A Tribute to the of

Cuss it all, but we've lost another creator. Tony DeZuniga, a wonderful artist and the breakthrough member of the so-called Filipino Invasion, who also brought us terrific characters like Jonah Hex and the Black Orchid, left us on May 11, 2012.

I only got to speak to Tony once when he provided this great interview in June of 2008 and the thing that really stands out in my mind is that I could easily hear the smile in his voice when he shared stories about his career.

My collection doesn't contain a lot of Tony's work, but I do have some examples from his anthology stories in the House of Mystery, so let's go back to issue #200 with a publication date of March, 1972 with an appropriately eerie cover by Mike Kaluta. The story, by "Francis X. Bushmaster", or Gerry Conway, if you prefer, is titled, "A Breath of Black Death!" Tony provides pencils and inks with Joe Orlando and assistant Mark Henerfield on editorial detail.

The setting is ancient Egypt and we are introduced to the Pharaoh, Terron, as he officiates over a human sacrifice, ensuring that the victim, though blind, shall have no opportunity to reveal the secret of the treasure vaults in the king's death sanctuary. The Pharaoh demonstrates that ice water runs through his veins.

Back at home, he shows a tender side with regard to his small son Tatuk, but even then he shows a degree of disdain for his wife, proclaiming that his conquests, wars and other efforts are all with an eye toward his heir and not her, who is apparently not the child's actual mother.

The situation weighs on the wife of Pharaoh and she decides to take matters into her own hands. The next day, Tatuk is discovered by one of the priests, dead. Terron is nearly inconsolable. It quickly turns to rage, however, when he discovers the vial that held the poison. Quickly ascertaining the culprit he spontaneously sentences his wife to the living death as she is taken away by the guards.

Terron then wails to the gods, asking how his offerings could have come to this when, incredibly, he receives an audible answer and weird personages send him along a strange and otherworldly pathway to find his son, Tatuk.

Onward he travels through terrors and darkness for what seems eternity itself until at long last he comes upon Tatuk. Triumphant, he implores the gods to return them from this land of death, but only then does he learn the terrible truth: Only one may return from this black beyond and it is up to Terron to make the decision as to whom it will be.  He pauses a bit too long and seals the fate of Tatuk and himself. The disembodied, condemning voices exclaim: "Enough! Your hesitation betrays you! The blackness we saw within your soul we see it now again! The echoes of your hypocrisy condemn you! You claimed love and yet you know not love! To your world then and may the mercy of death never claim you!"

With that, Tatuk is pulled into the endless abyss while the selfish Pharaoh is pulled in the opposite direction, but when he regains his bearings in his new surroundings the awful truth is made manifest: His seemingly lifeless body had been transported into the royal burial tomb along with his wife and son and he is forever trapped therein, burdened with the curse of immortality.

Tony DeZuniga's photo-realistic artwork on this story was truly impressive and his inking provided the proper mood for such a somber tale of terror and darkness. I suspect the story may have had roots in the classic "Ten Commandments" movie and Tony truly delivered the goods. His talent was formidable indeed and we're poorer for his passing, but fortunate to have evidence like this of his gifts to enjoy.

As 2012 rolls forward, we will continue to offer you all the choice treasure of DC's Silver Age that we can lay our hands to, along with the occasional foray in other directions as opportunity and inspiration permit. Speaking of inspiration, if you have any to pass along, fire it off to my handy e-mail address: professor_the@hotmail.com.

Check back in with us at the first of the month when this feature will be updated.

Thanks for your continued patronage and...

Long live the Silver Age!

2000-2012 by B.D.S.

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