Thursday, December 31, 2009

Go ahead, make my decade!

I was trying to think of some type of 'End of 2009 post'. Like a 'year in review', or 'best of'. Then I realized that's it's also the end of the first decade of the Millennium, which according to my rudimentary math skills only comes about every 1000 years. And even if I started eating super healthy and became the most exercise-conscience person on the planet, chances are still 50/50 that I'd make it to 3000!

So it occurred to me to write some type of overview about my last 10 years in regards to my life as an artist, specifically an independent comic book creator....

I had my first published comic book story appear in 1997's HOT MEXICAN LOVE COMICS, and my first self-published work was EL MUERTO, back in 1998. It's really with the publication of my own comic book work that I've experienced some phenomenal times as an artist, which significantly reflects on my life as an individual. Not that everything up to the year 2000 was drab and dreary. But read on and check out what I'm going to share.

By the way, I didn't own a digital camera until 2005, so all the following pics are digital photographs. One day I will have to scan 100s of photographs I took with an actual film camera. But for purposes of this blog post, we're only going to use digital pics, folks!

Looking over my collection of photos, one of the highlights that stands out to me has been getting my self-published comic book, EL MUERTO, turned into a live-action film. I created my own comic book because I wanted to create my own comic book, plain and simple. That I ended up getting the opportunity to have a film based on EL MUERTO, well, that's the type of serendipity you only read about in fairy tales! I won't go into all the details now (as I've written and spoken about it many times before), but here are some wonderful images I'm glad were captured:

We filmed EL MUERTO in Feb of 2005, and at the San Diego Comic Con that summer, we had a panel when we showed the trailer. To be on my own panel at Comic Con showing the trailer to my own movie, after having seen my fair share of preview panels at the Con, was quite extraordinary. Here's me, star Wilmer Valderrama and Joel David Moore (AVATAR) after the panel. I love the smell of papparazi in the afternoon!

Luckily, I was able to attend several of the film festival screenings once the film was finished.

Musician Martin Espino, me and actor Tony Plana at the official premiere for the film at the SAN DIEGO LATINO FILM FESTIVAL:

It gets better though! Me and some lovely film fans at a screening for Cal State Los Angeles:

Signing a badge for an enthusiastic fan at the Oxnard Latino Film Festival:

My brother Albert, his wife Letty, my sister Imelda and me at the American Film Market screening. (I purposely posed us in front of the James Bond movie poster!):

One of the great things about creating your own comics is that you're entering the field populated by so many other people whose work you've read and admired. Here's one of those times. It's me on a panel with cartoonist Jaime Hernandez (LOVE AND ROCKETS). We were sharing a panel along with comic book writers Len Wein (SWAMP THING, THE X-MEN) and Marv Wolfman (TOMB OF DRACULA, TEEN TITANS) at the 2006 Los Angeles Latino Film Festival, "Minorities in film"(I believe that was the name):

Since 1998 I've been asked if I'm one of the Hernandez Brothers. (Jaime and his brother Gilbert created the comic series LOVE AND ROCKETS, and it's among the most critically acclaimed comics ever). After the panel, I asked Jaime to sign a L&R book for me, and he wrote "Just one question: Where's your father from?"!

We had an 'Exclusive Engagement' screening at a Laemmle Theatre in Downtown Los Angeles, and was really happy to see EL MUERTO up on the marquee:

In 2008, my hometown of Whittier, CA held it's first ever Film Festival, and we screened EL MUERTO and were actually fortunate enough to win Best Feature! After the film screening (which ironically was held in a building where I used to work at part-time during high school) we held a Q&A around the corner at GEEKS comic shop:

Musician Martin Espino, me, writer/director Brian Cox and co-producer Susan Rodgers.

Bringing the film to Whittier, where the story from the comic book is actually based in, was a dream come true that I had always hoped to accomplish.

Of course, everything that I've experienced, in regards to art, the film, podcasting, meeting fellow creators, making new fans, has all come from the initial creation of the comic book. Making art has been a part of me forever, and so many of the good things I've experienced in life has come from my artistic impulses.

It's all about creating my own comics, my own characters. Taking an idea from an abstract, to a visual narrative. Self expression. Storytelling first on the page, then, actually, personally, becoming part of a bigger story later!

Sharing my work with others these past 10 years has always been a rewarding experience for me. In a way, that's even more so when it's given away for free. Especially to kids. (Told you I'm a terrible businessman!!)

Creating something that people respond to makes what I do very full-filling, for me. I often talk about creating a signature character, and El Muerto is mine. For the people who count themselves fans of my work and the character, you've granted me a great pleasure, and a great honor.

To my family and friends and fellow artists, I have to offer my sincere thanks and gratitude for the love, support and inspiration. I never tire of doing what I do, creating new artwork, new comics. I only hope that the next 10 years, God willing, bring as many unexpected surprises and memorable experiences as the previous 10. I'll be doing my part to make that true, everyone else please feel free to join along, I'd love to have you.

Hope you all have yourselves a productive, positive 2010.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

EL MUERTO fluorescent black light poster art experiment!

I wanted to experiment with creating 'blacklight poster' type art (colored with fluorescent colors to be shown under a black light). Marvel in the day produced a bunch of trippy posters in this style, which you can see here.

So I took one of my El Muerto color art files, "bleached" out the color (using Threshold in Phototshop, as I was too lazy to find the original b&w art to scan!), printed it out, then used some Highlighter markers to color the print. Afterwards, I scanned it back in the computer and made a color/brightness adjustment.

Again, this is just a quick experiment, but I really like the idea of exploring with this color palette and producing some original art in this method. Pretty groovy!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

My back cover art for DEAD MAN HOLIDAY

Colin Panetta, creator of the comic book DEAD MAN HOLIDAY, asked me awhile back to contribute the back cover to his latest issue, DEAD MAN HOLIDAY -1 (Yep, that's 'minus one').

Colin's book is done in b&w, including his cover. But when he told me that I could create my piece in color, I immediately thought of the basic design. I think the fact that I could show a green, glowing ghost made me choose this scene! I had a great time working on this piece, and was really happy with the way it turned out. What I really liked was after I sent it to Colin, he wrote back and told me he was thinking I was going to do something entirely different. It's always satisfying to produce something that people weren't expecting, as far as my 'style'.

I'm a big fan of Colin's comic. He refers to it as 'haunted science-fiction', and describes work that he does ( as well as everyone from Mike Mignola to Mike Allred) as 'personal genre fiction'. Whatever you want to call it, it's unique work from a totally individual point of view, whether it's a crime story or a ghost story.

Besides being an imaginative storyteller, Colin is a very forward-thinking publisher, always working on getting the word out about his comics. He's participating in the upcoming Indy Comic Book Week, for example, and in fact is tying in the release of his new issue to this event.

Colin has free PDFs of his first two issues at his site, as well as a blog he updates with his latest doings. Take a look at his haunted science-fiction, DEAD MAN HOLIDAY!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

WONDER WART-HOG by Gilbert Shelton

Yesterday I started reading some WONDER WART-HOG comics I bought online. Created by Gilbert Shelton (of THE FABULOUS FURRY FREAK BROTHERS fame) back in the early 60s, Wonder Wart-Hog is a pork-flavored parody of Superman. WW is actually from another planet, having been sent to earth by his parents hoping to have their baby survive the destruction of their own planet. Thing is, as soon as the rocket blasted off into space, they realized the danger to their planet was a false alarm! WW crash lands on Earth as is raised by a hillbilly couple....

I had been aware of WW for years, but never actually read one of his comics. These few issues I bought have been enjoyable. While Shelton is one of the kings of underground comics with the FURRY FREAK BROTHERS, the WONDER WART-HOG stories I've read haven't necessarily been of the type of hard-core/adult humor the undergrounds are known for. They're silly, odd-ball spins of satire and superhero parody, with artwork that sometimes looks like a hallucinogenic mix of Sergio Aragones and Robert Crumb.

Nothing 'hardcore' about this page, as long as you don't mind gratuitous violence!

There are just so many comic books out there that I haven't even discovered, and I've been looking for 'new' stuff for the last several years. I have my share of current books I like to read like Brian O'Malley's SCOTT PILGRIM, Adam Warren's EMPOWERED, the latest book by Jason, for example. But I also look forward to reading so many of the books that I missed out on the first time. WONDER WART-HOG is definitely one of those I want to read more of.

A sketch I drew of WONDER WART-HOG.

Monday, December 07, 2009

My pin-up artwork for GHOSTFACE

Here's the artwork I contributed for GHOSTFACE #3, which is now in print!

This was a fun image to come up with, as I wanted to play with the graphic design elements as much as creating an appealing illustration. I picked a representational scene of the character's origin. The comic has supernatural elements mixed in with good old fashioned gangsterism!

GHOSTFACE is created, written & illustrated by John Narcomey, and published by High Tower Comics. You can order of the new issue, as well as the previous ones, here.

Thanks to John for asking me to contribute. It was real fun moonlighting...!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Drawing for Ronald McDonald House at WB Ranch

Saturday was one long day for me, but extremely rewarding!

I had to get up early that morning for my full schedule. My first stop was at the Gardena Holiday Craft Fair. My friend Ted Seko was exhibiting there, and I stopped by to check out the show. I wasn't there to sell anything, but I wanted to see what the show was like. The overwhelming majority of exhibitors there were artists selling their hand-made art objects, such as jewelry and small crafts. Ted and his friend Mark Okoi were the only two I saw that had stuff I would have bought: comics, zines and color prints of monsters!

Ted draws with such a frenzied pitch that my camera can never capture him at ease!

From Gardena, which is in the South Bay area of Los Angeles, I traveled north to Burbank. The Ronald McDonald House children's charity was hosting an event at the Warner Bros Ranch, and one of the activities consisted of a group of artists providing free drawing for kids. I was made aware of this event by Luis Escobar, and artist who works on the SIMPSONS cartoon, and in fact is one of the newest members of the CARTOONISTAS.

Not that I shouldn't have been that surprised to see him, but my good buddy Rafael Navarro also showed up. Rafael's been working in the animation industry for years, and often helps out at these type of events.

Rafael, the man behind SONAMBULO!

Luis Escobar, hard at work drawing for the kids:

Jim Lujan working the Lujan Magic:

It's so interesting that Jim had requests for Michael Jackson, Evel Knievel and a basketball player whose name escapes me. Those just seem like perfect subjects for Jim to draw, and I wish we would have photographed some of these drawings. Me, I had requests for Hello Kitty, dolphins and horses!?!

Of course, I had my fair share of superhero drawings too. Flash, Superman, Batman and Spider-Man were favorites. I also drew a lot of Bugs Bunny, but that's probably because I had a Bugs Bunny book for reference sitting on my table. I guess people saw the book and figured that Bugs would be a good subject. Now I know what to bring next time I do one of these events: my HOWARD THE DUCK comics! Let's see if people fall for that one!

Here's a Spider-Man drawing I did for this gentleman's grandson, Tino:

Readers of this blog will know I'm a big fan of Steve Ditko (Spider-Man co-creator), but man, trying to draw all them spider webs in these quick drawings made me for a second hate the guy!! I even forgot to draw the little black spider on Spidey's chest in that drawing!

The event was scheduled for 3 hours, and I have to say that I never anticipated that I would be drawing pretty much non-stop for the whole time! As soon as I finished one drawing, there would be another person walking up to the table. The tricky thing though is reference material. Some artists had internet access on their phones or other devices, but I had to either go by 'memory' or ask the kid if they had another suggestion. I had to wing such characters as HELLO KITTY and TINKERBELL. For the really small kids, I would suggest maybe a favorite animal, or even easier, a Christmas themed drawing!

Public on the left, artists on the right. There must have been about 20 artists or so, from animation, movies, video game..and comics.

Everyone was happy with their art, which really makes me feel good about doing these types of events. I'm not exactly sure what the criteria was for people to be admitted to this event, but some of the children were under treatments for various medical conditions. Like I said, it always makes me feel good to give someone a drawing, especially when they appreciate it. It's also rewarding to see the parents there with their child as I'm making the drawing.

Having said all that, let me say that another reason I wanted to do this event was to meet the man who organized all the artists for this day, Art Leonardi. Art has done this event in the past, and he's had a life-long career in animation. Probably the thing he's most associated with is the Pink Panther. He was working in the DePatie-Freleng Studio since the day the Pink Panther was created, and has animated and directed several episodes, including creating the opening titles for REVENGE OF THE PINK PANTHER.

Art was extremely grateful for all the artists, and he kept making sure we were taken care of. At one point he even brought a plate of hamburgers and hot dogs up and down the line (I grabbed a hot dog and ate it in between drawings). At the end of the day, as we were all winding down, I asked Art if it would be unprofessional of me to ask him to sign a copy of THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO THE PINK PANTHER. Well, he not only assured me it wouldn't be unprofessional, but he happily proceeded to flip through the book and tell me which illustrations he had created and gave me some behind-the-scenes stories on his career with the Pink Panther. He obviously had a lot of fond memories on working with the crews on the cartoons.

This is what Art wrote:

That was really cool that he drew the Pink Panther, too! (As if I wasn't hoping for that!) I told him, in reference to his inscription, that this was in reality 'from a great talent'. Regardless, it was really fantastic meeting Art, and working with him and all the other artists on this event. I know we all made a lot of people very happy. And I scored a Pink Panther sketch!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

El Muertito....Ah, ain't he cute?!!

The other day I received this via email:

Looks like production art for a new kid's EL MUERTO cartoon, doesn't it?

Well, it's actually a page from the sketchbook of Luis Escobar, a layout/storyboard artist for the SIMPSONS tv series & movie. I actually only recently met Luis, he just became a member of the CARTOONISTAS art group I'm in. In the short time I've known him though, we've hit it off pretty good. Naturally, we've discussed art-related issues, and in fact he was a guest on my podcast JAVILAND, where he brought in a topic and spent the entire show with us as part of our roundtable discussion.

His EL MUERTITO artwork really brought a smile to my face. The look on the one at the bottom, running with all the gusto he can manage, is hilarious. Little Muerto is so earnest! The shimmering quality Luis achieves in the hair and clothes is really effective. I could totally see a vinyl doll based on these designs. Vinyl doll makers....Send me a contract!

Luis maintains a blog where he often posts short comic stories, usually relating to some incident in his life. They're very pleasant-to-read vignettes, crafted in a nice, loose, shorthand style of drawing. They really feel like stories he's jotted down in a journal. Here's one he did in color, mixed with a photo:

Luis on a recent trip to Disneyland with his family.

My sincere thanks to Luis for sending me these sketches.