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Corky Trinidad, 1939-2009
posted February 16, 2009


Francisco Flores "Corky" Trinidad Jr., the long-time Honolulu Star-Bulletin editorial cartoonist widely believe to be the first Asian editorial cartoonist working on a North American publication, died on Friday morning from complications due to pancreatic cancer. He was 69.

Trinidad was born in Manila in 1939, and earned a degree in Journalism from the University of Ateneo de Manila in 1960. His popularity at the Philippines Herald starting in 1961 attracted the attention of the comics syndicates. He began work at the Star-Bulletin in 1969, coming to that paper's attention through his Herald work and from a strip for Pacific Stars and Stripes called Nguyen Charlie. Beginning to feel the heat from Ferdinand Marcos because of critical cartoons, which may have eventually led to the cartoonist's imprisonment, Trinidad was grateful to relocate. (He would later publish a book about Marcos in 1986, Marcos: The Rise and Fall of a Regime.)

The move to Hawaii began a nearly four-decade relationship that only recently ended when the ailing cartoonist went on leave due to the cancer. Trinidad was popularly locally and also became the first widely-syndicated Asian editorial cartoonist in North America, his work showing up in publications such as Newsweek, USA Today, and the New York Times. His work also appeared in publications in the Philippines and throughout Europe.

Trinidad became a popular, ingrained aspect of the Star-Bulletin, and was called its public face upon his passing. His cartoons regularly appeared in the news section as opposed to the editorial page, making him perhaps the last North American editorial cartoonist that enjoyed this distinction. In fact, he did a color one for the news section and a black and white one for the editorial pages, putting him a rare group of prolific cartoonists able to handle more than offering on a publication day. He also taught, and for a time took on strip work in addition to his panels.

Trinidad would go on to win a number of regional awards for this work in the Star-Bulletin, and was put into the Hawaii Journalism Hall of Fame in 2005. He also syndicated two strips while in Honalulu, Zeus! and Aloha Eden, drawing on a love for mythology. He became a towering figure in Hawaii cartooning circles, both for his work and for teaching at the University of Hawaii.

He is survived by his wife, Hana, five children, two grandchildren, two brothers and a sister.

An official web site can be found here, with a cartoon on its front page that Trinidad complete a while ago in anticipation of his own passing.