'Joe Guy, America's Foremost Hero!' (The Rook #10).

Abel Laxamana was one of the many Filipino comics artists who worked in the US comic book and animation industry in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. He illustrated stories for James Warren's horror and fantasy magazines and drew comic books for Blackthorne Publishing, including the ill-fated adaptation of Michael Jackson's 'Moonwalker' movie (1989). He won an Eisner Award for his humor work in the 'Radioactive Man' comic books from 'The Simpsons' franchise by Bongo Comics.

Filipino career
It is not quite sure when Abel P. Laxamana exactly began his career? By the late 1970s some of his early work appeared in Wow Komiks by Soller Publishing. Continuing on the local market well into the 1980s, he drew features like 'Lilac (Bulaklak ng Magdamag)' (1981, with Pablo S. Gomez) in Teens Weekly, 'Bruno Diablo' (1983, with Mars Ravelo) for Gem Komiks, 'Lahing Asuwang' (1984) in Holiday Komiks and 'Laserman' (1985) in Super Action Pocket Komiks. The romantic 'Lilac', written by Pablo S. Gomez, formed the basis for Emmanuel H. Borlaza's live-action film 'Bulaklak ng magdamag' ("Flowers of the Night", 1985) by Regal Films.

Simultaneously, Laxamana found more lucrative career opportunities on the US market. Since Filipino comics at the time were largely modelled after the US comic books, publishers like DC Comics, Marvel Comics and Pendulum Press attracted many artists from the Philippines. These artists were mostly tasked with filling budget black-and-white magazines with their highly detailed pen-and-ink artwork with much cross-hatching, which was the Filipino's specialty.


'Junior' (Creepy #133).

Warren magazines
Laxamana was part of the later wave of artists who made their US debut. Between 1978 and 1982 his art appeared alongside that of Alex Niño, Rudy Nebres and Alfredo Alcala in the horror and adult fantasy magazines published by Warren Publishing, such as Eerie, Creepy, Vampirella, 1984, 1994, The Rooker and The Goblin. He made not only one-shot stories, but also regular features like Jim Stenstrum's 'Rex Havoc & The Asskickers of the Future' (1979) in 1984, Kevin Duane's 'Baby Makes Three!' in 1994 (1980), Stenstrum's 'Joe Guy, America's Foremost Hero!' (1981-1982) in The Rook Magazine and Timothy Moriarty's 'Wizard Wormglow' (1982) in The Goblin. Of all his Warren work, the five stories with 'Joe Guy' are probably the best remembered. The hero-for-hire "without equal in daring rescues, dispelling alien invasions and thwarting master criminals" was a spoof on sci-fi action movies and mocked all the clichés in the genre.

Blackthorne Publishing
When work for Warren declined, he returned to Filipino comic books, before landing new US jobs through Blackthorne Publishing. Laxamana was one of the artists working on the comic book series based on the futuristic 'BattleTech' franchise (1987-1988) and also for the horror title 'Werewolf' (1988-1989), which was based on the NBC television series of the same name. For the same company he provided the artwork of 'Moonwalker' (1989), a comic book based on the eponymous movie starring Michael Jackson (which had production design by Mike Ploog). As a novelty treat the comic book was illustrated in 3-D and thus had to be read with special 3-D glasses, which were added to the book. Unfortunately 'Moonwalker' didn't receive a cinematic release, but went straight-to-video. If that didn't hurt its sales enough, the chaotic plot received bad reviews as well. The comic book flopped too as a result and drove Blackthorne Publishing into bankruptcy. All unsold copies were destroyed, making the 'Moonwalker' comic book a rare item for collectors today. Rick Tulka also made an illustrated book based on 'Moonwalker' around the same time, but this was a colouring book for a different company. 

Animation
Like many of the Filipino artists working in the USA, Laxamana made the transition to animation in the 1980s and 1990s. First, he was a background painter and color stylist for D.I.C. productions like 'C.O.P.S. (1988-1989), 'The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!' (1989), 'The Real Ghost Busters' (1988-1990), 'Swamp Thing' (1990), 'New Kids on the Block' (1990), 'G.J. Joe' (1990-1991), 'Captain Planet and the Planeteers' (1991-1992) and 'Sonic the Hedgehog' (1993). As a storyboard artist, he then lended his services to Murakami Wolf Swenson's 'James Bond Jr.' (1991), Universal's 'Exosquad' (1993), Graz Entertainment's  'Skeleton Warriors' (1994-1995), Cartoon Network's 'The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest' (1997) and Marvel's 'X-Men' (1992-1996), and 'The Incredible Hulk' (1997). Abel Laxamana also illustrated 'The Pop-Up Book of Captain Planet and the Planeteers' (1992) by Andrews McMeel Publishing.


Radioactive Man - 'Risky Be the Rumpus Room' (Radioactive Man #7).

Bongo Comics
In the 1990s, he found work with Matt Groening's Bongo Comics, where he assisted in the production of some stories with 'The Simpsons' side characters. In 'Itchy and Scratchy Comics' he provided additional artwork to 'The Itchy & Scratchy Movie II' (March 1994), which was written by Dan Castellaneta (better known as the voice actor for Homer Simpson) and Deb Lacusta, and drawn by Steve Vance and Bill Morrison. Yet Laxamana mostly worked on stories starring Radioactive Man, assisting the regular artists Vance and Morrison in the first 'Radioactive Man' issue. The parody superhero made his debut in 'The Simpsons' episode 'Three Men And A Comic Book' (1991). In that same episode, Bart, Millhouse and Martin buy a rare copy of the first volume of Radioactive Man which explains the character's origin story. Content from this non-existant comic book was only shown briefly in the episode, but in January 1994 Bill Morrison, Steve Vance and Cindy Vance expanded on the idea and made it an actual comic book story: 'The Origin of Radioactive Man' (January 1994). The same issue also contained 'Dr. Crab's Commie Comics', a satire of the 1950s witch hunts against comics by Fredric Wertham. It also features a cameo of Mad Magazine publisher William M. Gaines. In 1995 Laxamana provided the inking for the short story 'The Radioactive Man of 1995!', written by Bill Morrison and pencilled by Sharon Bridgeman in Bongo's 80-page 'Radioactive Man' special.

He didn't return to Radioactive Man until 2001, although this time as solo pencil artist for the 1970s satire 'No One Gets Over the Underground!' (March 2001), written by Batton Lash. Laxaman's final story for Bongo Comics was also his final 'Radioactive Man' story: 'Risky Be the Rumpus Room' (May 2003), written by Jesse McCann. Abel Laxamana is one of the few Filipinos who have had the honor of winning the Eisner Award for Best Humor Publication in 2002 as part of the creative team of Bongo's 'Radioactive Man'.


'Rex Havoc & The Asskickers of the Future' - Humungus (1984, #9).

Abel Laxamana on The Voice of Odd blog

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