Making a career in the entertainment industry requires painstaking determination, passion and vision. It is a path full of obstacles and disappointments. Overcoming those challenges and bringing a project to fruition requires patience, good timing and creative solutions.
The award-winning writer, director and producer, David Towner’s films that have been applauded by millions of people worldwide and won dozens of awards. During a trip to Mexico in 2009, he found unexpected inspiration for his current project, a graphic novel series entitled “Aztec Warrior God”.
Towner spoke to us remotely about his most recent creative endeavor and how he (and some good luck) facilitated rapid success for the project during the Covid-19 pandemic.
- Where did your inspiration come from for this project? and was it a personal journey or just an avid fan of Superheroes
During a 2009 visit to Mexico, I took an Aztec historical tour. The guides kept emphasizing the mystery of this massive, thriving civilization and their rapid demise. Naturally, we know that the Spanish and their indigenous allies killed hundreds of thousands of Aztecs during battle and with disease, but the mystery remains; what happened to the other five million people? I immediately created an alternative, fictional narrative to fill in the blanks (I always do that) and over the next few years, I studied Aztec mythology and the Nahuatl language to help piece a story together, built around an ensemble group of characters. I didn’t want to tell the same, one-dimensional story that has been told countless times, depicting the Aztecs as one-brutal savages. They were much more than that. They had complex systems of irrigation and agriculture, they had a government funded arts council, their engineering and architectural skills were among the best on earth. Although my story acknowledges the brutal history of the culture, my idea was to move forward from that and create a story of redemption. My heroes emerge into modern society on the 500th year anniversary of the fall of their empire (August 2021) during a massive, global pandemic (completely coincidental story line). They discover that a Russian Oligarch, Adrian Volkov, is behind creating the virus and is holding the world hostage, selling the vaccine to the highest bidders.
- Tell us a bit about this main character and what drives her to be all that she is.
My story consists of an ensemble cast, but much like other ensemble superhero franchises like The Justice League or Avengers, there are stand outs. Tlachinolli has the most superpowers and is the most insightful of the group. She becomes instrumental in defeating Volkov. All of our heroes were hand selected by Huitzilopochtli, the god of war, for their character and bravery during the war with the Spanish. They are all driven by the same agenda, to create a thriving, selfless Aztec society that helps create a harmonious, sustainable and unified planet. They prefer to achieve that goal with diplomacy and hard work but sometimes, evil doesn’t listen to reason and they are well-equipped to fight when necessary.
- I see you are growing at a rapid pace. Your fan base seems very intrigued in the characters. Why do you think the growth has been so exponentially fast?
Yes. We have a registered fan database of over 2.5 million and almost 500,000 social media followers in just since our announcement in June. Like any creative project, many elements have to come together to make it successful. There are multiple reasons why we are gaining so much traction.
- The quality of our art is catching a lot of attention from people who otherwise may not have an interest in a graphic novel or superhero. Our fans kept asking if we could sell prints of our artwork, so I contracted a third party to do that for us. We did $50,000 in the first weekend and over $400,000 so far. Previously, it didn’t even occur to me that I could sell the art.
- There has never been a high-quality, indigenous superhero project that people felt proud to embrace. There have been a handful that depicted Aztecs or Maya but they were poorly conceived, inaccurately illustrated and offensive. Rather than rely upon the impressive nature of the indigenous cultures, the creators of those projects used absurd, stereotypical caricatures who were bloodthirsty savages with no sustainable story. The reality is that they didn’t care about the characters. They were just expendable props to try to capture a new demographic. The Aztecs were intelligent, imposing and highly skilled. Although my characters have superpowers, I won’t depict them as 500lb savages, tearing through the city streets, causing chaos. That is a lazy, cliché approach and an insult to intelligent audiences. Our characters impact society with their minds just as much as their fighting skills. The comic world is fatigued by one-dimensional, hyper-violent superheroes with limited vocabularies. The human mind is the most powerful and effective weapon on earth. Stories built around that concept are the most interesting. The bulky, loud, un-restrained heroes were fun in the 70s but it’s time to move on. The world is ready for a new era of superhero.
- The world is genuinely intrigued by the Aztecs. This was a group of nomads who built one of the most powerful, self-sustaining, collaborative civilizations on earth in just a couple generations. That type of advancement had never been achieved previously and has never been replicated again.
- I have been able to capture a mainstream audience in over 40 countries, across all demographics, because people appreciate the complexity and nature of my story. They appreciate the motives of the characters and their desire to make the world a better place. Not just by eliminating evil but by inspiring the world to respect nature and to value of all of mankind.
As much as the story is about resolving a mystery, it is built around an ensemble group of authentic characters and inspired by real Aztec mythology. They all have indigenous names and as much as possible, the Aztec language, Nahuatl, is used in the dialogue. Additionally, there are supporting characters who are from other indigenous cultures such as Navajo, Taino and Cherokee. Towner has taken great steps to ensure that each represented culture is accurately and respectfully depicted.
While the concept of any creative project originates from a single artist or group of artists, writing a graphic novel series is always a collective, daunting undertaking. Towner was adamant that the creative team be based in Mexico to ensure authenticity. He hit the jackpot when he found renowned artists Diego Lopez Mata and Carla Andrea Lopez Mata, a brother and sister team based in Guanajuato, to illustrate the series. The heavy metal band Cemican provides music for the project’s digital content and 3D Studios Mexico creates the animated content on the project’s social media and web pages.
Towner commented on his creative team and timing of the project, “I would be lying if I didn’t acknowledge that luck and good timing played a huge role in making this project happen. Our entire creative team are extremely successful people and in high demand all over the world. Covid-19 put us all in a situation where we were all available at the same time to collaborate. July 2021 is an essential release date for my series. If it weren’t for Covid-19, this project would not exist, at least not in its current form. The Aztec gods were looking out for us.”
“Aztec Warrior God” will be released worldwide in English and Spanish in July 2021 and is scheduled as a four-part series.
More information is available at www.facebook.com/aztecwarriorgod.