Wednesday, September 28, 2011


My latest Chicanonautica at La Bloga takes a look at the outrageous Mexican comic book Frontera Violenta.

Since I'm overdue returning to this popular subject – every day, people visit my other posts about it – here are some more examples from my collection, this time focusing on the western genre:

A long-time favorite is Aguila Solitaria (“Lone Eagle”), an Indian raised Tarzan-style by eagles, who wears wings that allow him to fly -- a Native American superhero out for ¡LA VENGANZA!

The most popular western Mexican comic book is El Libro Vaquero, that promises – among other things – “the most emotional stories of the Old West.”

This ad for El Libro Vaquero hypes “magnificent colors” and “the authentic cowboy flavor” in “the best magazine in Latin America.

Here's a blonde Indian warrior-princess beckoning us to read “true and authentic stories of the Legendary West.”

Something from the days of monochrome comics printed in a sepia ink that had a pungent uric acid smell when fresh. I never could make out the second word in the title, but it offers “intrepid and reckless gunmen and the most beautiful and sensual women.”

Another look at the mystery title. “The most intrepid and valiant men who forged the Legend of the West with the most beautiful women.”

Getting literary, here's a page from Novelas Inmortales No. 502, “El Jeque de Kalhuran” with Karl May's Old Shatterhand in Arabia, having a flashback to his days in Arizona with his Apache pal, Winnetou.

Monday, September 19, 2011


I was on the lookout for the 1914 silent film Cabiria. It influenced Fellini – he named the heroine of his Nights of Cabiria after the title character. It was the beginning of the peplum, or sword & sandal, genre. It's also the first appearance of the muscular hero Maciste – whose origins seemed to be shrouded in mystery.

It lives up to its reputation. It's an action-packed adventure set during the Punic Wars in the Third Century. It starts with Etna erupting – most movies since have saved their volcanoes for the end. There's also Archimedes as a prototype mad scientist incinerating Roman ships with his solar-powered death ray. And of course Cabiria, still a little girl at this point, is taken to Carthage, where cultists try to sacrifice her to Moloch.

This incredible scene influenced Fritz Lang later in Metropolis, and may have even been in Allen Ginsberg's mind when he wrote his Beat Generation anthem, Howl.

Of course it is Maciste, played by Bartolomeo Pagano, who snatches Cabiria just before she can be inserted into the diabolical, flaming Moloch machine, stealing the show.

And once he showed up, the mysteries about his origins fell away.

His skin is dark. Very dark. It's makeup. I'd use the term “blackface,” but its all over his body, on every exposed muscle. He wears a leopard skin. He is the African slave of Fulvio “Fulvius” Axilla, a Roman gentleman hero who, in the Victorian tradition, has a loyal, hulking manservant to do the heavy lifting.

All the other slaves in the movie have the same paint job. It is said the D.W. Griffith was also influenced by Cabiria.

In the end – which takes place ten years after the beginning – it is Fulvius who Cabiria marries, while Maciste stands back and grins.

Maciste turned out of to be marketable. Bartolomeo Pagano played him in twenty-five films. IMDb says that he played the character in blackface in all of these, but he looks pretty white in Maciste in Hell, and in photos I've found online. Somehow, the movie's first black superhero turned white when he became popular.

This does add to Maciste's mystery. His adventures unfold in any place and time that the flimmakers see fit. He just shows up, like Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck, without a visible time machine. Could it be that besides superhuman strength and time travel, he can change race at will?

Later, in the Sixties, more Maciste movies were made. He was played by a number of well-developed white men.

But when they dubbed them into English, there seemed to be a problem with the name, Maciste. It must have sounded too “foreign” for the Anglo audience. It does kind of sound African, doesn't it? So he was Maciste only in a few, given other names for some, sometime he was even called Hercules. Or the son of Hercules.

They were even packaged as a Sons of Hercules series.

But I do wonder, if remake-crazy Hollywood decided to make a new version of Cabiria, what color would Maciste be?

Monday, September 12, 2011


This time Chicanonautica lets the Latino lit crowd at La Bloga know about "Xuanito," my story in the latest Flurb. I also celebrate my monster movie roots. And here's some Mondo Ernesto extras:

The theme some to the show that introduced me to many a monster:

These days, teenaged girls dream of romantic vampires, but teenaged boys have always been werewolves at heart.

I saw the dubbed versions of some on these on television in my youth. These days I'm inspired by the originals.

The classic Attack of the Fifty-Foot Woman has had a barrio remake:

And everybody's favorite Latino monster has popped up in Brazilian production:

Saturday, September 10, 2011


I arrived at CopperCon 2011 on Saturday afternoon. There were people milling around the halls. I saw some costumes – mostly steampunk, which in Arizona has spaghetti western flavor, rather than a slavish worship of corporate franchises. Funny, and kind of sad, how mundane hotel guests aren't shocked anymore.

I found Rick Cook talking about ebooks with a guy who “just prefers real books.” I've been hearing that lately, from a lot of people, especially science fiction fans, who, as usual, are resisting the future as it comes crashing down on them. They really need to read Rick's ebook, Shift Happens: The New E-Publishing Paradigm And What It Means for Authors.

The panel on online publishing mostly had writers and wannabees in the audience. That's the big issue: How do you get readers to find out about your ebooks? Looks like we're going to be forced out of our home offices and into the streets, or where ever . . .

Rick and I got to talk about the illustrations that I'm currently doing for the ebook of our novella Obsidian Harvest. Images for an Aztec dinosaur detective story take a lot of research. A guy can get distracted.

As I was driving the Crudmobile home, it started dying at intersections. I was lucky I made it home. Then it hit me: Here it is, a big, flaming metaphor dropping out of the sky – the old technology giving out just I was trying to go on with business as usual.

It'll happen for all or us. Soon. Hell, it's already started. Is there a Barnes & Noble in your town? Where do you get books these days?

The next morning we let the con know through Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, and phone that we may not make our Sunday-night panels. Fortunately, El Troque was in good working order, getting us both to our jobs that day and the con that evening.

I was twenty minutes late for the panel on where to find science sources. No other panelists had showed up, so the audience started without us. Yes, there are people who are interested in science out there. It was fun.

Em also found a DNA analyst and an astronomer to help her with a homework equation that was giving her trouble.

Monday, Em had a couple of panels, I got to hang out in the audience and think about where all this science fiction stuff is going.

We're still hearing a lot about the highly formulaic popular fiction of the past decade – paranormal romance, sexy vampires, etc. – and how that's the way to go, even though the format that they sold in – the good ol' mass market paperback – and the stores that carried them look doomed. In my last couple of years at Borders, I saw the sales of genre paperback melt away to nothing. Will they make the transition to ebooks? We'll have to see what happens in the next few years.

Steampunk is also big, not just as a fashion statement, but in fiction. I can recommend David Lee Summers' Owl Dance. Again, this is nostalgia for old futures, old technology. I guess I should finish my Pancho Villa airship story.

Ans now that it's over, I've got this long list of things to do, so I there's probably a future in this sci-fi stuff after all.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Once again, Rudy Rucker has allowed me to get away with an outrageous act of sci-fi. Over at Flurb, you can now read “Xuanito” a Godzillaesque romp in which a young Chicano takes on the world.

That seems to be a recurring theme with me . . . I wonder why?

This story has history. I originally wrote it after being depressed for a few years after the corporate sci-fi industry declared that I had no commercial potential and decided they weren't going to touch me with a ten-foot pole. For a while, turning on the computer to write would make me burst into tears.

But the sinister urge was still there. So I decided, screw it, forget about salability, or even what form it should take. Just write. Make it good diabolical fun. After all, like Henry Miller said in Tropic of Cancer, “Everything that was literature has fallen from me.” This was a good ol' “gob of spit in the face of Art.”

It took time to sell. I had some near misses. It's amazing how often a magazine can go out of business before they publish your story. I think I was even paid for it more than once . . .

Of course, then I called it “Your Future in Hallucinogenetics.”

When I sent it to Rudy, he wrote back with some suggestions. They were good. Rudy gets what I'm doing, while a lot science fiction professionals these days don't. He also wanted to make the story wilder. I can't resist when someone asks me to crank it up rather than tone it down.

The result is a better story. Xuanito became a dominant character, so I gave him top billing like Frankenstein, Dracula, and Godzilla.

Thank you, Rudy, for making it possible for me to unleash this glorious monster into the world.

Friday, September 2, 2011


This fortnight's Chicanonautica over at La Bloga is all about bilingual poetry, and reviews Charlie Vázquez' Meditations/Mediatciones – Bronx/Salsa, and Emanuel Xavier's anthology Me No Habla with Acento: Contemporary Latino Poetry. So, the extras here at Mondo Ernesto are poetical:

First, a teaser about Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzales' Chicano classic I am Joaquin:

Next, Victor Hernández Cruz gives some advice that has again become relevant:

And I even found one of Charlie Vázquez reading one of the poems from his book:

Finally, so we don't start taking ourselves too serioso here.