Saturday, May 28, 2011

James Bond creator Ian Fleming: Happy Birthday!

Ian Fleming was born 103 years ago today.

Fleming, who passed away on August 12 1964, was born on May 28, 1908. Fleming wrote his first James Bond novel, "Casino Royale", in 1952, in the span of about 2-3 months, at his Jamaican winter home Goldeneye.

A year later, the book was published and thus began his yearly cycle of writing new 007 thrillers until his death in 1964. His final book, "The Man With The Golden Gun", was published a year after his death, in 1965. A 14th book, "Octopussy", was published in 1966,  collecting a few short stories he had written over the years. Sadly, he passed away only a few months before the release of the 3rd James Bond movie, GOLDFINGER, which became the breakthrough box office hit for the film series.

Fleming's health was in decline in his later years, only aggravated by his high-living. He smoke and drank as much as Bond, and really could not see himself slowing down. In the novel "You Only Live Twice", when it seemed that Bond died in Japan, his secretary in the 00-section offered a quote for Bond:
"I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time".  

Fleming, with Sean Connery, on the set of the first James Bond film, DR. NO (1962).

Fleming lived life to the fullest, and in the end it may be what did him in. But in that life, he created a fantastic body of work. Most people will know James Bond through the long-running film series (which will be approaching it's 50th Anniversary next year). I first experienced Bond mainly through television, when ABC would run the films on their Sunday Night Movie slot throughout the 70s. I did see THE SPY WHO LOVED ME on the big screen though, back in 1977. But it wasn't until my years in high school that I read my first Fleming novel

It was this edition of the 1960s Signet paperback that totally caught my eye. I knew of Bond through the movies, and always noticed Ian Fleming's names in the credits, but seeing the books in front of me really caught my attention. These Signet paperbacks today are still favorites of mine, with their minimalist design, but well conceived visually and with just the right flamboyant flair with the synopses. I went on to collect the entire set by scouring the various used bookstores that at one time where within a block or two of one another in the Uptown Whittier shopping district.

While the Bond films remain my favorite movie series, it's the novels that provide me with the most fullfilling immersion into the world of Fleming's imagination. A professional journalist, as well as Naval intelligence officer during WWII, Fleming infuses his stories with very descriptive, tantalizing narratives, weaved in with real-life experiences on war and espionage. A self-admitted 'overgrown adolescent', Fleming's books are clear cut battles between good and evil (West Vs East), with strong doses of sexuality and violence, but also with a witty, urbane flair for melodrama and fun. 

Fleming remains my favorite writer, only made more evident by my current re-reading of "Casino Royale". Here's a passage from Chapter 7: 

"Bond has always been a gambler. He loved the dry riffle of the cards and the constant unemphatic drama of the quite figures round the green tables. He liked the solid, studied comfort of card-rooms and casinos, the well-padded arms of the chairs, the glass of champagne or whisky at the elbow, the quite unhurried attention of good servants. He was amused by the impartiality of the roulette ball and of the playing cards-and their eternal bias. He liked being an actor and a spectator and from his chair to take part in other men's dramas and decisions, until it caqme to his own turn to say that vital 'yes' or 'no', generally on a fifty-fifty chance."

As a 17 yr. old Mexican-American kid living in a working class suburban home in the 80s, I couldn't be further from the 1950s European landscape that Bond dealt in, moving among the gambling palaces and high-dining experiences while chasing super-criminals across the continent, usually with a femme fatale or stunning beauty in tow.

But Fleming's evocative and nuanced writing, fantastically conceived plots and unforgettable characters captured my interest and imagination. And that's the best thing I can ask of any artist working in the mass media. Fleming's own musings on his writings consisted of such thoughts as these:

‘I am not an angry young, or even middle-aged, man. My books are not “engaged”. I have no message for suffering humanity and, though I was bullied at school and lost my virginity like so many of us used to do in the old days, I have never been tempted to foist these and other harrowing personal experiences on the public. My opuscula do not aim at changing people or making them go out and do something. They are written for warm-blooded heterosexuals in railway trains, aeroplanes or beds.’

Fleming has mentioned that he writes to have an audience, and to make money. A very practical approach. But he was a tremendously talented artist, employing an innovative and dynamic flair for language that makes the Bond books much more than just spy capers. As a creator of my own comics, I take a lot of how Ian Fleming approached his work and career and apply it to my own work, in the ways that best suit what I want to achieve. He cranked
out each Bond novel over his 2-3 month stay in Jamaica every winter, writing about 4 hours a day and never looking back on the previous days writing. He wouldn't even work from an outline. Just getting the story down onto the paper first and foremost. Only when he went back to England for the remaining  9 months would he polish and edit the manuscripts. But really it was his fertile imagination, and a life-time of human experiences, that propelled his stories of James Bond. And maybe a little wish-fulfillment as well.

He often claimed he wrote his first Bond book to get over the shock of getting married at age 43! Well, it that's the case he left us one heck of a therapy session. While for the most part the Bond films have deviated greatly from the majority of his books, they are still adaptations of his works, and it's really the films that have secured his place on the world stage. For almost 60 years now, his books have been reprinted numerous times throughout the world. In the 1950s the Daily Express obtained his permission to produce comic strip adaptations of his novels, eventually leading to all new strips featuring brand new stories, well beyond Fleming's death.

Fleming also wrote the classic children's story, "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang", which he produced while recovering from a heart attack. 

Among his greatest achievements in his work for Britain's Intelligence Service was his creation of the 30 Assault Unit, a top secret commando team that would scour a captured enemy base for any and all intelligence material. This highly valued unit is the subject of a new film called AGE OF HEROES, with Fleming himself portrayed by actor James D'Arcy.

Quite prolific in his 11 year span as a published author, but like all great works, the legacy lives and flourishes far beyond it's original life. I'm not a heavy drinker at all, but if I was one, I'd toast Mr. Fleming with one of Bond's vodka martinis.

Happy Birthday, Ian Fleming.

 (If you're reading this via Facebook, this vidoe clip of Ian Fleming may not be visible. Visit my blog to see the clip.)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


This Saturday I'll be attending the 6th ANNUAL CELEBRATING WORDS FESTIVAL in Sylmar, CA.

This worthwhile event celebrates the written, spoken and performed word. I'll be on a panel entitled THE ART & CULTURE OF COMIC BOOKS at 1pm, followed by a signing. I'll also be conducting a storytelling lesson on the Children's Stage between 4-4:30pm.

For a full list of the panels and events, please check out this link.

CELEBRATING WORDS FESTIVAL is co-sponsored by TIA CHUCHA'S CENTRO CULTURAL, a not-for-profit cultural art center and bookstore that provides and promotes literary and artistic resources to the community. 

This free event will be held at:
13356 Eldridge Avenue
Sylmar, CA 91342

Thursday, May 12, 2011


The second day of LATINO COMICS EXPO fell on Mother's Day, which meant a whole bunch of cartoonists were calling their mom's first thing that morning! The Expo was held at the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco.

Our first panel of the day was a talk on humor comics. That panel was represented by (left to right), Carlos Saldaña (BURRITO), Jose Cabrera (CRYING MACHO MAN) and Michael Aushenker (EL GATO, CRIME MANGLER).  

One of the many nice things about this event was that we were able to provide space for several local cartoonists, who have recently published their first comics. Among them was Crystal Gonzalez, with her book IN THE DARK:

Here's a shot of (l to r) Rafael Navarro (SONAMBULO), Carlos Saldaña (BURRITO) and Hector Cantu (BALDO) working the crowds:

We had 3 panels scheduled on Sunday, and foot traffic would vary at times, but overall there was always activity on the floor. I know us artists spent a lot of time talking to those of us we haven't met before, and of course we always made the time to greet the patrons to the Expo.

LATINO COMICS EXPO Co-Founder Ricardo Padilla introducing the Mario Hernandez (LOVE & ROCKETS) panel to an enthusiastic audience:

And posing with 3 generations of the Padilla family afterwards:

Anthony Oropeza (AMIGOMAN) came all the way from Kansas City to attend our first Expo. A few years after I had started publishing my own comics (1998), Anthony had begun creating his AMIGOMAN comics. He wrote me back then, basically introducing himself as a fellow creator. It was nice to finally be able to meet one another in person:

Michael Aushenker, pondering out dinner plans for the evening as he signs up a book for a fan:

Michael's prolific output in comics includes EL GATO, CRIME MANGLER, the world's most bombastic masked luchador. Michael revealed some big plans for EL GATO over on his blog...

Rhode Montijo (CLOUD BOY, PABLO'S INFERNO) and I will sign anything a fan asks!

Mario Hernandez (CITIZEN REX) was a pleasure to meet:

He had a great time and is open to returning back again. We chatted about the Adam West BATMAN TV show and 1960s superhero comics! By the way, next year, the Cartoon Art Museum is hosting a 30th Anniversary LOVE & ROCKETS exhibition for all three Hernandez Brothers. 

A local Bay Area cartoonist, Jaime Crespo:

I had met Jaime Crespo years ago at the Alternative Press Expo, held yearly in San Francisco. His comics revolve around slice-of-life scenarios, often detailing Jaime's life growing up in the Bay Area. He's always fun to talk to, as he's got stories about everything!

The last panel we had scheduled for that day was the SELF PUBLISH YOUR COMICS PANEL. I moderated the panel, which featured (l to r): Rafael Navaro (SONAMBULO), Jaime Crespo (SLICES) and a pair of new creators, Mario T. Lanao and Cristian Garcia of RELUCTANT ZERO.

Jaime, Rafael and I each have between 13-20 years of making comics. Several times throughout the panel, Mario and Cristian referred to us as the veterans of the group. Which got me thinking that, yeah, it's been a hell of a long time since I started self-publishing my own comics! It was a good mix on the panel, with us 'old-timers' offering our experiences in the trenches, and hearing from the younger artists about what they've encountered so far since releasing their book. It was actually their first panel, so it was nice to be able to provide a forum for a new group of artists.

Overall, I have to rank the LATINO COMICS EXPO as one of the highlights in my career in comics. An important event culturally, and historic in it's significance. My thanks again go to my friend and fellow Co-Founder, Ricardo Padilla. Along with his family, wife Rosalinda, daughter Sophia, son Andres, and even his parents, Ricardo pulled out all the stops in making this event happen.

Thanks also to Andrew Farago, Summerlea Kashar, Ron Evan, intern Megan and the entire staff of the Cartoon Art Museum for opening their doors to us and helping us launch the first ever LATINO COMICS EXPO.

Thanks to all our guests and exhibiting artists for really making the show what it was, a gathering of cartoonists and writers whose work celebrates the influence of the Latino culture in their art and lives. Special thanks to those that volunteered their time to the Expo (Kate, Jarrod and others). And thanks to the fans and friends and family who came to support the event, and support us everyday of their lives with there love and friendship.

One last pic I must share. I started self-publishing back in 1998. And at that time, my friend Rafael Navarro had started about 2 years before, with his SONAMBULO comics. Around that time, I had met Michael Aushenker through Rafael in Los Angeles, and Michael had been publishing a few years already. When I started my book, I also met a young fellow named Rhode Montijo, who had just begun releasing his PABLO'S INFERNO comic books. We soon began hanging out together at shows, and either rooming together or traveling together up and down the California convention circuit. For a few years or so, we even joined forces as a loose collective called BIG UMBRELLA.

It's amazing to me, that all these years later, we're still in the game, doing what we love. It had been a while since all of us were at the same event as exhibitors, so this EXPO was a great way to bring us all under the same roof once more. So, thanks to my dearest friends, earliest fellow self-publishers, favorite collaborators and inspirational artists for standing once more with me under that big umbrella!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


The inaugural LATINO COMICS EXPO is now in the history books, and was I ever glad to have been a part of it! Held at The Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco the weekend of May 7 & 8, the event was a comic convention centered around Latino themed comics and their creators. 

I have to give a very special thanks to my fellow co-founder, Ricardo Padilla, for all the work he put into this event. As a San Francisco resident, Ricardo took the lead with all the physical footwork coordinating the event with the staff of the Cartoon Art Museum (Andrew Farago, Summerlea Kashar & Ron Evans, to name a few!). Ricardo also set up our 'official' Expo hotel for visiting artists, and in fact had his mother, father, son, daughter and lovely wife all help out with the planning and execution of the event! Latinos are known for close families, and this Expo really reflected that.

I arrived in San Francisco late Friday evening at the Padilla residence, and was greeted by this wonderful bit of business: a Certificate of Honor commemorating Latino Comics Expo Day! This was not only deeply appreciated by Ricardo and I, but every single one of our attending artists was blown away by this great achievement. 

The first day of the Expo was off to a good start, which coincided with FREE COMIC BOOK DAY. My spread for that day featured a stack of EL MUERTO MISH MASH comics available for free to anyone who'd like one.

I shared a table with good friend Rhode Montijo, who had a great display featuring his new SKELETOWN book and hand-crafted merchandise.

I've done a scores of conventions and festivals, signing in libraries, wharehouses, bookstores, parks and even a cemetery or two! But being set up inside an actual museum devoted to comic books and comic strips? That was a unique experience. Behind and in front of me were pages from classic Marvel and DC comics, comic strips like Peanuts, even political cartoons (there was Richard Nixon right behind me!).

I think a very popular component of the Expo turned out to be the panels. Working with all our artists/attendees, I think we came up with a really good variety of panels for the weekend. Saturday's started off with a kid's comics panel featuring (Left to Right): Carlos Saldaña (BURRITO), Rhode Montijo (PABLO'S INFERNO, CLOUD BOY), Moderator Hector Cantu (BALDO), Anthony Oropeza (AMIGOMAN) and Expo Co-Founder Ricardo Padilla.

Professor Frederick Aldama, who wrote a book entitled YOUR BRAIN ON LATINO COMICS, gave a lecture on the history of Latino comics. Many of the Expo exhibitors were both in the book and the lecture.

 Comments from the fans were positive and supportive, with many asking if we'd be back next year. My personal dream for this Expo is to take it on the road, giving more people across the land the chance to attend the show. That would also allow for more artists to be able to make the trek to the show as well.

Me and the Professor!

Jeff's a great fan, and it's always a joy to meet up with him when I do shows in the Bay Area. He's a huge fan of outre cinema & pop culture and always brings great conversation to my table. He bought one of the miniature EL MUERTO sketch dolls and decided to carry him around like Freddy the Flute from H.R. Puffinstuff! 

The Museum is divided up into 4 rooms, and we were stationed in two of them. Plus we had the use of the back room, where we held the panels. We even had access to their offices upstairs, where we set up a 'Green Room' for the artists to catch a breather. Ricardo's mother was kind enough to make two huge batches of burritos for us as well!

The Museum's staff was top notch, and there weren't really any problems all weekend. It really was a pitch perfect first-time outing. With me down in LA and Ricardo living in San Francisco, I think we were able to coordinate all the pre-planning and launch a  successful show. No doubt our artists and guests really were the highlights of the show.

Thursday, May 05, 2011


This weekend, Saturday and Sunday, May 7 & 8, is the first ever LATINO COMICS EXPO!

This is a show I organized with co-founder Ricardo Padilla, and it's bringing together over a dozen writers and artists that highlight the influence of Latino culture and experience in their works. The Expo will be held at the Cartoon Art Museum, and admission to the Museum grants you access to the Expo and all the panels and presentations

I'll be moderating and participating in a panel on Sunday, SELF-PUBLISHING YOUR COMICS. But as an artist, I'm bringing along my brand new comic book, WEAPON TEX-MEX Vs. EL MUERTO. And to really celebrate the uniqueness of this historic event, I'm putting together a very limited LATINO COMICS EXPO Pack! Here's what's included:

The new WEAPON TEX-MEX Vs. EL MUERTO comic book, the ROUGH CUT SPECIAL EDITION book, a color print, and an original penciled page I created when working on the rough draft of the comic. All 18 pages are being included in the LCE Pack, including the cover and back cover thumbnail pages.

20 packs in total, and once they're gone, that's it! 

I'll also have a brand-new metallic EL MUERTO/LATINO COMICS EXPO button, plus my usual catalog of comics, buttons and DVD. But mostly, let's meet up at the first ever LATINO COMICS EXPO and have a really great time!