In today’s Filipino artist spotlight: House of Mystery and Sgt. Rock artist Adrian Gonzales, horror anthology illustrator Ernie Guanlao, and one-time Ghosts contributor Domy Gutierrez.
Author’s Note: Readers who have been following me on Tumblr will know that I’ve recently started a series of weekly posts highlighting the 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.
One of the Filipino Wave’s preeminent visual storytellers and a vastly underrated contributor to American comics and international animation, Adrian “Ading” Gonzales (sometimes mistakenly credited as “Adrian Gonzalez”) made his US comics debut with DC Comics in Our Army at War #252 (December 1972), illustrating a powerful seven-page entry in Bob Kanigher’s “Gallery of War” short story series entitled “Young Wolves”:
In 1973, Gonzales illustrated the one-page introduction strips for issues #27, #28, and #30 of The Witching Hour. These decidedly “cartoony” one-page gag strips would became something of a staple of his career at DC—he would illustrate or co-illustrate 18 more over the next several years, mostly for DC’s premier horror comics anthology House of Mystery, but also for The Unexpected and Weird War Tales.
Gonzales had a brief stint in the mid-1970s working for Marvel Comics, illustrating short stories that appeared in Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction #4 (July 1975, published by Marvel affiliate Curtis Magazines) and Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction Giant-Size Special (1976, published by Marvel affiliate Curtis Magazines).
Whereas many of his Filipino Wave peers largely preferred florid rendering, somewhat conservative storytelling, and a more naturalistic approach to illustration, Gonzales was comfortable employing a variety of styles. It was perhaps this versatility that allowed him to break out of the horror/war/western comics anthologies where most Filipino artists working for DC plied their trade. When horror, war, and western comics began to go out of style in the early 1980s and most of the Filipino artists with them, Gonzales’ career in American comics continued to flourish as he was able to make the transition to the “more American” style favored by the editors on superhero comics.
For most of the early 1980s, Gonzales worked for DC primarily as a penciler on the company’s superhero titles. Notable works during this period include a twelve-issue run on All-Star Squadron (nine of which were inked by Jerry Ordway), the German market-exclusive Superman Album original graphic novel (inked by Vince Colletta and later reissued in English under the title Superman Spectacular), seven issues of World’s Finest, and the first four issues of the original five-issue Super Powers toy tie-in miniseries (inked by Pablo Marcos).
Gonzales also had a twelve-issue run on the sword-and-sorcery comic Arak, Son of Thunder where he was inked on eleven issues by legendary Filipino comics artist Alfredo Alcala. Alcala’s ink line dominated the art, however—Alcala was somewhat notorious for imposing his distinct style upon his collaborators’ pencils—and the work was plagued with what could be described as a lack of chemistry between the two otherwise talented Filipinos.
Gonzales’ best works from the latter portion of his American comics career remained in the horror and war genres where he first made his name as an illustrator. The sample pages below, which he penciled and inked, show his range as a stylist.
From House of Mystery #321 (October 1983); Gonzales illustrated this humorous “frame story” that bookended this final issue of House of Mystery—note his caricatures of a young Karen Berger (who would go on to helm DC’s critically-acclaimed Vertigo Comics imprint) and DC senior editor Joe Orlando:
From Sgt. Rock #391 (August 1984); following in the tradition of classic Our Army at War and Sgt. Rock artists Joe Kubert and Russ Heath, Gonzales employed a gritty, sketchy style that is nonetheless his own:
Gonzales swapped comics panels for storyboards in the mid-1980s, and his résumé in animation is just as impressive as his comics output, if not more so. Gonzales’ skill in visual storytelling served him well in his capacity as a storyboard artist on many of the 1980s and 1990s most popular Saturday morning cartoons including G.I. Joe (30 episodes), Bionic Six (65 episodes), The Real Ghostbusters(13 episodes), Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light (19 episodes), Spiral Zone (65 episodes),Captain N: The Game Master (13 episodes), James Bond Jr. (65 episodes), Captain Planet and the Planeteers (17 episodes), Conan the Adventurer (13 episodes), The Pirates of Dark Water (13 episodes), X-Men (30 episodes), and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (48 episodes). He also worked as the storyboard director on the 1986 My Little Pony movie, Defenders of the Earth (five episodes), andBucky O’Hare and the Toad Wars (13 episodes).
Adrian Gonzales passed away in 1998 at the age of 60 in Palmdale, California.
Adrian Gonzales’ American comics bibliography:
- Gonzales contributed art to so many comics that listing them all in this space wouldn’t really make sense. The Adrian Gonzales Wikipedia page has a reasonably complete listing of his US comics work, as does ComicBookDB. Those looking for more information are advised to use Comics.org’s advanced search function—just make sure to also search for the alternative names under which Gonzales was credited: “Adrian Gonzalez” (note the “z” at the end) and “Ading Gonzales.”
Ernesto “Ernie” Guanlao made his American comics debut in the September 1975 issue of DC Comics’ The Witching Hour, illustrating a six-page short story written by Carl Wessler:
He would go on to draw five strips for DC between 1975 and 1979, all written by Wessler, including the featured story (“… and in this corner: Death!”) in The Unexpected #188 (November/December 1978):
In between his sporadic DC assignments, Guanlao continued to work in the Philippine komiks industry and he also found time to illustrate Pendulum Press’s unofficial comics biography of the Beatles.
Guanlao made the permanent move to the United States in 1985, eventually settling with his family in California and embarking on a prolific 20-year career as a designer and storyboard artist in animation. He would make a brief return to comics in 1989 to pencil NOW Comics’ four-issue miniseries adaptation of Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.
Guanlao’s many animation credits include The Transformers: The Movie (character/background designer and storyboard artist), G.I. Joe (30 episodes, layout artist), The Real Ghostbusters (13 episodes, character designer), Animaniacs (24 episodes, background layout artist), RoboCop: Alpha Commando (40 episodes, storyboard artist and prop cleanup), House of Mouse (45 episodes, prop designer), and Kim Possible (7 episodes, prop designer).
Guanlao passed away in 2010 at the age of 67.
Ernie Guanlao’s American comics bibliography:
- The Adventures of Baron Munchausen: The Four-Part Miniseries #1 (NOW Comics, July 1989): pencils only
- The Adventures of Baron Munchausen: The Four-Part Miniseries #2 (NOW Comics, August 1989): pencils only
- The Adventures of Baron Munchausen: The Four-Part Miniseries #3 (NOW Comics, September 1989): pencils only
- The Adventures of Baron Munchausen: The Four-Part Miniseries #4 (NOW Comics, October 1989): pencils only
- The Beatles (Pendulum Press, 1979)
- Codename: Ninja #1 (Solson Publications, January 1987): inks only
- Ghosts #73 (DC Comics, February 1979): “Phantom of the Catacombs”
- Secrets of Haunted House #17 (DC Comics, October 1979): “The Dread Sting of Death”
- Secrets of Haunted House #20 (DC Comics, January 1980): “Heads You Lose!”
- The Unexpected #188 (DC Comics, November/December 1978): “… and in this corner: Death!”
- The Witching Hour #58 (DC Comics, September 1975): “The Witch of Raven’s Pass”
Domy Gutierrez worked primarily as a spot illustrator in the Philippines through the 1970s, although he did contribute to a number of local, Tagalog-language comics, most prominent of which was a graphic novel adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo.
Incidentally, Gutierrez’s first American comics work was also an adaptation of a literary classic: working alongside compatriot artist Angel Trinidad, he illustrated Pendulum Press’s graphic novel version of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The House of the Seven Gables, published in 1977.
It would be almost three years before Gutierrez’s second (and final) American comics work would see print, a four-page pencil-and-ink job DC Comics’ Ghosts #85 (February 1980):