Originally published in The Comics Journal #126, 1988
Mario, Gilbert, and Jaime Hernandez were born and raised in Oxnard, California, just north of Los Angeles. They grew up reading comic books, watching monster movies, listening to rock and roll music, and, most significantly, drawing their own cartoons and comics. In the late '70s they became heavily involved in punk rock, and this phenomenon opened their eyes to the possibilities of expressing themselves in comics. It was Mario who put these ambitions on a practical footing, enlisting his brothers in a self-published comic called Love & Rockets. They sent a review copy to Gary Groth, editor and publisher of The Comics Journal, who had a few ambitions of his own. He had wanted to publish a new kind of comics, and here, lo and behold, was a new kind of comics. In 1982 Love & Rockets became the flagship title of Fantagraphics Books.
Gilbert (L) & Jaime (R), 2007
Over the course of the first several issues the brothers' confidence steadily grew (Mario dropped out after the third issue). Initially they thought they had to present their work in some semblance of genre trappings, but these quickly fell away. Jaime began by interspersing his tongue-in-cheek science fiction series "Mechanics" with more realistic vignettes set in the southwestern barrio Hoppers 13. Emboldened by his brother's example, Gilbert took the plunge with "Heartbreak Soup," a series of stories set in the mythical Central American town of Palomar, which would be the setting of most (though not all) of his subsequent work. Eventually Jaime's vignettes swallowed the science fiction, and over the last 20 issues or so "Mechanics" has only made token appearances.
On the business end of things, Love & Rockets was the first American comic to successfully adopt the European method of album collection after magazine serialization. The Love & Rockets collections have allowed the brothers to make a decent living despite a relatively low circulation for the bi-monthly magazine (between 18- and 19,000). Things were not going so smoothly in 1984, however, and to make ends meet they agreed to produce the first six issues of Mr. X on work-for-hire basis for Vortex. Mario and Gilbert plotted, Gilbert scripted, and Jaime did the artwork, scrapping all but the bare bones of Dean Motter's original concept. Unfortunately, the contract that the legally inexperienced brothers signed did not stipulate when they were to be paid (it would eventually take three years and some blackmail). By the time they finished the fourth issue they had not yet been fully paid for the first, so they quit the series. (The publisher would later claim that they left because they were unable to keep the schedule, although their issues came out more frequently than any subsequent team’s.)
The fifth Love & Rockets collection, House of Raging Women, has just been released; Book One, now subtitled Music For Mechanics, will see its third printing and Books Two (Chelo's Burden) and Three (Las Mujeres Perdidas) will see their second in 1989. In 1989 there will also be the Love & Rockets Sketchbook, collecting artwork from the start of their careers to the present. In Love & Rockets #29 Gilbert will start another long story, “Poison River,” and in #30 Maggie and Hopey will finally be reunited.
The Hernandez brothers were interviewed in several combinations in several sessions. The interviews were conducted by Gary Groth, Robert Fiore, and Thom Powers, transcribed by Thom Powers, copy-edited by Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez, and edited by Robert Fiore.
Continue reading this interview by downloading this PDF (116 pages, 1.1 MB).
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