By Sheldon Mayer & Nestor Redondo, with Joe Kubert (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-3425-6 (HB/Digital edition)
I first reviewed this material back in 2008, even though it didn’t really qualify as a graphic novel or book. This was because the artist I wanted to highlight wasn’t a fan-favourite in America or England (a fact I find utterly inexplicable) and English-language collections featuring his incredible artwork were few and far between.
Eventually a new world dawned where comics can be considered both Art forms and high-ticket commercial artefacts, where the big comic has been reborn as a full-on item of merit. All anything ever takes, is time…
In 2012, the entire affair was reprinted as an oversized (262 x 345 mm) commemorative hardback edition, and latterly rereleased in the digital edition I’m referencing here.
Nestor Redondo was born in 1928 at Candon, Ilocas Sur in the American Territory of the Philippines. Like so many others in that impoverished land, he was deeply influenced by US comic strips such as Tarzan, Superman, The Phantom, Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon which were immensely popular and widely disseminated in the entertainment-starved Pacific Archipelago.
Drawing from an early age, Nestor emulated his brother Virgilio who already worked as a comics artist for the cheap magazines of the young country. The Philippines became a commonwealth in 1935, and achieved full-independence from the USA in 1946, but always maintained close cultural links to America.
Nestor’s parents pushed him into architecture, but within a year he returned to comics. A superb artist, he far outshone Virgilio – and everybody else – in the cottage industry. His brother switched to writing and they teamed up to produce some of the best strips the Islands had ever seen, the most notable and best regarded being Mars Ravelo’s Darna.
Capable of astounding quality at an incredible rate, by the early 1950s Nestor was drawing for many comics simultaneously. Titles such as Pilipino Komiks, Tagalog Klasiks, Hiwaga Komiks and Espesial Komiks were fortnightly. and he usually worked on two or three series at a time, pencils and inks. He also produced many of the covers.
In 1953, he adapted MGM film Quo Vadis for Ace Publications’ Tagalong Klasiks #91-92. Written by Clodualdo Del Mundo, it was serialized to promote the movie in the Philippines, but MGM were so impressed by the art-job that they offered 24 year old Nestor a US job and residency. He declined, thinking himself too young to leave home yet. If you’re interested, you can see the surviving artwork by searching online for “Nestor Redondo’s Quo Vadis”, and you should, because it’s frankly incredible.
Ace was the country’s biggest comics publisher, but by the early 1960s they were in dire financial straits. In 1963 Nestor, Tony Caravana, Alfredo Alcala, Jim Fernandez, Amado Castrillo and brother Virgilio set up their own company – CRAF Publications, Inc. – but times were against them …and publishers everywhere.
Around this time, America came calling again, in the form of DC and Marvel Comics. By 1972, US based Filipino artist Tony DeZuñiga had introduced a wave of his associates to US editors. Nestor drew anthological horror tales for House of Mystery, House of Secrets, The Phantom Stranger, Secrets of Sinister House, Witching Hour, The Unexpected, Weird War Tales; fill-ins for Marvel’s Man-Thing; an astonishingly beautiful run on Rima the Jungle Girl #1-7 (a loose adaptation of W H Hudson’s seminal 1904 novel Green Mansions) and ultimately replaced Bernie Wrightson as artist on the first run of Swamp Thing. He also worked on Lois Lane and crafted magnificent tales for Joe Kubert’s Edgar Rice Burroughs/Tarzan titles.
In 1973, Nestor produced classical literature comics adaptations including Dracula and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for Vincent Fago’s Pendulum Press Illustrated Classics (later reprinted as Marvel Classics Comics). In later years he moved to Marvel to ink – and eventually fully illustrate – Savage Sword of Conan.
During his DC period, he was tapped to draw an adaptation of King Arthur (which DC killed before it was completed (once again some pages survive and the internet is your friend if you want to see them). He also illustrated issue C-36 of the tabloid-sized Limited Collectors’ Edition. These were comics printed twice the height and width of standard comic book and generally a means of selling themed reprint collections, but also became a magnificent vehicle for all-original special events such as the first Superman/Spider-Man team-up, Neal Adams & Denny O’Neil’s Superman Vs Muhammad Ali and many headline-grabbing moments in DC continuity such as the wedding of Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl or Superman vs Wonder Woman…
Another ambitious all-new project that was never completed, The Bible was written by Sheldon Mayer (Scribbly; Red Tornado; Black Orchid; Day After Doomsday; Three Mouseketeers; Sugar and Spike) and designed and edited by Joe Kubert. It was planned as the first instalment in a graphic interpretation of the entire Bible, but apparently readers prefer costumed saviours above all others…
A deeply religious man, Redondo had already produced the serial Mga Kasaysayang Buhat sa Bibliya (Tales from the Bible) for the Philippine’s Superyor Komiks between 1969-1970, as well as creating an on-the-job training scheme for young creators there. Over many years he contributed to various Christian comics, including Marx, Lenin, Mao and Christ, published in 1977 by Open Doors, Aida-Zee and Behold 3-D, produced in the 1990s by Nate Butler Studio. He was also a panellist for the first Christian comics panel discussion of Comic-Con International, in 1992.
Stories from the Bible have been a part of US comics since the earliest days of the industry, but they have never been so beautifully illustrated as in this book. Included herein are loving interpretations of The Creation, The Garden of Eden, Cain and Abel, The Generations of Adam, Noah and the Flood, The Tower of Babel, The Story of Abraham and Sodom and Gomorrah.
Also included are single-page information features ‘Digging into the Past’, ‘School Days in Bible Times’, ‘The Ziggurat’ and ‘Soldiers in the Time of Abraham’ all illustrated by Kubert, but the true star is the passionate beauty of Redondo’s, lush, glorious art.
Redondo worked as an animation designer for Marvel Studios in the 1990s. He wrote On Realistic Illustration – a teaching session for the 1st International Christian Comics Training Conference in Tagaytay, the Philippines, in January 1996, but sadly, died before he was able to deliver it.
Whatever your beliefs – and I don’t really care – you wouldn’t be reading this unless comics meant something to you. On that basis alone, this is work that you simply cannot be unmoved by and truly should be aware of. Even if there isn’t a comprehensive collection of his work – yet – this single work stands as a lasting tribute to Nestor Redondo’s unparalleled talent. If you venerate beautiful pictures telling stories, you must see this book.
© 1975 National Periodical Publications, Inc. All Rights Reserved.