Latino Comics Expo to bring exposure to Latino artists

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Latin Comics Expo

A luchador and artist who is making his own comic at the 2013 Latino Comics Expo. (Courtesy photo)

A special occasion for artists Ricardo Padilla and Javier Hernandez is just around the corner. The duo will see their popular Latino Comics Expo see its first convention in Los Angeles at the Museum of Latin American Art. For two days this coming weekend, the expo will host veteran Latino artists as well as new faces as they promote their art and host panels and workshops.

Artists who will make an appearance range from the well-known, such as award winner Lalo Alcaraz of “La Cucaracha,” Mario Hernandez of the now-classic “Love And Rockets” and Carlos Avila, producer/director of lucha libre documentary “Tales Of Masked Men,” to the underground and obscure such as Jose Cabrera of “Crying Macho Man” and Rafael Navarro of “Sonambulo.”

The birth of Latino Comics Expo

Latin Comics Expo, Javier Hernandez

2013 Latino Comics Expo poster.

The Latino Comics Expo was born out of a casual conversation about art between Hernandez and Padilla. Padilla was a fan of Hernandez’ work and the two developed a friendship via a website Hernandez hosted about El Muerto. “One day, we got to talking about art and museums in the Bay Area,” reminisces Hernandez, “and I go, ‘Well, I can’t open a museum, but maybe we should do a Latino Comics Expo.’”

Padilla pitched the idea to the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco and the two launched the first annual Latino Comics Expo in 2011. Since then, the expo has focused not only on Latino creators but on any subject matter dealing with Latino culture (in comic book form, of course).

Javier Hernandez hopes to expose unknown artists at expo

Javier Hernandez was born in East Los Angeles to parents with roots in Sinaloa and Mexicali — both in Mexico. He was raised in his hometown for many years before moving to neighboring Whittier where he still lives to this day.

“I grew up watching lucha libre,” he recalls, “but I also grew up watching “The Addams Family,” “The Six Million Dollar Man,” the Batman TV show… and also Japanese shows in English. Everyone in the world has neat stuff!”

The most important influence in his life, however, is his older brother. When Hernandez was eight, his older brother outgrew his comic book phase and passed his collection down to his younger sibling who immediately devoured every book. He was especially enamored by Marvel’s “Spider-Man” and the art of Steve Ditko.

Javier Hernandez, El Muerto, Latino Comics Expo

The comic “El Muerto” is now a movie starring Wilmer Valderrama.

Hernandez may not be a household name like Stan Lee, but he’s done well in his decades-long career. He runs his own comics imprint, Los Comex, where he self-publishes all his work such as stories of his original creations: “Weapon Tex-Mex” and “El Muerto: The Aztec Zombie.”

“El Muerto” was adapted into a independent feature film in 2007 titled “The Dead One” and features Wilmer Valderrama (fresh off “That 70s Show”), Angie Cepeda (“Love In The Time Of Cholera”), Joel David Moore (“Avatar”), Michael Parks (“Kill Bill Vols. 1 & 2″), Maria Conchita Alonso (“Without Men”) and Billy Drago (“The Untouchables”). Hernandez also makes a cameo in the film, which was released on DVD.

“Even today,” he says proudly, “I’m still one of the few self-published, black-and-white comics [artist] that had a movie made, as far as I know.”

It’s small victories such as these that Hernandez hopes other artists at the expo will be able to make. Many will have to wait until next year though. The demand for vendor space from local artists exceeded the amount of space available at the Latin Comics Expo.

“We gotta go bigger next year,” he says. “There’s a huge demand from artists and a lot of interest from media.”

The Latino Comics Expo will be open from 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Saturday, August 17, 2013 and Sunday, August 18, 2013 at the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) in Long Beach, Calif. Admission is $9 for adults and $6 for seniors and students. MOLAA members and children under 12 have free admission.

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