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Leandro San Juan Martinez, also known as “Dan” or “Dando” to his friends and family, was born on February 27, 1933 in Morong, Rizal Philippines. At an early age, Leandro showed an interest in drawing cartoons and often re-created humorous antics inherent in a household of ten siblings. The chosen profession by most members of his family was teaching in school. However, his parents conceded to his passion for the arts and encouraged him to pursue a fine arts degree at the University of the East. A couple of semesters shy from graduation, Leandro decided to leave school and devote his energy to a fulltime career as a cartoonist.
Leandro honed his talents illustrating for ACE Publications and later became a contributing editor for PSG Publications. When PSG Publications closed its doors permanently in the early 1970’s, he became a freelance cartoonist for several komiks published by GASI and Islas Pilipinas Publishing Company. A few of his notable characters and comic strips during the 1960’s to 1970’s included Tsikiting Gubat, Nognog , Atorni Agaton, Atoman, Tik & Tak, Kuwentong Kuneho, Haragan con Maldita, T. V. Lampoon, Doon Po Sa Amin and Mac en Kulit. Nognog, Atorni Agaton and Mac en Kulit were later adopted into film.
In the late 1970’s, he created Superkat and Bulol en Tangak for Pilipino Funny Komiks. Superkat became arguably the most popular character for the magazine during that time. Ming, a nondescript kitten who transformed into Superkat by uttering the word “Katsum,” fulfilled the fantasy and adventure beloved by children readers. To the adults, the underlying theme of good vs. evil and that good would always prevail provided a glimpse of hope even in the most dismal circumstances.
Unlike most artists whose genius was derived from a depressive psyche, Leandro lived with a very positive and humanistic outlook in life. Mild mannered and soft spoken with his distinct Morongueno cadence, he was more of a listener than a talker. At the same time, with his quick wit, he could easily banter with anyone especially when the topic turned into sports--basketball and baseball were his favorites.
In 1981, Leandro moved to Los Angeles and continued to send his artworks for Superkat and Bulol en Tangak until 1983. There was definitely a struggle to find work as a cartoonist during the early years in Los Angeles. His friends generously provided him with “sidelines” inking comic strips for Marvel and DC comics. Later, he found work illustrating for CARtoons Magazine and illustrating department store advertisements published in the Los Angeles Times. He also retired his nom de plum “LS Martinez” and instead signed his artwork with a distinct cursive variation of his last name.
Eventually, he earned enough hours to qualify him for membership into the Motion Picture Screen Cartoonist labor union. This meant he no longer had to contend with seasonal work provided by the studios to non-union members.
In 1984, Leandro worked for Filmation Productions as a background and layout animator on syndicated television series including He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and She-Ra: Princess of Power. He also had a hand on the film Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night released in 1987 by the same company.
Shortly thereafter, he moved to Warner Brothers Animation and worked as a background and layout artist on the television shows Tiny Toons Adventures and Taz-Mania. His dedication and hard work would later earn him a promotion as a layout supervisor.
Leandro was equally devoted to his family as he was to his art. His children recalled being allowed to ink the lines and erase pencil marks on his storyboards. Even when deadlines were tight, Leandro made sure that he spent quality time with his wife and four children sampling different cuisines or going to the movies.
On December 16, 1992, Leandro was driving his car on his way to work when he suffered a heart attack. He was taken to the hospital immediately but resuscitation efforts were unsuccessful. He was 59 years old.
-“LS Martinez” written by daughter Cristina Martinez
Reference material provided by wife Azucena Martinez and sons Julius, Gilbert, and Gerald Martinez