Artists Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez drew and wrote their popular comic book series love and rockets since 1982. You havefollowed the lives of her mostly Hispanic characters as they grew from restless teenagers to middle-aged women. To celebrate their 40th anniversary, their faithful publisher Fantagraphics has released a new boxed collection of their classics.
The Hernandez brothers grew up in a small Southern California town similar to the fictional community of Hoppers, where their characters Maggie and her friends live. Oxnard, California was thousands of miles away from the New York and British punk music the brothers listened to as teenagers in the late 1970s.
“It just felt new and fresh to us,” says Gilbert of her favorite bands, the Ramones, Sex Pistols and The Clash. “Rock has been revived, youth culture has been revived. You know, we weren’t those no-good guys in a small town, we were always alert to the bigger world. And that kind of opened up for us because it was a DIY thing.”
With the same breakaway do-it-yourself punk spirit, the brothers played in local bands and began drawing their own alternative comics. Her older brother Mario was her partner in the beginning when they self-published. Jaime says they were inspiredthrough what he jokingly calls their “love of junk culture”: old sci-fi movies, wrestling, crappy TV shows, crappy comics.
“It was just the stuff that we like to draw and we thought it was cool because people started telling us it wasn’t cool,” he says. “And if you tell us that’s not cool, then we will do it more. We were cocky and confident enough that we knew what we liked and our comic wanted to show you why.”
“Los Bros Hernandez,” as they’re also known, reminisced on a recent visit to Golden Apple Comics, the popular LA indie shop filled with the kinds of comics they grew up with: everything from underground Comix to Marvel and DC Super Heroes Dennis the threat to The Archis. Jaime says he was attracted to him The Archis especially for his fashion and rock band, which reflects the pop culture of his time. He saysBetty and Veronica and Friends inspired him to create his main character Maggie and her friends as 1980s punk teenagers.
“When we were in the punk scene, a lot of the young women were very spirited and very lively. And I just loved that about them,” he says. “And I was like, ‘My characters better get dressed, right? Or the real punks are going to make fun of them.'”
To the love and rockets, Jaime says he threw in everything he loved: rockets, robots, horror and punk. He first turned Maggie into a rocket mechanic wearing 1940s clothing and living in a sci-fi world. Then she became a 1980s punk teenager with friends like Hopey, her occasional lover.
“The punk girls would hang out and smoke cigarettes and get drunk and stuff like that,” he says. “Anybody can go to space in comics, you know. But if I can bore these girls to death because they live in a small town and make it interesting, then boy I’m a good artist.”
Meanwhile, Jaime’s older brother, Gilbert, wrote and drew parallel stories about a fictional Latin American village called Palomar. His story follows Luba and her family as they immigrate to California.
“I wanted something with weight, something with substance,” he says. “It was a challenge just to get people to read it. And fortunately, there were enough people that made it possible to keep us going for 40 years.”
Over the years, they have focused on their female characters’ interpersonal dramas, their love lives, and their neighborhoods.
“It could be that we were raised by our mother and her grandmother, and our mother had a couple of sisters,” says Gilbert. “We saw the world through women’s eyes.”
Gilbert says it was important that contrast The Archisthe love and rockets Characters matured into middle age because it just seemed weird that they were the same age all the time.
In a recent PBS SoCal documentary about love and rocketstestified fans about what they believe to be honest portrayals of Latinx and queer characters dealing with love, loss, death and aging.
“They start talking about menopause, who gets their period, who doesn’t get their period,” says LA Times journalist Carolina Miranda. “It feels so real because what kind of conversations do women that age have? They talk about their bodies. That’s surprising to see in a comic, especially one written by men. Menopause isn’t talked about much.” .. And it’s the kind of thing I really appreciate love and rockets.”
Ryan Liebowitz, owner of Golden Apple Comics, says the Hernandez brothers have had diehard fans and newer generations since day one. “Love and Rockets is for people who don’t generally like capes and superheroes and want to read stories about real people doing real things.”
Forty years later, Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez say they have no plans to stop drawing love and rockets. “We’re trying to catch up with Charles Schulz and then we’ll stop,” jokes Jaime. “He continued to draw for almost 50 years.”
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