Monday, July 26, 2010

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...


X said...

is there going to be a sequel to the El Muerto flick?

Javier Hernandez said...

I'd love if we could do another one. But currently there is nothing on the agenda.

Thanks for writing!