Friday, August 28, 2009

Happy Birthday Jack Kirby, the KING of COMICS!!

Jack Kirby, the great creative dynamo of comic books, would have turned 92 years old today. Jack passed away on Feb. 6, 1994, leaving behind him one of the greatest artistic legacy's in any art form.

There are plenty of informative sites and resources you can look at to learn more about the man and his work, but I'd like to just add that in addition to the numerous characters he created and comic books that he sold, maybe Kirby's truly amazing legacy is something else.

I can't think of another comic book artist who has inspired so many others after him. The amount of artists who credit him as a major influence on there work is amazing. And 15 years after his passing, TwoMorrow's is still publishing their JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR magazine! Collected editions of his work are being produced now more than ever, and it's also worth noting how many of his original comic book characters (created with writer Stan Lee) are being turned into big budget Hollywood movies.

All that, plus the lifetime of work he produced, surely will forever stand the test of time. And at the heart of all this was man who just tried to create good work, always provide for his family, and turn in his work on time. He just happened to be an imaginative genius who forever bettered the world of comics!

Happy Birthday, Jack Kirby! Still miss you, sir.

Please check out Michael Aushenker's CARTOON FLOPHOUSE for some personal reflections on Jack Kirby. And Tom Spurgeon at THE COMICS REPORTER has assembled an impressive gallery of eye-popping Kirby art.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Rafael Navarro art exhibit: NAVARRO NOIR at GEEKS 9.5.09

So my new comic book, MAN-SWAMP, has found it's first endorsement! Local comic book artist, Xerix Award-winning creator of SONAMBULO, Emmy Award-winning storyboard artist, (and, full disclosure, super awesome friend:) RAFAEL NAVARRO:

He's actually holding the comic in his hand, but it's hard to tell with his in-progress painting and his huge collection of books and toys vying for attention in the background!! But he's happy as a clam for his with fresh out-of-the-box copy of MAN-SWAMP, The Living Quagmire! Thanks for the celebrity endorsement, Raf!

But believe it or not folks, the real reason I wanted to share this pic was to mention Rafael and his upcoming art show, NAVARRO NOIR, at GEEKS Comic shop in Whittier. Saturday, September 5 is the opening of the show, with the Artist Reception beginning at 7 pm. Raf will have original Sonambulo pages as well as lots of artwork featuring new pieces created specifically for this show.

Sonambulo© 2009 Rafael Navarro

Rafael will also have his brand new Sonambulo comic book, SONAMBULO LIVES!, at Geeks for sale and signing. Here's his spectacular painted cover to the book:

I first met Raf back in about 1990 during college. We hit it off immediately, talking about Frank Miller's DARK KNIGHT & DAREDEVIL and James Bond films! We both took a trip to San Jose back in 1996 to the Alternative Press Expo to specifically talk to independent creator Carlos SaldaƱa about self-publishing our own books. A year later, Raf was set up with his first Sonambulo comic while I hung out with him that weekend to learn 'on the job'. The following year, in 1998, I was up at APE with debuting my own comic book, EL MUERTO.

Raf and I have been friends ever since, doing many shows and appearances together, working on comic projects, and I even got Rafael a cameo in the EL MUERTO movie! Also that same day, I'll be hosting my free, 1 hour self-publishing seminar at GEEKS, earlier at 2pm. So there will be a double dose of the ol' Hernandez-Navarro magic that day.

Raf also contributed a piece to the EL MUERTO DVD Special Features, for the Galeria del Muerto. I'll leave you with that little gem, and hope to see you Saturday, September 5 in Whittier! Go to the DIY Comics Seminar, have dinner and see a movie afterward down the street, then come back to GEEKS for the NAVARRO NOIR art show!

Art by Rafael Navarro, coloring by Mort Todd El Muerto© 2009 Javier Hernandez

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Way of the MANGA MUERTO, PT 5

In my previous post about MANGA MUERTO (PT. 4), I talked about the cover designs. Now that I'm inking the new story, let me share some thoughts about this stage of production.

I always feel my favorite part of creating the comic book is the layout stage, where I'm actually drawing out the story in thumbnail form (very loose drawings of each comic book page, usually on 8.5" x 11", where I'm transcribing the story from my head to paper). It's at that stage where I can literally see the story played out in front of me. They drawings vary in levels of clarity, and there usually isn't any dialog, but all the characters are there and I can finally see the panel-to-panel progression of the story, page by page.

Penciling is of course the next stage, and I can't stress the importance of this part of the production. This is where I have to finalize each character's pose and expressions, and all background details need to be added in, using perspective, composition and other design tools to make each panel as clear as it need it to be.

Inking is yet another layer in creating your comic story. For me, it's in some ways the most relaxing. Now mind you, there are still many things I have to focus on, such as getting the right line weights and brush strokes, choosing the best tool for each drawing (brush, pens), choosing the best techniques for various textures (water, people, clothing, sand, etc). Inking is not, or shouldn't be, just tracing! Aesthetically, inking brings the figures, and the actual story, into focus.

Please excuse my terribly shaky camera shots, but here are two pages that have been inked:

FYI: These need to cleaned up (erasing pencil lines, some white-out to be added, etc) and then scanned, which will lead to some more digital clean-up then eventual lettering. (Also, astute EL MUERTO fans will notice the origin for Manga Muerto is different from the 'regular' Muerto story...). I get a real sense of completion when I get the pages inked, despite still only being half-way through the entire production of the final comic book story.

My style of drawing, and preference actually, is what we all refer to as 'cartoony' (I'm sure that's some aberration of the English language!). I like to create images as simplified representations. Any drawing, really, no matter how 'photo realistic', is only a representation of a real-life object. Even given the fact that I specifically meant to make this Manga Muerto story even more simplified, much more of a hybrid manga/Archie Comics aesthetic, than my usual stories.

Some cartoonist's whose work I really admire, and also take a similar approach regarding a simplified design (to varying degrees) are Gilbert Hernandez, Jason and Steve Ditko (top to bottom).

All artwork is copyright the respective artists.

What I like about Gilbert's work is the various ways in which he creates textures and patterns, solely with his inks. And these textures in turn create mood and atmosphere. Jason's page, in the middle, is rendered in pure black and white. His characters are clearly defined with only black outlines tracing the forms and parts of the figures. Placed against a black sky, they get further defined and pop off the page. Ditko's page shows a great use of black shapes defined by white contour lines, such as the man stealing from the safe. And like Gilbert, he's using stippled dots to create patterns and define space.

There are numerous other artists I could cite as great examples of working in black and white, but these three are among my favorites working today. Looking at others works shows me just how much can be done with a brush, a bottle of ink, and a blank sheet of paper. That one can use so few tools, and create a story with interesting characters and incorporate creative artistic decisions, that really keeps me working in black and white.

For anyone interested, I'm currently using a White Sable #2 brush with Dr. Ph. Martin's Black Star India Ink. Markers I use for smaller details are Copic Brush Pen and Fountain Pentel Japanese marker.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

I met Howard the Duck!!

Earlier today I took a jaunt to Frank & Sons, a well known destination to lots and lots of people. It's literally an indoor swap meet, filled with 100s of dealers selling action figures, Japanese manga/anime/toys, movie posters, sports memorabilia, collector supplies, junk food, and comics, the new ones as well as a real large selection of back issues (the reasons I been showing up there for over 15 years!).

Well, I was visiting my friend Alan Rutledge, who is one of the best back issue dealers I've ever had the pleasure to know. Alan carries books from the 1940s all the way to the more recent tradepaperbacks. But his bread and butter is his huge selection of reasonably priced back issues from the 60s-90s. My favs are the 70s Bronze Age books he carries. Today I had picked up a half dozen issues or so of the early 70s JUNGLE ACTION Featuring THE BLACK PANTHER. Here's one of the them:

I'd love to tell you more about the Panther, but as this post's title promises to spill the dirt on my meeting with Howard, I better get to it!

So as I'm visiting with Alan, over the PA system I hear the announcement that there are 7 celebrities from Sci-Fi movies and tv shows signing up front. Alan comments that they didn't even mention the actual actors, and that maybe the actor who played Howard the Duck might be signing. "I'd like to meet him!" I said, realizing that was probably just wishful thinking. The actor had already been signing at Franks a few months ago, and I had missed him then.

Well, as I made my way to the exits, I pass by the signing area and there he was! Ed Gale, the actor from HOWARD THE DUCK! I hadn't seen the film but once, back when it was released in 1986. The film was finally released on DVD a few months ago, complete with special features, which included Mr. Gale talking about working in the Howard suit. As long-time readers of this blog know, I'm a real big fan of the Steve Gerber's Howard the Duck comic. Upon watching the DVD, I actually liked it more than I did back in 1986. I think now I looked at it more as an appreciation for the film as it's own entity, rather than a (back in the 80s) misfired attempt at adapting the comic. It's a silly, irreverant flick with a talking duck, the cute rock-n-roll chick he's in love with, and the evil Overlord threatening to destroy the world....What's not to like about that?!

Yep, he signed it to "To Javier, Let's rock it! Howard T. Duck"!!

Ed was the actor hired to physically play Howard (voiced by Chip Zien), performing in what looked like a cumbersome suit, but deftly giving Howard his physical characteristics. Like many, I get off on my own 80s nostalgia kicks, and the film, with big haired Lea Thompson, FERRIS BUELLER'S Jeffrey Jones and music by Thomas Dolby, certainly screams 80s! What's cool about having an actual person performing in a duck suit is that it gives the character a real sense of being in the film, as opposed to one actor reacting to a CGI creation. Not that CGI technology was available back then, but nowadays Howard would be a high tech animated figure in the film.

I chatted with Ed briefly. He shared stories about working on the film, and how the slightest damage to the Howard heads would cause it to be ruined! We talked about the cost of indie films and the wasteful spending on the huge Hollwood movies, among other things. He's a nice guy, and very enthusiastic, and I'm glad I got a chance to meet him. It was real trippy, talking to Howard the Duck!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

My artwork for DITKOMANIA zine

The new issue of the DITKOMANIA zine is now available, and I've contributed some artwork.

DITKOMANIA is long-running fanzine devoted to the work of comic creator Steve Ditko. Issue #74 covers Ditko's 1970s work at DC Comics, such as his art duties on MAN-BAT #1 (which features the only instance ever of Ditko drawing Batman!), among several other features. My friend Michael Aushenker, himself a cartoonist of great skill, writes a regular column for the zine called DITKOTOMY. His entry for this issue comments on Ditko bringing his unique and peculiar take on characters and how they differed from the established DC characters. Michael asked me to contribute some artwork to accompany his column and suggested a juxtaposition of some sort between Ditko's heroes and the 'old guard'. This is what I came up with:

Batman and Shade the Changing Man © 2009 DC Comics

Shade the Changing Man (created by Ditko) vs. Batman! My take on Batman actually came out Ditkoesque, I'm pleased to say. A little dazzle with a Photoshop effect I think gives this piece just the right look of Ditko surrealism.

I also contributed two other pieces, one being the Creeper. The other piece, Hawk & Dove, couldn't be fit in for space, but will appear in a future issue. Thanks to editor/publisher Rob Imes for having me in the issue, and thanks to my pal Michael for asking me in the first place. I plan to contribute some art in the future, and have even pitched a story idea as well.

Ordering info for the DITKOMANIA zine is right here. It's a great publication dedicated to a particularly unique comic creator. Rob has a done a tremendous job of putting out a quality publication, even though DITKOMANIA is a true fanzine in every sense of the word. It just happens to have great production value for it's reasonable price, and there is always interesting content provided by various writers and artists. I'm glad that Rob includes a letters page, because there are always very strong opinions from the readers regarding the content. That's what fandom should be. Not just a place where fans come together in appreciation for a particular subject or creator, but dissenting voices of opinion.

Here's a color version of my Creeper artwork, reprinted in b&w for the zine.

The Creeper © 2009 DC Comics

If you're interested in the work of Steve Ditko, check out an issue of this well-crafted zine. You can't beat the price, that's for sure! Tell Rob that Javier sent ya'!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Way of the MANGA MUERTO, PT 4

Being a self-publisher, not only do I have to create, write and draw the story, but I have to design the entire book. Since I've been doing this for 11 years, it's so natural for me to think of the entire comic book from the beginning, starting with the actual stories to the covers and even the editorial content and 'special features' to include in every book I publish. First thing I think about is the actual story, but then I always have the look of the entire published book simmering in the back of my head.

As I mentioned in my previous posts (Pt. 1, Pt. 2, Pt. 3), one of the things I love about this Manga-ized version of El Muerto is the much more 'kid-friendly' aspect of the stories. The character designs, the 'shorthand' plots and dialogue, the more 'Saturday morning cartoon' tempo of the storytelling, etc., should also be reflected in the cover. The cover is, traditionally, the central image that represents a particular comic book, as far as the whole marketing/branding aspects.

First thing I needed for this new comic book project was a new logo for Manga Muerto. The two previous stories were printed in black & white publications, and the logo was basically the same one I used for the 'standard' EL MUERTO comic. This time I was printing the collection (2 reprints and one whole new story) in comic book form with color covers. I also realized that I would not only be re-introducing the character, but also introducing Manga Muerto to new readers. I wanted to re-launch the whole Manga Muerto brand with it's own logo.

2nd Manga Muerto appearance, from 2001 mini-comic

I ended up choosing a font I think reads clearly and, to me, has that certain 'J-Pop' simplicity and playfulness. I looked at other fonts that had a more stylized 'Japanese' look, but my ultimate goal with Manga Muerto is to not make a book that looks like it was literally brought over from Japan, but rather a comic that reflected my personal affection for English-adapted, childhood favorites like GIGANTOR and SPEED RACER. I think the somewhat 'cutesy' skull I added really solidified the look I was going for.

The color choices on the cover, white background with pink and baby blue elements, read to me like clean, J-Pop graphics. Something that would look like eye-candy to all readers. Certainly the younger readers this material would appeal to, and to folks with even a passing familiarity with the more colorful, cartoony manga/anime. Again, these are just my own observations of what I've seen, what I imagine people would associate with a book called MANGA MUERTO. That's what I love about design (and even storytelling): Point your viewer in the right direction (in this case, the whole Manga pop art element) and hopefully between the title of the book, the color image of El Muerto on the cover and the design choices I've made with text and graphics, the viewer will see the cover of MANGA MUERTO VOL. 1 and have some idea of what the contents of the book will be like.

For the back cover, I wanted to keep the same design elements:

This time I wanted to give more glimpses of the artwork contained in the actual comic. The three panels are taken from the actual stories (the third panel down is just the penciled thumbnail of a particular panel, once I ink it I will switch it out with the thumbnail sketch). I actually drew that image of Diego (Manga Diego, technically!) specifically for the back cover. One, I wanted an image to tie into the text to his left, and also I hadn't created any color images of Diego. The yellow and red T-shirt, by the way, is a direct swipe/homage to the one worn by Akira Fudo, the human counterpart to Devilman from the 1970s DEVILMAN anime!

This back cover had about 2 previous versions, but I cut down the text on the description of each panel. It's interesting because I sent a trusted friend a copy of the front cover and he mentioned that it may have been possible that there was too much text. I told him that all the text was conveying something about the contents. I felt that the viewer will first look at the title, then the full color Muerto/Skeletron image, then the pink boxes, then probably read the text. And this is all instantaneous. My cover for the previous EL MUERTO comic was a more full bleed 'impact' cover. And the cover for my other book due out shortly, MAN-SWAMP, had another full bleed image, with some classic, old-school comic book 'hype type'.

Just realized the similarity in that both characters are raising a hand to the viewer!

Every cover should reflect the actual comic book it's portraying, that's a given. What's interesting for me, as the creator of these books, is to see how each final version represents a total process: the creation of the character and the story, the mood and tone of the story, the presentation of the comic book. All these elements get reflected and summarized in the cover design. Least that's what goes through my mind in creating the whole comic book.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Brand new Steve Ditko comic books!

So the other day I'm working on my new comic book story. Penciling some pages, listening to some music. As I break for lunch, the mail arrives. What could be better than working on your own comic book, and at the same time, receiving the latest comic book from one of your favorite creators?

Artwork © Steve Ditko 2009

It's the latest in a series of new comics by one of the truly great artists of comics, Steve Ditko! Yep, the Co-Creator of Spider-Man & Dr. Strange, the man who created Mr. A, The Creeper, The Question and many other characters and comics in his 50+ year career is back with a whole new series of comic books!

Published by Robin Snyder and Steve Ditko, (in essence making Ditko a self-published cartoonist!), these new Ditko comics feature all-new material, written and illustrated by Ditko. He's been publishing all of his creator-owned comics and graphic novels through Robin Snyder for the past 20 years.

The new book, DITKO PRESENTS, follows "DITKO, ETC" which was released in Oct. 08, "DITKO CONTINUED", "OH NO! NOT AGAIN, DITKO!" and "DITKO ONCE MORE". That's five 32 page comic books in less than a year, without the traditional distribution method the majority of comics use, and from a creator in his 80s! If Steve Ditko self-publishing new comic books isn't an example to DIY creators, then I don't know what is!
I would guess that his books are bought by what you could call the hard-core Ditko fans, with not much (if any, actually) coverage in the 'comics media' (as it is).

Ditko's new books are what I call pure expression, he's creating the type of stories he wants to tell and making them available to whomever wants to buy them. Simple as that. No Tweeting, blogging, Myspace, Facebook and DeviantArt posting to let the world know about the new books. (Full disclosure, I use all the previously mentioned social networking tools myself!). There is a blog, STEVE DITKO COMICS WEBLOG, run independently by a fan of Ditko that contains a page showing all the Snyder/Ditko books in print.

These new books contain about 4-5 new stories in each issue, sometimes the stories will run over several issues. Ditko's a one-man anthology factory! He's created a new collection of characters for these books, with names like The Cape, Miss Eerie, The Outline, The Grey Negotiator, Hero and even the return of what has to be Ditko's signature character, MR. A!

The new book, DITKO PRESENTS, features a couple of new characters. One of them really knocked my socks off.. MISS EERIE!

Artwork © Steve Ditko 2009

She's like POLICE WOMAN meets DEATH WISH! Miss Eerie is hell-bent on some type of vigilante/revenge quest, and she goes about it packing a Colt .45 and smashing down doors, and faces, with her foot! All this in 8 pages. Man, I hope to see more of this character, as she's unlike anything I've ever seen from Ditko. He doesn't do many female hero characters, so this is a real treat. And she's not a cheesecake pin-up girl either, just a force of retribution who happens to be a woman.

What I love about all these books is their very spartan nature: the books are printed in black and white, not a drop of color throughout. Interior pages are on newsprint. The entire covers are hand-drawn, even the logos. The only computer lettering is on the inside front cover editorial/ordering page and the front cover indicia. 32 pages of all new art and stories.

Another thing I love about these new books is the sense of humor evident in the design. With titles like "OH NO! NOT AGAIN, DITKO!" and such, how can that not bring a smile to your face?

Artwork © Steve Ditko 2009

With a career now in it's 56th year, it's really great to be buying new Steve Ditko comic books as they're released. Ditko gets a lot of flack for his brand of storytelling and subject matter (Objectivist philosophy), but as long as he's doing exactly the types of stories he wants to, on his own terms, that's all anyone can ask of an artist. Our choice as readers is to buy the books, or not. Clear as black and white.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Golden Age of Comics exhibit

Last Friday I attended the exhibit "THE SUPERHERO: THE GOLDEN AGE OF COMIC BOOKS, 1938-1950" at the Skirball Cultural Center here in Los Angeles.

While I didn't/couldn't take any photos, LA WEEKLY has a pretty good slideshow you can check out here.

As the show title indicates, the artwork represented in the show consisted of original comic book pages and other artwork from the Golden Age of Comics, mainly the 1940s/1950s. Original works by Dick Sprang, Jerry Robinson, Frank Robbins, Carmine Infantino, Jack Kirby, Joe Simon, Will Eisner, Joe Shuster and many others were on display. I've seen lots of Golden Age comics in my time, mostly through reprints in books and such. And I've always enjoyed and admired the work those artists did. Solid craftsmen, working under factory-like conditions and grueling time schedules. These guys were often barely out of their teens, toiling on comics until they could land a more respectable job like (the thinking back then, at least) working on a newspaper strip comic.

Well, looking at these original pages really made me take a closer look at the work of these artists (literally as well as figuratively!). The amount of detail evident in the brushwork, the finesse that some of these guys used, was amazing. Even more so considering that the printing techniques and paper quality used for decades in comics never really let the superb craftsmanship really shine in the comics once they were printed.

The pages I saw that really brought me to my knees, the ones that were a joy to admire in person but humbling to a see, were four pages from Dick Sprang of a Batman VS. Penguin story. Sprang has always been my favorite Batman artist, his pure cartooning skills, and impeccable layouts, always made his Batman seem like the way Batman (and his supporting cast) 'should' always be drawn.

I was literally speechless as I admired Sprang's pages (to be perfectly honest, I was almost brought to tears...). The fun nature of his figure work was there, the very fluid, expressive cartoon feel he's always brought to his comics was crystal clear. But his attention to details, his superbly delicate mastery of his brush.... Wow. My admiration for Dick Sprang actually increased. I think also that when I look at artwork, any artwork, I enjoy it first and foremost for what the artist has created. But as an artist myself, I often look at other art and admire and study the quality and craftsmanship behind each piece. And yes, I look at my stuff in comparison to at least see what I can learn.

Besides admiring the actual artwork, a couple of things that really hit home in looking at this exhibit. It's very interesting to see just how much the comics were dealing with the reality of World War II. The superheroes were often depicted as fighting the Axis powers, even clobbering Hitler himself on many covers! All the while the U.S. was staying out of the war (pre-Pearl Harbor). It should be noted that many of the publishers and creators of the Golden Age were Jewish, so it's completely understandable how they would take a direct interest in confronting Hitler. But also, it really speaks to the very nature of heroes (least back in those times) that they would, at least symbolically, stand up to such an obvious Evil and take it down.

Another thing I noticed was in a second, smaller exhibit down the hallway. It was about the superheroes on TV and in the movies. Among the displayed items were the Batcycle from the Adam West TV show, original costumes from Christopher Reeve's SUPERMAN movies, Michael Keaton's BATMAN suit, even the CAPTAIN AMERICA costume for the 1970s TV movie. There were tons of old TV Guides, board games, action figures, and tons of merchandise from superhero movies, TV shows and cartoons. With all the hype that Hollywood has been getting from this decade's past superhero blockbuster movies, I was once again reminded as I looked at this exhibit covering 60-plus years of comic book serials, movies, TV shows, etc is that superheroes have always been, from Day One, adapted to other mediums. The ideas found in comics, the characters and stories, merit interpretation across numerous mediums. They were 'cross paltform' before the term ever existed!

I guess I really love the fact that whatever form people come into contact with comic book superheroes, whether it's the latest Hollywood movie, cartoon, toy, T-shirt, or even comic book, it always starts with someone creating something from their imagination and putting it down on paper with words and pictures.

I'm so glad I got a chance to see this exhibit. Jerry Robinson, one of the classic Batman artists and creator of The Joker (sorry Bob Kane...) curated the exhibit and in fact he owned many of the pieces in the show. I'm glad the Skirball museum hosted the exhibit and I'm really fortunate to have seen some truly wonderfully inspiring artwork.

Monday, August 03, 2009

The Way of the MANGA MUERTO, PT 3

Okay, here's another update on MANGA MUERTO Vol. 1 (coming October 2009!). And what should be the final cover is shown above...

Let's start with the pin-ups....

I've now received all four pin-ups from my guest artists. I already showed you the first one I received from cartoonist Krishna Sadasivam. I'm going to save the other ones for you to see in print! I mean c'mon, let's show some support people! The other pin-up artists are Audra Furuichi, Mort Todd and Robin White.
Audra is co-creator/artist of Nemu-Nemu, an online comic about two cute lil' magical stuffed pups and their owners. Mort Todd has a resume a mile long! One of his earliest jobs was as Editor-in-Chief of CRACKED magazine. One of the things he's working on today is promoting his documentary film, SADISTIK!

Our fourth pin-up contributor is Robin White, a Canadian cartoonist currently living in Japan. Robin creates an online comic called DOODZE, and in fact in addition to his MANGA MUERTO pin-up, he sent me some sketches of his Doodze dressed up as El Muerto. Those you can see....

MANGA MUERTO Vol 1 will reprint the two previous stories. One from me and Rafael Navarro, the other one by me and Ted Seko. An all-new Manga Muerto story will debut in this book, written and illustrated all by my little lonesome! Here's one of the pages (well, at least the rough draft of it):

FYI: This is drawn on 8.5" x 11" paper. I'll draw out the whole story this way, then make any changes before I redraw it at the full size, which is on 11" x 17" bristol board. Then it's inked, lettered on the computer and banzai, we have a comic book!

One thing I've realized about working on this book is that while I love the idea of doing a 'manga' version of El Muerto (at least the specific Japanese genre of a young hero controlling a giant robot), I primarily did it for my own self-indulgent desires! I realize now, 8 years after I did the last Manga Muerto story, that my work often attracts a younger readership. Not that the regular El Muerto comics are too extreme for kids, but I like the idea of having a version of El Muerto that most younger kids can enjoy as mostly a real fun, visually appealing comic.

Lots of what goes into a Manga Muerto story are obvious. This is foremost my own nod to the classic animated series GIGANTOR. It's an American translation of the Japanese anime TETSUJIN-28, the creation of Mitsuteru Yokoyama (who also created the GIANT ROBOT television series).

But what I've also realized, just working on this new story and reflecting back on the original stories is that I was also creating, through Manga Muerto, a really easy to read, fast paced story along the lines of a childhood favorite of mine, SPIDEY SUPER STORIES:

SPIDEY SUPER STORIES, the comic, was based on the SPIDEY SUPER STORIES segments shown on the 70s classic kid's show THE ELECTRIC COMPANY. Both featured super kid-friendly tales of Spider-Man. The comic was drawn in a really clean style, minimalistic in details, but designed to keep the reader engaged in the story. I really like that type of storytelling, as far as being designed for a particular readership. (If you click on the link to check out an episode of SPIDEY SUPER STORIES, be prepared to see Morgan Freeman playing an umpire!!)

And another comic I think about when I look for how to approach all-ages material is the grand old American comic book, ARCHIE!

Archie comics, for all their hijinks involving teenagers, dating and chasing girls, always remained an innocent, innocuous story, aimed to entertain it's all-ages readership. Again, very clear, easy-to-read artwork and simple dialogue. Storytelling for easy reading!

(A page from the first Manga Muerto story I ever did. Pencils by me, finished art/inks by Rafael Navarro. Read the 4 page story online here)

So I'm definitely drawing inspiration from Archie comics, Spidey Super Stories and GIGANTOR, and at the same time creating an extension of my signature character El Muerto. I think the uniqueness of a supernatural Mexican character in Japan, with a giant zombie robot at his control, makes for a pretty interesting premise, too! All the while I'm entertaining myself, as well as the readers. At least that's the plan!

Next update will involve showing a page or two of the fully inked new story, "A Day at The Beach".