¡A Viva Voz! featuring Jaime Hernandez, co-creator of 'Love and Rockets'
¡A Viva Voz! featuring Jaime Hernandez, co-creator of "Love and Rockets'
Benson Library, University of Texas at Austin, April 12Call him a graphic novelist if you like, but Jaime Hernandez is fine being that guy still drawing comics after all these years. Not just any comic, but the 25-year-old Love and Rockets series he created with brother Gilbert (as Los Bros Hernandez), credited with helping ignite the alt-comic scene in the early Eighties. Hernandez was in Austin last Wednesday, the featured speaker for the fourth annual ÁA Viva Voz!, a celebration of Latino art and culture hosted by the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection at UT.
Somewhat baffled by the distinguished-speaker treatment, Hernandez was more at ease telling his story, which, as fans know, is his forte. Encouraged by his mother, he devoured comics as a kid (Archie and Dennis the Menace were early favorites), later drawing comics with his siblings.
"It was our favorite way of expressing ourselves," Hernandez said. He and Gilbert continued drawing because it was enjoyable and "school was zero for me." And then came punk rock: "life was cool again."
The Hernandez brothers began to ink the punk rock scene as they experienced it as young Latinos from a southern California barrio. Now known for their unassuming portrayal of Latino culture, early punk life, strong Latinas, and superb storytelling, two of the best-loved characters in the Love and Rockets series are Maggie and Hopey, longtime friends and then lovers whose serialized life has earned devoted readers. But in the beginning, the brothers weren't sure where Love and Rockets would go. By the Eighties, comic-book publishing had narrowed in focus.
"I didn't want to draw Spider-Man," Hernandez said, "or learn to draw the New York City skyline." Chance events led to their first raw publication (hand-stapled by the brothers) and the comic-book convention circuit. On a lark, they sent their work to The Comics Journal.
"They were known for being real mean," Hernandez said. Still, he and his brother thought a bad review was better than nothing. Instead, they received a letter with an offer to publish their work. In 1982, Fantagraphics Books printed the first Love and Rockets and every one since.
"Wow," Hernandez said, recalling Love and Rockets' early days. "[Maybe] one day Maggie and Hopey will be as common as Betty and Veronica." But the audience knew that Love and Rockets transcended "common" long ago to become a comic classic.
As we went to press, the University of Texas announced that professor David M. Oshinsky has received the Pulitzer Prize in History for his Polio: An American Story (Oxford University Press, $16.95). The Chronicle offers its congratulations.