Sunday, February 23, 2014

I Remember Tenny Henson

Last month when trying to figure out the identity of the artist responsible for a nice page of comic book artwork, a figure in the drawing brought Tenny Henson to my mind. This is in spite of the fact that I have seen no new art from Mr. Henson in over three decades. His name may not even ring a bell with some fans. Let's power up the Wayback Machine so I can tell you a little bit about Tenny Henson's place in the history of comics.

First let's purposely overshoot our destination and go all the way back to 1972. In October of that year I was as pleased as all get-out to spot on the newsstands the first-ever tabloid-sized comic book. It was huge! The DC comic featured (a two-month early) Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and, at a cover price of $1.00, was five times as costly as the regular-sized comics of the day. I didn't care! I bought it on the spot and was crazy about the fun story and definitely also about the massiveness of the issue. How I wish those oversized comics were still being published today.

Other comics fans liked them also and DC put out a regular serving of their Limited Collector Editions, as they called them, and Marvel followed suit with their Treasury Editions. Rudolph became a tradition every October and that suited me just fine. My understanding of the source material was vague at the time but in fact those tabloid Rudolphs were reprinting stories that DC had published in the 1950s.

The reprinting came to an end in 1976 though, because DC decided to fill that year's Rudolph with all-new story and artwork. Comic book genius Sheldon Mayer was called upon to write and pencil the stories, and he was the perfect choice. The name of the inker in the credit box was unfamiliar to me. Tenny Henson. I had never heard of that artist before but his line was sleek, elegant, and just plain beautiful. Whichever editor was responsible for pairing Mr. Mayer and Mr. Henson on those Rudolph stories made an inspired choice.

The annual collaboration by these gentlemen on Rudolph continued for years. (I think I even remember there was a Rudolph book for Easter one year!) It wasn't until later that I found out that Tenny Henson hailed from the Phillipines, like so many other fabulous artists who took the comics world by storm in the 1970s. Mr. Henson also drew issues of Shazam and Plastic Man and his style was ideal for those series as well. But by the mid-1980s, Tenny Henson had disappeared from the comics pages and, as I wrote above, I saw a page of artwork last month that reminded me of his style. I started poking around the internet to see what I could find out about Tenny Henson (and I got more than I had bargained for).

I learned that Mr. Henson passed away in 2013. I was sorry to read that. But I found more. Over here was a website with a 2007 article about Tenny Henson, and a comment dated 2011 posted to that article was from Mr. Henson's daughter. Johanna Henson wrote in to ask if anyone knew the whereabouts of her father for whom she had been searching. Whoa. Johanna included her email address in her posted comment and I had to write to ask her if she had succeeded in locating her father back in 2011. Johanna wrote back to me and, with her permission, I share with you what she wrote me in its entirety:

Hello Mr. Brian Hayes,

Good to hear from you. I didn't find my dad until last April 9, 2013. To my surprised, his wife called me. When I talked to her, I felt something is wrong. And she told me a sad news that my dad died of heart attack that day. I feel so grateful that you thought of putting up another article about him. Thank you so much. It is our way of thanking my dad for sharing his talent to us. Let the world know how talented he is. No one will ever replace him. Oh my... I am crying now. Sad that there will be no chance to see him again. Too late. Maybe God has the reason. No matter what had happened from the past, he will always be in our hearts forever.      

Please let me know if you posted the article in your blog so I can share it to my family, relatives, and friends. Again thank you so much for giving your time in doing it. God bless you and have a good day!


My interchange with Joanna Henson gives me a welcome reminder: sometimes when you study in the House of Comic Books, real life comes knocking on the door.

This very day of 23 February 2014 there was an Afternoon of Remembrance in honor of the many animation industry stalwarts whom we've lost in the past year. Tenny Henson was on the list as you can see for yourself over here. I was unable to personally attend but I do hope it was a wonderful tribute and that all those in attendance got to see just how much the talents of their loved ones were appreciated.

A 1957 Phillipine comic page by Tenny Henson,
digitally colored by Gerry Alanguilan


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