Since the 1980s, Jaime Hernandez and his brothers Mario and Gilbert (a.k.a. Los Bros Hernandez) have amassed a seriously loyal fan base for their funny, quirky, urban, sci-fi tinged comic-book series Love and Rockets.
Stuffed with smart, feisty female characters who pack more va-voom than Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield combined (their hips could knock an eye out), the comic book celebrates its 30th anniversary with a retrospective exhibit at the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco through March 10.
Gilbert Hernandez is best known for his Palomar stories, a magical realism series set in a rural village and following characters such as sexual, stubborn Luba, and lovers Heraclio and Carmen. The Love and Rockets Locas stories by Jaime Hernandez focus on aging on-again, off-again California punk Latina gal duo Margarita Luisa “Maggie” Chascarrillo, a mechanic turned apartment manager, and Esperanza “Hopey” Leticia Glass, and also Maggie’s on-again, off-again love Ray Dominguez. Their worlds feel both real and fantasy-filled, and always emotional.
EW chatted with Southern California based Jaime Hernandez, holed up in his house working, about the comic book’s anniversary, his brothers, drawing all those curvy women, differences between the comic then and now, his influences, and which Love and Rockets characters are his favorites. (Hint: Maggie!)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I am a huge huge fan of Love and Rockets, and have been for years. It’s a great accomplishment, you and your brothers doing the comic for so long.
JAIME HERNANDEZ: It doesn’t really feel like 30 years. I still feel like a young kid, still with a lot to say. When they said 30 years, and I had to wake up and say, “Oh really?”
So how do you and your brothers get along, being involved in the same project?
Our secret is why we can still do it is we don’t collaborate. We leave each other alone. If I have trouble with my work, and I’m depressed, and it’s not coming together, I’ll give them a call. Most of the time, we don’t talk about the work. I usually get off the phone and feel better. Gilbert’s in Las Vegas, and Mario’s in San Francisco. I don’t talk to them as much as I would like. When Gilbert lived in the same town, we were always talking. Now it’s once every two weeks.
What are the joys and difficulties in aging your characters? Maggie, for instance, visibly looks older in newer issues.
Me getting older helps me write my characters getting older. Aging the characters make them more human to me. The older they get, the more human they get. I only have so many stories I can tell, especially for the last 30 years. Maggie at 17, and Maggie at 45, will make a story seem different. I can put them in the same situation, but they’ll be different. The aging makes it keep it fresh somehow. I’ve been a fan of comics and comic strips where they never age, like the Peanuts characters, and that was fine.
Love and Rockets is such a mix of gritty realism and these sci-fi, strange elements, such as Maggie’s friend Penny Century racing through the galaxy.
It’s like taking from the best parts of me. I grew up as a kid taking from junk culture. I’ll still watch an old crummy monster movie, next to a good film. In the comic book, mixing the fantasy and the reality is just kind of having fun. I hope one doesn’t interfere with the other. I hope when I tell something serious, it does hold up on its own, that people are not confused, that look, there’s a dinosaur in the next room.
What differences do you see or feel between the first Love and Rockets issues years ago, and your work now?
I don’t look at the old stuff as much as I used to. I always wondered why artists say they hate the older stuff. I look at some of the older stuff I wrote, and I cringe. In a certain scene, they’ll be saying, “You drive me crazy,” or something like that. I couldn’t imagine writing that now. Just the way they talk. How I made the scene progress, and it’s a little clunky. Overall, I don’t regret anything. Somehow I think I learned along the way to make it work better.
Which of your characters do you love the most? Everyone seems to have their “baby,” that character he or she really connects with, and loves to develop.
Of course there’s Maggie. She’s my main baby. There’s Ray. I like Hopey. Some of them are harder to write. Maggie is just easy to write because she’s just me. There are so many Maggie stories because she can take the ball and run with it. Hopey is more of a mystery. I find her harder to write. It’s just more of a challenge, but that’s also more her character. You’re not supposed to know as much what’s going on in her head. I used to put in the thought balloon. Then there’s Ray, who I can put all my boy thoughts into, which I can’t with Maggie. I put him in to balance Maggie.
It can’t be ignored that you guys draw women with some major curves to them.
Besides that I like women, I like the way women look. I’m not ashamed to say I like women for the right reasons, and also for some of the wrong reasons! It came from being a kid, learning to draw women, when I was 13, but also having a responsibility, trying to get into their heads. It worked out. I didn’t know I was doing anything right until women who read my comics said they liked the way women were being represented. I was so relieved.
Later Love and Rockets stories are very very dark, touching on rape and violence. I’m curious about the shift.
Gilbert more than me. I once in a while wake up and say, “Hey, my stuff is getting too easy, too sedate, too light.” Once in a while, I need to remind the reader. It’s obviously easier for Gilbert. Every once in a while I wake up and say, “Hey I’m cruising too much. It’s not so easy out there.”
What are some of the comics you loved, growing up, compared to what you read now?
The comics I grew up in the ‘60s with are Archie and Dennis the Menace, and early Marvel comics. I grew up with that as a kid. The older I got, I got out of it, because I was doing my own comics. Lately, I’m mostly catching up on collections of old weird horror comics from the ‘50s, because I never knew about the golden age. I’m going back to these pre code comics, wacky, crime comics. They were going crazy before the code. You can tell, “Oh, this was pre code.” As far as new stuff, it’s rare, but I just picked up the new Charles Burns, The Hive. Black Hole is a good one. Of course I read my brother’s work. He’s working on 10 projects while I’m working on one. I don’t follow the mainstream anymore.
You must feel so proud of the Cartoon Art Museum exhibit retrospective. An honor!
It’s a great feeling, but I say it’s more for the fans. For me, it’s about, “Why do you want to put my art up?” For me, I do my comics, and the original art is shoved into a drawer.
Thanks so much for talking to me. Continue being busy working at home, making amazing comics.
I’m just here, and it’s nothing else but the size of my drawing board.
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