Dead Alive 

Attack of the Aztec zombies

FRI 9/16

Javier Hernandez has a formula for becoming an independent comic-book artist: Start by being a "big comic geek." Attend conventions, and get inspired by the self-published work of your peers. Think about what story you're in a unique position to tell. Make sure you're not adverse to sacrifice -- it will take "money, time, blood, sweat, and tears," he says. Then pick up a pencil. This process led Hernandez to the publication of his own comic book, El Muerto: Aztec Zombie. From 7 to 9 p.m. this Friday, he'll show off the results at Mexican Independent Comic Book Day, accompanied by two other artists whose work originally inspired him -- Rhode Montijo, creator of the comic Pablo's Inferno, and Rafael Navarro, creator of Sonambulo. The book signing and Q & A session will take place at Corazon del Pueblo, an Oakland shop that focuses on Mexican and Latino culture.

The three amigos found inspiration in their Mexican heritage, Hernandez says, each plucking out different aspects to inform their work. El Muerto uses the folklore surrounding the Mexican Days of the Dead, the main character of Pablo's Inferno battles Aztec gods in the underground realm, and Sonambulo draws on the Mexican mania for masked wrestlers. The artists mixed these themes with lessons learned during their California childhoods, when they haunted comic shops and learned how to construct a good superhero narrative, one frame at a time.

Hernandez says the Latino characters on display this Friday make a nice change from the blond-haired musclemen so common in the comic books of his youth. "If I see one more Hercules comic or character based on Greek mythology ..." he says, trailing off in exasperation. "I'm sick of them." The new sub-genre of Latino comics takes another step toward the mainstream next year with the release of a live-action El Muerto movie, making the Aztec Zombie the first Latino superhero to hit the big screen. Corazon del Pueblo is at 4814 International Blvd. Call 510-532-6733 for info. -- Eliza Strickland

9/14-9/20

Lit Happens

High and Dry

Release the Sophocles within. Local poet Alison Seevak hosts drop-in poetry-writing workshops the second Wednesday of every month at Albany Library (Wed., 7 p.m.). ... She grew up in New Orleans and her critically acclaimed short-story collection is called How to Breathe Underwater -- a strange coincidence, but San Francisco author Julie Orringer reads in the Soda Activity Center at Saint Mary's College in Moraga with Dream of the Blue Room author Michelle Richmond (Wed., 7:30 p.m.). ... So it's not like straight fiction? A lesbian fiction-writing workshop at Changemakers is led by Call Shotgun author Jaime Clevenger, who asks, What matters most: the story, the characters, or the sex? (Thu., 7 p.m.). ... What if everyone in your town decided to read the same book at the same time? Would that be the Cultural Revolution or ... the third annual Brentwood CityRead, sponsored by the Brentwood Library and starting today? Local cafes and the library are stocked with free copies of Berkeley author Ayelet Waldman's Daughter's Keeper, to be borrowed, read, and returned throughout the next two months. For details, call 925-634-4101 (Sat., 10 a.m.). ... Four bits buys your pleasure (and $3 buys a whole bagful after 3 p.m.) at the Albany Library Fifty Cents Book Sale (Sat., 9 a.m.), ... Wool, like skin, comes in all colors, and they're all good, as Stephan J. Harper writes in his book for tots, The Black Sheep. Meet him at Fremont Borders (Sat., 1 p.m.). ... Have a nice day -- or at least learn how to have one, as M.J. Ryan discusses her how-to book The Happiness Makeover at Danville Library (Tue., 7 p.m.). ... You can't get much more local than a reading by contributors to the Milvia Street Art and Literary Journal at the Berkeley Library's Central Branch, just up from Milvia Street (Tue., 7 p.m.). ... Prison isn't the bitter end for the violent young offenders Mercury News editor John Hubner describes in Last Chance in Texas, his book about a Texas facility with a bold, inspiring new approach. Meet him at Cody's Telegraph (Tue., 7:30 p.m.). -- Anneli Rufus

FRI 9/16

That's Edutainment

Call it hip-lit. The field of hip-hop-oriented literature not only continues to grow by leaps and bounds, but it may be the most interesting thing to hit both genres in years. Not only is hip-lit incredibly relevant, but it pumps up the street cred of your average book reading while adding an intellectual cutting edge to hip-hop culture. C-c-c-heck it out Friday night at 7:30 at Cody's, when Art, Activism, and the New Hip-Hop Aesthetics -- the second installment in an ongoing hip-lit series -- goes down. Part performance, part panel discussion, the event features authors Adam Mansbach (Angry Black White Boy), Craig Watkins (Hip Hop Matters), Oliver Wang (Classic Material: The Hip-Hop Album Guide), plus poet Aya de León (Thieves in the Temple) and cartoonist Keith Knight (The K Chronicles). The event is free, but space is limited, so get there early -- unless you prefer to stand. For more info: CodysBooks.com -- Eric K. Arnold

9/20, 9/21

Boss Bossa

Brazilian guitar master plays Oakland

You've probably never heard of Celso Fonseca, but if you're a fan of Brazilian bossa nova or Tropicalismo, you've undoubtedly heard him. The longtime guitarist for Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil, Fonseca has just released Rive Gauche Rio on SF-based global music specialist label Six Degrees. Latin-jazz lovers will find plenty of romance on the album, which has been described as a "musical love letter" to Paris and Rio de Janeiro. Fonseca's style of playing is more traditional-minded than labelmates Bebel Gilberto and Bossacucanova; still, nu-bossa hipsters shouldn't sleep. Even without dipping into electronic treatments, Fonseca's breathtaking melodies and stunning acoustic textures are well worth raising a caipirinha to, while a duet with Jorge Drexler and a cover of Damien Rice's "Delicate" assure his contemporary relevance. Continuing a welcome trend of top-notch Latin jazz and world music in the East Bay, Fonseca makes his solo Bay Area debut Tuesday with a two-night stand at Yoshi's. $10-$16. Yoshis.com -- Eric K. Arnold

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