Sunday, November 07, 2010

Agimat Sweet + Evil art show

GEEKS Comics in Whittier last night was the host to the 'Sweet + Evil' art show from Agimat Entertainment. Agimat is the endeavor of Adonna and Arvie Villanueva,  a couple whose products range from web comics to video games.

The art show was also a launch party for their newest video game release, E-VILLE, which is available via iTunes for play on the iPad and iPhone. E-VILLE is the follow-up to their first video game, SHADOWCANDY.

I realized once I got home I didn't take any photos of Arvie's paintings! But, Adonna and Arvie have done such a brilliant job in branding, their character were seen everywhere during the show. Paper dolls or custom cupcakes, they had their creations everywhere!

They also DJ Todd Tochiokaz (who doubles as a comic creator himself!) spinning tunes all night, as well as J-pop singer Stephanie Yanez:

CRYING MACHO MAN web comic creator Jose Cabrera actually voiced the main character in E-VILLE, Jim Bob! Here's Jose getting himself killed over and over again....

In addition to all this fun stuff, Agimat also had an open call to artists to customize DEEGO figures, a new line of blank vinyl dolls from Spanish toy maker DEEGO TOYS. The dolls had to be designed as one of Agimat's many characters, but the materials were open to whatever the artist wanted to use.

 My own contribution was to take their MUMMY character from the new E-VILLE game and dress him up in with the accessories from their ninja character HIRO from their first video game, SHADOWCANDY.

The show was a real event, and believe, I've been involved in plenty myself at GEEKS over the last 2 years or so, and I have to say that this one is one for the record books! Tons of great art, music, food, video games.... And lots of very friendly people to talk to. 

Thursday, November 04, 2010

My 5th season: DIY comics and EL MUERTO

The other day I was talking to my friend and fellow artist Jim Lujan (cartoon filmmaker), and I was telling him about all of my current Day of the Dead events I had lined up, which I use as a place to sell my El Muerto comics. Jim told me that I was lucky to have a "5th season" in which to sell, what with the natural tie-in EL Muerto has to the Dia de Los Muertos celebration.

I immediately thought of the Taco Bell campaign, where they mention "The Fourthmeal, the meal between dinner and breakfast"! Yeah, I guess I do have an extra season in which to really market and sell my El Muerto brand. Just this past weekend, I was involved in two separate events that were very different in nature, but which were perfect places for me to be at.

On Friday, Oct. 29, I was in East LA for the FEAR FIESTA, the inaugural entry of a film festival honoring Latinos working in horror movies. The event was held at Casa 101 Theater, founded by playwright/screenwriter Josefina Lopez (REAL WOMEN HAVE CURVES). EL MUERTO was chosen to be the Opening Night film, and myself and producer Larry Rattner were invited to speak at the Q&A following the screening.

 Me, with the first-ever FEAR FESTIVAL Award, and producer Larry Rattner with a Certificate of Appreciation.

We haven't had a public screening of the film since it's initial film festival run back in 2006-2008, and it was nice to be the Opening Night feature.

On Saturday, Oct. 30 I was in El Monte for the 1st ever Dia de Los Muertos El Monte, produced by the Nuvein Foundation. I'm on the Board of Directions of the Foundation, and have been working with them since about 2007. I was talking to fellow Board member Renato Aguirre one day about how we should host our own local Day of the Dead event, and next thing I know, we're forming a committee!

I could write a book on how much work it took to get the festival going. We had to contact the city government, council members, various art commissions, as well as propose the event to the Downtown El Monte Business Association (DEMBA). We had to reach out to the local vendors and businesses, contact the various schools in the area, mobilize local artists and performers. Then there were the various fundraisers and proposals to local businesses for sponsorships. Suffice to say, with everyone's tireless efforts, we had a show that surpassed all our expectations. Even the much dreaded rain that was predicted to fall that day only lasted until about 7am, the very morning we began setting up the venue at the parking lot.

 Grasiela Rodriguez, a fellow Board member, even ran an art show during the event, right out of a U-Haul truck she rented!!

Check out her blog for photographs of the exhibit! It was big hit with everyone. Great job, Gras!!

On Sunday, Halloween, I went back to FEAR FIESTA. At the Corazon del Pueblo gallery located a few doors down from the Casa 101 Theater they were holding a children's event. Some kid-friendly films were playing on a television, and I had volunteered to conduct my comic book demonstration where I have the kids in the audience participate in creating a one-page comic story. This turned out to be extremely popular, and I made sure each kid got a drawing to take home.

Here's a photo of me with the founder of Casa 101, Josefina Lopez, her husband Emmanuel Deleage, and their two children.

Josefina actually talked to me about a project she wanted my input on, and I in turn suggested what a cool idea it would be to create some type of El Muerto stage play!

The El Monte festival was my 3rd Dia de Los Muertos event in a week, and I did a pretty good amount of business. This has always been a key point of mine in that I reach new readers all the time at these type of events. Some are comic fans already, who have not heard of my comic book. But most are folks who don't read comics, much less attend comic shops or conventions. People in the comics biz are always saying that publishers have to reach out beyond the comics base, something I've been doing actively since I started publishing my own work back in 1998.

I had events every single weekend in the month of October. A solo art show at GEEKS Comics, spent a weekend at the Latino Book & Family Festival and spent another weekend in San Francisco for the Alternative Press Expo. With this past weekend's EL MUERTO film screening, and 3 Dia de Los Muertos events the last two weekends, I can honestly say it's the busiest month in terms of the sheer number of events I've attended since I started as a self-publisher. Busy in terms of selling my work, and also making new fans. The inevitable 'networking' takes place too, potentially opening up new opportunities for me as an artist.

I do comic shows and other events all year long. But with my signature character based on Aztec mythology and the Day the Dead folklore, the whole 'season' surrounding the November 2nd celebration provided me with many outlets. Adding to the mix that mid-September through mid-October is Latino Heritage Month, I have a pretty good stretch of months in which to flourish. Those of us who make and publish our own comics have to take full advantage of opportunities like this, as well as see what events in the 'mainstream comics world' make sense to pursue as well.

I didn't create El Muerto because I saw an opportunity to capture an entire market through a comic book. I came up with the idea because I specifically wanted to use both Aztec mythology and the Day of the Dead folklore as elements in story. These were things I had great interest in, and I also thought that there was, in my opinion, and underwhelming use of these idea in the mainstream culture. The fact that I could use my creation in very advantageous situations is something that I, as a self-published artist, could not have resisted. Obviously, the way I conduct my self and my business is part of my branding, so sincerity and a genuine talent in connecting with people goes a long way.

For me, as with most of the DIY comics creators I know, our production and brand management runs all year long, for the most part. 7 days a week, 12 months a year! So getting that extra season is a very welcome opportunity and I build on that as much as I can.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Dia de El Ditko: Steve Ditko's birthday!

A very Happy Birthday to Steve Ditko, comic book creator extraordinaire!
(Mort Todd's colored version of his cover to DITKOMANIA #72)

Steve Ditko, as artist, is the co-creator of Spider-Man & Dr. Strange, and on his own has created such characters as The Creeper, The Question, Shade the Changing Man and his signature character, Mr. A.

 (Larry Blake's cover to DITKOMANIA #75)

Born November 2, 1927, Steve Ditko continues to create new comics, published by himself and Robin Snyder. His latest book was DITKO #5-FIVE ACT, featuring such characters as The Madman, The Outline and The Cape! At age 83 his physical output has slowed down, and he's not going to be drawing at the same level he was 20 or even 30 years ago. But his determination to create new stories, and publish them himself, remains for me a continued source of inspiration.

For the last year or two, I've been contributing to the DITKOMANIA zine on a regular basis. My most recent illustration was this one for their Halloween issue, featuring a review of Ditko's sole Tomb of Dracula story, published in the late 70s.

The fact that Ditko was born on November 2, the same day as my character Diego de La Muerto, a.k.a. El Muerto (which is also El Dia de Los Muertos) surprised me when I made the connection years ago. My first exposure to Ditko's work was back in the mid-seventies, with reprints of his early Spider-Man & Dr. Strange stories available in Marvel reprints at the time. His work has always struck me for it's combination of quirky cartooning and surreal imagery, combined with his knack for innovative storytelling devices and layouts.

Happy 83rd Birthday, Steve Ditko!

To order Ditko's self-published comics from the last 20 years or so, visit this page, courtesy of the Ditko Comics Web Blog run by BobH.

To order copies of the DITKOMANIA zine, edited & published by Rob Imes, visit this page.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Meet an El Muerto junior fan!

I'm currently teaching a comic book class at an after school program in Los Angeles. The class is once a week, and runs for an entire quarter.

Last week, one of my co-workers gave me this little paper doll: 

El Muerto with an awesome pompadour! This is from a young boy in the Arts & Craft class, who had recently seen EL MUERTO on cable. I was flattered that he picked El Muerto as a subject for his project. He doesn't even know that I'm teaching a class at the program, so it's not like he made it to show me.

Last night, my co-worker sent me to this photograph:

Last Friday they had a Halloween party at the school, and guess what our little Muerto fan asked for at the face-painting table?

I'm sure his only exposure to my character is through the movie, but we know the impact movies have on people in out modern culture. Whatever audiences a comic book can't reach, movies & television can more than make up for it. I've said it before, but even a relatively small production like our movie, once it hits circulation via television, attains a certain level of saturation in the public consciousness. Over the last month or so of non-stop events I've been exhibiting at, it's been very evident to me by the amount of people who stop by my table and say "Oh, I've seen this movie on TV" (which invariably leads to some comic sales) .

When I go back to the class on Tuesday, I'm going to give a small package of Muerto swag to my co-worker so she can give to this El Muerto fan. Believe me, if there were hundreds or even thousands of kids doing this, I'd have to hold back on the gift packs, but when I run across the occasional fan like this, I think it's certainly worth some type of appreciation on my part.

Moments like these are really uplifting to me. It's not the primary reason I create comic books, but it's certainly an after affect that I enjoy and appreciate.