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...