LA Libros Fest: Interview With Javier Hernandez

Edwin Rodarte, Senior Librarian, Emerging Technologies & Collections,
Javier Hernandez

Javier Hernandez is a native Angeleno who grew up in Whitter CA. He is an artist, comic book creator, and radio host. Perhaps best known for creating the popular series El Muerto: The Aztec Zombie, the majority of his works are published through his privately owned imprint, Los Comex. Hernandez conceived the character of El Muerto sometime in the early 1990s, a character originally intended to be part of a group of Mexican-American superheroes. The character's popularity led to appearances and adaptations in other media, including a live-action film in 2007. Javier also teaches comics through workshops and lectures, and in 2011 he co-founded The Latino Comics Expo, the nation's premier convention showcasing Latino comic creators.

Javier will be one of the featured authors at the Los Angeles Libros Festival, a free bilingual book festival for the whole family. Celebrating oral traditions, the festival will feature stories and music from Latin America—including México, Guatemala, El Salvador, Colombia—and the United States. LA Libros Fest will take place at the Los Angeles Central Library on September 28, 2019, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

How did you begin writing/creating comic books?

As a child I'd create my own comics at home, making up new stories for Spider-Man and other famous characters. But it wasn't until I was in my 20s that I felt compelled to start publishing my own creations. Characters and stories based on Mexican folklore and Mesoamerican mythology. Things that at that time you saw very little of in comics, or in the overall media landscape for that matter.

What does being an author/artist mean to you?

The ability to conceive of an idea, characters, and worlds, and take it from a mere thought to a physical artifact, is so life-affirming. Every word and every image I produce is the way I want the viewer to experience my story. Succeed or fail, I know I presented my story to the world in it's purest, most honest way I could.

What place do books/comic books have in your life? What about libraries?

Comics were the first reading experiences I had, or at the very least the things I thoroughly immersed myself in. That whole process of reading the words and pictures in every panel, then turning the pages one at a time until the conclusion of the story. It's clear to me that the experience of enjoying a comic planted the seeds in my head to one day want to express myself in that medium. I clearly remember that in Middle School I would ride my bike to the local library and read books on cartooning as well as on Norse mythology, as I was deeply into Thor comics at the time wanted to research more about the Asgardian gods I was reading about in the comics. I love how so many librarians today are huge advocates for comics and graphic novels. It's come full circle for me!

What inspired you to participate in the Los Angeles Libros Festival?

I saw a mention of it online and wanted to be a part of this festival. Connecting with readers outside of comic shops or comic book conventions has always been a mission of my comics career. And I remember some 20 years ago participating in a comics festival here at the Central Library, which back then was a relatively new phenomenon. Working with libraries as a creator always is a fulfilling experience for me.

What advice would you give to a kid or teen who wants to be a writer/comic book artist?

For sure you want to read a lot of books and comics, practice drawing actual people and animals as well as explore drawing in different styles until you find the one that works best for you. And of paramount importance is to identify the one person who will most likely be your constant adversary. The person who will put doubt in your mind, make you second guess your decisions, will compare you to other artists and creators. (Hint: that person is you! In other words, don't be your worse enemy. Try to vanquish that person from your life and move forward with your dream!).

Titles by Javier Hernandez

Book cover for Daze of the Dead: Special Día de los Muertos edition
Daze of the Dead: Special Día de los Muertos edition
Hernandez, Javier
Book cover for El Muerto Mishmash
El Muerto Mishmash
Hernandez, Javier.
Book cover for Latinx Superheroes in Mainstream Comics
Latinx Superheroes in Mainstream Comics
Aldama, Frederick Luis

Javier Hernandez at LA Libros Fest