Interview with Jaime Portillo; Creator/Writer/Letterer for Hell Paso: The Story of Dallas Stoudenmire
Published by: Jimmy Daze Comics
Interviewed by: Richard Vasseur/Jazma Online VP
Rich: Why do you like Dallas Stoudenmire as a person?
Jaime: I like and respect him because he took a position during a difficult time in El Paso’s history. El Paso was relatively a young city and still trying to be a civilized society. While the former city marshals chose sides and let some people get away with things, Stoudenmire chose to enforce the law, and it didn’t matter who stood in his way.
While I was conducting research, old newspapers had various articles on crimes that were committed in the city. What made it more difficult is the fact that El Paso shared borders with Mexico and the New Mexico territory, which allowed criminals to travel back and forth. It was a lot of work for one marshal who had an assistant or two. Stoudenmire had to be tough.
When you tell his story in a comic book format, Stoudenmire has the same characteristics as many other comic book characters, such as the Punisher.
Rich: Do you think you would fit in the 1800's old west?
Jaime: I’m sure I would, but I’d need a big gun...and lots of bullets. I’m glad I didn’t have to. It was rough during that time for everybody.
Rich: Can you tell us what the basic storyline of "Hell Paso: The Story of Dallas Stoudenmire" is?
Jaime: Hell Paso is based on the actual bloody events that took place in El Paso from 1881-1882. El Paso had gone through five ineffective marshals before Stoudenmire took the position. After only three days on the job, Stoudenmire was involved in a fight that ended with the deaths of four men, a skirmish better known as the “Four Dead in Five Seconds” gunfight. This fight made Stoudenmire a number of enemies, including the Manning family, who ran a few businesses in El Paso, and were friends and allies with two of the men killed by Stoudenmire. The fight also set in motion various deaths and assassination attempts on Stoudenmire’s life. Hell Paso reaches its climax when Stoudenmire and the Mannings finally settle their feud that ends in bloodshed.
Although I fictionalized parts of the story, Hell Paso remains true to what happened during that time. There is also a bonus section in the trade paperback version of Hell Paso and it contains actual newspaper articles, historical facts, and photos based on the actual people. The section gives Hell Paso a more rounded story and helps people not only learn what happened during the timeline of the story, but also what happened before and after the events of Hell Paso. People have complimented both on the story and bonus section of Hell Paso. I’ve been told they’ve never seen a book like this and it could be used as a teaching tool in schools.
Hell Paso received a grant from the Wild West History Association and was honored with a Southwest Book Award from the Border Regional Library Association.
Rich: Who exactly is Marshal Dallas Stoudenmire?
Jaime: I believe he was a good, kind, and loyal man. He knew the difference between right and wrong. But he was also hard, short-tempered, and violent, and did what he had to do in order to win and survive. Violence influenced Dallas’ life, starting at the young age of 16 when he joined the Confederate Army. Dallas moved westward after the war and never failed to encounter violence. By his own account, he fought off 50 Germans in the town of Columbus, Texas. As proof that he led a violent life, he had the scars of 27 wounds with 3 bullets that remained lodged in him. He was a pleasure to get along with, but if you crossed him, you did so at your own peril.
Rich: Who makes up the main supporting cast?
Jaime: The main supporting cast consists of Samuel “Doc” Cummings and the Manning brothers.
Cummings is Stoudenmire’s brother-in-law and one of his few allies. He runs The Globe restaurant and later picks up the badge. Cummings is faithful to Dallas and willing to fight alongside him when needed. Cummings shares many of the same qualities Dallas does, which gives them a strong bond. His short-temper, however, was challenging not only to the public, but also to himself.
The Manning brothers consist of James and Frank. They portray themselves as clean cut men, but behind the scenes, they are the ones causing the trouble in the city, which includes cattle rustling. James and Frank resent the fact that Dallas does not side with them and would love to get rid of him. Their older brother, George Felix, arrives later in the story and wants to lead an honest life. However, he automatically becomes part of the rivalry. And just like Stoudenmire-Cummings, George Felix is loyal to his family, and will stand by his brothers no matter what.
Other characters that appear of importance are James Gillett (Texas Ranger and Assistant Marshal) and Joseph Magoffin (council member and mayor).
Rich: How important was getting the Xeric Foundation grant?
Jaime: Peter A. Laird, co-creator of the Teenage Mutant Teenage Turtles, founded the Xeric Foundation. I found out about it when I was reading a Wizard magazine. The foundation gave out grants to comic creators who were self-publishing. I was close to finishing Gabriel and I decided to take a chance by applying for it in 2007.
Gabriel is based on the femicides that have been occurring in Juarez, Mexico, since the 1990’s. In my graphic novel, a vampire named Gabriel de la Cruz is responsible for the heinous crimes. Since my story is based on true modern crimes, I thought it would be better to use photo manipulated art to give it a realistic feel. I had my wife, family, and friends help act out the scenes.
I thought Gabriel was original and different, but I wasn’t sure if it would be considered for a grant. A few months after applying, I walked out to my mailbox and I received a thick envelope from the Xeric Foundation. I didn’t bother going back inside. I opened the letter right by the mailbox and learned that I was awarded a grant. Needless to say, I was ecstatic about it.
The grant was important because it helped fund Gabriel and it helped kick off my path in creating comic books under Jimmy Daze Comics. What made receiving the grant much more important to me is that it was the first book that I worked on. It gave me confidence in my comic books and helped me believe that people would be interested in reading them. The best compliment towards Gabriel came from Javier Saltares, who is best known for his work on Ghost Rider. I met him at a convention in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and I gave him a copy of Gabriel. He flipped through the pages and he told me, “You know, I’ve seen people try to do this work, but you pulled it off.” This experience would have never been possible if it were not for the Xeric grant.
Rich: Can you tell us why "Escape from Alcatraz: Back from the Dead" is important?
Jaime: This issue is part of the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy official comic book series, “Escape from Alcatraz.” The series deals with the 14 escape attempts from Alcatraz and as of now, they have seven issues out. My issue, Back from the Dead, deals with Floyd Hamilton, Fred Hunter, James Boarman, and Harold Brest, who were involved with the prison’s seventh escape attempt.
I attended the Alternative Press Expo in San Francisco in October 2014. I had been away from my table, and when I arrived, an individual was looking over my books. He said he really liked my work. We continued talking and he told me that he worked for Alcatraz and asked if I’d be interested in writing a comic book for them. I said yes without hesitation. A month later, I was commissioned to write a story for them. I never thought an opportunity like this would happen at a comic book convention.
For Escape for Alcatraz: Back from Dead, I collaborated with Arturo Delgado and Daniel Olvera who worked on Hell Paso and The Railroad Killer. I also had a first time collaboration with comic letterer, Zen. The final product blew them away. I have to say we were proud of our work as well. The comic has a few bonus pages that give historical information about the men and the escape. The issue is available to all visitors at their park store, and for those who can’t make it can buy it online.
Other than being commissioned by them, this comic book is very important to me because a representative from a world famous historical site believed in me as a comic book writer and as a historian.
Rich: Who is the Railroad Killer, what makes him so terrifying?
Jaime: In the comic book, the Railroad Killer roams the El Paso tracks and kills anyone who walks beside them. The story starts with a hobo walking alongside the rails and is ambushed by “someone” or “something.” When the police are investigating the scene the next day, a kid yells out, “It was the Railroad Killer.” An officer named Juan Miranda, Jr. hears the child. What makes Miranda special is that he grew up in that same neighborhood and believes he saw the Railroad Killer as a kid. After looking over the body, he decides to investigate on his own and find out if the Railroad Killer is a person or something else.
I created the Railroad Killer based on my childhood. I lived next to the railroad tracks, and my friends and I would hang out by them late at night. We’d always walk away from our neighborhood towards the dark part of the tracks. The darkness and creepy sounds made everything so spooky. This would lead us to talk about horror movies, like Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Nightmare on Elm Street. One of us would say, “Imagine if there was a railroad track serial killer!” We’d get so scared and take off running back home. We still talk and laugh about it. I wrote us all into the story and named the characters after us, including the police officer. It’s a one shot issue, but I’ve had many people asking for a sequel. That may happen.
Rich: What drives a person to create comic books?
Jaime: I guess everyone has his or her own reason for creating comic books. My first graphic novel, Gabriel, started as a novel in the late 90’s. I wrote a couple of chapters, but ended up putting it away. When I decided to work on it again, I thought to myself, “Why not make it as a comic book?” I was an avid comic book collector as a child and teenager, collecting titles such as Uncanny X-Men and Avengers. I told myself I might as well convert Gabriel into a comic book. I’ve always had ideas in my head and it feels good to have those ideas/stories printed on paper.
Rich: What will you be working on next?
Jaime: I have a number of ideas along with some scripts completed. I have them on hold while my wife and I are going through our new journey in Springfield, Virginia.
Rich: Why is knowing and learning history important?
Jaime: I was born and raised in El Paso, Texas, so other than Escape from Alcatraz, all my stories take place there. The city has a rich history, and I try to keep it alive in one way or another through my comics so its history isn’t forgotten.
I also believe that many people think history has to do with learning dates and events. But it’s not just about learning national and world events. It’s about personal history. It’s about learning who you are and where you come from. It’s about learning what your family has gone through in order to improve the lives of the next generation. I look at that and it makes me push myself to do my best and represent my family in a positive way. My parents did so much for our family and I will never take that for granted.
Rich: Are you a fan of Star Wars, like Luke and Leia?
Jaime: I’ve always loved Star Wars. I remember seeing the trailer as a kid on Saturday mornings. Every time it played, my younger brother and I would yell out for my mom to have her see the trailer with us, and tell her that we wanted to see it. We were a family of seven, so I think we were fortunate that our parents took us to the movies. I say that because my Dad worked long hours from Monday through Saturday, while my mom would care for us all. I’m sure it was tough for him financially to save up for that. The movie blew me away just like most everyone else. I’ve been a loyal fan of all their movies ever since. I’m glad Disney is going to crank out more Star Wars movies.
Over the years, I’ve bought toys, comics, and clothes based on Star Wars. Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi are my favorite characters so I always make sure to get anything with them. My wife and I went to the Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim back in 2015 and we took our pictures with Ray Park, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill. I gave them copies of Hell Paso and they were kind enough to take pictures with me while they held up the books. I even have two huskies who are siblings named Luke and Leia.
Rich: If you had a time machine would you use it and where and when would you go?
Jaime: Although I love comic books, music is what I always wanted to do. I think I would be tempted to take that time machine back to when I was playing guitar with my friends and tell my younger self to take a big risk and follow a path in music. The problem is, I don’t know what would’ve happened to me had I gone that path. Something good could’ve happened. Maybe something bad would’ve happened. I don’t even know if I would’ve worked on comic books had I gone that route.
I’m in a good place right now. I’ve had a good run at creating comic books. My comics have been recognized with grants and awards, and professors have covered my books. I was commissioned by Alcatraz and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy. Hell Paso was converted to an online social slot game by MX Casino, which is co-owned by famous wrestling personality, Eric Bischoff. I appeared in the television documentary series American Lawmen in an episode titled, Dallas Stoudenmire: Hero of El Paso, which aired nationwide on the American Heroes Channel this past March 2016. Much of this was possible with the support of my wife, and if I would’ve followed a different path, who knows if I would’ve met her. I think I would just skip the time machine.
Rich: Any words for all the fans of your work?
Jaime: First, thank you to everyone at Jazma Online for this interview. That is very cool of you all.
I want to thank everyone who has supported Jimmy Daze Comics. I can’t thank you all enough. Not only have you supported me, you have supported all the artists and colorists who have joined me on my projects. New readers keep jumping on board and I hope to keep attracting more. This gives me motivation to keep creating comics and I hope I can continue releasing stories everyone will enjoy. Thank you again and please show your support by following me on www.facebook.com/jimmydazecomics1 or by visiting www.jimmydazecomics.com. I can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Stay safe, everyone!