Monday, July 26, 2010

JAVCON last call!


It's been a long six days of JAVCON! But it's been real fun running the show, and from the feedback I've been getting, sounds like you conventioneers have been enjoying it. 

Basically I had wanted to be able to celebrate the convention spirit via the computer, this blog. San Diego Comic Con ran from July 22 until yesterday, so it was cool to also be able to exhibit my work, share some previews, and talk about some older projects from 'the archives', right on this very blog. I sure want to go back to exhibiting in San Diego, but this was a way to connect with my own fans, many of which also weren't at Comic Con.

I had committed to posting new content everyday during the JAVCON, and some days I squeezed in an evening post as well. Truth be told, it sure was a lot of work over the last six days. In some cases, I had to scan some of my artwork, as I didn't have digital files of them. Sometimes I had to take photos, then download them, edit in Photoshop and save as a jpeg. But regardless of the workload on my end, the great thing was to finally be able to share some of this stuff.

As I looked back at the last 12 years that I've been self-publishing, trying to dig up some artwork most of my readers here were not even aware of, it struck me just how varied the type of projects I've been involved in. Believe me, when I printed up that first photocopied edition of El Muerto back in 1998, all I was planning was to sell that book, then make new stories, print them, sell them, go back and make new comics, etc. Some stickers, maybe some T-shirts. If I got lucky, there would mabye be an action figure line in the future.

Never thought I'd be branching out into a movie, podcasting, art galleries, forming art collectives, teaching classes, speaking at schools and libraries and tons of other rewarding things I've done. And the scores of wonderful people I've met...Wow! That just tells me that I'm doing two different types of stories. One group is the comics I tell by drawing on paper and filling in the word balloons. The storytelling medium I fell in love with as kid. Comic books. Could be stories about a guy who gets abducted by the Aztec god of Death. Or a monster that walks like a swamp. Or a wise-cracking badass with a pair of bull horns and a Zorro mask. Whatever I want.

The other story is the one I live everyday. The story about this guy, who grew up reading his older brother Albert's comic books. Spider-Man, the Hulk, Daredevil, Batman. The kid who loved watching SPEED RACER on TV. The Second Grader who one afternoon at school, after a weekend viewing of RODAN on television, knocked out a drawing of the giant pterodon and realized by the approval of the other kids that he was An Artist. The middle school student who loved the idea that he could actually take classes solely dedicated to art. The young man in college who fell in love with painting as an expressive medium. The guy who, once out of his 20s realized that, dammit, he should be publishing his own comic books with his own characters and do things exactly how he wants to and build his own fanbase.

That story, about that guy, gets another page added to it everytime I come up with a new idea. Every time I scribble those ideas down in a sketchbook. Every time I slowly turn that idea into a comic book. Every time I take those comic books and sell them at a convention. Every time I get asked to speak here, teach this class, sign at that store. Every time I talk to my artist friends and we discuss our work. And how we do it. And why we do it. That guy's story gets longer and more interesting and more rewarding. Each and every time.

I'm not going to pick which of the two types of stories I like more. They're totally intertwined with one another. One just follows the other. A page, a book, a day at a time.

JAVCON was, ultimately, another page in my story. So, thanks for reading my 'story', and remember that even though JAVCON is over, I'll continue to post on this blog (at least now I don't have the pressure of trying to hit a home run every single day!).

I was going to post some pics to accompany this post, but dang it all, I've had enough with scanning and resizing and saving and uploading. Forgive me this once, please!

And remember, if you do want to want to look at some pics, scroll down and check out the previous days of the JAVCON. Or you can even click on the tab along the top of this post and visit my Web Shop and buy some of my books, then you can have my artwork nearby whenever you want to read it! I'm just saying....

JAVCON Day 6: CORE 13 album artwork & an El Muerto song!

It's the last day here at JAVCON, but I want to take you once more in the WayBack Machine and show you two musical projects I was involved with several years ago.

Have you ever heard the "DAZE OF THE DEAD" single by John Franco and Richard Odie? 

(If the video player doesn't work or show up here, click this link to Youtube)
My friend John Franco, who used to be the first and longest-running comic shop owner in my hometown of Whittier, CA told me that he was inspired to write a song based by my first El Muerto comic book, "Daze of the Dead". I was totally for the idea, as I imagined having a CD single based on my comic would be such a great novelty (Imagine what I thought when a few years later I was offered a movie adaptation of El Muerto!).

John was an early supporter of my publishing efforts back in 1998, and in fact I met him when he opened up his first comic book shop, back in about 1984. He and his musical partner, Odie, wrote and performed the song, and we agreed on a limited number of copies to press as a CD. My friend Rafael Navarro, creator of Sonambulo, provided the inks on the Muerto drawing. I think we made about 100 or so CDs, which I packaged in thin, colored plastic cases. It was really cool selling these at conventions alongside my comics. I think now how quaint even the idea of CD Singles are in this day and age, but I look fondly back on having had a time when I had an El Muerto CD single.

In  mid or late 2003, I received an email from a Jon Alonso, who was the vocalist/songwriter for an Oregon band called CORE 13. Jon had picked up my comics at a local shop, and really dug the story and art, enough to reach out and ask me if I'd be interested in creating artwork for his next album, "Whisper Out Loud". The more we emailed back and forth, and after hearing some of the music, I thought that this would be a very interesting project to work on.

Jon had a pretty clear idea of how he wanted the artwork to within the format of the actual album. Each song would have an illustration, and each song/illustration would then have a narrative telling the story of the whole album.

 John, who went by the name Rooster, gave me descriptions of how he saw each band member in their superhero personas. Basically swashbuckling pirate rockers. Okay, I can do that! Rooster's character was the most fun to design, as I always loved the Zorro type of mask that's basically a bandana covering the eyes (in fact he was the only band member to get a mask), and his mohawk immediately recalled Jack Kirby's OMAC, one of my favorites.

I sent off a batch of character designs with no changes requested on his part. I just tossed in spandex and pirate accessories and whatever I felt made classic superhero attire. I created all the artwork for the 10 individual songs, and brought in my friend Will Caulfield (creator of the BAT-BAT comic) to color the illustrations. We sent off the artwork and John took care of all the design and layout. Each page had the illustration and the song lyrics. We thought it would be a neat idea to number each drawing like a comic book cover, too.
'To Save The World'...If that's not a superhero Christ-complex, I don't know what is! I loved that! Basically the story arc was that Core 13, made up of guys dealing with personal issues, band together and help overthrow an oppressive dictatorship. A standard story, but totally in line with classic superhero melodrama and Rock & Roll 'power to the people'. Here are the other 9 'comics':
Over the next several months, we continued to work together, with them selling my comics at some of their shows up in Oregon, and I'd sell copies of their CD at some of my shows. What actually happened was that I even moved into a 'manager' position with them. At the time, I had already sold the option for the El Muerto movie, and in the 2 years leading up to the actual filming of the movie, I thought that partnering with the band could perhaps lead to other opportunities. Living in the Los Angeles area, and having my experience in self-publishing, being a self-representing artist and now with an independent film in development, it was something I wanted to explore. I had even thought about the idea of creating a music video, animated, with Core 13 and El Muerto. And also I envisioned designing artwork for their stage shows and other merchandise. Whatever could maximize my art skills, while doing the work of promoting the band.

Mind you, all of this was very ground-level DIY, so it's not like I booked them on Jay Leno or the Ozfest! I'd make a few contacts here and there with a music zine publisher, and tried to lay some groundwork for some LA gigs for the band, but these were all baby steps.

You can listen to some of the songs from the album at their Myspace page. I'm even in one of their music videos! Don't blink, or you'll miss me and my comics at 2:49 into the video: 'Girls aren't worth a Heartbreak'.

In the Summer of 04, Jon was attending a wedding in Tijuana, so I asked him if he could stop by at the San Diego Comic Con that was running at the same time. And so that year I had a punk rock EL Muerto at my table! 
(I actually had the El Muerto suit made a few years previously for another friend I asked to appear at another convention. It's actually been worn by 4 different SpokesMuertos!)

Following that appearance at Comic Con, things got a little rocky. To be diplomatic and professional, I'll say that things within the band prevented us from moving forward. At first I thought a good opportunity for all of us was slipping away, but then at the same time things were moving forward with the Muerto movie, as filming was to start in February of 2005. 

To be honest, trying to take a managerial role of a DIY band was committing to a task larger than I could handle. Who knows exactly how far we could have gone, or if it would have helped to promote my own brand as an artist along with it? It was something that I chose to do, though, and Jon was also willing to take me on, so it's an experience that I remember with good memories, and some bumps along the way. During the 2008 STUMPTOWN, a Portland indie comics convention, I met up with Jon. It was nice talking to him after a few years had passed. We had our karma set back to an even field.
I've occasionally had other offers to partner with other creative people over the years. Sometimes, like the experiences with Core 13 and John Franco, they work good, if even for a short time. Lots of other times however, I don't even pass through the front door. I'm only going to do what I want to, it has to be beneficial to me monetarily or creatively/artistically. Life in the arts is way too big for me to ever experience all that I'd like to. So when I find a new avenue to explore, or it finds me, I'll consider it and decide if it's worth doing.

Like JAVCON! Hope you've felt the same way. One more post tonight, and then we close the 'doors' until the next show...

Sunday, July 25, 2010

JAVCON Day 5: EL MUERTO movie storyboards

Hello Javcon attendees! 

I mentioned in the beginning that I'd share some never-before-seen artwork from my archives. Well, I think these qualify...

Back in 2003-2004, while the script for the EL MUERTO movie was being written, I asked my director, Brian Cox, if I could take a crack at storyboarding. This was during a very early draft of the script, so obviously things would change in  the story. But I really did it as an excercise for myself, as I'd never created storyboards for a movie.

First thing that struck me was the obvious similarity to drawing a comic, in that you're sequentially telling a story visually. Here though, I'm interpreting a story that's going to be filmed with actors, and all the limitations and advantages that conveys. At the time, we weren't considering any casting, so I basically drew the characters as they appeared in my comic. Diego/Muerto, girlfriend Maria, best friend Zack and the god of death, Miclantecuhtli.

The other thing that struck me was drawing certain sequences, like the car crash/sacrifice scene, as I was interpreting a scripted scene based on a sequence in a comic book I created a few years previously. It was deja vu on the drawing board!

As I got to the end of my storyboards, a new draft of the script was finished. Once I read it, I saw that the film was morphing from the original ending I was working from. So at that point, I decided to stop working on the storyboards, as it was just an exercise for myself. Brian actually worked with his cinematographer to block out the scenes themselves, so they didn't actually work from storyboards. I was really impressed with the way the film was shot, so I didn't have any regrets about not having mine used.

Here's the sequence where Diego heads out to the Dia de Los Muertos festival and gets in an accident, sending him to Mictlan, the Azted underworld. There he gets sacrificed and sent back to Earth. It ends as Diego walks into the cemetery and bumps into the 'Man in Costume' (the little cameo role I snagged for myself!). As surreal as it could be at times drawing my characters for a movie script, drawing myself into the film (literally and figuratively) was a total kick in the head!

One thing I found amusing was when I told my producer, Larry Rattner, that I was working on storyboarding. He commented that it's not the norm for the author of the source material to storyboard his own movie. Well, that's one of the many advantages of being a cartoonist!

As an extra bonus, here are three more pieces. I also created, at my director's request, the artwork for the title cards. Brian actually wanted the head shot of El Muerto, as he had seen a sketch of it on the cover of a limited edition preview book I printed up in 2004. Seeing these images up on movie screens was quite a thrill, I gotta tell you.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

JAVCON Saturday Night: El Muerto sketch dolls preview

Over the last couple of months I've shown some pics of my brand-new EL MUERTO SKETCH DOLLS. These are blank dolls that I actually draw onto, creating original sketch dolls each and every time. I started with two sizes, 5" & 8", but now I'v finalized the initial 4 dolls in the collection. I'll be using primarily the 8" dolls, at least for any dolls in color.

The original El MUERTO dolls were made with a 'natural' colored doll, but I looked around and found out I could get white dolls. I want white because then the markers I use aren't affected by color changes. Like drawing on a white sheet of paper versus a tanned one.

I may use the tanned dolls for other series, but for now, here's my first 4 sketch dolls, 8" and in color:

I figure it would be cool to have El Muerto in his 'secret identity' as well. And I like the idea of having a doll wearing a Guayabera!

Like most action figure characters, I wanted to have variant versions of El Muerto. So the first one I thought of was when he engages his power of resurrecting the dead ...

This lighting in this pic washed out the color on the doll, but you can see still see what I'm going for with the variant.

Then I also thought it would be real neat to introduce some new characters no one has ever seen. Perhaps they'll show up in the comic....

I've always loved the idea of the evil/mirror version of the hero. Superman has Bizarro and Flash has Reverse-Flash, to name two. Visually though, El VIVO (Spanish for 'the living') makes a pretty striking sketch doll, with the Muerto colors inverted in a 'positively' wicked version of our hero.

Besides variant version of the main characters, often you see even more limited versions, sometimes tied in to an event. Well, with Halloween coming up, I thought I would make a seasonal special exclusive....

Werewolf Muerto, how ya like that?!

I was thinking of a vampire, Frankenstein and then when I thought of the wolfman, that somehow hit the spot. Originally I was thinking of coloring him brown, but then I realized that a white wolf design would be a natural extrapolation from the white of Muerto's skull face, giving more weight to the 'Dead Wolf' angle. Plus it's a lot more rare to see a silver white werewolf (my first exposure to one was this stunning masterpiece, one of the first comic books I ever bought).

I'll be posting prices and ordering info for the sketch dolls shortly. Ideally I'd like to get people to 'pre-order' them online, this way I can create them 'to order'. But I'll have a few of each at the next conventions and appearances I attend. And I'll also post info about when the 2010 HALLOWEEN MUERTO MONSTER will be available to order. 

Thanks, and if you haven't, check out the previous days of the JAVCON, with lots of sneak peeks and images of current and future projects!

JAVCON Day 4: DIY Comics Crash Course in Whittier

I'd like to spread the word here today that if you're in the LA area, and are thinking about self-publishing your own comic books, I'm offering another DIY COMICS CRASH COURSE at GEEKS Comics in Whittier:
(Click on the image & send a copy to your printer. Then mail the Registration form to GEEKS)

This is the second time we're offering the class, and this time we're going to conduct it on Saturday morning (so set your alarm clock!). The previous class was held over a couple of evenings during the week, so I figure this could work for those with a heavy schedule during the week.

This isn't a class were we learn about drawing or writing, but it's for those of you who are already creating your comics, or about to start, but have questions about getting your book printed, branding your work, looking for ways to distribute your books and so forth. Basically, the core things you should know before you want to publish your own books. I'm drawing from my 12 years in self-publishing comics, building my brand, working with retailers/distributors and growing a fan base.  I'll also share my experiences as a gallery artist, my filmmaking stint with the EL MUERTO movie, and countless exhibits at conventions and numerous other festivals, because all of these are a result of, and extension of, making my own comics.

With your admission fee of $40.00, you'll also get the 'DIY COMICS CRASH HANDBOOK', which gives you an overview of my first few years of publishing, highlighting the strategies I used to get started. There's also a list of resources which will help get your publishing operations started. The deadline to register for the class, either in person at GEEKS or via mail, is Friday, August 6.

My focus is to motivate artists to get their own work out there. There's quicker money working in other people's properties, but remember that it's their properties. The money is better (and/or easier) working for them, but if you decide to create your own stories, and are prepared to put all your efforts and ingenuity behind it, then you're going to get a personal satisfaction beyond what you originally suspected. And you're gonna work even harder to find ways to make the dream profitable.

If you have any questions about the DIY COMICS CRASH COURSE, please drop me a line at  GEEKS is located at 6747 Greenleaf Ave, Whittier, CA 90601.

Hope to see you there!

Program note: Later tonite on the JAVCON, the unveiling of the full line of EL MUERTO SKETCH DOLLS, including the Special 2010 Halloween Muerto Monster exclusive: "EL LOBO MUERTO"!!

Friday, July 23, 2010

JAVCON Day 3: 'Convention' podcast!

Day 3 here at the JAVCON! Last night I recorded a new episode of my podcast "JAVILAND The Podcast for DIY Comics". Our topic was 'Maximizing a comic book convention appearance'.
I was joined by three other cartoonists, Ted Seko, Tyler James and Ryan Dow who shared their perspective and experiences in exhibiting at conventions. Some good lively talk, with informative opinions. To listen to the podcast, visit the JAVILAND page.

Did you catch last night's programming here at the JAVCON? Scroll down or click here and you can see some recent artwork I created for two different projects. And if you want to start from the beginning of the JAVCON, you can go here.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

JAVCON Thursday Night: New artwork for DITKOMANIA and more

Earlier today at the JAVCON, I showed you a sneak peek at my upcoming comic book, COMIC POP. For our evening programming here, I'd like to show you two recently finished illustrations I've contributed to other people's projects.

First up is my pin-up for my friend Grasiela Rodriguez, whose debut comic book is currently at the printing press:
Grasiela's first comic book has been an interesting production to hear about, as she's not shown any artwork from the book. (In fact, I think she's only just now posted the cover on her website). She's been pretty low-key about the contents of her story, and in fact when she sent several of us requests for pin-ups, she only gave us a few key words to create a pin-up from! Some of the words were 'romantic, feminine, strange, melancholic', so from there I thought about imagery that, to me, captured some of these elements. Right away I thought of the image of a woman playing a violin, and then I thought of a surreal image combining the graphic designs of paisley patterns and some ambiguous idea of a romance that no longer existed. I envisioned Steve Ditko-type surrealism and listened to Morrissey while working on this piece, if you want to know! I'm very anxious to read her book, and very curious to see the printed pin-up, as she told me she added an element or two to tie it into the aesthetic of the entire book! Now that's interesting...!

Speaking of Ditko (as I often do on this blog!), I also contributed another piece of art to the zine DITKOMANIA, #80. This one accompanies Michael Aushenker's DITKOTOMY column, which spotlights Ditko's 1980s collaborations with writer Bill Mantlo. Ditko worked with Mantlo on the last half of the ROM, SPACEKNIGHT series, so naturally I focused on that imagery:
I'm also going to be contributing my own regular feature to the zine, starting in issue #81:
I designed this logo using illustrations Ditko created for a behind-the-scenes feature he and writer Stan Lee did in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #1. My column will take an artist's look at the more unique and imaginative looking characters that Ditko has created over his long career and highlight the reasons I think they're successful.

Those are two of the most recent projects I've contributed to. Now it's back to working on my own comics! Enjoy the rest of the JAVCON, there's plenty more coming for the next 4 days.

JAVCON Day Two:Sneak peek at COMIC POP comic!

Since 'sneak peeks' are quite popular at comic book conventions, I'd like to give you a preview of my upcoming comic book project:
 COMIC POP is a really special anthology. Besides having a brand new autobiographic story from me, 'DOS MIL DIEZ' (Spanish for 2010), I'll also be reprinting 5 short stories I've worked on that many of my readers may not be aware of. The cover is pretty much the final version, but once I'm done putting the whole book together I'll most likely tinker with some of the text and add the price.

Let me start with the reprints. Over the years I've worked on various comics with some good friends of mine. I work with them on a project, they work with me on a project. That's what friends do. Or at least the ones I have! When I got the idea for these, I asked each artist for permission to reprint the story. These comics, for the most part, appeared in their own titles, so I just wanted to make sure they would be okay with this. In each case, of course, permission was granted!

Here's the rundown of the stories:


This is actually my first-ever published comic, a year before the first El Muerto comic debuted. I was invited by the publishers of HOT MEXICAN LOVE COMICS to contribute a story to the latest book, and at the time I was already working on the first El Muerto story. I didn't want to knock out a quickie Muerto comic, so I came up with Weapon Tex-Mex, kinda in the vein of the Thing (Fantastic Four): A big lug with a heart of gold. So in 1997, when HOT MEXICAN LOVE was published, I had my debut as a published cartoonist. The original comic was in black and white, I added the gray tones this year when I published the WANTED:WEAPON TEX-MEX mini-comic for the Phoenix Comic Con. (A few copies remain in the JAVZILLA WEB SHOP


Left, one of my pages, on the right, Michael Aushenker's cover

My friend Michael Aushenker's CRIME MANGLER series is filled with gonzo comedy featuring an oaf of a masked mexican wrestler and his misadventures in 1930s Los Angeles. For his NINE LOVES OF EL GATO (2003) romance comic, he had 9 artists each illustrate a chapter, dealing with an ex-girlfriend. He asked me to draw one of the stories, for which he provided a script. That was actually the first time I ever drew from a script, but the story was heavy on wrestling action so I had a ball with it. I even snuck in a cameo with the legendary WWE commentator team of Jesse 'The Body Ventura' and Gorilla Monsoon! This is one of the early comics I did where I used  Sharpie markers. They can be cumbersome for detailed drawings, but I liked the chunky look it gave the story.

Left, a page of art drawn by Ted Seko, script by me, on the right, Rafael Navarro's painted cover.

This was an interesting collaboration. Rafael Navarro, creator of the Xeric Award-winning SONAMBULO comic, was putting together his own anthology, featuring stories written and drawn by others. He asked me to contribute to MASKS OF SONAMBULO (2003), and I immediately thought to ask Ted Seko if he'd be willing to illustrate a story I would write. Ted and I had previously worked together on "SKYMAN AND MANGA MUERTO Vs THE MONSTER MEKS", so we had already established a routine for working together. For this Sonambulo tale, I wanted to do a story with Sonambulo as a young kid, where he meets an old witch who foretells the future he will grow into. It wasn't an origin story, but it was nice for Rafael to let me delve into Sonambulo's early life. 

This mini-comic was created for the 2007 DVD release of EL MUERTO. When it came time to working with the distributor for ideas about what to include in the DVD, I suggested we include a comic book. After giving them a budget, I set out on what turned out to be an amazing final product. I wrote the script and provided loose pencil layouts and hired Mort Todd for the finished artwork, inks, gray tones and lettering. He's been working in cartoons and  comics since his teenage years, becoming Editor-in-Chief of CRACKED Magazine in 1985 at the age of 23. We actually met some years previously via an Ebay transaction, believe it or not! Mort's tremendously talented and prolific, and his production values, as evident in the above image, really made this story sing!

In 2008, El Muerto made his foray into the newspaper funnies! I had met the creators of the BALDO newspaper strip, writer Hector Cantu and artist Carlos Castellanos, a year previously when we were all guests of the SAN DIEGO LATINO FILM FESTIVAL. We hit it off real good. So good that the day we were scheduled to speak to a roomful of schoolkids, we were scrambling to rush from our noontime lunch of Mexican food and margaritas! At the time the mentioned that they would like to have an appearance of El Muerto in their strip. So in 2008, I called them on it! They told me to come up with an idea, which took a little work on my part. Here was an established strip, a family with two kids and an aunt with an established fan base, and I had to come up with a way to bring in the Aztec Zombie! But, Carlos and Hector are flexible, and as long as the story worked, they were open to accepting ideas. It was challenging to work on the script, as I had to think of 4 panel installments, with 5 dailies. Our process was interesting, as Carlos would draw the strips per the script we all agreed on, and he would leave an empty space wherever El Muero appeared, then I would draw in my character in that spot. The Sunday strip was great, because it was not only the climax of the story (which they let me write myself) but seeing El Muerto in the Sunday funnies was very exciting. For the reprint in the COMIC POP book, I'll put the Baldo story at the back of the book, so the climatic Sunday strip can be printed in full color on the inside back cover.

Well, that's going to be some book! Reprints of my first ever comic, the El Muerto DVD comic, the Baldo/El Muerto newspaper strip and two other stories I worked on some years ago.
I'll post previews of the autobio comic as we get closer to the release date, which is scheduled for APE this October. While the JAVCON will be running through Monday, the good ol JAVZILLA blog will be here long afterwards, so make sure you keep coming back!

I hope you've enjoyed this preview of my next comic book. We still have lots more content to share here at the JAVCON, including some never-before-seen storyboards I did for the EL MUERTO movie, the CD artwork I created for an indie band, and a never-before-published El Muerto comic! I'll be recording an episode of my D.I.Y. Comics podcast JAVILAND later today, so look for that here tomorrow as well.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

JAVCON Wednesday Night:Sketchbook pages, Shel Dorf and Bat-Mite!

Well, our first day of the first ever JAVCON has generated some great feedback (and traffic!). Thanks for checking it out.

So I'd like to show you some more pages from another one of my books. (Previously I shared with you some pages from EL MUERTO MISHMASH and MANGA MUERTO Vol 1). This time check out my brand-new THE COMIC POP SKETCHBOOK: 
 The SKETCHBOOK (which you can see the cover to in the JAVZILLA WEB SHOP) features 44 pages of b&w sketches from the last couple of years. Many of the pages come with commentary where I'm talking about my ideas and approaches for the individual drawings. There are lots of character designs and studies in the book, as most of my creative ideas start initially with a character, as opposed to a story. Sometimes the characters will immediately inform the story, other times I look at the character and start thinking of the reasons for it's existence, meaning that subconsciously I was probably thinking of story elements that informed my creation of the character. It's kind of like reverse-engineering one of my own visual creations.

The drawing of the alien from THEY LIVE (standing in front of the word 'OBEY') is actually drawn on the inside front cover of the COMIC POP SKETCHBOOK. Every book that gets sold will come with a unique drawing from me, created with black and gray markers. 

I'd like to show you another piece of art, this one a 12" x 12" acrylic painting w/marker outlines. BAT-MITE:
BAT-MITE's a brand-new painting, created as a donation to the Shel Dorf Artist Fund. They'll actually be holding an art show this weekend in San Diego to sell this and lots of other donated artwork. Shel Dorf started the San Diego Comic Con forty years ago. He passed away last year but his brother started the Artist Fund in his name to provide scholarship money to young artists. A great cause, and I'm honored to be able to participate. Thanks to Matt Lorentz for extending me an invitation. The AFTERCON Art Show is being run concurrently with the San Diego Comic Con, Thursday-Saturday from 8pm to Midnight at the Suture Gallery. 
So even though I won't be in San Diego myself this week, I'm glad I have some artwork showing in this very worthy cause. Several of my friends are in the show, and I have to tell you it's quite a  kick professionally to be listed on a show that also has Ray Bradbury! 
More JAVCON stuff in the next post!

Welcome to Day One of the JAVCON!

Welcome to the first ever JAVCON!
San Diego Comic Con runs this week, and if you've never been there before, lemme tell you it's one huge show! With attendance now upwards of 125,000, that is one humungous sized comic book convention. I won't be exhibiting there this year, but I thought it would be a neat idea to run my own convention of sorts here on my blog. For those of you not attending San Diego either, perhaps you can find some interesting things here for the next 6 days. Yep, this is gonna be 6 whole days of special, exclusive content right here at JAVCON. (And if you forget to shower one of the days, no problem!)

So, what do I consider 'special'? Howzabout some previews and sneak peeks of upcoming projects I have in the works? Also, I'd like to open up my archives and share with you readers of the Javzilla blog some past events, artwork, projects and happenings you may not have been aware of. I started this blog back in 2006, but started publishing my comics since 1998, so there'll be things to post here that will be new to many of you.

My website is currently offline, so in the meantime I have the address pointing to this blog. I've switched servers and will be in the process of rebuilding El from scratch, but in the meantime, since my online store from the site isn't available I've built a brand-new shop here on this blog. (Thanks to my friend Jim Lujan, cartoon movie maker extraordinaire, for giving me some info about doing this on Blogger.

So to kick off Day One of JAVCON, I'd like to introduce you to the JAVZILLA WEB SHOP. As with any convention I've exhibited at, the top priority is to sell my work (followed very, very closely by meeting new fans, making new friends, networking, branding, eating, etc....), so... here are some of my comics and DVD for sale!

 To visit the shop, just click this link, or click on the link JAVZILLA WEB SHOP  located just under the JAVZILLA banner at the top of the page. The shop contains all my current comics in print. I've done numerous mini-comics or limited edition books over the years, but I don't usually keep those in print indefinitely. Usually they're made for specific conventions, such as the Alternative Press Expo. But there's a good variety of books available in the shop!

Here are some sample pages from 2 of the books, EL MUERTO MISHMASH and MANGA MUERTO Vol 1. Coincidentally, both of these books are anthologies, which between the two of them contain 7 stories and 10 pin-ups from guest artists:
 From EL MUERTO MISHMASH: On the left is a page from the El Muerto short story "Dead Forever" and on the right is a page from my autobiographic "Dos Mil" (Spanish for '2000'). Both written and drawn by me.

From MANGA MUERTO Vol 1: On the left is a page from the story 'Manga Muerto and Skyman vs the Monster Meks!", script and layouts by me and finished art/inks by Ted Seko. On the right is a page from "A Day at The Beach", story and art by me.

During the course of JAVCON, I'll be posting more pages from all the books, plus lots more content. So take a look around, buy some stuff, and cook yourself a hot dog (way cheaper than the $7.00 Convention dogs, for sure!). And check back daily for new stuff, maybe even twice daily.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A tribute to Peter Fernandez of SPEED RACER

Peter Fernandez, the actor who played Speed Racer in the 1960s cartoon, passed away on Thursday, July 15. He had been battling cancer. He was 83.

I say 'played' as opposed to 'voiced' because he not only performed the voice of Speed Racer, but he also wrote the English scripts and directed the cast. So he really had a complete role in creating that character. (He also wrote the English lyrics for the theme song!)

A painting I made back in 2008.

As a kid, in the early and mid-seventies, I was transfixed by SPEED RACER. The high-octane action, the unrestricted violence (that was back in the day that us kids could watch car crashes, fist fights and machine gun battles and not go ape-crazy at school the following week shooting up the entire class...). The world-hopping travelogue aspect of the show, the championship car races, the strong sense of love and togetherness of the Racer Family....All of these elements made for captivating entertainment. But it was the central character, Speed Racer, that really made the show for me. Not seeming that much older than me at the time (he's identified as an 18 yr old), Speed was a young hero who stood up for values such as family, honor and justice. Sure, he could be a competitive hot-head when pushed up against the wall, but he stood for the 'right' things. He was polite to people, a gentleman with the ladies and respectful of authority. But always ready to bring out the fisticuffs when injustice (and cheaters!) reared it's head.

Peter Fernandez was the voice, and soul, of Speed Racer. Peter really epitomized the innocence of the character, as well as the rock solid determination of a young man seeking to be the best racer in the world. Remarkably, Peter also voiced Speed Racer's older brother, Racer X! It's amazing to me to watch the cartoon now and think that those two different voices are from the same actor, especially as they're in so many scenes together. Peter's career in acting extends back to the 1949, so he was a seasoned pro by the time he worked on SPEED RACER in 1967.

Of course, we shouldn't for a minute forget Tatsuo Yoshida, the original creator of 'Speed Racer', named Go Mifune in the Japanese manga, MACH GO GO GO. Yoshida is one of the giants of Japanese manga & anime, who, after MACH GO GO GO, created other titles, including the GATCHAMAN manga, which was also turned into an animated series (known as BATTLE OF THE PLANETS once it hit the U.S.). But Peter Fernandez was charged with writing all the English scripts and directing the episodes, so SPEED RACER definitely carries his storytelling imprint.

In 2008, I was hosting an internet radio show, PLANET COMIC BOOK RADIO. Most of the interview subjects were comic book creators, particularly those who self-published their own work. But occasionally, I would have guests who I felt fit within the independent focus of my show, or other aspects of comic book culture. With the May 2008 release of the SPEED RACER film (see my glowing review in a previous Javzilla post) I thought it would be very appropriate to interview Mr. Peter Fernandez himself. And to be honest, I really just wanted the chance to at long last talk to the man!

I looked up his contact info online and sent him an email asking if he would be kind enough to appear. I'd like to share that email with you here:

Dear Mr. Fernandez,

My name is Javier Hernandez and I host a comic book podcast called Planet Comic Book Radio. The show is based out in LA. I would like to invite you on my show as a guest.

Of course I'm asking you to talk about Speed Racer. I am, I will tell you, a life-long fan of the show. And I absolutely loved the movie. I cannot believe how great the film was! And seeing you in it only added to the experience. The filmmakers really got the spirit of SPEED RACER: Family first, then all the fun, crazy action. I got choked-up several times during the film!

I used to catch the show here in Los Angeles in the 1970s. It would often air on an UHF station, called Channel 52. Another show you worked on, GIGANTOR, was also shown on that station. We were into anime before anime was even a known word back then!

My show podcasts live every Tuesday at 5pm (Pacific Time). If you are interested, I do have Tuesday, May 27th available (the day after Memorial Day). I would also have Tuesday, June 10 available. This would be by phone of course, and I figure I would take up about 45 minutes of your time, if that's okay with you.

In any case, please let me express my deepest gratitude and appreciation for the wonderful work you did in bringing Speed Racer to American audiences. The show remains my favorite cartoon of all time, and the movie is pretty much right up there.


Javier Hernandez

His response, the very next day:

Javier, PLEASE call me Peter!
I'd love to do your podcast. Tuesday, May 27th would be fine if your slot then is still available. My home phone is: xxx-xxx-xxxx.
All good wishes,

(The 'PLEASE' was capitalized by him.) The very next morning after the interview he sent me this:

It seemed to go very well last night!

Emails are of course, unlike letters or postcards, intangible. You can't put them in a scrapbook, or pin them on a corkboard (unless you print them out). I haven't read these emails in over two years, but I have to say right now I treasure them as if they were handwritten. It's sad to realize his Inbox will never be opened by him again.

For the sake of the podcast, I wanted to conduct an interview that shared his extensive experiences and professional career with my listeners, and his process in actually creating the episodes. There are some really interesting things to hear, and the fact that he was the one telling us makes this priceless. But to be honest with you, I really just wanted to be able to talk to Speed Racer for an hour. It was truly a selfish act, and a totally fanboy thing to do, and thank God I had the chance to do it. That I now have a recording of me and Peter Fernandez talking about SPEED RACER, well, that's something I can look back upon fondly.

I won't delve into it too much here, right now, but I can say that Speed Racer is as much an influence on my creation of El Muerto as other childhood heroes, like Peter Parker/Spider-Man. A few years ago I was working with Mort Todd on the exclusive El Muerto comic book that came included in the EL MUERTO movie DVD release. I wrote the story, and sent Mort very loose pencil layouts to work from. He certainly was more than capable of drawing the whole book on his own, but I wanted to at least provide the layouts for the story. When I got back the first couple pages, Mort had added heavier wrinkles on El Muerto's face, probably more in line with the type of zombies and monsters Mort was used to drawing. I told him to think of El Muerto more as a pretty-boy Speed Racer/Peter Parker type, and if he could please 'smooth' up the face! Mort ribbed me for that, but of course complied like a pro. If you ever wondered why I draw long eyelashes on Diego de La Muerte, wonder no longer!

My rough pencil layout, and below that is Mort's final, finished piece.

By the way, I have to mention that some years ago Mort wrote & illustrated a SPEED RACER newspaper strip, and I had mentioned this to Peter in an email. Peter wrote back asking me for Mort's current address, as he wanted to catch up with him. And I just now am realizing, as I write this, that an artist who worked on a Speed Racer strip also has worked on an El Muerto comic!

Back in 2009, the Planet Comic Book Radio website was hacked into and screwed up. That and the fact that we had some poor file back-up strategy meant I stopped doing the show for awhile. Eventually I got busy with other projects and had to pull the plug on doing Planet Comic Book Radio. The whole site had to be rebuilt, and all those interviews had to be uploaded (and the show notes would have to be rewritten), and at that time, I just found myself not being able to devote the time to work on it. Well, with Peter's unfortunate passing, I made a trip back to the studio where I recorded PCBR and searched for the old podcast interviews. But I also found out we had the podcasts archived on another server, and now I'm very pleased to be able to present to you, once again, or for your first time, this most special podcast interview with Mr. Peter Fernandez. Click on this link here. Once the page loads completely, there will be a Player located right under the SPEED RACER graphic. The podcast is in 3 parts, so after each one ends scroll down the bottom right hand corner and click on the 'Next' Arrow.

My condolences go to Peter Fernandez's family and close friends. His work on SPEED RACER definitely is a milestone in the history of Japanese anime finding a foothold, and audience, in the United States. I'm grateful to Peter for appearing on my show, and hope all of the SPEED RACER fans find value in the podcast. When you listen to the episode, you'll hear Peter talk about how he had recently met a fan, in his 40s, and how between tears the man tells Peter how much the show meant to him. I know exactly how that fan feels.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Happy 4th of July...from La CALACA AMERICANO!

La Calaca Americano, one of the superheroes from my CALACAS OF JUSTICE project. Characters inspired by the great work of Jose Guadalupe Posada, the Mexican printmaker who popularized the calacas (skeletal figures) seen in the folkart of the Day of the Dead. 

These are mash-ups of classic comic book archetypes and the Dia de Los Muertos folkart. With DC and MARVEL tripping over themselves to create the most decrepit and ghastly undead versions of their properties, I figure a much more fun and friendly approach to afterlife superheroes was in order! Thus the Day of the Dead comes to the rescue again... (You may have heard of EL MUERTO?)

Check out this Gallery on my DeviantArt page for my two previous Calacas of Justice. And have a safe and fun 4th of July weekend!