In today’s edition of the Filipino artist spotlight, we take a look at the American comics contributions of the ultra-prolific war and horror comics artist E. R. Cruz, penciling specialist Nardo Cruz, and one-time Creepy magazine artist Alfonso DeLeon.
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 most recent 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.
Eufronio Reyes Cruz (“E. R. Cruz”)
The most prolific of the early Filipino Wave artists, Eufronio Reyes Cruz—more popularly known simply as E. R. Cruz—penciled and inked over 200 strips for DC Comics’ war and horror anthology titles between 1972 and 1982.
Cruz made his American comics debut already fully-formed as an artist, in an eight-page short story (“Let’s Scare Lisa to Death”) that appeared in The Unexpected #139 (September 1972).
An underrated visual storyteller, Cruz paired a detail-oriented rendering style that unmistakably drew from the traditional Filipino komiks of the 1950s with a more contemporary sense of page design, most often expressed in his measured use of dynamic perspectives and the occasional borderless or unconventionally-shaped panel. (I’ve heard his work compared to that of some classic seinen and shonen manga artists—think Goseki Kojima or a more refined Tetsuo Hara—and I have to say, this isn’t too inaccurate, although whatever similarities exist are almost assuredly coincidental, as Cruz worked in an era before manga had managed much of a crossover into the Philippines or the United States.)
Cruz is probably best remembered for his 54-issue stint on DC’s G.I. Combat war comic anthology, where he illustrated, among others, the ongoing series of “O.S.S.” back-up stories.
With his contributions to G.I. Combat, All-Out War, Our Army at War (and its successor title, Sgt. Rock), and Weird War Tales, Cruz was one of the most active war comics of the 1970s and early 1980s.
Another key highlight in his DC Comics career is his brief three-issue stint on The Shadow (issues #10–12, April/May–August/September 1975), a rare opportunity for the artist to showcase his talents beyond the war and horror comics milieu.
Cruz’s earliest work for Marvel consisted of four literary adaptations for the publisher’s Marvel Classics Comics series, published in 1976 and 1977. These titles—“graphic novel”-style takes on Gulliver’s Travels, Tom Sawyer, The Red Badge of Courage, and Mysterious Island—were also published as black & white paperbacks for Pendulum Press’s Now Age and Classics Illustrated lines.
Cruz stuck with DC’s war and horror titles even as they declined in popularity through the 1980s, while also picking up jobs for Warren Publishing (Eerie), Hero Comics (Captain Thunder and Blue Bolt, Marksman, Flare), and Blackthorne Publishing (Blackthorne 3-D Series).
Like many of the Filipino Wave artists, Cruz also worked in animation. His animation credits include serving as a layout artist, background artist, and model designer for 1980s and 1990s Saturday morning cartoon staples such as G.I. Joe (including G.I. Joe: The Movie), The Transformers (including Transformers: The Movie), The Real Ghostbusters, Captain Planet and the Planeteers, Bucky O’Hare and the Toad Wars!, Extreme Ghostbusters, The Pirates of Dark Water, and Sonic the Hedgehog.
During the 1990s, Cruz made the transition from war and horror comics artist to a sword-and-sorcery specialist. An early example from this phase of his career is his work on Dark Horse Comics’ Cormac Mac Art, which featured adaptations of Robert E. Howard’s short stories based on the the legend of the eponymous Irish folklore figure. This four-issue miniseries is an overlooked gem in the artist’s bibliography.
Cruz spent the next several years illustrating the adventures of other Howard creations for Marvel’s Savage Sword of Conan magazine, including a notable series of back-up stories detailing the origin of Kull of Atlantis.
Eufronio Reyes Cruz’s partial American comics bibliography can be found on ComicBookDb.
Unlike many of his Filipino Wave peers who were full-spectrum illustrators equally comfortable as pencilers and inkers, Nardo Cruz (sometimes credited as “Nards Cruz”) was more of a penciling specialist. While many of his contemporaries were frequently assigned to ink other artists, Cruz’s American comics bibliography consists solely of penciling gigs and jobs where he inked his own pencils.
Cruz got his start in American comics in 1973 working for Pendulum Press, the New England-based publisher where Nestor Redondo served as art director. For Pendulum, Cruz illustrated graphic novel adaptations of Frankenstein and Treasure Island. These may be his most well-known works, as these books have been published in a number of languages, including Portuguese (see image below, right).
His first work for DC Comics was a penciling job in House of Secrets #115 where he was inked by E. R. Cruz (no relation, as far as I know). It would be over four years later that he would get his first pencil-and-ink assignment from the publisher, a short story entitled “Who’d Dare Slaughter My Daughter” (The Witching Hour #83, August 1978).
Tracing Cruz’s career path is an instructive exercise in learning just how much different inkers can change the look of a penciler’s work. Compare the above pages with the ones below, taken from “City of the Dead,” a story penciled by Cruz but inked by Anton “Tony” Caravana.
During his stint with DC, Cruz worked almost exclusively on the publisher’s horror titles, his sole non-horror work being “A Time to Die,” an O.S.S. story that appeared in G.I. Combat #212 (February/March 1979).
Nardo Cruz’s American comics bibliography:
- Frankenstein (1973, Pendulum Press): pencils/inks
- Treasure Island (1973, Pendulum Press): pencils/inks
- House of Secrets #115 (January 1974, DC Comics): “Every Man My Killer,” pencils
- Ghosts #63 (April 1978, DC Comics): “Secret of the Phantom Marshal,” pencils
- The Witching Hour #83 (August 1978, DC Comics): “Who’d Dare Slaughter My Daughter,” pencils/inks
- Ghosts #68 (September 1978, DC Comics): “You Will Die Yesterday,” pencils
- The Unexpected #187 (September/October 1978, DC Comics): “Death Argues Loudest,” pencils; “City of the Dead,” pencils
- The Unexpected #189 (January/February 1979, DC Comics): “The Killing Machine,” pencils
- G.I. Combat #212 (February/March 1979, DC Comics): “A Time to Die,” pencils/inks
- Secrets of Haunted House #17 (October 1979, DC Comics): “The Eye of the Leopard,” pencils/inks
- House of Mystery #277 (February 1980, DC Comics): “Measure of Treachery,” pencils
Alfonso DeLeon has a single American comics credit: illustrating a seven-page story in Warren Publishing’s Creepy #141 (September 1982).
The fact that DeLeon never got another American comics gig likely had nothing to do with the quality of his work, judging from the pages above. The advanced level of his rendering and ink wash skills is unquestionable.
Barring personal circumstances (I have not been able to find any biographical information about the artist beyond what scant material has been written about him in Comic Book Artist magazine), I think it had more to do with unfortunate timing: DeLeon joined Creepy at a time when Warren Publishing was already headed towards bankruptcy, which also coincided with a drastic drop in popularity of DC and Marvel’s horror, western, military, and sword-and-sorcery anthology magazines and comics that were the professional stomping grounds of most of the Filipino Wave artists.
It would have been nice to have seen DeLeon work on more American publications given his talent, but as it happened, he ended up working in animation, like many of his Filipino Wave peers who found themselves on the outside looking in as the major US comics publishers focused on superheroes. Through the 1990s, DeLeon worked as a storyboard artist on Skeleton Warriors (13 episodes) and Adventures from the Book of Virtues (12 episodes), as well as a background and layout artist on RoboCop: Alpha Commando (40 episodes).