The Rat Patrol #3 (1967).

José Delbo is an Argentinian comic artist. Although he started drawing for South American comic books like Pancho Negro, Batallas Inolvidables, Misterix and Rayo Rojo, he spent most of his career in the United States. Working successively for Charlton Comics, Dell Publishing, Gold Key, DC Comics and Marvel, Delbo worked on a great many western, war and mystery comics. Switching to superheroes at DC Comics, he had a long run on the 'Wonder Woman' comic book (1976-1981), as well as the 'Superman' newspaper comic. A large part of José Delbo's output was dedicated to comic books tying in with TV series, movies and toylines, ranging from 'The Monkees' and the Beatles film 'Yellow Submarine' in the 1960s to the 1980s Marvel comic books 'ThunderCats' (1986-1988) and 'Transformers' (1988-1990).

Early life and career
He was born in 1933 as José María Del Bó in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Living in the city, he grew up reading mostly American superhero comics, that appeared in translation in Argentinian magazines. No fan of average schoolwork, he spent most of his days drawing, while driving his teachers to madness. As a teenager, he learned his basic cartooning skills from the veteran artist Carlos Clemen, resulting in his first published comic story at age 16: a 1949 science fiction tale in Clemen's Suspenso title. In 1950 and 1951, he also worked for Carlos Clemen's Filmograf magazine, of which only two issues appeared. In his Argentinian period, the artist still published under the name "José Del Bó"; later in his career, his last name was contracted to "Delbo".


'El Mundo Subterraneo' (Suspenso #3, October 1949).

Besides Clemen, he underwent influences from mainly North American artists, including Milton Caniff, John Cullen Murphy, Alex Toth and Burne Hogarth. Still, his father wanted him to learn a "real" profession. For a couple of years, José Delbo studied to become a lawyer, but his urge to draw eventually won from his father's career wishes. After spending another year fulfilling his military service, José Delbo embarked upon his professional cartooning career. At the time, Argentinian comics were strongly inpired by North American comic books. Jungle heroes, superheroes, crime comics, war stories and westerns dominated the market, and many heroes had English or American names. For several years, José Delbo drew the feature about a pilot called Terry Atlas for the western comic book Poncho Negro, published since 1953 by Editorial Sugestiones. In Poncho Negro, Delbo also contributed to the short story feature 'Muerte al Minuto' ("Death to the Minute"). In 1955, he continued the 'Chass Ericsson' feature in Dragón Blanco, a title for which he also made humor strips under the pen name "Jombo'. Delbo additionally illustrated covers for western titles like 'Aventuras del Oeste', published by Ediciones Universales.


'Las Fantasmas' (1962).

Self-publishing
During this era, José Delbo worked mostly on war and western comics, and also turned to self-publishing. With borrowed money from his father, he launched three comic books, each lasting four issues. In an interview with Jon B. Cooke printed in Comic Book Artist magazine #23 (December 2002), Delbo recalled the titles Bazooka (war stories) and Far West (western stories), but he couldn't remember the name of his detective magazine. Besides original stories, Delbo's comic books ran licensed material, such as Will Eisner's 'The Spirit'. The experience was short-lived, though. The political turmoil following the military coup of 1955 made it impossible to make such a venture profitable, and by 1956 or 1957, José Delbo's titles were cancelled.


Ernie Pike - 'Su Mejor Crónica' (Hora Cero Extra! #41, 16 May 1961).

Oesterheld collaborations
In the early 1960s, José Delbo worked for Editorial Frontera, drawing self-concluding episodes of 'Cuentos de la Ciudad Grande' ("Tales from The Big City") by the legendary scriptwriter Héctor Germán Oesterheld in Hora Cero Extra magazine. He also contributed to Oesterheld's 'Batallas Inolvidables', a collection of comic books about real-life war stories, presented by Oesterheld and Hugo Pratt's war correspondent Ernie Pike. The series was revolutionary, because it explored war from different points of view. One of the stories by Delbo dealt with the Battle of the Coral Sea from the Japanese viewpoint. Oesterheld's drive for authenticity left a lasting mark on Delbo. For the rest of his career, he relied on National Geographic magazine and other resources for a thorough documentation, keeping in mind Oesterheld's saying: "even if we are only working cartoonists, we are always teaching through the art we create."

Editorial Yago
José Delbo's main Argentinian client of the 1960s was however the publishing house Editorial Yago. Starting in 1962, he drew a great many detective and sci-fi features for the magazines Misterix and Rayo Rojo, including 'Meridiano K', 'Tony Mackett', 'John Speed, Investigador Especial', 'Más Allá de lo Humano' and 'Capitán Martin'. He also succeeded Carlos Cruz on the 'Santos Palma' feature. In addition, José Delbo contributed to magazines like Intervalo by Editorial Columba, and one story to Patoruzú by Editorial Dante Quinterno: 'La Cueva Del Yacaré'.

Gatinha Paulista by Jose Delbo

Brazilian period
During the first half of the 1960s, José Delbo also worked for publications from other South American countries. In 1963, he headed to Brazil, where he settled in Santos, São Paulo, and continued to draw war and western comics for titles like Almanaque de O Vingador, Colorado and Combate, all published by Editorial Outubro/Taika. For the São Paulo newspaper Última Hora, and through Barbosa Lessa's agency, José Delbo produced a daily comic strip about the sexy playgirl 'Gatinha Paulista' (1964). Through Luís Sanches Produções, he also appeared on the comic page of the tabloid-sized A Nação with the comic strip 'Justiceiro Alado' ("Winged Punisher"). Additionally, for the Chilean market, Delbo drew comic strips about association football and basketball. By 1964, he returned to Argentina, leaving his Brazilian creation 'Colorado' to another Argentinian expat, Rodolfo Zalla, who quickly became one of Brazil's leading war and western cartoonists. Back home, Delbo worked on a comic hero called 'Tony Macken', but not for long. Army revolts and an incredible inflation caused a steady deterioration of the local comic book industry. Exploring his options, José Delbo decided to try his luck in the United States, partially because of his fascination for westerns, but mostly for the better job opportunities.


'Justiciero Alado', daily comic strip.

Charlton Comics
The Delbo family arrived in the USA in 1965, and spent the next thirty years living on several locations in New Jersey. In 1976, José Delbo officially became a U.S. citizen. Shortly after his arrival, Delbo did advertising assignments, until fellow Argentinian cartoonist Luis Dominguez introduced him to Charlton Comics. Working through editor Tony Tallarico, Delbo picked up his favorite genre again: westerns. After some first contributions to issues of 'Outlaws of the West' and 'Black Fury', he spent the next eight years (1966-1974) drawing Charlton's 'Billy the Kid' comic book, taking over from artist Rocco Mastroserio. Delbo and Tallarico also collaborated on another cowboy comic, 'Geronimo Jones' (1971-1973), while Delbo also contributed an occasional short story to the mystery anthology titles 'Ghostly Tales' and 'The Many Ghosts of Dr. Graves'. Since Charlton was notorious for its low-budget practices, José Delbo also freelanced for other companies. For the short-lived Tower Comics title 'Fight the Enemy' (three issues, 1966), Delbo drew the feature 'Secret Agent Mike Manley'.


Billy the Kid #93 (July 1972).

Dell Comics
By 1967, the artist also began a steady collaboration with Dell Comics, where his long association with TV and movie tie-in comics began. Because of his previous experience with war and western comics, the first Dell books Delbo worked on were issues of 'Hogan's Heroes' (#5, 1967) and 'The Big Valley' (#4, 1967). He then did three issues of the comic book based on the World War II TV series 'The Rat Patrol', before landing his long stint on 'The Monkees' (1967-1968), based on the rock 'n' roll TV sitcom. Taking over after the first issue from artist Mo Marcus, Delbo penciled and inked the entire run of this humor comic book until the end. In the previously mentioned Comic Book Artist interview, Delbo noted that he particularly liked doing 'The Monkees', as he could add little fun elements to his artwork that his more serious comic book work wouldn't allow. Between 1968 and 1971, Delbo's other Dell work included TV show-related comic books based on children's series ('Gentle Ben'), crime series ('The Mod Squad'), sitcoms ('The Brady Bunch', 'Nanny and the Professor') and drama series ('The Young Lawyers'). In 1969, following the death of U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, José Delbo was also the artist of the comic biography 'The Life Story of a Great American - Dwight D. Eisenhower'.


The Monkees #8.

Gold Key Comics
While active for both Charlton and Dell, José Delbo was also working extensively for Western Publishing's Gold Key imprint. Between 1966 and 1982, he penciled and inked many stories for the anthology mystery titles 'Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery', 'The Twilight Zone', 'Ripley's Believe It Or Not' and 'Grimm's Ghost Stories', but he also delved into familiar western territory with 'Judge Colt' (1970), 'The Lone Ranger' (1975) and many issues of 'Turok, Son of Stone' (1972-1981), working mostly with writer Paul Newman. Delbo did his first U.S. superhero work on a 1968 issue of 'Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom', and in 1974 and 1975, he had a six-issue run on the post-apocalyptic adventure comic book 'Mighty Samson' (issues #23-28) with writer Gerry Boudreau. Science-fiction work by José Delbo appeared in 'Starstream' (1976), a title with comic stories based on short stories by famous American science-fiction writers. Delbo also inked Frank Bolle's pencils in the fourth issue of 'Buck Rogers of the 25th Century' (1979).

Yellow Submarine by Jose Delbo
'The Yellow Submarine'.

Yellow Submarine
José Delbo's best remembered Gold Key work was however a comic book adaptation of a movie. In December 1968, George Dunning released 'The Yellow Submarine', an animated film based on songs by The Beatles. It starred the band as main characters, although voiced by actors. To tie in with the release, Gold Key issued a 'Yellow Submarine' comic book, adapted by Paul S. Newman and drawn by José Delbo. However, the comic book was no straightforward adaptation. Gold Key obtained an early draft of the movie script, which Paul S. Newman streamlined into a comic script. Delbo was commissioned to draw an entire story based on a film he hadn't even seen. The artist modelled his artwork after the original movie designs by Heinz Edelmann. The Gold Key comic book was ready by the time 'Yellow Submarine' was released to theaters, but featured many scenes that weren't in the final movie. This makes the 'Yellow Submarine' comic book a bit strange for readers familiar with the film, but at the same time interesting as a showcase what other direction the movie could have taken. Half a century later, Bill Morrison made another comic book based on 'Yellow Submarine', this time published by Titan Comics.


'A Fistful of Fire!' (The Witching Hour #4, 1969). 

DC Comics: Wonder Woman
By 1969, José Delbo was also working for DC Comics, where he initially did more mystery stories for anthology titles like 'The Witching Hour' and 'House of Secrets', before turning to superhero work. At DC and later also at Marvel, José Delbo was mainly assigned to doing pencils only, and as a result he was joined on art duties by a host of inkers. In 1976, starting with issue #222, Delbo began his long run on the 'Wonder Woman' series, which lasted until issue #286 of December 1981. Joe Giella was his main inker. During this same period, the long-running comic book series received a popular live-action TV series adaptation, running for three seasons from 1976 until 1979. Working successively with the writers Martin Pasko and Jack C. Harris, Delbo retooled the ongoing comic series to best resemble the TV show. Since the original narrative of the TV series was set during World War II period, the comic books switched from the present to the war period too. When the TV series switched to the 1970s from the second season on, the comic books made a similar change.


Wonder Woman #245.

Delbo's other DC superhero work included penciling spin-off features to both 'Superman' and 'Batman', including 'Supergirl' (in Adventure Comics, 1972), 'Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen' (1972), 'Lois Lane' (in The Superman Family, 1977), 'Robin' (in The Batman Family, 1976-1977) and 'Batgirl' (in Detective Comics, 1980-1982), with Bob Oksner and Vince Colletta on inking duties. In addition, José Delbo penciled stories with 'The Atom' in Action Comics (1975), 'Green Arrow', 'Aquaman' and 'Red Tornado' in World's Finest Comics (1979-1981), and did fill-in issues of 'Teen Titans' (1977) and 'The Fury of Firestorm' (1986). In 1982, he also drew the 'Tomahawk' back-up feature in the 'Unknown Soldier' comic book. For a whole different demography was the comic book adaptation of the children's animated fantasy film 'Rainbow Brite and the Star Dealer' (1986), penciled by José Delbo and Willie Vander with Jim Fern on inks. With fellow pencil artist Russell Braun and inker Don Heck, Delbo also drew the first two issues of the limited comic book series based on the 1990 action comedy mystery film 'The Adventures of Ford Fairlane'.

Newspaper comics
In the late 1970s and 1980s, José Delbo also returned to newspaper comics. In 1979, he ghosted for Sy Barry on the newspaper comic based on Lee Falk's classic character 'The Phantom' at King Features Syndicate. Three years later, he was assigned to another newspaper comic strip, made as a co-production between DC Comics and the Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate, and starring DC's 'Superman'. In 1978, the "Man of Steel" was adapted into a theatrical blockbuster, starring Christopher Reeve as the muscular hero, renewing global interest in the franchise. This spawned a comeback of the 'Superman' newspaper comic, which originally ran from 1939 to 1966 through the McClure Syndicate. Relaunched by the Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate on 3 April 1978, the strip originally carried the title 'The World's Greatest Superheroes', focusing on other DC superheroes like Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash and Black Lightning too. On 14 October 1979, the title changed, putting the emphasis on Superman alone. From 1982 on, Paul Kupperberg became the new scriptwriter, with José Delbo and inker Sal Trapani replacing George Tuska and Vince Colletta as the artists. The new team continued the series for three more years, until the final episode appeared in print on 10 February 1985.

Transformers by Jose Delbo
Transformers #41

Marvel Comics
In the mid-1980s, José Delbo made the switch from DC to Marvel Comics, where he returned to making comic books based on popular TV series. This time, they were tie-ins to toyline franchises with animated TV shows. In late 1986, José Delbo replaced Jim Mooney as the penciler of 'Thundercats', and he continued to work on this title with writer Gerry Conway and inker Al Gordon until 1988. Then came José Delbo's popular run on 'Transformers' (1988-1990), initially with writer Bob Budiansky and inker Dave Hunt. By the time Simon Furman came on board as writer, the title transformed from a kids' title about giant alien robots to a comic book with darker, existential subject matter. Delbo's run ended with issue #67, after which Andrew Wildman became the lead penciler.

Delbo worked with Simon Furman again on the four-issue limited series 'Brute Force' (1991-1992), about a group of intellectual bionic animals. José Delbo also illustrated issues of TV and toy tie-in comic series like 'Inhumanoids' (1987), 'Captain Planet and the Planeteers' (1991) and 'Barbie' (1993), and did fill-in issues of 'Conan the Barbarian' (1989) and 'Ravage 2099' (1993). Between 1991 and 1992, Delbo and inker Mike DeCarlo drew all twelve issues of 'NFL Superpro', a joint production between Marvel Comics and the National Football League, starring a player who survives an accident and wears a near-indestructible football uniform.


NFL Superpro #5.

Work in the 1990s
By the mid-1990s, José Delbo was let go by Marvel Comics. It prompted him to relocate from New Jersey to Boca Raton, Florida. The decade also saw the artist do work for Valiant Comics, including issues of 'Shadowman' (1992), 'X-O Manowar' (1993) and 'Armorines' (1995). His last regular comic book work was done for Tekno Comix, an imprint of the Florida-based company Big Entertainment, where he drew 'Mickey Spillane's Mike Danger' (1995-1996), 'Neil Gaiman's Mr. Hero - The Newmatic Man' (1996) and 'Neil Gaiman's Wheel of Worlds' (1996). When Valiant was bought over by Acclaim Entertainment, Delbo contributed to the company's Disney Action Club line, including issues with 'The Little Mermaid' and 'Mighty Ducks'. Also in 1997, Delbo's art appeared in an adaptation of the 1996 live-action Disney film '101 Dalmatians', written by Sheryl Scarborough and Kayte Kuch and published by Marvel Comics in Disney Comic Hits #16 (16 January 1997).


'101 Dalmatians' (1997) - © Disney

Other activities
From the 1980s until his mid-1990s move to Florida, José Delbo was a teacher in cartooning and basic drawing at the Joe Kubert School. Among his students were the artists Jim Keefe, Eric Shanower, Lee Weeks, Sherm Cohen, Alex Maleev, Joshua Janes and Derrick J. Wyatt. He is also an accomplished painter of murals. After moving to Florida, José Delbo established a Cartoon Camp for school pupils, originally housed at the International Museum of Cartoon Art in Boca Raton.

On 8 March 2021, José Delbo made news when he sold Wonder Woman artwork for 1.85 million dollars to a collector during a crypto auction! It was a NFT (non-fungible token), which is not a physical drawing, but a unique digital artwork. The sale instantly made the 87-year old veteran artist a millionaire. However, he didn't design the work on his own: he made it in collaboration with the Italian Hackatao duo. Delbo's sale happened in a time when most of the world communicated mostly digital, due to the COVID-19 virus lockdown measures. After Delbo's notable sale, DC and Marvel issued statements against illegal use of their trademarked characters.

Recognition and legacy
In 2013, José Delbo received an Inkpot Award for his entire career. His daughter Silvana Delbo is active as a multi-media artist.


José Delbo, drawn in 2001 by his former student Alex Maleev (Comic Book Artist #23).

josedelbo.org

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