Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Night before Navidad

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Twas the Night ‘fore Navidad in the Cemetery,
Not one stray cadaver, save the Aztec Zombie.
His stocking was hung from his tombstone with care,
In hopes that San Nicholas would soon be there.

El Muerto lay peacefully atop his own grave,
No evil to fight, no one to save.
Visions of Maria danced in his head,
Wishing once more, that he were not dead.

The night continued to grow long and cold,
As he lay there, on a bed of marigold.
His most cherished dream would not give a rest,
As he longed for his heart, back in his chest.

Then, a few minutes ‘fore midnight,
To his most welcome delight,
A noise atop the mausoleum!
By golly, he could see him!

A great jolly man, brash and bright red,
Joyous enough to wake all the dead!
And with him, hard to believe, oh Dear,
I kid you not, yes, eight zombie reindeer!

A crimson and white suit made by the elves,
Black boots from Tijuana, straight off the shelves!
A big red sombrero atop his grand head,
Flying about on a magical sled!

“Now Mictlo, now Pepe, now Xotchi and Flaco!
On Cucuy, on Quetzal, on Calaca y Santo!
Away now we go, we’ve done our gift giving,
We’ve looked after the Dead, now to the Living!”

Off into the night, Santa Clause flew,
More presents to deliver, for me and for you.
Diego ran to the tree, decked out with light,
He hurdled the gravestones with all his dead might!

Nearing the tree, searching for his gift,
He thinks out loud, “Was Santa too swift?”
His heart all aquiver, he knelt on his knee,
(If he had a heart, I know! Just enjoy the story!)

Unwrapping his gift, El Muerto did see,
That his present was indeed truly lovely!
Not a heart for his body, or Maria, his treasure,
But something that gave him such wonderful pleasure!

There in the box, all awash in bright light,
Was a large sugar skull, decorated just right!
A cross and some flowers, all blue, red and yellow,
And written on top, his name, “Juan Diego”

He stood, cradling the calavera in his arm,
Sensing no loneliness, fearing no harm.
“It’s good to be remembered, on this festive evening.
Feliz Navidad to all! The Dead and the Living!”

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Interview at Relevant

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A couple weeks back I was contacted by Will Thompson for an interview for the online version of Relevant Magazine. I thought this would be an interesting audience to speak to as they are a faith-based magazine that covers various aspects of pop culture as well as lifestyle and other topics. I always say that El Muerto is a complete reflection of who I am, so check out why a Mexican-American, Catholic, comic book geek/Speed Racer fan/micro movie mogul does what he does!

Here's the link to the Relevant interview

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Gigantic Treasury Comics!

Back in the Glory Days (the 70s), DC and Marvel used to publish large, over-sized comics called "Treasury Editions". They measured at a whopping 13" x 15", and sometimes could be up to 100 pages, in full color!! Most often these were reprints of earlier books, although DC often included more original features in there books. Stuff like 'How to draw Superman' and other DVD-style extras.

Some of my favorites to this day include these beauties:
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Included in this gem were the Golden Age origins of the Joker and Lex Luthor (an accident caused Lex to lose all his hair, so naturally he blamed Superboy!). I was mesmerized to learn the origin of the Joker. The 1989 BATMAN movie used the same basic premise (falling into a vat of chemicals) as did Alan Moore's THE KILLING JOKE. This Golden Age story remains one of my favorite comics off all time.

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I remember seeing this in McCoy's Market. Mom would be in line paying for groceries and I would wander to the Liquor Dept (?) where they kept all the periodicals. I had to have this one! Reprinting, in tabloid size, the original Steve Ditko-drawn first appearance of the Sinister Six! Stuff like this convined me as a kid that Ditko is the one true Ultimate Spider-Man artist!

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Galactus once again invades Earth, with the intent to devour us all! This time he's accompanied by his strangely biblical herald, Gabriel! Art by Big John Buscema and Joltin' Joe Sinnot.

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Reprinting classic fist fights between the superheroes (of course, they would usually work things out by the end of the issue. The pulse-pounding battle between Captain America and Daredevil takes place inside the ring at Madison Square Garden! And the Silver Surfer vs. Spider-Man tale was the first and only time Stan Lee got to write his two signature characters in the same story.

And then there was this...
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The Greatest Super-Hero Team-up of All Time! And conversely, the Battle of the Century!! This milestone story was the first time Marvel and DC had collaborated on a joint venture, teaming up their most popular characters in one epic tale. This unquestionably blew me away as a kid. And to this day I'd say probably remains my favorite comic book story, (up there with Amazing Fantasy #15, of course). This book was written by my second favorite Spider-Man writer, Gerry Conway, and illustrated by one of my Top 3 Spider-Man artists, Ross Andru. One of the many reasons I love this book is the cover. I've always had a real affection for comic book covers with white backgrounds, and in this case what better way to bring out the color in these two icons than white? I loved seeing Peter Parker and his girlfriend Mary Jane interacting with Clark Kent and Lois Lane. What really worked for this book was the over-sized pages allowed the stunning draftmanship of Ross Andru to really shine. Andru always was the absolute best artist in comics for breathtaking architectural renderings and panoramic city shots. This stands as his greatest achievement, in my opnion. And what better compliment for an artist than to handle the historic first DC/Marvel crossover?

As big as the super-heroes were to me as a kid, printing there stories in these tabloid-size comics only helped create more excitement. My hope is to one day create a Muerto story worthy of this format. A new story, with a reprint of a lesser-seen story, and maybe a cool 'How to Draw El Muerto' feature. Hold me to this, folks!

All these pics were taken from another site, Treasury Created by illustrator Rob Kelly, it's a wonderful tribute to all the treasury/tabloid sized publications from comic's past. Check out Rob's site and treasure these gems! Thanks to Rob for the kind permission to use his pics.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Gracias-Giving Day

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So, this would be the 40th Thanksgiving I've celebrated. Well, maybe the first couple were a blur for me, but..... :roll: Anyways, today's was the usual turkey/stuffing/pumkin pie/family get-together. Mom and Dad hosted the day, with me and my siblings and their kids chowing down on juicy, plump, oven-roasted turkey.

In the spirit of giving thanks, I mentioned to my older brother Albert about how he inspired me to draw and collect comics. I let him know that I've stated in numerous interviews how he's the one who really put me on the path I'm on today. He shared some interesting details that I thought right away would be great to document in a future auto-bio comic! Al told me that when I first started drawing I wasn't very good! He said, with a good-natured laugh, that I was terrible....

He had a sketchbook filled with color drawings of baseball and football players. Expressive characters with large chins and their baseball caps/football helmets pushed down over their eyes. He also liked drawing cartoon superheroes like Underdog and Mighty Mouse. Ironcially, we don't remember him drawing characters like Spider-Man , the Fantastic Four , Captain America and the others. The comics he gave me when I was an 8 yr. old lad, the Marvel Comics with art by Kirby, Ditko, Romita, Trimpe, Colan and others are what really created my love for superheroes and comic books.

Al told me that he remembers me taking my first art classes in Junior High. By the time High School rolled around I would start getting books from the library on cartooning and drawing. Shortly after he introduced me to comics, he eventually got into sports and building car models, but little Javi hung to the superheroic radioactive soap operas of Peter Parker, Bruce Banner and all the other heroes of the Marvle Age of Comics!

And thank God for that, eh?! In many ways, I think Albert may be the proudest one of all. I remember being so happy that he came out one day to visit the set of El Muerto in East LA (not too far from where we grew up). To see him standing on the sidewalk with his daughter as they filmed Wilmer evading a speeding car was a trip. If it weren't for his strong early influence, there probably wouldn't be an El Muerto, comic book or movie!

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Me and Al after a great Thanksgiving meal earlier today. So, all the love and gratitude to big brother Albert Hernandez. I guess I am one of the 'Hernandez Brothers' after all!

Monday, November 06, 2006

EL MUERTO American Film Market screening

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I attended an 11 AM El Muerto screening yesterday in beautiful, sunny Santa Monica as part of the American Film Market. The screening was held in an actual theatre this time, as opposed to the private screening rooms I'd seen the movie in previously. This was a great screening because I was able to invite about 30 family, friends and some former students of my Comic Book Workshop.
Also, as this was the Film Market, there were various industry folks in the audience. Our head Make-up/Muerto face designer was there, Mark Buatista (another Whittier resident, believe it or not!) as well as our composer, Tony Humeke, who I was able to congratulate in person for his tremendous and atmoshperic score.

Among my guests were my dad and my two nephews, David and Christian. Christian helped me out at my table at Comic Con a couple years ago, and will probably be seen helping me out more in the future. Got to train the next generation for the family business, ya know! My mom, older sister and her daughters had come to a previous screening, so it was time to get the other half of the family in on the action.
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Also in attendance were my older brother, his wife, and my younger sister. My brother Albert gave me his collection of comics when I was about 8. This was a late 60s/early 70s grab bag that included Jack Kirby FANTASTIC FOUR, Gene Colan CAPTAIN AMERICA and DAREDEVIL and Romita SPIDER-MAN as well as Neal Adams BATMAN and reprints of Stan Lee/Steve Ditko SPIDER-MAN. Albert also used to draw his own cartoon characters at the time, which also inspired me as well. Without him and his impressionable influence, there most likely would not be an El Muerto today!
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And yes, I purposedly positioned us to stand in front of the CASINO ROYALE poster. As a life-long James Bond fan, it makes me very excited to know that I'm following in Ian Fleming's footsteps in having my character make the leap to the big screen!

It was great to be in a theatre with a sizeable crowd watching the film. I sat up toward the front, but could hear the audience reactions as the film progressed. During my on-screen cameo I heard my sister-in-law let out a surprised giggle as she saw me, and the cheers I heard for the title credit 'based on the comic book EL Muerto by Javier Hernandez' felt wonderful! By the way, I've created the artwork for the opening title cards. They're intercut with the live-action scenes as the film opens. How much cooler could this experience have gotten??

Sunday, November 05, 2006

L.A. Day of the Dead

I attended two Dia de Los Muertos events in East LA this past Thursday, November 2. Both events were held on Cesar Chavez Ave, just a couple of miles from one another. I've had a particularly busy last couple of weeks, attending the various Day of the Dead festivals here in Whittier and Los Angeles, as well as several screenings for El Muerto. Can't think of anything more appropriate for me this time of year! I've got a report over at my Message Board (where, by the way, we've extended our Zombie Month theme from October!)

I'd like to share with you the story behind this pic:
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This was taken at the festival sponsored by AL BORDE, a free spanish-rock newspaper. This event featured vendors, great tamales, music, altars and an art contest, to which I entered my El Muerto serigraph, "El Otro Lado". I actually went in thinking along the lines more of promoting, rather than competing! Turns out the winner of the contest was an artist by the name of Luis Genero Garcia. I remember looking at his painting and thinking I had seen it before, but couldn't place it. At one point I saw him standing next to his painting talking to some people. I approached him to congratulate him on his victory, and commented that I had seen that piece before. He looked over my shoulder and then asked me if I was the artist of the El Muerto print. I began to share with him info on the comic and the movie.

Luis told me that he in fact was contacted by my producers a few years ago regarding his painting. Then it hit me like a ton of bones! In the early days of the Muerto deal, my producers, having been introduced to my comic by our director Brian Cox, had looked up El Muerto online and came upon Luis's painting. Later, my co-producer Susan Rodgers met Luis at an event and inquired if he was the creator of the El Muerto comic book! He told them he wasn't, and eventually I ended up meeting the producers and showing them my work. This was back in the days when I still didn't have my own website. Lesson learned!

Anyway, so Luis and I are sharing our perspectives on this story in front of our artwork. He commented that is was very interesting that they approached him initially, but in the end I ended up getting the movie deal after all! It was very appropriate, he commented, that a few years later our artworks would be hanging side by side at a Dia de Los Muertos show.
He was really gracious, and took a good-natured view of the circumstances. I was actually really glad that he won the art contest that evening. Oh, and another little coincidence, he and I are both residents of Whittier!

That's just one of the many unpredictable stories that has come out of my experiences with El Muerto! Most of my adventures with the character outside the confines of the comic book always seem more scripted and fantastic than anything I can create on the page. This has certainly been a very enjoyable and memorable last couple of weeks, believe me!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Happy Birthday Steve Ditko

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Legendary comic book creator Steve Ditko turns 79 today! Co-creator of Spider-Man, this amazing artist is one of comic's great storytellers. Born in 1927, Ditko's unique stlye literally set the standard for Spider-Man. One of my all-time favorite comic artists, Ditko captured my imagination when my brother gave me his collection of comics when I was about 8 years old. Among the comics where several reprints of Ditko Spideys. For the next 32 years (or thereabouts) I've been in love with his singular vision and individaulistic approach to comics art. By the late 1960s, after having helped revolutionize comics with Marvel's Silver Age renaissance (such as co-creating Dr. Strange with Stan Lee), Ditko abruptly left Marvel for DC Comics. Over the next 20 years or so, he would rotate between the two companies while working on established titles or creating new characters.

He also self-published some personal works in the 1970s, establishing himself as one of the first 'indie' artists! In the 1990s onwards, he's concentrated mostly on comics of a personal nature, often creating experimental storytelling devices. Ditko has such a strong independent streak, considering he's co-created one of the most commercially succesful pop characters of all time! When I found out after a few years of creating El Muerto that he shares the same birthdate as the character, I realized that karma does indeed exist! A few years ago, several of my friends asked me why I hadn't written him. I was always in such awe of the man that it wasn't something I thought I could do. But, I realized if I didn't write him, I might regret it later. So, I obtained his address from a friend of mine and wrote Steve Ditko a short letter. Basically I shared with him how much his work has meant to me over the years, and that as a neophyte indie comics creator myself I admired the steadfast individualism he's shown in his career.

When I opened my P.O. box one day a few weeks later, my heart literally skipped several beats when I saw his letter. I was actually going through minor hyperventilation as I walked to my car! His letter was hand-written in pencil (!), with a slight slope as his hand moved to the right side of the paper. He thanked me for my words and also for the copy of El Muerto that I had sent him. Basically he mentioned that all art, regardless of mainstream or self-published, must meet certain objective standards. If you know Ditko, then 'objective standards' is par for course! To this day, that letter remains a treasure. I'm sure he's written thousands of letter, but there's only one he's written to me!

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Feliz Dia de Los Muertos

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My friend Simon appeared with me two years ago at a store signing. I was actually signing on Halloween, and we gave out candy to all the kids who showed up for Trick-or-Treating! Simon actually shows up as an extra in the El Muerto movie (not in costume, of course!). The suit he's wearing was made from one bought at Olvera Street here in L.A. Yes, just like Diego de La Muerte did in the comic.

Dia de Los Muertos is celebrated in Mexico on November 2. People gather at the gravesite of their loved ones and decorate it with flowers and mementos that commemorate the departed. Food and drink are put out so that the spirits of the deceased will come back for another meal. Altars are built in the homes with the same effect. It's origins date back to pre-Columbian times, with the ancient Aztec ceremonies blended with All Soul's Day, creating a uniquely Mexican holiday. It's a festival meant to celebrate the life while mocking death, a testimonial to the power of love and remembrance. No sinister motives are involved in the festival.

When I sat down and came up with El Muerto, I knew I wanted to capture the spirit of the holiday. A character that would not only be created around the imagery and folklore of Dia de Los Muertos, but one that would also use the rich mythology of the Aztecs. It's nice to be able to particate in Day of the Dead ceremonies, and equally cool to celebrate the character's 'birthday'.

Take a moment to remember the life of a family member, or friend, or any other person you admire, who is no longer with you. Remember what it was about them that you loved, and enjoy their memory. They'll appreciate it, I'm sure...

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween!

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While watching HALLOWEEN on DVD, I passed out candy to the neighborhood Trick-or-Treaters. Yeah, I really watched HALLOWEEN! But, anyways, by my calculations I saw more Spider-Mans than Supermans and Batmans combined! Spidey has taken his rightful place as the World's Greatest SuperHero, far as I'm concerned. I did see one kid wearing a Hellboy costume, which I though was really cool! Sure, Mike Mignola is rightly acknowledged as a master of comics storytelling, with the awards and portfolio to prove it. His hit movie is due for a sequel, and his animated series is currently airing, I believe. But to see a kid walk up to my front door in a store-bought Hellboy costume, well, that clinches it! Mike's creation has hit the All-American folk tradtion of Halloween!

Over the weekend, on saturday evening, I attended the Hollywood Forever Dia de Los Muertos festival. Held in an actual cemetery (smack dab in the middle of Hollywood!), this annual event is an amazing way to celebrate the Mexican Day of the Dead. With Altars lining one of the walkways, you get to see an amazing collection of memorials to masked wrestlers, the Ramones, our soldiers in Iraq, and just ordinary people who have passed on but remain missed and loved by their surviving friends and families. This cemetery is fantastic. It covers umpteen acres and has rolling hills, man-made lakes, several palatial mausoleums and just about every spot is dedicated that evening to musical performers, folkloric dancers, food vendors, folk artists and of course the wonderful altars. I've got an extended post with more pics over at my Message Board

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I often get really ticked off when I hear people claim that Dia de Los Muertos is the Mexican Halloween. Grrrr...Jav Smash!
I'll talk about the festival on my next post, but Day of the Dead is officially celebrated on November 2. The Hollywood Forever ceremony, like the many other events in LA, is held the weekend before only because there are so many other Day of the Dead events going on in the weeks leading to the actual event date, and in some cases even after.

Here's a little secret: Wanna know where the idea for El Muerto comes from?
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See, folks have been dressing up in similiar outfits for years in honor of Day of the Dead. When I was thinking of a design for Muerto, spandex or leather didn't come to mind, but a good old-fashioned mariachi outfit and a stylized skull-face. So when I hear people compare my character to The Crow, I just have to think that people don't know enought about this wonderfully creative holiday. Who knows, maybe this father and child were inspired by El Muerto!

I love a good old-fashioned Halloween, and the fact that two days later it's followed by Dia de Los Muertos, well, that's just an early Christmas present!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Uptown Whittier Dia de Los Muertos Festival

Well, we've just had our first official Day of the Dead celebration in Whittier. Held in the historic Uptown section, the festival provided the community with vendors, artists, and musicians celebrating the uniquely Mexican fiesta of Dia de Los Muertos. While the actual holiday is November 2, because there are so many locations holding their own celebrations in the weekends leading up to the actual date, they decided to get a jump on it! Next week there are at least 3 festivals that I know of, including the gigantic bash at the Hollywood Forever bash cemetery.

But tonite was Whittier's night. Here's a shot of one of the altars on display.
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They actually closed off the main street, Greenleaf, for the length of the whole block. At the center of the pic, you can see some of the Whittier hills. Behind the hills to the left would be the world famous Rose Hills Mortuary (where they filmed the big cemetery shoot-out for Terminator 3). Just beyond Rose Hills would be Rio Hondo College, where I attended a few years out of high school. Coincidentally, El Muerto star Tony Plana teaches a drama class there. In fact, when I called him about 2 weeks ago, he was actually driving to class from an El Muerto screening he was attending!
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My friend Janelle asked me to sign at her store, LunaSol Books, for which I was more than happy to do. Her store is one block over from Greenleaf, where the festival was held. She's located between a corner restaraunt and an art gallery. So, we figured there would be a lot of foot traffic, which there was. Plus, her shop is kinda small, and the weather outside was beautiful. So I ended up setting up outside her shop! Turned out to be a good idea.

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Besides the comics and buttons, I had a new item I was selling. The first edition of what I plan will be an annual tradition: An El Muerto Day of the Dead print! This year's batch is an 8.5" x 11" glossy print created on the computer in Illustrator. I really love the way clean, sharp vector art looks. It has an animation-cel look to it, and this image just came to me really quick. I only made 30 of these, signed and numbered.

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As usual, LunaSol Books proved to be a great place to meet very interesting people. One such person was a friend of Janelle's, photographer George Rodriguez. This famed artist is known for his extensive coverage of Cesar Chavez and the Chicano movement of the late 60s. Perhaps I should approach Mr. Rodriguez about hiring him for some publicity shots of me?
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A man walked by and told me that he had enjoyed my comics. I inquired where he got them and he told me that he bought them in Janelle's shop and uses them in his Chicano Literature class at the nearby Whittier College! That one floored me, seriously. I thanked him and gave him my contact info, offering to speak to speak to his class if he ever wanted me to. Later, a young woman came by and told me she teaches a high school Latin American Literature class. I suggested to her that if she'd like, I could speak at her class too! She took my info and was going to see if she could get the school to buy some Muerto comics!

Another woman, Tina, turned out to be a real delight to talk to. She told me that she was recently becoming very interested in Mexican art and culture. She spoke fondly of reading LOVE & ROCKETS back in the 80s, and I informed here that the Bros. Hernandez were indeed still creating their legendary comics. Then there was Dave, a guy bar-hopping with his friends who stopped by my table. They were looking for more Budweiser, and Dave, wearing a DAWN OF THE DEAD T-shirt and tattooed with Darth Vader, decided to pick up my comics. It wasn't long before we started talking about comics, old 1970s Marvel Comics. Dave is such an enthusiastic comics fan, and was soon going on about The Orb, Ghost Rider and Don Perlin!
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A great evening was had by all! Well, it's now about 1:40 AM, sunday, and I've name-checked Cesar Chavez and Ghost Rider! Time for sleep....

Monday, October 16, 2006

El Monte Art Festival this past weekend

A good friend of mine, Janelle Gonzalez, called me on friday to ask if I would like to join her at a local event, the 4th Annual El Monte Arts Festiva, which was held this past saturday. Yeah, it was pretty last minute, but I decided that it would be a good chance to do some promotion, and maybe sell some books!

El Monte is a city north of where I live, probably about 15 minutes away. Janelle owns a bookstore here in Whittier, so she was exhibiting as a vendor. For me, it was nice to be able to just show up at a gig, as oppossed to having to arrange my own table and such. I just brought my supply of books and set up shop. Another guest of Janelle's was our mutual friend, Lalo Alcaraz, the cartoonist who does the nationally syndicated strip La Cucaracha. Lalo and I were the only cartoonists there, the majority of the artists were painters and jewelry makers. The show had a real nice 'local artists' feel, with most of the art displaying a Mexican cultural feel, reflecting the make-up of the community.
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It's funny, when I got to the auditorium where the festival was held, I was suprirsed to see my friend Martin Espino performing up on stage! Although, Martin does these type of performances for a living. He builds his own instruments, such as water drums and all kinds of wind instruments. In fact, I met Martin back in April of '05, through a signing hosted by Janelle's shop. Martin's skills in pre-Columbian language and music were actually put to good use in the Muerto movie. I'm glad I was able to bring him onboard. Our director and film composer really enjoyed using his trememdous talents.
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One thing I've always been fortunate to experience with my comic is that I can exhibit equally at comics show as well as more culturally centered events like this one. And now with the El Muerto movie, I've got an entry into the world of film, such as my appearance last week at the Los Angeles Latino Film Festival. Versatility has always been a hallmark of my publishing efforts. I don't think self-publishers look into enough alternate venues in which to expand their audience. Of course we're all making comics, and want to get the attention of like-minded consumers. But how about reaching out to people who don't frequent comic shops and conventions? Everyone in the industry talks about trying to reach beyond the insular comics crowd. Depending on what type of book is created, the creator should think about the potential audience that might be interested in it.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

New interview in Mexican COMIC ZONE magazine

Just got my copies in the mail today. The second issue of a new Mexican mag called COMIC ZONE.

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Real nice magazine with glossy pages. I did this interview via email a little over a month ago. One of the editors, Lizbeth Carrasco, contacted me and it was a pleasure working with her. I really love that they did a whole two-page spread!

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The article mentions that as a U.S.-born citizen with Mexican roots, I created my own comic book inspired by American superheroes and Mexican culture. Also, they mention that I'm better known as 'Jav'! I wonder if Lizbeth must have read my Message Board? That's what a lot of the Boardies call me.... She sent me the questions in spanish, and with a little mix of my own spanish and an online translator, I replied in kind. Course, I asked Lizbeth if she would correct any grammar and punctuation, as I didn't wanna come off like a complete knucklehead! Note to everyone: online translators are not 100% accurate, so double check what is being translated!

Lizbeth asked me if I could send her some signed comics so they can give away in a promotion. The current issue of the mag is giving away some Alex Ross/Paul Dini signed JLA stuff. What I like about the mag is that it covers a good variety of topics. Mostly of the superhero variety, like CIVIL WAR, but they also have a nice feature on Frank Miller's 1986 Daredevil: Born Again as well as two whole pages on 1996's Darkclaw, that wierd DC/Marvel Amalagation comic about a Bat Man/Wolverine character! And of course they have coverage of manga. Also in the new issue, there's a feature on Mexican-born artist, Jose Ladronn, who currently draws the Hip Flask comic book. Obviously they don't have the complete access to the American comics companies, but I think it's cool that their readers are exposed to superhero stories that they may have missed out on.

And I'm grateful that I recieved copies of the magazine. I did an interview for the Mexican edition of FHM and never saw it. Also, a year ago I did a quick interview for the Italian VOGUE (something a bout a Death Issue ?!) but never saw that. While I don't always get copies of every mag I get interviewed by, it would be nice to at least get the foreign editions. But this was a great experience, and I'm sure my mom is going to call the relatives in Mexico and have em hit the newstands.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

COMICS TO FILM panel wrap-up.

Yesterday was the panel on COMICS TO SCREEN at the L.A. Latino International Film Festival and I had a great time.
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From left to right are Jaime Hernandez, me, moderator Alan Dybner, Javier Grillo-Marxuach and Marv Wolfman. Len Wein appeared moments after the panel started.

The thrust of the panel was Latino characters, and multi-cultural characters in general, appearing in comics. Len Wein, working as a writer for Marvel in the 70s, co-created the New X-Men with it's diverse cast of characters such as Nightcrawler, Storm and Colossus. Marv just wrote the direct-to-DVD animated movie of Condor, a Latino character created by Stan Lee for his own POW Entertainment. Jaime of course created the classic Maggie & Hopey from Love and Rockets.

My nephew Christian accompanied me (he took the pics). I thought it would cool for him to see me in 'action', plus he'd have a heck of a story to tell his friends in school monday. After the panel he commented on how well all the creators got along. I thought that was cool because while all of us have very different positions and careers in comics, all of us love comics regradless if we're working for a mainstream company or an independent. But the mutual respect is there. Actually, I was the only guy on the panel that has a movie made out of a character that he owns. That's a big win for the self-published crowd!

The key to a character's success is how well it's created, regardless of the group identification of the character. That was the consensus of the panel, and I certainly agree. However, I mentioned that I knew when I was creating El Muerto that there would indeed be an audience for a character with a Mexican background. Also, I felt that involving elements from Aztec mythology and the Dia de Los Muertos folklore would create a rich background that wasn't seen much in the comics world. Unless of course it was other Mexican creators like Carlos Saldana, Rafael Navarro and Rhode Montijo doing them!

One of the audience members, appreciating the scope of creators on the panel, mentioned that if this panel was held at Comic Con there would have been a couple of thousand people in the audience. Looking at the panelists to the left and right of me, I would agree. Another audience question was "Why are there so many comic book movies being made today?". To which Jaime answered. "Because that's where all the good ideas are!"! Man, did I love that reply! Jaime also talked about how his own experiences with adapting Love and Rockets to film has varied over the years, but couldn't divulge any info on any current talks. Hmmm.... Soon as the panel was over I turned to Jaime and asked him to sign my GHOST OF HOPPERS hardcover. He mentioned to me that it was pretty cool that we had gotten some pretty good names on the movie.

After the panel, I took some time to introduce myself to Marv Wolfman. Back in the late '70s, when I started reading comics, he had written some great runs on Amazing Spider-Man and Fantastic Four. He actually wrote the special 200th issue anniversary editions of each book (Spidey, Jan. 1980 and Fantastic Four, Nov. 78). I had to tell him that to this day I think those are the last really two great storylines for those comics, and in fact Marvel Comics in general. I religiously read Marvel for about another 7 or 8 years after that, but always fondly remembered those issues. He really captured what the characters were about and you can definitely read a continuity between his work, and the writers who preceded him, with that of original writer Stan Lee. He genuinely appreciated my comments.

I did a couple of interviews after the panel. One was a documentary for the Festival itself, the other was for a popular local TV show call LA TV. It's a music show featuring spanish rock/Latino bands and has a great fan base with the youth market. I told them that I would love to go on the show and be a guest VJ!

Another question Jaime answered was about comic pages now being hung in museums and galleries. He said that for some artists the idea of having to go and speak at a public showing of one's work could be intimidating. I countered that I take the exact opposite approach. Show me a camera, event, microphone or internet access, and I'm there, baby! (As I'm sure you could figure out from this Blog...)


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The just released Fall issue of LATINHEAT ENTERTAINMENT magazine has an interview with El Muerto producer Larry Rattner and a feature on Latino comics. The story mentions Love & Rockets by Los Bros. Hernandez as well as interviewing Bruce Jones, the writer of DC Comics' EL DIABLO series from the late 80s/early 90s. Also weighing in with his words of wisdom are friend and now local neighbor, Rafael Navarro of Sonambulo fame. And yeah, I'm in there too!

Here's a newsflash you don't see everyday! Subscribers to LATIN HEAT will be invited to attend a special screening of El Muerto coming up this month at the Screen Actors Guild. Info about the new issue and the offer is right here.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

El Muerto, Swamp Thing, Tomb of Dracula, The Middle Man and Love & Rockets together at L.A. LATINO FILM FESTIVAL

I'm going to be on a panel this weekend at the Los Angeles International Latino Film Festival. It's on saturday, October 7, from 1-2:30 pm, at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. The other creators on the panel are :

Jaime Hernandez, co-creator of the legendary LOVE AND ROCKETS series and one of the true pioneers of independent comics.

Marv Wolfman, veteran comics writer of some of my absolute favorite runs on Amazing Spider-Man, Fantastic Four and Tomb of Dracula to name a few. Marv has written the script to Condor, an animated movie featuring a Latino superhero created by Stan Lee.

Len Wein, another long-time comics writer for Marvel/DC including co-creating Swamp Thing, who went on to star in movies, a TV series and an animated series!

Javier Grillo-Marxuach, the Emmy Award-winning writer of LOST, CHARMED, LAW AND ORDER, etc. He also writes a comic series he created for Viper Comics, THE MIDDLE MAN.

That's a pretty cool panel, if you ask me! I will of course be sharing my own epic tale of how El Muerto went from indie comic to indie film. Any LA-area readers are invited to attend and lend their support. Admission is free!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Storytelling 101: Filmmaking and cartooning

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That's a panel I just inked. Still need to add the border to the panel, and erase some of the pencil and blue pencil. I'm currently finishing up EL MUERTO: DEAD & CONFUSED, PT. 1. Earlier this year I had released a Preview Edition of the book, and now I'm adding several pages to the story before I go to press with the final edition. I know I'll be tweaking some of the previous pages, things like dialogue and art touch-ups. But it will be great to finally have a new issue out!

It's been about 12 days since I saw a screening of El Muerto. To have finally been able to see the completed picture was a big thrill. Although I had seen two screenings last November, they were a rough cut of the film. Now, having seen all the digital effects, scoring and all the sound and color corrections, I can say I am very happy with the final film. I always knew the actors we had in the film would really create a varied and rich cast of characters. But to experience the film as a complete production was very satisfying. Now of course, the film moves to the marketing and distributor stage. As word on that becomes available to share, I'll keep you all posted.

I started working on my new comic last year, after filming on El Muerto had finished. So while the film was in post-production, the comic book was in production. Seeing the final film gives me a unique oppurtuntiy to see how the character and his world plays in a different medium. Collaborating on a film is just that, a collaboration. But since I created the source material, and crafted the entire comic book on my own, it was really amazing to see the property go through so many hands along it's path. With our director/writer Brian Cox providing the roadmap, everyone from the art departments to the wardrobe to the composer contributes to the vison, working together to bring the film to life. Brain would tell me that he was always dedicated to creating something that I would be proud of, and for succeeding with that he has my respect and admiration. From the beginning, he had to find the voice for the character and movie he created. So, I also got to play the role of the ultimate spectator from the inside. Experiencing the whole filmmaking process was rewarding in ways I wouldn't have even imagined from Day 1.

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Today I've spent the majority of the day inking pages. In the background while working I've played the director commentary for THE GODFATHER and APOCALYPSE NOW. Every time I hear the filmmaker commentary on a DVD, particulary if it's a big budget supehero movie or a classic American epic, I am amazed to hear these big films had the same obstacles we had on our movie. Not enough time, not enough money, pressure to get things done fast and cheap. At least we had no studio interference. We were independent and had to answer to no one. And by having the creator of the comic book onboard as one of the filmmakers, you keep things on the up and up! But what I learn from hearing Francis Coppola's tales of making his films is often useful and inspirational. How he finds the characters with the script and actors, or how he sells a scene with the emotion or psychology of how it's presented, these things are applicable to drawing and writing a comic. I'm always amazed when I hear the big comics publishers claim a new project is a 'blockbuster bursting with wide-screen action' or some other such hype. To look at a film and attempt to take the visual cues that you couln't possibly replicate on a comic page is counter-productive, in my opinion. With El Muerto, even though it's structured around mythological gods in it's premise, I've always felt that at it's core it's the emotional resonance people have to connect with to the character and his predictament.

Film and comics are indeed visual mediums. And often, to varying degrees, each can have a literary foundation on which they are created. But the most memorable experiences for me, regardless if it's a film, novel, comic or music, is the emotional quality it has. Or the emotional reaction reaction I respond with, that makes the story worth watching, or creating.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Mexican Independent Comic Book Day!

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Today in Mexico they're celebrating Mexican Independence Day. Here in cyberspace we're celebrating Mexican Independent Comic Book Day! Coincidentally, it's now the start of Hispanic Heritage Month, so go read some Love & Rockets, take in a Pedro Almodovar movie, or Mambo the night away at a Cuban nightclub! Oh, and read, buy or share some Muerto with friends!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Sketchbook peak-a-boo.....

Sorry 'bout not posting here for a while! (Not an uncommon phrase heard throughout the Blogosphere, believe me!)

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This is a sketch of a couple of characters that have been swimming around the alleyways of my brain for some time now. It's a father and son team called The Eklektix... Pops is designed as if he was published in a comic book from the early 70s, let's just say. The kid in the foreground can be mistaken for a winner of a Hot Topics spending spree.

Um..okay, with that bit of filler, I'm off again. Be back soon!

Monday, July 24, 2006

San Diego Comic Con 2006

I didn't exhibit this year at Comic Con, but I did attend the show on Saturday and Sunday as a 'civilian'. Too be honest, I had a really good time. Mostly I spent the days hanging out at the tables of several friends. I just sat back while they would sell their wares, occasionally covering for them as they took a break. This year I was able to experience the show in the way I did back before 1998, in my pre-publishing days.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usKicking it with Michael Aushenker!

Of course, I would be asked by many people on why I wasn't exhibiting, or what new comic I was working on, or the most popular question, when was the movie coming out! Well, as my producer told me before I left: "If anybody asks, tell them the film will be done in August". So there you have it!

The common topic about San Diego recently is the size of the show and how it's grown monstrously in size. I remember a few years ago when the movie studios started getting in on the act, promoting their films and bringing in the talent for panels and signings. We all feared that comics would be squeezed out. Or at least the self-published variety. From what I hear from many of my associates who couldn't secure tables in the Small Press area, that may be true. But I also have to say that with the recent phenomenon of the New York publishing houses launching graphic novel imprints, and establishing a presence at Con, comics are more in demand than ever. As someone who has benifitted from a film deal himself, I can't argue the influx of the film industry into the Con. And video game manufacturers also use comics as content for their systems. And I think the amount of fans who come for all these things certainly helps the Con, but maybe, just maybe, they might get exposed to a self-published comic or two.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usHanging with Galactus!

What's I really love about the Con is the sheer variety of things you see and experience there. Panels on Golden Age artists, copyrighting your own creations, Christian comics, and the digital application of comics. You see people dressed as Mexican wrestlers, Galactus, TV characters, and the endless variations of Star Wars personalities. Vendors selling out-of-print art books, home made zines, 1970s Marvel Super-Hero Slurpee cups, and T-shirts featuring just about any character that has ever been draw, animated or appeared in a movie! There are now oppurtunites to make a pitch to a publisher for a graphic novel, submit your portfolio for consideration on a monthy title, showing your work to a video-game company or animation studio, or meeting an actor from a favorite childhood TV show. You can network, sell, buy, collect, play, masquerade, listen, participate or just plain enjoy any umpteen number of presentations, celebrities, booths, vendors, events, screenings, readings, contests, demonstrations, etc.

It really has become the nexus of all things cool! If it's comic related, nostalgic, hip and cutting edge, printed, manufactured, animated, painted, sculpted, filmed, digital, audio or whatever, there's a good chance that it came from a comic book or strip. It certainly came from someone's imagination. Created for fun, personal vision or for profit. It's all there for the right price, or just make the time to catch it.

And next year, I'll be back, behind the booth. With new Muerto comics. Another new property or two. Various bits of merchandise. And one way or another, that Muerto movie!

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usAt attention with Rhode Montijo!

For more photos, follow this link to my Message Board

Monday, July 10, 2006

Double-Scoop-Of-Art Day

I'd like to share two pieces of artwork with you. The first one is an illustration I created last night to accompany an interview I did for an upcoming book about Latino comic book creators. Written by Professor Frederick Aldama, the book features interviews with my friends and fellow cartoonistas Carlos Saldana, Rhode Montijo, Rafael Navarro, among others. (And yes, these fellas are linked off to the right!). Slated to be published next year by the University of Texas Press, this book will, as far as I know, be the first major volume to cover the work of independent comic creators of various Latino backgrounds. I was copy-editing the interview over the weekend, and had to send off the illustration along with the edits.

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I have to say it was great to be able to have a chance to look over what I said in the phone interview. I've done some interviews where I've read it after publication and thought, "OMG! Did I say that?!" Frederick was a very well informed interviewer, as his questions delved into the individual artist's cultural upbringing and influences, as well as such topics as the 'unique' distribution we have in this country regarding our comics. And yes, I looked over what I wrote about that topic and STILL sent if off!! A great feeling though to be able to actually be a visible part of that particular group within the overall comics industry.

The second artwork I want to share is this painting I'm working on.

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This measures 16" x 20" and is acrylic on canvas board. I got into the habit of painting on canvas boards about 2 years ago. For quick, more simplified paintings, I like using this material. To show you a little bit of my process in creating, I took these pics. First pic is, of course, the drawing! I first designed this in my sketchbook, but it didn't take too many sketches to get the compostion. It funny, but I used blue pencil to lay it out on the canvas, then went over it with pencil! (I guess this way if I ever photocopy the painting, the blue underdrawing doesn't show up!)
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Here's the first pass of paint. Sometimes I start with the figure, but this time the background just called out to be painted first. I don't why I started with the background though. Maybe it was just to see the defining shape, or maybe it was just to see what all that yellow would look like! The reason I picked the color yellow was A) I usually pick a red background when doing a color piece for El Muerto and B) since I was thinking in terms of a resurrection, Easter came into my mind and yellow just seemed appropriate!
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Here's the next pass of colors. The black suit, hair, neck and white t-shirt and logo. It's always interesting to paint the mariachi suit because it's black, so I always have to decide if I want it flat black and dark gray with black shadows. The hair is usually more densely black, with some blue highlights (yes, that comes from Superman's blue-highlighted hair I dug as a kid!). What I like about the design of El Muerto is that from the back, you actually see his logo reversed out nicely against the black jacket. And the white patch of t-shirt you see below the short jacket is a nice design element, I think. I always liked that Superman had an S-symbol on the back of his cape and Spider-Man had that cool spider/ladybug design on his back.....
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More blending of colors and indications for wrinkles and shadows. Adding more texture and density to create more weight and really build the figure. I don't claim to have the skill to produce photorealistic paintings, but my personal taste lies more in an expressive creation. In college, lo those many, many moons ago, my first life drawing instructor walked by my charcoal studies and told me "You've got a great expressive style, don't ever let anyone change that." I think I've pretty much let that be my mantra for the last 20 years... As an artist and a person!
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I'll come back to the painting and tighten up some details, but I like creating these spontaneously to capture that particualr mood in a quick session or two. Plus, I've already started 2 more paintings in the same size and medium. We'll see those later!