In today’s column: We dig up the obscure fanzine work of Pit Capili, share the ink wash brilliance of Anton Caravana, and try to sum up Fred Carrillo’s wide-ranging, incredibly prolific career as best as we can.
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 eighth, ninth, and tenth posts in the series.
As with all the art I post in this blog, the images below are being shared in the spirit of fair use.
Tony DeZuniga is unanimously regarded as the first Filipino komiks artist to have successfully crossed over into American comics (for a more detailed account of his journey, click here)—his very first job for DC Comics was illustrating the lead story (“For Love or Money”) in Girls’ Love Stories#153 (August 1970; note: sources differ as to the nature of DeZuniga’s first US comics gig—comics artist and historian David Roach writes that DeZuniga inked Ric Estrada, but the Grand Comics Database lists DeZuniga as the penciler and inker for the story).
However, one Filipino komiks artist’s work actually appeared in a non-comics American publication several weeks before DeZuniga’s DC Comics debut. That artist was Pit Capili, and the publication was ERB-dom #33, released in April 1970. ERB-dom was a Hugo Award-winning mimeographed fanzine dedicated to the work of Edgar Rice Burroughs, edited by Camille “Caz” Cazedessus, Jr. I’ve been able to track down a copy of the issue featuring Capili’s first US work, which consists of two pen-and-ink illustrations (one dated 1970, the other 1969) accompanying an article written by David Anthony Kraft (Kraft would go on to write Marvel Comics’ Defenders and publish the Eisner-nominated magazine Comics Interview). Below are scans of those illustrations:
Capili would contribute illustrations to several more issues of ERB-dom, including the covers to ERB-dom #45 (April 1971), ERB-dom #49 (August 1971), and ERB-dom #67 (February 1973).
Capili’s cover and spot illustration work for ERB-dom did not lead to significant comics assignments, however. Both ComicBookDb and the Grand Comics Database list only one American comic credit for the artist: penciling and inking a strip entitled “The Dead Came Calling,” which saw print in DC Comics’ Ghosts #49 (September/October 1976):
The public Internet trail for Pit Capili goes cold after this point, although I’ve seen an undated photograph of him hanging out with other artists of the Filipino Wave (judging from their attire, this photo was probably taken during the 1970s). If any of you readers out there know more about the artist’s life and career, feel free to leave a comment.
The careers of the Filipino Wave artists took on various forms and different routes. The holy trinity of Filipino comics artists in American comics—Alex Niño, Nestor Redondo, and Alfredo Alcala—became some of the most popular comics artists of the 1970s, respected by their peers, emulated by younger artists, their works adored by readers the world over. Others, like Tony DeZuniga, Rudy Nebres, E. R. Cruz, Romeo Tanghal, and Ernie Chan, may not have achieved the same level of international renown as Niño, et al, but they still became industry stalwarts, among the elite at their craft, in high demand among editors, often asked for by name by eager prospective collaborators. Most, however, had a more mundane experience of it. They did their gigs for DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Warren Publishing, or Pendulum Press, produced competent but perhaps not particularly standout work, and when the assignments dried up or when better opportunities in American animation or the Filipinokomiks industry presented themselves, that was mostly the end of it for their stints in American comics.
There were a few, however, who flashed the potential to become the next Niño or Redondo or Nebres, but due to unfortunate circumstances, never got the opportunity to fulfill their promise. One of those artists was the late Anton “Tony” Caravana.
A student of the great Nestor Redondo, Caravana had the same meticulous rendering style and straightforward, reliable storytelling instincts, honed in the fast-paced, highly competitive komiksmarket of the Philippines in the 1960s.
Caravana’s American comics debut was a three-page strip (“The Devil’s Own”) in DC Comics’Ghosts #25 (April 1974):
Caravana wasn’t merely content to ape his mentor. In the introductory strip to DC’s The Witching Hour #50 (January 1975), Caravana displayed a playful sense of caricature not commonly associated with the Filipino artists working for DC at the time:
As was the case with many of the best Filipino Wave artists, Caravana also contributed to Marvel’sThe Savage Sword of Conan magazine:
However, it was when Caravana started working for the adult comics magazine company Warren Publishing in 1980 that he really started garnering attention. Caravana began employing a heavy ink wash over his illustrations in an almost painterly style, perhaps in an effort to lend more texture and volume to the black & white format of Warren’s publications.
Readers’ responses to his earliest Warren Publishing art were unanimous in their praise, even when opinions on the quality of the actual stories they served were mixed. Within months of his Warren debut on Vampirella #90 (September 1980), Caravana was given the task of illustrating the lead story (“Call it Chaos!” written by Archie Goodwin) in Vampirella #100 (October 1981), one of publisher’s best-selling titles. Below is an eight-page sample from that story:
Unfortunately, Caravana’s highest profile assignment would also turn out to be his last. The artist, who still lived in the Philippines, was killed in a traffic accident not long after he had mailed the finished art to Warren’s offices. Vampirella #100 included not just Caravana’s story, but also his obituary:
For his work on “Call it Chaos!,” Caravana would be posthumously awarded the 1981 Warren Award for Best Art, as selected by Warren Publishing founder James Warren.
Anton Caravana’s American comics bibliography (partially based on data from ComicBookDb and the Grand Comics Database):
- Ghosts #25 (“The Devil’s Own,” DC Comics, April 1974), pencils and inks (credited as Tony Caravana)
- Kong the Untamed #4 (“Valley of Blood,” DC Comics, December 1975/January 1976), pencils only (credited as Tony Caravana)
- The Witching Hour #50 (“Look What I Cooked Up, You Lucky Kook” DC Comics, January 1975), pencils and inks (credited as Tony Caravana)
- The Unexpected #187 (“City of the Dead” DC Comics, September/October 1975), inks only (credited as Tony Caravana)
- The Savage Sword of Conan #40 (Conan pin-up, Marvel Comics, May 1979), pencils and inks
- The Savage Sword of Conan #43 (Spot illustration for the text article “Notes on Various People of the Hyborian Age,” Marvel Comics, August 1979), pencils and inks
- Vampirella #90 (“Revenge, Inc.,” Warren Publishing, September 1980), pencils and inks
- Creepy #125 (“His Own Private Demon!,” Warren Publishing, February 1981), pencils and inks
- Creepy #126 (“… and Gus Created Woman!,” Warren Publishing, March 1981), pencils and inks
- The Rook Magazine #10 (“The Singular Case of the Anemic Heir!,” Warren Publishing, August 1981), pencils and inks
- Vampirella #100 (“Call it Chaos!,” Warren Publishing, October 1981), pencils and inksThe Food of the Gods (Academic Industries, 1984), pencils and inks (published posthumously; credited as Tony Caravana)
One of the most prolific artists of the Filipino Wave, the late Fred Carrillo’s career spanned Filipino komiks, American comics, and international animation. Born in 1926 in the Philippine province of Aklan, the young Carrillo’s talent for illustration was recognized by his teachers at an early age, who encouraged him to develop his craft. During World War II, Carrillo drew propaganda materials for the native insurgency movement against the Japanese occupation of the Philippines.
It wasn’t too long after the war that Carrillo found himself at ACE Publications, then the premier publisher of Filipino komiks. A fan favorite, Carrillo eventually rose from staff illustrator to the position of art director. After the near-collapse of the komiks industry in the mid-1960s, Carrillo took to freelancing. Along with the likes of Tony DeZuniga, Nestor Redondo, Alex Niño, and Alfredo Alcala, Carrillo was among the very first Filipino illustrators to be hired by DC editor Joe Orlando to work on DC’s horror and war anthology comics. Carrillo’s first DC Comics work was a two-pager (“An Old Chinese Custom,” written by Bill Dennehy) that appeared in The Unexpected #138 (August 1972):
Carrillo contributed to DC’s Ghosts, Weird Mystery Tales, G.I. Combat, The Witching Hour, House of Secrets, Unknown Soldier, House of Mystery, Saga of the Swamp Thing, The Phantom Stranger, and Weird War Tales. All in all, he would draw over 130 horror, war, and superhero strips for DC Comics between 1972 and 1988.
Considered among his signature DC Comics works is a four-part back-up Black Orchid strip that ran in The Phantom Stranger #38–#41 (August/September 1975—December 1975/January 1976; Carrillo also illustrated the lead stories in these issues):
These back-ups came on the heels of Black Orchid back-up strips drawn by Black Orchid co-creator Tony DeZuniga and Nestor Redondo, and showed that Carrillo’s work could stand side-by-side with the Filipino Wave’s most popular and acclaimed representatives.
Carrillo also had a particularly memorable run illustrating the adventures of DC’s offbeat war-horror team the Creature Commandos in Weird War Tales. Reproduced below is “The Children’s Crusade” (from Weird War Tales #108, August 1981), a ridiculously over-the-top and hilariously impolitic story that had the Commandos in a fight to the death against Hitler’s personal hit squad composed of brainwashed, super-powered Nazi pre-schoolers (I have no idea how this story got past the Comics Code Authority!):
Carrillo also managed to get assignments from Warren Publishing in the final years before its 1983 closure. All in all, he penciled and/or inked 16 stories for the publisher, most of which appeared in the Creepy anthology magazine, including the story below, “Soul Sucker” (from Creepy #134, January 1982):
Like many of the more prominent members of the Filipino Wave, Carrillo also did a stint on Marvel’s The Savage Sword of Conan. Below are samples from his Conan portfolio, which appeared in The Savage Sword of Conan #173 (May 1990):
Carrillo was just as accomplished in the animation field as he was in comics. In the late 1970s, he worked with Japanese animation studio Topcraft in developing the Barbapapa animated series for the French market. Later, he worked as a character designer, model designer, background artist, and storyboard artist for some of the 1980s most popular animated action series, including He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, She-Ra: Princess of Power, The Transformers, and Bionic Six. During the 1990s, Carrillo worked as an artist/designer on the G.I. Joe, Bucky O’Hare, X-Men, Fantastic Four, Iron Man, and Extreme Ghostbusters animated series.
Carrillo, who passed way in 2005, carved out a career that embodied the largely unheralded role the Filipino Wave had in crafting the look of late-20th century American pop art and entertainment. From the best-selling war and horror comics of the 1970s to the most widely-watched cartoons of the 1980s and 1990s, Carillo did it all.
Fred Carrillo’s partial American comics bibliography can be found here.