July 22, 2005

El Muerto Lives

By Ana Hernandez-Bravo

The San Diego Comic Con International is the meeting place for both established names in the comic book industry and those who are just breaking through. As the San Diego Convention center buzzed with excitement, wonder, and joyful exploration, the artists and writers proudly displayed the fruits of their labor.

There at his own booth was Javier Hernandez. This year his character of “El Muerto, the Aztec Zombie” was getting a lot of attention. Not only because the fan base for this comic is growing, but also because “El Muerto” is coming to the big screen.

Yet, before becoming silver screen material, “El Muerto” started off as a small black and white xeroxed comic back in 1998 when it debuted at the Alternative Press Expo (APE). “I have always been an artist,” Hernandez said and attributed his artistic spirit to wanting to be like his brother.

The decision to use his artist’s talent in the comic book medium was that “Latino’s continue to be a minority in comics, both on the character side and the writer or artist side,” Hernandez said. Rafael Navarro, friend of Hernandez and creator of his own Latino based comic “Sonambulo” mentioned that the creators of these comic books that cater to the Latino community need to support each other and get together to bring more awareness to the existence of the independent Latino comic book scene.

Being Hernandez’s first comic book endeavor and a self written, drawn, and published book, the daunting task of finding its specific audience was laid before him. Yet, Hernandez’s spirit continued to push the zombie forward.

And the audience was there. By incorporating a 21 year old Mexican character along with Aztec gods, Aztec mythology, and set in Hernandez’s hometown of Los Angeles the niche for a genuine Latino created and Latino based character was found. “I wanted this comic to reflect where I come from,” Hernandez said. “I wanted to something with mythology and the Day of the Dead folklore.”

As more people started asking for the next installment of the “El Muerto” series, Hernandez continued to frequent the San Diego Comic Con. Four years ago, while at the convention, Hernandez had an interview with MPR which was where the film’s director talked to Hernandez about making his comic into a film.

Now Hernandez is an assistant producer of the film and even has a cameo appearance in it. Hernandez called the film a “collaborative effort” and even noted that the character’s costume was of his own design.

The film, directed by Brian Cox and released under Peninsula Films, stars Wilmer Valderrama, best known as the character Fez from “That 70s Show.” “It [the story] was a great marriage with Wilmer,” Hernandez said about the choice for the film’s lead man. The film is also starring Maria Conchita Alonso, Tony Plana, and Billy Drago.

Much of the movie was filmed in East Los Angeles and new fans where found there as children who were around the film site were given comics to introduce them to the new Mexican superhero.

The film recently finished shooting and now is in post production. Hernandez hopes that the film will be released next year.

Now Hernandez is out promoting the film and is also currently working on the third installment of the “El Muerto” series. Fans can get more of “El Muerto” by visiting elMuerto.com where they can get information on El Muerto, how to get the comics, and even to see El Muerto gallery.

Comic Con itself not only served as a big site for the promotion of the film and the comic book but also a panel about the film was held on Thursday July 14th, the first day of the convention. Hernandez stated that there was a great turn out for the panel and that now the executives saw “that they have something on their hands.”

“The audience has always been there,” Hernandez said, “but they are waiting for stuff like this.”

Hernandez hopes that the film will bring in a larger audience not only to his comic book and comics in general, but also to inspire people to maybe want to work in comics and other art based mediums.

“I never thought it would be this big,” Hernandez said. “It’s very exciting to see the response from the fans and to get the amazing well wishes.”

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