Wednesday, August 30, 2017

New comic SAINTS AND SINNERS available for pre-order!

*Pre-order campaign for this comic is over, but copies are now available in my webshop as of 9/24/17*

Kind of a spontaneous scheduling thing here, but I have a new comic book in the works that you can pre-order via my webshop....

SAINTS AND SINNERS is being produced to debut at the upcoming ALPHA OMEGA CON. It's a Christian comics & pop culture convention taking place on September 23 in Artesia, CA.I attended last year and was invited to return, so for this year I got the idea to do a collection of some of my characters who's supernatual themes would have a particular appeal to this audience.
The four previous stories that are being reprinted are the supernatural vigilante Maniac Priest, the possessed exorcist Demoniak, the demon-fighting duo of Jacob & Joaquin: The Wandering Jew and Catholic Boy and the hippie Jesus freak superhero Godson (who previously appeared in a Poster Comic, so this marks the character's first time in a printed book). 



And acting as host to these stories is a brand-new character of mine Ann Hellika, Hell's Belle! The newly created pages will introduce the other stories and give you a glimpse into her world.

 I'm running the pre-order campaign until Labor Day. This comic will actually be printed in a new size for me, a hefty 9" x 12" format! 20 pages, full color, and in addition to those comics there will be a gallery of production & promotional artwork, similar to some of the pieces seen here.

In addition to pre-ordering the comic (which will come with a free mystery print!), I'm also offering the original cover art as well as the back cover artwork. So if you want to get your hands on some original hand-crafted comic book art, now's the time to jump in.  


So if you're interested, I'd appreciate your support! Thanks.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

EL MUERTO screening Aug. 13 at THE FRIDA CINEMA in Santa Ana, CA

As a fundraiser for the Latino Comics Expo (of which I'm co-founder), we will be screening EL MUERTO on Sunday, August 13 at The Frida Cinema in Santa Ana, CA.


Based on my comic book, EL MUERTO tells the tale of Diego de La Muerte, a young man killed and resurrected by the Aztec god of death on the Day of the Dead, tasked against his will with performing an evil act.

The film stars Wilmer Valderrama, Angie Cepeda, Joel David Moore, Tony Plana, Maria Conchita Alonso and Michael Parks.
 

The screening takes place Sunday, August 13 at The Frida Cinema, Orange County's premiere arthouse cinema showcasing independent, foreign & classic films. Following the film will be a Q&A with screenwriter/director Brian Cox and me.

All attendees of the screening will receive a free commemorative color print I produced for the event, plus there will be raffles for rare El Muerto comics, prints and even original artwork.




The fundraiser will help raise money for the Latino Comics Expo, the nation's premiere convention dedicated to showcasing Latino comic creators, writers and artists, as well as others working in related popular arts. This year's Expo will once again be held on November 11 & 12 at the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach, CA.


Pre-order your tickets at our Eventbrite page and make plans to join us!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Free comic book workshop for teens at the Signal Hill Public Library on June 22!

If you're in the Long Beach, CA area sign up your teenage artist at the library for my free comics workshop. Supplies will be provided, just bring a desire to express yourself through a comic book story!

Call or visit the library to register.
Phone:
562-989-7323

Address: 

1780 E. Hill Street
Signal Hill, CA 90755



Saturday, February 25, 2017

JAVILAND CHATTER: My new podcast!

So I'm hosting a new podcast. After 6 years since I last hosted my own show (called JAVILAND: The podcast of DIY comics) I finally decided to jump back in with a new show.



For years I had thought of doing a new show but I had convinced myself it would only happen if I went all out and bought a fancy microphone and learned how to edit the recording, and add music, etc. But as the years went by and I met new artists and writers and other creative folks, the yearning to sit down and record conversations with all these people kept calling to me.

And so I decided to go back to the simple platform of Talkshoe.com and just record a conversation and upload immediately afterwards, the whole raw recording with no editing or production value added! And so for the new episode of the all-new JAVILAND CHATTER I speak with Brad Dwyer, a cartoonist from Arizona whose work crosses between auto-biographic work and fantasy/monster stories! 



The new show won't focus exclusively on comics, although the majority of guest will be writers and cartoonists from the comics world. Comics are, after all, my chief passion. But I'll also have the show open to folks from various fields in the art world: animation, film, literary circles and wherever else I run across an interesting person who I feel I can have a stimulating conversation with. Welcome to JAVILAND CHATTER! (There's a link on that page to subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, as well).

Saturday, February 11, 2017

DEFUNCT DIEGO comic!

Here's a new spin on El Muerto....


DEFUNCT DIEGO is my homage to the Bazooka Joe comics printed on wax paper and which included a piece of bubblegum. I always loved the fact that they were the world's smallest comics, and always featured simple little gags meant solely as fun.

Last year I published the first episode (which I have now updated somewhat so the lettering and coloring matches the style I did the new one in). I'll do these periodically as I work on my longer comics. Hope you enjoy!

 

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

EL MUERTO RESURRECTION: New comic gives renewed life to a series.

This is the new comic book I'll be premiering at the upcoming Latino Comics Expo this August 6 & 7 in Long Beach, CA. : El Muerto Resurrection. This is in fact the exclusive cover that will be available at the show.

In the shortest terms possible, it's a relaunching of the series. For the last two years or so I've been working on new story pages, the actual Part II to this comic:



DEAD AND CONFUSED, Pt 1 is a continuation of the El Muerto origin story, this installment finding Diego de La Muerte on a journey into Mexico to try to discover some sort of answers on why he was transformed into a pawn by the Aztec God of Death, Miclantehcuhtli. While there, he gets involved in a circus, one featuring a now-out-of-vogue 'freak show'. Here's a sample page from Part 1:

That book was published in 2008! So yes, it's been a long time coming in releasing the conclusion. (As a lesson to any aspiring comics creator, I would strongly advise against having such a glacial place in between issues....). So as I mentioned I've been working on the conclusion of the story. Pt 2 runs about 60 pages, I just need to finish some details on some pages and then scan and letter them all. Here's a camera shot of one of the new pages:


So my plan was to collect the earliest two El Muerto comics (seen below) and both Parts 1 and 2 of DEAD AND CONFUSED into a paperback collection and finally present to the world the complete initial story to El Muerto.


But the more I thought about it (and believe, I gave it serious deliberation) the more I realized that if I was going to publish a whole new book, a graphic novel of El Muerto, then it was best I produce a worthy product. The art in both EL MUERTO THE AZTEC ZOMBIE (2002) and EL MUERTO MISHMASH (2004) was done very early in my comics career. In fact, the origin story in EL MUERTO THE AZTEC ZOMBIE was reprinted from the very first El Muerto comic, the b&w photocopied book from 1998 shown below:



Judging the old stories against the new material I've been working on, the fact was that the earlier stuff doesn't hold up and would in fact provide a lesser reading experience than the newer work. The whole point of the book collection is for people to enjoy one long story about the character, so the decision was made that I would redraw the origin storyline, how he actually becomes El Muerto. I didn't really change any of the details, but I did expand the story to include a lot more about Diego's childhood and early friendships and romance. A much stronger debut for the character, and like I've mentioned, much more in keeping with my level of storytelling I'm at now. Here's a lettered page from the upcoming story:


 

I know that ultimately I'm making the right decision for the material. I always criticize whenever someone goes back and tries to fix old work (filmmakers like George Lucas come to mind). But here I am presenting a new work, a complete graphic novel, so I feel the best thing to do is provide the reader with the best experience possible. Comic book storytelling isn't hindered by money or technology, like a film might be. One improves as a writer and an artist, and it's that reasoning that allows me to want to make my story as cohesive as possible. There will be a section in the middle of this book that was done in 2008 (Part 1 of DEAD AND CONFUSED), but with some minor touch-ups I feel they'll blend in with the new material. I guess the reader will have their own opinion, ultimately, but on my end, as the creator, I'm putting out something I believe in. So stay tuned here for more updates, as I'll be announcing a pre-order campaign shortly.

It's not a reboot or a re-imagining (not my favorite words, by a long shot!), but it's bringing new life to an existing idea.

A resurrection!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Interview with EL MUERTO fan film director Elijio Carlos Ramirez

Last May, as I was preparing to attend the Phoenix Comic Con, I received an email one night. It was from a young filmmaker from Phoenix, Elijio Carlos Ramirez, informing me that he had created a fan film based on my character EL MUERTO! He was going to be screening it at the convention, and was inviting me to attend.


The surprise I had when reading the email was genuine, and flattering. Without knowing anything about the film, I knew it was an undertaking, both in time, effort and expense. I assured him that I would definitely be there...

The night of the screening I was rushing back to the convention center from my hotel, running into conflicting One Way streets at every turn. At one point I was heading down one of them, a pedestrian yelled out "You're heading the wrong way!". I eventually made it to the screening in time, sitting down as a few of the other shorts were playing. Once "EL MUERTO: A DAY FOR THE DEAD" started, a complete wave of anticipation gripped me. 




Having worked on the full length production of the adaptation of my comic back in 2005, being intimately involved in every step of production (including a cameo!), my curiosity in seeing a film done without any participation from me was high. As the film played on, I took delight in the interpretation, and the sheer bravado on display in the production. Afterwards I met the director and two of the stars, thanking them for their work. One of the truly wonderful surreal moments I've had since creating the character back in 1998.

I asked Carlos if I could interview him for the site. Here's what we talked about....


So who in the world is Elijio Carlos Ramirez? In case anyone is wondering....

ECR: Ha ha, sometimes I wonder who I am too! I guess the most basic answer is that I'm a creative out here in Phoenix, AZ who's just trying to promote production in my home state. And the best way I know how to do that is by trying to produce projects locally.

In your youth, which movies or filmmakers sparked your interest in filmmaking?


ECR: I think like any child of the 80's I was strongly influenced by pop culture: Saturday morning cartoons, Star Wars, comic books. I loved Tim Burton’s 90’s-era aesthetic, how it played with shape and proportion. Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction” has such a pop intensity that it really fired up people’s imaginations, mine included. And I loved Julie Taymor’s embellished realism in “Titus” and “Frida”.

How did El Muerto get on your radar?


ECR: It was around the mid-2000's when superhero movies were really starting to catch fire. I knew that I wanted to do something cool and action-packed like that, but I wanted to build it around a Latino property. But it also had to be something I knew I could actualize with the skills that I had, so… sorry Living Lightning! I can’t create a person made of electricity.

Then after going through racks and searching online I eventually found "El Muerto". I read as much as I could find about the character, the comic, and the mythology, and I thought it would make a great film. And then later I found out they already made one! But mine was different enough so we went for it.

What drove you to make '"El Muerto: A Day for The Dead"? The film's got some quality production value behind it.


ECR: Thanks! What I liked about “El Muerto” was that, besides being a great comic with this awesome black-and-white neo-noir style, I felt that it really said something about the origins of Latinos in North America. You have this young kid who dies but is called to the Aztec underworld of his ancestors and is sent back to earth with the cross on his forehead, which calls back to Catholic rituals, while dressed as a mariachi. It blends so much of our archaic, historic, and modern identities, and up until recently there hasn’t been anything in pop culture that did that. You have it now with movies like “Book of Life” and Disney’s “Coco”, but El Muerto came out before all that.

When I was planning the film, I felt it was very important to make something that would make a good story and had a lot of production value behind it, because otherwise it wouldn’t be taken seriously. “El Muerto” has a great origin story but the series was left open-ended enough that we could build on it. We took some creative license, obviously, but I think we stayed pretty true to the character.


The film is concise and packs a great punch. Is the final cut the original idea you had, or did you alter your story.
ECR: The final cut is actually a very close approximation to my original idea. We didn't have much of a budget, so there were some things that we weren’t able to include. I had wanted to include a scene where Diego digs himself out of his grave, partly catatonic, and pulls open his shirt to show that his heart was cut out of his chest. It would have tied the character more closely back to the original comic where the character clearly receives a cardioectomy, but we just couldn’t make it happen.

There was another scene I was actually inspired to add while we were filming! I wanted to add an origin scene for the main villain El Vivo. In the film, spoiler alert, it turns out that El Vivo is actually another Aztec Zombie! I’ll admit I didn’t know much about the character but based on the doll that was made for him, I had to draw my own conclusions. The story that I built for him was that he was actually a 16th century Spanish conquistador who was responsible for massacring scores of Aztec natives. So as punishment, they perform the ceremony of undeath on him and remove his heart, forcing him to walk the earth for eternity. I thought that really would've tied a lot of the story together, but filmmaking is a collaborative process with a lot of moving parts so even though we tried (really, really hard) to pull it off, sadly, the stars did not align in our favor. So… end spoiler!


A lot of the movie is done digitally. I imagine that while time consuming, it definitely helps in cutting down on expensive location shooting.


ECR: Ha ha, yeah, going digital cut down on location expenses, but it definitely presented its own challenges. We shot the whole film in a green screen studio so I spent plenty of time in front of my computer working in After Effects pulling keys, rotoscoping, and basically using every trick I could think of to remove the background from the characters. It is definitely not as easy as it looks!

But I knew I wanted to use Phoenix as my setting. I really wanted to show off the visual appeal of all the midcentury architecture in our downtown area, which made the setting seem more timeless. So I went out and took pictures to use as backgrounds, but the challenge was taking pictures from the same angle from which the actors were filmed. That required the occasional use of a ladder or some light climbing and a few casual explanations to City of Phoenix police officers.



Any particular problems, or pleasant surprises. that arose during production?

ECR: The most pleasant surprise was how readily this project came together! At the time, I was working for a great production company here in AZ, Point In Time Studios, that worked closely with another company, Arizona Virtual Studios (now it's Arizona Studios), and that gave us access to everything we needed. I had met the cast (Jacob Orta, Tess Hernandez, and Alejandro Sanchez Vega) as an actor working with Teatro Bravo, Arizona's premiere Latino theater company, and that gave me a deep well of talent that I could call upon. I had performed with another actor, Sarah Clevinger, on a show at Arizona State University and she revealed that she's also a very talented makeup and prosthetics artist! We found Ramiro Quezada when he came in to audition, and he had such a strong, brooding presence and great martial arts skills that I knew I wanted him to play the lead villain.
 


The biggest problem we ran into was casting someone for the role of El Fuerte, one of the supporting villains. We really needed someone who could meet the physical demands of that character because if we didn't then the character wouldn't be believable and the short wouldn't be taken seriously. The first actor we cast dropped out two days before filming (because that's how these things work) so I started calling every single person I had ever shaken hands with to find a replacement. And mercifully (thanks to Miles Nuessle at NPC Miles Productions) we found Ryan Foxx, a competitive bodybuilder who was just everything we needed. He came in like a boss, all ripped and huge, and he just delivered!


But the most heartening surprise was working with a great crew. Working as crew isn't easy and it's not glamorous, so not a lot of people are eager to do it.  But working with Point In Time I met a lot of great kids who really wanted to pitch in and be a part of this project, and I was able to work with one of my mentors Ralph Lopez who really helped bring the whole thing together.

You contacted me last year that you were screening it at the Phoenix Comic Con, and invited me to attend. Coincidentally, I was already scheduled to exhibit at the show. Did you have any trepidation when you emailed me about the creation of your film?


ECR: I did, actually! When you do a fan film, you never know how your work is going to be received by the person or people who created the original property, especially considering that we took some creative license. But I was pleasantly surprised and, quite frankly, relieved at how open you were to the project. But everyone in the cast and crew has been very appreciative of the support you've shown for us and the film.

Any future endeavors you care to share with us?


ECR: Right now we're getting ready to submit the short to Comic-Con International's film festival, so if anyone is in a position to bend the ear of the selection committee, please put in a good word for us! Aside from that I'm keeping myself busy with a few other projects, and keeping an eye out for new films to produce. So here's hoping we can build on the success that "El Muerto" has brought us so far!

Me with the director and cast of EL MUERTO: A DAY FOR THE DEAD.

My thanks again to Carlos and his cast and crew for putting together an imaginative interpretation of my character. On it's own, it's a firecracker of a film, and inspiring in it's own right. I'm always glad to see others put their creative energies to use, and it also gives me a great personal satisfaction to see young Latino talent express themselves through their artistic efforts.

Here's a piece of fan art I did the other day, in honor of their movie.


EL MUERTO: A DAY FOR THE DEAD
is currently available to watch online. Click here to see it!