Sunday, February 1, 2015

Happy 58th birthday Gilberto Hernandez!

Gilberto Hernández 
born February 1, 1957, creator of 
Heartbreak Soup

Gilbert is here with 3 of his most popular creations, Luba, the local theater owner and bañadora or bath giver of the fictional village of Palomar, Chelo, the sheriff of Palomar and a competitor bañadora, and Tonantizin, the local hot girl.

Gilbert Hernandez, half of the Mexican/American Los Hernandez brothers, has been delighting us with his stories of Luba and the denizens of Palomar for the last 30 years primarily in the pages of Love and Rockets.

Luba is a grand dame of Palomar and a favorite of Gilbert's. Here she is in all of her ages and phases from toddler to Grand Dame.
Luba started out as a generic big breasted woman in BEM from the very first issue of Love and Rockets. "When I first drew Luba, I just stuck these big things on a pretty woman's chest. But I'd noticed how a lot of women in the real world who are top heavy have broad shoulders and strong backs and then narrow hips and thin legs, so I gave Luba that physique."
Luba was originally a rebel and a would-be world conqueror as we see above in this panel from Love and Rockets #1, June 1982, but she quickly transitioned into a matron of the fictional small village of Palomar.

Gilbert has said about Luba, "In BEM she was just a voodoo woman, an island lady who wanted power, wanted to take over the world. You know, it was just bullshit. She was sort of like Richard Corben’s queen bitch in Den. I just did it, I didn’t think about it at all. I decided to do Heartbreak Soup as a sequel to BEM."
After BEM, Luba took up in the small rural village of Palomar as a bañadora, or bath woman with her friend Ofelia and her child Maricela. 
"I thought Heartbreak Soup would be the story of Luba after she’s ousted from the revolutionary party, and she’s hiding out in this little town. Then I’d reintroduce BEM towards the end of the story. As I was planning this I thought I’ve got enough here to tell a real story. And I trusted Gary(Groth) and Kim (Thompson) (Fantagraphics publishers) to support me in this."

Heartbreak Soup is the stories of Palomar, a primitive fictional town. Gilbert has populated it with the most fascinating and outrageous characters, including Luba, one of it's main characters. "A lot of the stuff about village and small town life in Hearbreak Soup is made up, and of course there’s stuff from movies, too. It’s a mythical town. The characters aren’t necessarily Mexican. A little kid from Colombia can read it, and think that it’s his town, and so maybe it is. I like the fact that it’s a surreal fantasy. Most of it is from what I remember when I was a kid. My momma and my aunts talking about when they were young, telling a story about where they were, “Well, we were next to the train yard and they had this big square, and there was a little market there.” Things like that. I guess I retain images pretty well from films, and where I’ve been."
Gilbert has said, "Luba almost wrote herself. At the time I was very sensitive to what feminists were saying about how women were portrayed in popular culture, movies, and comic books. At the time I was thinking, “How could I draw a character like this and think I’m doing something progressive?” So I had to try real hard to make her a good character. And there are still people who won’t read it because Luba’s tits are too big."
"I also wanted to deglamorize her, because I didn’t want people to think, because of her big chest, that she was the hot chick all the guys wanted. I emphasized Pipo’s and Tonantizin’s good looks, and I also deglamorized Luba by having her not wear makeup, and giving her a bad attitude and a lot of kids. But you can’t win – people said, “oh she’s the earth mother.” So you can’t win. I gave Luba all those kids so she wouldn’t seem so glamorous, but that made her more glamorous."

Gilbert would write about Palomar stories until issue 26 of Love and Rockets, where he would complete his grand opus, the compltion of his Human Diastrophism.
Gilbert then went on to fill out Luba's origins with his next great work, Poison River that was serialized in Love and Rockets from 1989 to 1993.
Gilbert took a new approach to story telling with Poison River. He did away with strait forward narrative for a much more impressionistic approach to story telling, showing a bunch of vignettes which as a whole create an impression.

Love and Rockets ended with issue #50 in April of 1996. Los Hernandez bros. continued on with their work with each their own traditional size comics (6.75 x 10.25, rather than the black and white magazine size comic that Love and Rockets was). Luba would become the star of her own book and feature stories of her in American and of her kids, all grown up, and her half sisters Fritz and Petra.

It's been 30+ years that Gilbert has been thrilling us with his stories and let's hope he doesn't stop any time soon.

Gilbert quotes were taken from the Comics Journal #126, Jan 1989.

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