Sunday, March 20, 2011

Comic book workshop in Pico Rivera this April & May

I have a new round of Comic Book Workshops starting this April at Pico Park in Pico Rivera, CA.

A comic created by one of the students in my January 2011 class. How awesome is that title? Poor Chocolate Chip Cookie Boy...

The description for the class is:

A five week class that teaches your child how to make their own comics!  This class will cover character design, creating stories, tips on drawing and storytelling fundamentals.  At the end of the course, students will receive a printed copy of their own comic book.  There is a $5 supply fee due to the instructor on the first day of class.

Yes folks, that's right! Other classes may send your kid home with a bunch of loose, floppy sheets of comic pages they've drawn, but in my class they get photocopied editions of their 4 page stories! They can share them with family, trade with friends, even put them on Ebay and start their art school tuition fund!

We're offering two classes per week. Wednesday class is for kids ages 6-12, Thursday classes for ages 13-18. These have proved pretty popular, with many of the kids from the 2010 Fall classes having taken the class again this past January.

Schedule is as follows:
Wednesday (Ages 6-12): April 6 - May 4, 5:00-7:00 pm.
Second session May 18 - June 15

Thursday (Ages 13-18): April 7 - May 12, 5:30-7:30 pm.
Second session May 19 - June 16

Pico Park, 9528 Beverly Boulevard, Pico Rivera, CA.
Phone: 562-801-4470

Visit or call the Park to register, or register online at the Pico Rivera website. And feel free to email me with any questions:

Okay, I'll just come out and tell you right now: One of my nieces took the class, too. The story involved a group of kids at a comic convention trying to stop a thief who stole a copy of (I kid you not)...EL MUERTO #1!!
Aw shucks, Caroline....

Saturday, March 19, 2011

New interview at RETCON Podcast

On St. Patrick's Day I spent an hour or so talking to the RETCON Podcast, a comics and pop culture show. I was interviewed by Henry Barajas and Eric Schock . We talked about, surprise, surprise... me and my comics work!

Among the topics we kicked around were creating comics with a D.I.Y. aesthetic, race & culture, teaching comic book workshops, my in-progress WEAPON TEX-MEX Vs EL MUERTO comic and the upcoming LATINO COMICS EXPO at the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco. 

Interestingly, I was also asked about the EL MUERTO movie, which was released in 2007, but it was nice to talk about it again. As I had never been on the RETCON Podcast, it was a fresh subject for us to talk about. Actually, doing an interview about a film several years old now allows me to approach it with a certain perspective. I shared some behind-the-scenes anecdotes regarding the film, and it was nice to be able to relate the positive experiences I had with the production.

Another thing I mentioned on the podcast was that just this week a college student has ordered some of my books from my online shop, in preparation for his upcoming thesis on Latino comic books! That came out of the blue and it was quite a proud moment, I must say. 

You can listen to the podcast by following this link, or listen via iTunes (just search 'Retcon Podcast' in iTunes and download Episode #9).

My thanks to RETCON for having me on the show, and a tip of the hat to hosts Henry and Eric for their engaging questions.


Monday, March 14, 2011

Weapon Tex-Mex vs El Muerto: Creating the Story

Sorry for the long delay, but here's Part 2 in my series chronicling the behind-the-scenes process of my upcoming comic book, WEAPON TEX-MEX Vs. EL MUERTO: THE BATTLE OF SANTA MUERTE!!
 (A sketch for an upcoming promotional piece of art)

The reason I haven't been posting for the last 3 weeks was that I've actually been busy drawing the actual comic book. As of today, I can say I've penciled and inked the entire story. Of course, I need to go back and finish details on most of the pages, a few panels here and there. The way I worked was to sweep through the 18 pages, making sure all the figures were inked, and most of the backgrounds. What I need to go back and finish are mostly drawings of cars and interiors of buildings. As those will take a little more time (such as the perspective involved with some of the shots) I didn't want to 'slow' down my inking pace. 

In the first part of this series (scroll down this blog or click here to read it) I talked about what inspired me to create a Tex-Mex Versus Muerto story. Here I'm going to talk about how I put the story together.
Once I came up with the idea of having my two characters duke it out in a comic book, the first thing I did was come up with a sketch, something I thought could be used as a cover. Well, the second I finished the sketch, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that this had to be the final cover. There was something about the outrageousness and sheer audacity of the image that made me both laugh out loud and tingle with that excitement you sometimes get as an artist when you've 'stumbled' across a gold nugget in your own mind. Often in these type of superhero crossover battles (again, see the images from the previous blog post) there's a strong desire, at least for the cover image, to make sure each hero has equal standing with the other, where one character isn't getting the upper-hand on the other. 

Well, these are both my characters, so I didn't have to worry about offending anyone. And since Tex-Mex is a rip-snorting, hulking brute of a man, why the heck wouldn't he be plowing the 5' 10", 160 lb El Muerto through a concrete wall?! Plus I like the fact that even though El Muerto is my signature character, with much wider recognition (the dude's got a movie made about him, for cripes sake!), he's on the receiving end of a good ol' Texan butt-whippin'!

This isn't actually the first time Muerto and Tex-Mex have been seen on the same cover. That milestone happened on my last book, COMIC POP, (with me thrown on there to further increase sales) :

They didn't actually appear in a story together, that comic was a collection of reprints featuring individual stories with them as well as some other rarities. But the idea putting them together really appealed to me.
My plan for the Versus story was that I wanted to make it a short story, primarily for the fact that the two previous Weapon Tex-Mex comics were short tales, really short. The first was 3 pages, the second a whopping 4. Since this is technically a Tex-Mex story, I wanted to keep to the shortened story format. Originally I thought I could do this story in about 8-10 pages. Eventually it clocked in at 18 pages, but it's the only way to have told the particular tale I came up with.
When I sat down to thumbnail the story, I didn't really have a definite idea where I was going, or at least how I was going to get there exactly. Just so you know, I don't actually write scripts for myself, I literally have to see the story in visual form, that's my 'script'. I prefer to deliver the story from my mind to the paper with the actual images of the story, unraveling the narrative through images, panel by panel, page by page. I knew the main story points I had to hit, but when I sketched out the first pages of thumbnails, it was almost like watching the story unfold right before my very eyes.
Here are the first three pages of my thumbnails (these are drawn on plain 8.5" x 11" sheets of white paper).  Page 1, first panel was going to have the title and credits, then followed by the first two panels, setting up the opening:

Page 2, a meeting between Tex-Mex and someone looking to hire a zombie hunter:

As you can see on Page 3, I stopped drawing when I got to the bottom of the page:

The reason I stopped was I realized that I was eating up 3 pages already, and I was hoping to tell this story in under 10 pages! So I knew right away I had to find a quicker way to start the story. I eventually got rid of the guy hiring Tex-Mex, or at least substituted another character for his role, and reworked the opening into a tighter narrative. So these pages go into the 'deleted scenes' folder...
Getting the tone of the story was something I always had to keep in mind as well. Tex-Mex is more of a satirical, humorous character, and his two previous stories reflect that, while El Muerto is much more along the lines of a tragic, cursed-hero figure. I don't want to give too much away here in regards to the final project, but I just crafted the story with the idea that these two have to meet in a story, and they have to be who they are, and the narrative has to tell their story. Obviously what they have in common is that I've drawn them before in their own stories, and even though they have their own distinct voices, I'm the one doing the 'talking'. So I think the way I confronted this issue was to simply just write them together in a story, keeping their unique identities intact, and make the story work. 

Another reason I wanted to bring these two characters together was I plan to debut this comic at the inaugural Latino Comics Expo, being held in San Francisco at the Cartoon Art Museum on May 7 & 8.  It seemed like such a natural idea to have a comic featuring Weapon Tex-Mex and El Muerto at such an event. In fact, I'm also aiming to produce a special limited edition of the comic exclusively for this event, with an entirely different cover and some extra added bonus item. More on that later...

In my next post for this series, I'll share some of the actual inked pages and how I approached that stage of production.