Friday, October 10, 2014

Happy 55th Birthday Jaime Hernandez!

Jaime Hernandez (born Oct, 10th, 1959) and his brothers Gilberto became independent comic sensations in the 80's with their fun depiction of Mexican/American women in their, Love and Rockets. While Gilberto took inspiration for his Heartbreak Soup from stories he was told about village life in Mexico, Jaime took inspiration for his Locas from the LA punk scene that were a part of.

Jaime surrounded by some of his spirited female characters; clockwise from lower left, Daphne "DAFFY" Matsumoto, Beatríz "PENNY CENTURY" Garcia, Margarita "MAGGIE" Chascarrillo,  Esperanza "HOPEY" Glass, TERRY Downe, Isabel "IZZY" Reubens
Following the 'do it yourself', punk rock ethic, the brothers Gilbert, Jaime, and Mario Hernandez first self-published Love and Rockets in 1981 as a 32 page black and white magazine sized comic. They got 800 copies printed which they organized and folded and stapled themselves!

Knowing about the Comics Journal's vicious critiquing, los bros Hernandez sent in a copy of their comic to be trashed. To their surprise, not only did they like the comic, they wanted to publish it, so in 1982 Fantagraphics Books republished this issue with 34 more pages and a full color front and back cover.

This cover shows some of Jaime's sensibilities that he brought to the comic with the other worldly super women juxtaposed amidst a simple housewife, curlers, bathrobe and all.
While Gilberto is considered 'the story teller' of the two with his gritty tales of life in a small Mexican village, Jaime is considered the draftsman with his incredible figure drawing and black and white art work.
This page from Love and Rockets #4 Jaime's mastery of the human form and his skill at creating stunning black and white art with his strong chiaroscuro shading on Rocky.

 Jaime's work mostly revolves around Hopey and Maggie two BFFL; Mexican American Punk rockers and sometimes lovers who have adventures together and get into various kinds of trouble.
Jaime's early work was a mix of punk rock, sci-fi robots, rockets and pro wrestling. He wrote a few epic stories about Maggie the mechanic where, being a 'pro solar mechanic', she would go off to exotic places to fix broken down rocket ships, meet exotic people and have adventures.
At a certain point Jaime phased out all of the sci-fi trappings and started to produce just strait stories of Hopey, Maggie and their punk rock friends' life in what Jaime called Locas (Spanish for crazy girls). When asked why he phased out the rocket ships and sci fi elements Jaime said, "Readers said that they loved the characters. And I said, ‘Well, good, because I prefer the characters.’ I was itching to show their real lives. The sci-fi stuff was just for fun. It started getting in the way. You can’t really take Maggie seriously when she’s bummed out if there is a rocket ship in the background. But if I put her in a realistic setting, you can get deeper into it, because you can relate, you can feel it."
This page is a turning point for Jaime where the story features Hopey and Maggie in every day life without all of the sci-fi trappings from Love and Rockets #13
"I also hadn’t realized that my life at the time was more exciting than what I was reading in comics. We were just showing what we were experiencing — going out, seeing bands, having fun, and things like that. We found out that a lot of people didn’t know about this stuff, but were intrigued by it. So we just said, ‘Well, I have a whole life full of this stuff that you people don’t know about."

Maggie and Hopey have had a long and varied relationship starting out as best friends and lovers then estranged, then back together again. Often their Locas stories takes place in Hoppers, the nickname of the fictional Huerta, California. They have a rich cast of friends that they often hang out.

On the cover of Love and Rockets #17 we see Hopey and Maggie with some of their friends like 'Daffy' Daphne Matsumoto, a well off friend of theirs from the punk shows, Terry Downe, Hoppey's friend, band mate, and jealous lover, and Izzy, Maggie's crazy goth friend and sometimes house mate. This is when Maggie left her glamorous mechanic job for a job at a fast food joint.

Well depicted women characters seem to be the exception rather than the rule in American media especially the world of comic books where women are notoriously objectified and made one dementional. When asked about this Jaime said, "Well, that’s part of the reason they were put out there. It all started with loving to draw women. And then we decided that, ‘Well, I can have my cake and eat it too if I make them interesting characters, because we certainly ain’t getting it from anyone else.’
I like drawing Maggie’s big butt. But I’m not happy unless her personality is well-rounded. No pun intended. "

Here we see Jaime's awesome ability to draw the female form with Maggie gaining a little weight, from Love and Rockets #18.

When asked about where his characters come from, Jaime said, "Maggie is a tough one. She’s a million people in one. A lot of her is me, if you can believe it. Hopey is a little easier because I created her look from a type of punk girl that I saw at the clubs in the late ’70s. I thought they were so cool — these little tiny spiky-haired girls with big mouths. When I created her, she was going to be this cute little thing that was so loveable. And then I said, ‘Wait a minute, what am I doing?’ I’ve got to make her the biggest pain in the ass I can."

Hopey is the eternal fireball always getting herself into trouble. Here we see Jaime's creative visual language as Hopey goes white from fear in the last panel from this excerpt taken from Love and Rockets #18.
Jaime has been entertaining us with his stories of rockets, robots, and rock and roll, crazy girls, best friends forever, and estranged lovers for the last 30 years. He started on the cusp of the independent comic movement of the 80's and weathered the storm of market crash of the 90's and is still here telling the stories of Maggie and Hopey, also 30 years older and still being crazy.

Happy Birthday Jaime
and thank you for all of the awesome fun and joy you have brought to our lives!

Interview with Jamie and Gilberto

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