Día de Muertos, better known in English as the Day of the Dead, is the traditional Mexican holiday in which the living celebrate and reconnect with friends and family who have passed away. It runs from October 31 through November 2 each year, giving celebrants plenty of time to enjoy.
If you don’t know much about the holiday and don’t really feel like going down a Wiki/YouTube hole, check out Disney’s Coco and 20th Century Fox’s The Book of Life, which give colorful testaments to how magical and beautiful this holiday is. Honestly, it’s kind of like the ultimate holiday for fantasy-genre lovers.
Despite its proximity to Halloween, it has nothing to do with All Hallows’ Eve. It is a uniquely Mexican holiday that has become the subject of much interest and many pop culture crossovers; over the last decade, it has influenced many of our favorite movies, comic books, video games, and toys due to its vibrant colors, elegant outfits, and ever-popular sugar skulls.
Perhaps the most recognizable Day of the Dead ritual is the sugar skulls, aka calaveras, people paint on their faces. Painting one’s face with a skull is thought to help normalize and overcome the fear of death. Today, the iconic sugar skull paintings can be seen everywhere from comics and toys to cosplayers and fan art.
The IP-based Día de Muertos specials are becoming legion. As viewers saw on SYFY this year, Maria from the Deadly Class comic from Image takes direct inspiration from the holiday.
Born in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Maria tragically lost her family after her dad was caught stealing food to feed his family. Maria dons La Calavera Catrina every time she goes into battle. The Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride also take a lot of inspiration from the holiday.
Though the name is more of a food pun, the action-fantasy platformer game Guacamalee is directly based on the lore of Día de Muertos. Lee, the hero, is wearing a luchador mask, not a sugar skull, but the plot takes from the holidays. Just read the logline: "Carlos Calaca has kidnapped El Presidente's daughter, and he plans to sacrifice her in order to merge the World of the Living with the World of the Dead."
Plenty of established heroes have also gotten in on the Día de Muertos celebrations, as well. DC Comics has been particularly active in the mashups, outfitting Batman, Joker, and Harley Quinn with Day of the Dead-inspired outfits — which, of course, you can purchase via Sideshow Collectibles.
These are just some examples of how the Day of the Dead has influenced our geek world. But what’s even cooler is how genre culture has had a major impact on the traditional holiday. It’s a symbiotic relationship. We are Venom Day of the Dead.
Remember the Day of the Dead parade in the opening sequence from the 2015 James Bond film, Spectre? It wasn’t until after the release of the film that Mexico City held its first-ever Day of the Dead parade in 2016. It’s crazy to think that parade did not exist before. Since then, the parade continues to evolve, with zombies, witches, and ghosts becoming more prominent among the sugar skulls.
EDITOR’S HOT TAKE: Zombie attacks could’ve been avoided if we just celebrated the Day of the Dead. Let’s face it, the only reason zombies truly attack us is that they’re feeling neglected and forgotten. All protagonists in George A. Romero movies had to do was build an altar of remembrance and outfit it with items specific to the deceased. They would’ve felt loved, remembered, and gone back to their grave peacefully. That’s it.