Antonio S. Velasquez

Velasquez

ANTONIO S. VELASQUEZ is regarded as the “Father of Tagalog Comics” and as the pioneer and founding father of the Philippine comics industry. He is the creator of Kenkoy, an “iconic Philippine comics strip character”.

Velasquez was born on October 29, 1910 at Ulilang Kawayan, Paco, Manila. He was the sixth child of a Pangasinense father, Eusebio Velasquez, and a Caviteña mother, Andrea Santos. He studied at the Jose Rizal College. While a student at Jose Rizal College, Velasquez worked as a part-time illustrator for Banaag Press, a publishing company which later became known as Acme Printing in 1927 after being acquired by Ramon Roces, a Filipino-Spanish businessman and publisher. In 1928, Velasquez – together with script writer Romualdo Ramos – created Kenkoy, a “Filipino comic star” character that first appeared in the Tagalog-language Liwayway magazine on 11 January 1929.

In 1935, Velasquez became chief advertising artist for the Ramon Roces Publications, Inc. As chief advertising artist, Velasquez designed labels for Philippine products such as Tiki-Tiki Vitamins, Castrol Oil, and Cortal, among others. Along with such product label designs, Velasquez created cartoon characters that accompanied the advertisements for the products. The characters Velasquez created included Captain Cortal for Cortal, Nars Cafi for Cafi Aspirina, and Isko for Esco Shoes, among others.

During the Japanese Occupation of the Philippines in World War II, Velasquez was forced to use his Kenkoy character as war propaganda to influence the Filipinos. Refusing at first, then Philippine President Jose P. Laurel was able to convince Velasquez to concede and use Kenkoy as a promotional too for Laurel’s health programs instead of as war propaganda.

In 1947, Velasquez retired from Liwayway magazine to create the publishing firm Ace Publications, Inc., a mass producer of Philippine comic books. Through Ace Publications, Velasquez was able to produce “some of the best” and “most popular” Philippine comic books, such as Pilipino Komiks (1947), Tagalog Klasiks (1949), Hiwaga Komiks (1950), Espesyal Komiks (1952), Kenkoy Komiks (1959), and Educational Klasiks (1960).

In 1962, Velasquez had to close Ace Publications due to a labor dispute. Afterwards, Velasquez established the Graphic Arts Service, Inc. (also known as GASI). Through GASI, Velasquez was able to produce Philippine comic books such as Aliwan Komiks, Pioneer Komiks, Holiday Komiks, Pinoy Komiks, Pinoy Klasiks and Teens Weekly Komiks. All these komiks-magazines became household names in the country.

Tony was married to Pilar S. Tongco, a retired school teacher. They have only two children: Rosalina, a physician, and Remedios, a registered nurse.

He died in 1997 at the age of 86.

(Also see A. S. Vel)

Published Works