All in all, Rodriguez illustrated eleven Bible series, Kasaysayan ni Abraham, Isaac at Jacob, Noe, Haring David, Ruth, Sta. Maria, Samson, Propeta Eliseo, Samuel, Moises, and Josue. All of these were brilliantly illustrated, but in Moses, he simply surpassed himself.
In fact, Rodriguez entered one of the splash pages of Moses (the page where Moses parted the Red Sea) as entry in the first art contest of SPIC( Society of Philippine Illustrators and Cartoonists), and won unanimously against some of the more veteran Filipino comic artists, including the greats Nestor Redondo and Fred Alcala.
Although Rodriguez was unable to complete the Bible series because of his going abroad, yet this series would be the one true mark of his genius as an artist.
Born in Sorsogon, in the Philippines, Rodriguez attended the University of the Philippines' School of Fine Arts where he graduated Summa Cum laude. Upon graduation, Larry Alcala, then Dean of the UP College of Fine Arts, hired Rodriguez as professor in the college. During this time, Rodriguez experimented with abstract paintings which he mainly give as gifts to friends and colleagues. Sometime in the late 1950s, Alcala recommended Rodriguez to Velasquez to work in comics.
Impressed by the young man's superior drawing skills, Velasquez assigned him with the Bible series being adapted into comics by Angel Ad Santos. The Bible series was a hark back into the olden days of making comics, devoid of conversation ballons that too often clutter in the panel.
In the middle of the series, however, Rodriguez was granted Fulbright scholarship, which involved further studies to the United States.
Unable to finish the Bible series, the job was handed over to Rubeny Yandoc, who was highly influenced by the drawing style of Rodriguez. Rubeny, for his part, excelled in his own way in this remarkable series, a can be seen in my previous post on him.
In the United States, Rodriguez worked for Gold Key and Treasure Chest publications, but soon found other more high-paying jobs in car companies like Chrysler and Rolls Royce, where he designed cars. He then retired from drawing comics. (source: Tony Velasquez' memoirs; and my interview with Rico Rival, Sonny Trinidad, and Hal Santiago, Rodriguez' friends, fellow artists, and contemporaries in the Philippines).
Joemarie Lee, a veteran Filipino comics writer and a compatriot of Rodriguez, informed me that Rodriguez became increasingly reclusive and was not heard of again even by some of his friends in the Philippines. Even now, some friends are still trying to get in touch with him but no one knew where he lives.
Reprinting the Originals in Graphic Book Form
I am planning to publish these original works as complete graphic adaptations of the Bible if my finances allow it in the near future, or if I can strike a deal with some interested publisher, who can market it in schools. The originals of Moses are complete (50 pages)and each page is in a high state of preservation.
I will feature in this blog the complete Moses series as illustrated by Emil Rodriguez at the height of his drawing prowess. His lines are simple yet beautiful and dynamic, his renderings intricate, and his compositions peerless. Indeed, this is comic art at its best.
Splash page of Moses
Detail of the Splash Page
Detail of Page 3
Detail of Page 4
TO BE CONTINUED