Bing! Bang! Bong Dazo!
It’s true that the Philippines has produced more than a fair share of talented artists in the comic book medium. Ever since the 70s up until today, a lot of illustrators have lent their pencils, inks, and colors to the funny books. And I’m not just talking about companies that produce books about steroidal men dressed in bat costumes or buxom women with structurally unsound proportions (although it is fair to say they’ve had a large contribution); I’m talking about comic books as a whole. Among the amazing talents coming from the archipelago stands Angelo “Bong” Dazo, whom you might know best from titles like Marvel’s Deadpool, Dark Horse’s Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, or DC Comics’ Justice League. However, looking at his work from those publishers barely scratches the surface of his whole catalogue. Over the years, Bong has illustrated for a number of publishers, such as 451 Studios (Bad Moon rising) and Blue Juice Comics (Aether & Empire), to name a few. In fact, he was recently nominated for an Inkwell Award, under the All-in-one Artist category, just this year for his work on the latter. Given the great interest I have for the man’s work, I was lucky enough to meet up with Bong a couple of weeks ago at his quiet home located somewhere only ghosts and writers know. It’s funny, really, considering I’m not even in the Philippines. That’s the magic of the internet for you. Or, maybe I’m a ghost. Who knows?
During our conversation, the artist enlightened me about his beginnings in the industry and then some. You see, Bong first graced the pages of local Filipino comics in 1988, illustrating for Atlas Comics (not to be mistaken for the one that would turn into Marvel). After the mainstream Filipino comic book industry crashed in the mid-90s, he then took a break from the four-color pages to focus his attention on animation. After his stint there, and after coming back from overseas to study digital art in the late 90s, he returned to Atlas once again. Sadly, the bigwigs of the publication decided to pull the plug on comics back then, despite their titles gaining a bit of footing in the newsstands once again because of the efforts of artists like him. When the mainstream Filipino comic book industry was surely dead, however, Bong didn’t take another sabbatical. Instead, he continued to work foreign clients, which eventually led him to landing his gig illustrating Knights of the Old Republic and every fanboy’s secret homoerotic wet dream, Deadpool.
Now, a lot of you might not know this, but Bong Dazo is actually considered the first artist who infused Filipino comics, which was at the time primarily influenced by American comics, with manga elements. That is, however, not to say that he has not developed a singular style all his own throughout his long career in comics. I highly suggest you pick up any title he’s illustrated for you to see what I mean here.
If you want to perhaps connect with him, then just look for his name on Facebook or, I don’t know, dress up like one of your “modern gods” while pouring kitten’s blood all over your thighs and hashtagging your selfies with “#suchageekLOL” or something. You guys are weird. I like that.