We’re sorry to report the passing of Argentinian-born artist José Delbo, whose many credits from the 1960s onwards included Billy the Kid, The Beatles “Yellow Submarine”, Wonder Woman, Transformers and Thundercats, and was an instructor at the Kubert School from the 1990s, until 2015.
More recently, the former vice-president of America’s National Cartoonist Society had enjoyed considerable success in the field of Cryptoart admiration within that community of collectors and art fans. He was 90 years old, and was still enthusiastic for the future, telling his fans: “I’m feeling very excited for the new year! I hope your 2024 is filled with blessings and happiness.”
“I’m very sad to hear of the passing of the multi-talented Jose Delbo who I worked with on both Transformers and Brute Force,” writer Simon Furman commented on X. I was glad to have met Jose in person on one occasion and discovered for myself what a truly lovely guy he was. Rest in Peace – and condolences to his family.”
Announcing his passing earlier this week, his grandson, Nick Frontera, co-founder and CEO of metaverse and gaming company Apollo Entertainment, noted the loss of “a legend of a father, grandfather, husband, and artist.
“José Delbo was as kind and as noble a man as there could be,” he said. “He left a legacy that we can only hope we are blessed with leaving behind ourselves. He was loved by all who knew him and his art was loved all over the world. I will forever cherish these last three years that I got to spend working with my grandfather to help him further solidify his legacy in this space and continue to pursue his passion.
“I know that being able to continue to produce art until the very end brought him such an immense amount of joy through all the difficult times. Even in his recent sickness, he worked on completing and minting a new collection that he wanted to share with the world. This community’s love and support not only gave him a continued sense of purpose, but it allowed him to be at peace that his family would be provided for after his passing.
“So while we grieve, I will say on his behalf, thank you to all who have supported him! He truly cherished every single one of you. May his legacy live on in all of our hearts through his art.”
“A legend leaves us, but his work remains always with us,” concurred renowned fellow Crytoartist Javier Arré. “Rest in peace. genius!”
Born as José María Del Bó in Buenos Aires, Argentina, José Delbo published his first work at the age of only 16, initially drawing for South American comic books like Pancho Negro, Batallas Inolvidables, Misterix and Rayo Rojo, before becoming an integral contributor to US comics, working for publishers such as Charlton Comics, Dell Publishing and Gold Key.
“I was inspired by the American cowboy westerns,” he recounted on his official website, “and moved to the United States and began work on classics like Billy the Kid, Judge Colt and The Lone Ranger. Then in the 1970s, I brought a host of television shows to comic book form with titles such as the The Twilight Zone, The Brady Bunch, Hogan’s Heroes, Buck Rogers, The Monkees and The Mod Squad.”
“My art is a journey of passion,” Delbo said in an interview in 2016, also discussing his mural work. “As a young child my world was a pencil and paper. Drawing was the only thing that interested me and to date this passion to draw continues.”
In the 1980s, long before the modern superhero dominated the big screen, he worked for the likes of DC and Marvel Comics and penciled adventures of Superman, Batman, Aquaman, Green Arrow, Transformers and Thundercats. In the 1990s, when the focus fell on the environment, he helped the country go green when he drew the first issues of Captain Planet and the Planeteers and Brute Force.
His work also encompassed cartoon classics like Disney’s 101 Dalmatians, Little Mermaid and the Mighty Ducks. When the NFL needed a superhero, he drew the NFL Superpro, who ran around with Spider-man, fighting crime in the big city. His career also included comics featuring iconic women such as Raggedy Ann, Little Lulu, Barbie and Wonder Woman.
A digital turn
His career took an important turn in July 2020 when in his eighties, he released his first piece of digital art via the blockchain, in the form of a 43-page original digital comic book called Death, enjoying much success, to his surprise and pleasure, and continued to create pieces of digital art.
Death, his first crypto-release, was mostly silent, containing 42 pages of original black and white art with characters I created – a series of short stories that touched on various topics involving death, where the main character Death (or La Muerte) is always present.
“Unlike most comics, which have hundreds of thousands of editions printed, the Death comic was limited to 250 editions,” José noted. “I was truly astonished and humbled at how quickly those editions sold out and the prices people were willing to pay to collect them. In fact, the last 20 editions of Death sold out in one day for 1 ETH each. The crypto art community’s response to Death helped me see that the future of comics is digital and on the blockchain.”
The release continued with further “Death” follow-ups, and Satoshi The Creator, released through Apollo NFT, a project that encouraged his fans to involve themselves with, suggesting challenges for the characters, and developments for the “Satoshi” universe.
A timely tribute to an incredible career
In December 2023, Digital Art Patron Pablo Rodríguez-Fraile revealed one of José’s last works – an addition to the RFC Art Collection entitled “The First Ride” – a commissioned work from José, echoing his very first foray into comics, decades previously.
“A few years ago, I approached him (through [Nick Frontera] of MetaverseNft) with a vision: to commission a piece that truly reflects his artistic journey, especially his transition into the digital age. I left the canvas entirely to his imagination, trusting in his legendary prowess.
“His transformation from a celebrated comic book artist to an influential figure in the digital art world,” Pablo continued, “especially in his later years, is inspiring. This piece, depicting himself, reflects his innovative spirit and his embrace of new realms Collecting his work has been a profound honour, and this piece, in particular, is a symbol of the transformative journeys of visionary artists like him who continue to innovate and inspire, regardless of age It’s not merely a part of the collection, but a piece of art history, capturing the essence of an icon in this digital era.”
You could argue that to leave inspiring art, whatever its form, is no better legacy for an accomplished artist. Our sympathies to his family, friends and fans at this time.
José Delbo (9 December 1933 – 5 February 2024) | Web: delbocomics.com
• The 13th Dimension: José Delbo – An Appreciation
Comic writer Paul Kupperberg pays tribute to José, who he worked with many times
• WPB Magazine: From The Beatles to Batman: José Delbo Illustrated Modern Pop
A 2016 interview with Sandra Schulman WPB Magazine arts and entertainment writer, music and film producer
• Who’s Out There – José Delbo and Billy the Kid’s Long, Dusty Trail
A brilliant guide to José’s work on “Billy the Kid”
The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. He is currently editor of Star Trek Explorer, published by Titan – his third tour of duty on the title originally titled Star Trek Magazine.
Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Babylon 5 Magazine, and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War” and “Dan Dare”.
He’s the writer of “Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies” for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.