Thursday, November 04, 2010
My 5th season: DIY comics and EL MUERTO
The other day I was talking to my friend and fellow artist Jim Lujan (cartoon filmmaker), and I was telling him about all of my current Day of the Dead events I had lined up, which I use as a place to sell my El Muerto comics. Jim told me that I was lucky to have a "5th season" in which to sell, what with the natural tie-in EL Muerto has to the Dia de Los Muertos celebration.
I immediately thought of the Taco Bell campaign, where they mention "The Fourthmeal, the meal between dinner and breakfast"! Yeah, I guess I do have an extra season in which to really market and sell my El Muerto brand. Just this past weekend, I was involved in two separate events that were very different in nature, but which were perfect places for me to be at.
On Friday, Oct. 29, I was in East LA for the FEAR FIESTA, the inaugural entry of a film festival honoring Latinos working in horror movies. The event was held at Casa 101 Theater, founded by playwright/screenwriter Josefina Lopez (REAL WOMEN HAVE CURVES). EL MUERTO was chosen to be the Opening Night film, and myself and producer Larry Rattner were invited to speak at the Q&A following the screening.
Me, with the first-ever FEAR FESTIVAL Award, and producer Larry Rattner with a Certificate of Appreciation.
We haven't had a public screening of the film since it's initial film festival run back in 2006-2008, and it was nice to be the Opening Night feature.
On Saturday, Oct. 30 I was in El Monte for the 1st ever Dia de Los Muertos El Monte, produced by the Nuvein Foundation. I'm on the Board of Directions of the Foundation, and have been working with them since about 2007. I was talking to fellow Board member Renato Aguirre one day about how we should host our own local Day of the Dead event, and next thing I know, we're forming a committee!
I could write a book on how much work it took to get the festival going. We had to contact the city government, council members, various art commissions, as well as propose the event to the Downtown El Monte Business Association (DEMBA). We had to reach out to the local vendors and businesses, contact the various schools in the area, mobilize local artists and performers. Then there were the various fundraisers and proposals to local businesses for sponsorships. Suffice to say, with everyone's tireless efforts, we had a show that surpassed all our expectations. Even the much dreaded rain that was predicted to fall that day only lasted until about 7am, the very morning we began setting up the venue at the parking lot.
Grasiela Rodriguez, a fellow Board member, even ran an art show during the event, right out of a U-Haul truck she rented!!
Check out her blog for photographs of the exhibit! It was big hit with everyone. Great job, Gras!!
On Sunday, Halloween, I went back to FEAR FIESTA. At the Corazon del Pueblo gallery located a few doors down from the Casa 101 Theater they were holding a children's event. Some kid-friendly films were playing on a television, and I had volunteered to conduct my comic book demonstration where I have the kids in the audience participate in creating a one-page comic story. This turned out to be extremely popular, and I made sure each kid got a drawing to take home.
Here's a photo of me with the founder of Casa 101, Josefina Lopez, her husband Emmanuel Deleage, and their two children.
Josefina actually talked to me about a project she wanted my input on, and I in turn suggested what a cool idea it would be to create some type of El Muerto stage play!
The El Monte festival was my 3rd Dia de Los Muertos event in a week, and I did a pretty good amount of business. This has always been a key point of mine in that I reach new readers all the time at these type of events. Some are comic fans already, who have not heard of my comic book. But most are folks who don't read comics, much less attend comic shops or conventions. People in the comics biz are always saying that publishers have to reach out beyond the comics base, something I've been doing actively since I started publishing my own work back in 1998.
I had events every single weekend in the month of October. A solo art show at GEEKS Comics, spent a weekend at the Latino Book & Family Festival and spent another weekend in San Francisco for the Alternative Press Expo. With this past weekend's EL MUERTO film screening, and 3 Dia de Los Muertos events the last two weekends, I can honestly say it's the busiest month in terms of the sheer number of events I've attended since I started as a self-publisher. Busy in terms of selling my work, and also making new fans. The inevitable 'networking' takes place too, potentially opening up new opportunities for me as an artist.
I do comic shows and other events all year long. But with my signature character based on Aztec mythology and the Day the Dead folklore, the whole 'season' surrounding the November 2nd celebration provided me with many outlets. Adding to the mix that mid-September through mid-October is Latino Heritage Month, I have a pretty good stretch of months in which to flourish. Those of us who make and publish our own comics have to take full advantage of opportunities like this, as well as see what events in the 'mainstream comics world' make sense to pursue as well.
I didn't create El Muerto because I saw an opportunity to capture an entire market through a comic book. I came up with the idea because I specifically wanted to use both Aztec mythology and the Day of the Dead folklore as elements in story. These were things I had great interest in, and I also thought that there was, in my opinion, and underwhelming use of these idea in the mainstream culture. The fact that I could use my creation in very advantageous situations is something that I, as a self-published artist, could not have resisted. Obviously, the way I conduct my self and my business is part of my branding, so sincerity and a genuine talent in connecting with people goes a long way.
For me, as with most of the DIY comics creators I know, our production and brand management runs all year long, for the most part. 7 days a week, 12 months a year! So getting that extra season is a very welcome opportunity and I build on that as much as I can.