The Grotto of Death

A mysterious invasion of flesh-eating creatures terrorizes a small fishing village. What are these things, and where are they coming from? THE GROTTO OF DEATH is one of hundreds of comic books drawn by Julio Camarena Pérez. At its peak in the 1970s, Mexico was the world's largest per capita producer of comic books -- and Julio Camarena Pérez was one of its most elevated practitioners. Today, the Mexico comics industry is dead, and Camarena's work is forgotten. A beautifully drawn black and white comic, THE GROTTO OF DEATH, is presented episodically as the Octogenarian comic book artist slowly draws a grimacing skull and tells the story of his life and work.

  • Christopher Sperandio
  • Brian Huberman
    Alligator Horses
  • Augusto Mora
  • Christopher Sperandio
  • Christopher Sperandio
  • Julio Camarena Perez
    Key Cast
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Short
  • Runtime:
    15 minutes 49 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    May 1, 2023
  • Production Budget:
    5,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Christopher Sperandio
Distribution Information
  • Christopher Sperandio
    Country: United States
Director Biography - Christopher Sperandio, Brian Huberman, Augusto Mora

This is the first film for co-directors Christopher Sperandio and Augusto Mora. We were fortunate to enlist the help of Brian Huberman, a longtime documentary filmmaker in the help of the completion of this film! It's been a real team effort! Mora is a comic artist based in Mexico City while Sperandio and Huberman are both professors of art at Rice University in Houston, Texas.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

Today, American comics are having an outsized impact on the film and television industries. But it wasn't always that way. Comics have long been overshadowed by other forms of media, despite emerging at the same time as photography, cinema, radio, and the phonograph in the late 19th century. Comics were often denigrated and even persecuted, such as during the 1950s U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency, which blamed comics for postwar “moral decay” in the United States.

In the US, the comics industry survived in a diminished capacity and their products marketed to children. The perception and reception of comics differ from country to country; for instance, mini-comics were wildly popular in Mexico during the 1960s and 1970s due to their low cost and portability. The Mexican mini-comic was sized to be inexpensive to produce, allowing just one or two panels per page with an emphasis on the text. 80% of the population was reading comics in Mexico during the 1960s.

Original art for these comics is now being collected and valued by enthusiasts, such as Julio Camarena's work. Camarena produced 7 or 8 drawings per day, 6 days per week using a low-fi process specific to Mexican comic production at the time. Camarena's work, and Mexican comics generally, were a different visual experience compared to American comics, and his drawings have a lyricism that doesn't exist in the work of many of his peers.

The once-massive Mexican comic industry has disappeared and Camarena (as he signed his work) is one of the last remaining artists. We'd like to thank Julio Camarena Pérez for allowing us to tell his story -- and for helping us to preserve the history of this important piece of world heritage, the Mexican comic book industry.