The GeeksverseLeaving Proof 307 | Filipino artist spotlight: Joel Magpayo, Frank Magsino, and Nestor Malgapo

Leaving Proof 307 | Filipino artist spotlight: Joel Magpayo, Frank Magsino, and Nestor Malgapo
Published on Friday, May 20, 2016 by
In today’s Filipino artist spotlight: Time Warp and Secrets of Haunted House contributor Joel Magpayo, one-time Savage Sword of Conan cover painter Frank Magsino, and Ghosts, House of Mystery, and The Unexpected penciler/inker Nestor Malgapo.

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.

Joel Magpayo

Joel Magpayo (a.k.a. Magpie’o) started working professionally as an illustrator at the age of 16, drawing serials and standalone shorts for various Philippine komiks anthologies through the 1970s (samples of his early Filipino komiks work can be viewed at this link). Magpayo enrolled in the fine arts program at the University of the Philippines but discontinued his studies after just one year to concentrate on paying work.

His American comics debut took the form of a Scott Edelman-written four-pager in DC Comics’ Time Warp #4 (April-May 1980), which featured a rendering style fairly typical of the “traditional” Filipino Wave aesthetic (think Nestor Redondo), although it’s worth noting that Magpayo’s perspective choices were relatively more dynamic than what one would have expected from many of his peers:

Magpayo’s second (and final) work for DC Comics was an eight-page story written by Doom Patrol and Guardians of the Galaxy co-creator Arnold Drake that appeared in Secrets of Haunted House #39 (August 1981). Magpayo’s approach this time around leaned more towards stylization than straight representation.

Magpayo had actually immigrated to Australia by the time his first American comics work saw print—lead times for DC’s comics anthologies were variable, and stories could be kept in reserve for months or even years before seeing publication. In Australia, Magpayo rekindled his passion for fine art, and went on to forge a successful career as a painter.

Frank Magsino

Frank Magsino’s training and primary career is in the fine arts, having studied painting at the University of Santo Tomas in the Philippines in the 1950s and later relocating to the United States and receiving further art education at San Francisco’s Academy of Art College (what is now known as the Academy of Art University).

Magsino has just one American comics credit, but it’s a fairly notable one: He painted over the legendary Alex Niño’s pencils for the cover of The Savage Sword of Conan #6 (June 1975), published by Marvel Comics affiliate Curtis Magazines.

Savage Sword of Conan 006 cover

In the world of fine arts galleries, Magsino is perhaps best known for his miniature, Old West-themed, acrylic paintings, created under magnification using brushes with only one hair.

Nestor Malgapo

Nestor Malgapo began his professional comics career in 1960 as an artist for Sinderela Komiks, having previously worked as a sign painter and a cameraman. Malgapo was a prolific artist, illustrating numerous standalone shorts and serial graphic novels for various Filipino komiks publications. He was also an active organizer, helping establish the Huwarang Akbayan ng mga Nagkakaisang Dibuhista (roughly translated as “Esteemed Brotherhood of United Illustrators”) to combat unfair management practices in the komiks industry. Malgapo would also take over the presidency of the Society of Philippine Illustrators and Cartoonists after incumbent president Nestor Redondo left the Philippines to live and work as a comics artist in the United States.

Along with Redondo, Alfredo Alcala, and a few others, Malgapo was among the first artists to work for DC Comics in the early 1970s, although unlike many of his peers, he opted to stay in the Philippines and continue producing local komiks through his stint contributing to American comics. His American comics debut took the form of a seven-page story scripted by Leo Dorfman entitled “The Hell Beast of Berkeley Square,” which appeared in Ghosts #10 (December 1972):

Because of his commitments in the Philippines komiks industry, Malgapo’s output for DC was sporadic—a five-page story for G.I. Combat here, a ten-pager for The Unexpected there—but his contributions were always solid, typified by sound draftsmanship and bold inking, such as in this eight-page pencil-and-ink job that appeared in Ghosts #80 (September 1979):

As good as Malgapo’s American comics art was, it never really came up to the level of the brilliance of his local komiks work—he is one of the more notable examples of Filipino Wave artists whose stateside work undersells the true breadth and depth of his skills as a renderer and storyteller. That said, Malgapo’s DC Comics work is still impressive—see, for instance, how he managed the interplay of light and shadow in the following short story from House of Mystery #276 (January 1980):

In his later years, Malgapo turned to doing illustration work for religious publications, while also starting up a correspondence school for illustration.

Incidentally, Malgapo’s son, who goes by the name Novo Malgapo, has also done work as an artist for American comics publishers such as Magnetic Press (The Adventures of Basil and Moebius) and Zenescope (The Theater, Grimm Fairy Tales: Myths and Legends).

Nestor Malgapo’s American comics bibliography (excludes reprints):

  • “Blood Brothers”: G.I. Combat #220 (June-July 1980), DC Comics
  • “The Hell Beast of Berkeley Square”: Ghosts #10 (December 1972), DC Comics
  • “The Haunted Hands from Heaven”: Ghosts #66 (July 1978), DC Comics
  • “The Winged Specter”: Ghosts #80 (September 1979), DC Comics
  • “The Devil Has Two Faces”: House of Mystery #249 (January 1977), DC Comics
  • “At 11:40 P.M., I Die!”: House of Mystery #262 (November 1978), DC Comics
  • “The Faceless Man”: House of Mystery #276 (January 1980), DC Comics
  • “A Lunatic Is Loose Among Us!”: The Unexpected #156 (March 1974), DC Comics
  • “The Harpies Are Coming!”: The Unexpected #191 (May-June 1979), DC Comics
  • “The Tri-Centennial Curse”: The Unexpected #203 (October 1980), DC Comics
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