for DC in the 1970s to working mainly for Marvel in the 1980s, Bulanadi had a stint on The Savage Sword of Conan (a sort of unofficial rite of passage for those making the cross-town move), contributing pin-ups and illustrating a number of back-up stories.
Bulanadi also contributed two strips to Warren’s Creepy magazine, which appeared in the anthology series’ 129th and 131st issues, the first of which is reproduced below:
Similar to Dell Barras (whom we previously discussed here), Bulanadi’s ability to adapt to the less florid inking style that editors came to favor in the 1980s allowed him to continue working in the American comics industry well into the 1990s (he actually worked on a number of Image Comics titles!) even as the older, first-generation Filipino Wave artists were slowly phased out.
Bulanadi also had a second career in animation—he is credited as a storyboard artist on 30 episodes of The Transformers.
Danny Bulanadi’s American comics bibliography can be found on ComicBookDb.
I’ll be honest, my modest online research skills have failed to turn up any biographical information on Val Calaquian. All I’ve managed to find out in the time between my launch of Filipino Comics Art Fridays and today is that by the late 1960s, he was working as an illustrator on Diamante Komiks Magasin, a Filipino-language comics anthology.
Calaquian’s American comics debut consisted of a two-page story in DC Comics’ The Unexpected#158 (August, 1974), entitled “The Flame of Death.” No writer or editor is credited for the story.
Calaquian’s second American comics appearance would be as the artist on the graphic novel adaptation of Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth, published in 1976 by Pendulum Press under its Illustrated Classics line (where Filipino artist Nestor Redondo served as art director).
The Comic Book Database, the Grand Comics Database, and UK-based comics artist and historian David A. Roach all agree that Calaquian’s sole DC Comics work was “The Flame of Death,” but a misspelled database search term on my part led to my coming across an artist named “Val Calquin,” who is credited in the Grand Comics Database with illustrating the short story “The Burning Bride,” which appeared in DC’s Ghosts #63 (April 1978). Are Val Calquin and Val Calaquian the same person? I think it very likely. Calaquian is no stranger to having his name misspelled as he has also been credited as “Val Calaquin” in both the Grand Comics Database and Roach’s Comic Book Artist article on Filipino artists.
In any case, here is “The Burning Bride,” as illustrated by “Val Calquin”:
In many of the articles about the “Filipino Wave,” I’ve made mention of an industry shift that saw American publishers step back from hiring Filipino illustrators. It’s difficult to pinpoint a specific cause or set of factors that precipitated this trend, although I’ve speculated before that a combination of (1) a change in readers’ and editors’ aesthetic preferences, (2) the decline of the non-superhero comics market that served as the commercial foundation of the Filipino Wave, and (3) the alleged threat of unionization by American artists who felt that they were losing assignments to the faster, lower-paid (at the time) Filipinos probably had something to do with it.
Whatever the reasons, by the early 1980s, even the most highly acclaimed and esteemed Filipino illustrators (with perhaps the exception of Alex Niño) were getting more inking assignments instead of the usual full illustration jobs (pencils and inks) that they used to get during the 1970s. Some, like the proud master draftsman Alfredo Alcala, took umbrage at what they viewed as a demotion. Others, however, made do and even thrived under the new circumstances. Artists such as Ernie Chan, Rudy Nebres, and Romeo Tanghal became well-known for their collaborations with standout American pencilers such as John Buscema, Gil Kane, and George Pérez (while Chan is the inker perhaps most readily associated by readers with Buscema’s landmark run on The Savage Sword of Conan, Buscema himself called Nebres his favorite inker).
It was in this environment that artist Mel Candido made his American comics debut in 1982, splitting inker duties with fellow Filipino artist Danny Bulanadi on the John Buscema-penciled Conan the Barbarian #136. A successful, long-time komiks artist in the Philippines, Candido racked up a total of 21 credited assignments in American comics between 1982 and 1985, all of them inking jobs for Marvel Comics, with his lengthiest stint on a single title being an eight-issue run inking Sal Buscema on ROM. ComicbookDB’s Mel Candido entry lists him as having penciled Red Sonja (vol. 2) #1 (February 1983) but this is an error—Candido inked the first ten pages of the issue, and the comic was actually penciled by Filipino komiks-to-American comics pioneer Tony DeZuniga and Puerto Rican artist Ernie Colon.
Below is an excerpt from that aforementioned Red Sonja comic (penned by Christy Marx and Roy Thomas), with Candido’s inks over DeZuniga’s pencils: