|First appearance||El Muerto: Numero Uno Edition (1998)|
|Created by||Javier Hernandez|
Diego de la Muerte
|Abilities||Has the ability to give life or take it away,
Superhuman strength and agility,
Resistant to damage/Near invulnerability,
Regenerative healing factor
El Muerto (The Dead One), also known as El Muerto: The Aztec Zombie, is a fictional character and comic book superhero created by American comics creator Javier Hernandez and published through his own imprint Los Comex. The comic book follows the story of 21-year-old Diego de la Muerte, who while on his way to a local Dia de los Muertos festival in Whittier, California, is abducted and sacrificed by the Aztec gods of death and destiny only to return to earth one year later with supernatural powers. The character made his first appearance in a xeroxed black-and-white preview comic titled Daze of the Dead: The Numero Uno Edition (February 1998).
El Muerto's first public appearance was in 1998 at the Alternative Press Expo in San Jose, CA. His debut comic was titled "Daze of the Dead: The Numero Uno Edition" and was a in a xeroxed in a black in white format which included the short story of Weapon Tex-Mex a character Hernandez had created prior to the debut of El Muerto. At the same time, Hernandez brought along his newly printed newsletter "The Border" featuring any news on subsequent issues and short comic strips. He later toured the Numero Uno Edition for a year in places like the Wondercon and San Diego Comic Con. For a time, the title was printed under an independent imprint created by Hernandez and a few close friends called Big Umbrella. The imprint ran in to financial issues and disbanded sometime in 2003. According to Hernandez:
|“||...[T]he straw that broke the camel's back, regarding Big Umbrella, was the fact that Diamond, the sole, national comic distributor with an exclusive contract with the national comic books direct market, chose to only carry some of the books.||”|
Fictional character biography
Celebrating his twenty-first birthday on the Dia de Los Muertos, Diego tries to have as much fun as possible, despite the fact that Maria Hermosa, his girlfriend of eight months, has just broken up with him. Anticipating a local festival, Diego dons the guise of an undead Mariachi, applies traditional facial markings to give himself a ghoulish look, and tattoos his left arm with a calavera skull inspired by an Aztec temple. When he calls his friends, they are too busy to join him, but his friend Zak Silver, who has become ill, lends Diego his car for the evening. Unknown to Diego, his tattoo was actually an ancient Aztec symbol of death. While driving his car to the festival, he is killed after lightning strikes the vehicle and he veers off-road. He soon awakens in Mictlan to meet with the Aztec god of death Mictlantecuhtli and the Aztec god of dreams Tezcatlipoca. There, Mictlantecuhtli sacrifices Diego in an ancient ritual in which his heart is ripped out with an obsidian blade. Mictlantecuhtli then places the still beating heart in a clay pot and permanently sears Diego's facial marking to his flesh. Soon after this horrific ordeal, Diego is cast back to Earth via lightning bolt, exactly one year after his death. Diego de la Muerte is reborn as El Muerto. His costume, once intended for fun, is now his permanent appearance. Realizing his family and friends already mourn him, he concludes that it is best to leave his hometown and heads to Mexico in search of answers.
Powers and abilities
Being undead, El Muerto possesses extraordinary supernatural powers: he is nearly invulnerable, has a heightened pain threshold, rapid regenerative healing factor, super-strength, and superhuman agility. A power unique to El Muerto is the ability to give life or take it away.
Manga Muerto is an alternate version of El Muerto, one who exists in a Japanese manga-themed universe. The character made his first appearance in Hernandez's 2000 issue of The Border in a comic strip titled "You only die twice!...OR...Dial "R" For Robot". The strip introduced Diego de la Muerte as a foreign exchange student in Tokyo, Japan. While enjoying a meal of noodles, he is interrupted by the brilliant scientist Dr. Shimahara. Dr. Shimahara was forced to create a giant robot for the infamous Black Moth gang called Skeletron. He reveals to Diego that Skeletron can be voice-controlled but has a major flaw in its design; it will only respond to the voice of a dead person. Diego happily offers his services and easily defeats the Black Moth gang and their inferior robot Skullion. Manga Muerto would later return in a 2001 collaboration between Javier Hernandez and Ted Seko, entitled Super Comics Blast, which included a cross-over between Seko's own Skyman, Fusion Android and a reprint of the Skyman origin story.
In other media
The official premiere to the public was on March 1, 2007 at the Latino Film Festival in San Diego, California. Subsequent festival screenings included Toronto, New York, San Francisco, San Diego and Los Angeles. The film premiered theatrically at Laemmle Grande Theatre on September 14, 2007 and was later screened at the first annual Whittier Film Festival, where it won the Best Feature Film award. A straight-to-DVD release was distributed on September 18, 2007 by Echo Bridge Entertainment. Despite being titled "El Muerto" throughout its conception and subsequent film screenings, the DVD was later re-titled "The Dead One" (the English translation of El Muerto) for marketing purposes. The original DVD release holds several special features including: seven original illustrations by special guest artists, DVD commentary, three original featurettes, a Spanish language track, a slide-show of the original comic, a DVD-ROM feature and an exclusive mini-comic. The DVD is being reissued under the film's original title with the same special features.