At the LA Zine Fest in downtown Los Angeles, I ran into an artist by the name of Javier Hernandez. He is the creator of a company called Los Comex and co-creator of the Latino Comic Expo. I grabbed two titles of his — El Muerto MISHMASH (a one shot) and a graphic novel called Maniac Priest — and enjoyed both very much.
El Muerto is probably Javier’s most popular work. Commonly referred to as ‘the dead one’ (per the English translation for ‘El Muerto’) or ‘the Aztec zombie,’ it was adapted into a film in 2007. It hit the film festival circuits, winning here and there, with the Texas Film Festival being the largest victory, and the adaptation was eventually released straight to DVD. Wilmer Valdarama played El Muerto, and it was written and directed by Brain Cox.
The comic has a black-and-white art style. Very smooth, and Javier’s work is somehow very clean yet full of emotion. When the story wanted to be gloomy/longing it’s clear, when the book is being humorous it’s clear. I’m tired of comic art that is devoid of a voice. You all know what I’m talking about, when a creator has an art style that blends into everything else out there. (‘You Only Die Twice’ short was drawn and inked by Rafael Navarro)
The stories inside of El Muerto MISHMASH showcase different aspects of the character. The first literally is his origin story. It is text heavy but not very long, getting readers up to speed with the series. ‘Mad Martian Party’ and ‘You Only Die Twice’ were both Aztec zombie adventures. The last short was my personal favorite. It is an inside look into the thoughts of the creator.
As mentioned earlier, El Muerto is text heavy. But the pacing of the narrative is not bogged down by this heaviness, and Hernandez has meaningful things to say. He chooses when to say them, however. When there isn’t a need for words, you get shorts like ‘Mad Martian Party,’ which had almost no text.
Maniac Priest is his latest creation. This title was also good, but very different. The style that he began in El Muerto is expanded here. With it, Javier turns to full color — something that I don’t like usually, but his use of it adds to the dark and supernatural feel of the book. The different shades of gray with a hollow red is just great for this genre, to which Javier said, “the idea for Maniac Priest came from my enjoyment of the particular genre of the urban vigilante”, but this character brings a lot more to the table then that.
Hernandez presents a conflicted society. It’s hard to tell whether the Maniac or the rest of the world is wrong; is the Maniac a savior called forth by the madness of a young Priest, or is he a demon? My favorite short within this text was ‘Cardinal Sin’ where Maniac Priest captures a pedophile clergy member and makes him pay for his trespasses. The graphic novel is full of morally dubious situations, from a priest damming and questioning the actions of god, to applause for the Maniac as he murders different villains.