This interview was conducted by Fantagraphics intern Rolando A. López. Thanks to Rolando and Jaime! And,Esperanza will be in stores this week! -- janice
In his 1989 The Comics Journal interview (#126), Jaime Hernandez said: “I hope [Love and Rockets is] still fresh 20-50 years from now. I hope it doesn’t lose anything in the long run. Even if I’m writing about contemporary things . . . I hope people can look back at it as a piece of history instead of a gimmick.”
Readers have followed the lives of Maggie, Hopey, and the gang for almost 30 years now, and Love and Rockets is still going strong. Today, Jaime Hernandez is one of the most revered names in the world of comic books and beyond; cartoonists Alison Bechdel, Zak Sally, Simpsons creator Matt Groening, filmmaker Darren Aronofsky and writer Junot Díaz have all cited his influence. Hernandez’s work, simply put, is part of the comics canon.
Esperanza, the fifth volume in the Complete Love and Rockets, collects the stories from Love and Rockets Vol. II. Here, readers see Maggie struggle with the ghosts of her past, find Hopey settling down, and meet some new faces, which cause trouble in the already troublesome lives of the Locas. In this Q&A, Jaime Hernandez talks about growing along with his characters, his storytelling techniques and his elusive muse.
Rolando A. López: Esperanza, Hopey’s full first name, means “Hope” in Spanish. Why did you choose this as the collection’s title?
Jaime Hernandez: Actually, Kim Thompson came up with it. I couldn’t think of a better title so I happily agreed to it.
López: It seems to me these stories would be really rewarding to someone who’s read the Locas saga since it began. How do you take into account readers who have been following the series when you’re crafting your comics? Conversely, what storytelling techniques do you use to help acclimate new readers to new Locas stories?
Hernandez: I try to tell these stories in a way that a new reader can jump in and not feel overwhelmed and intimidated by the continuity that has built up for 30 years. It’s not always easy. [As for the fans,] I can only hope they’ll stay with me even if we’ve been at it this long.
López: Elliptical storytelling — how did you develop it and why did you develop it and what does it allow you to do?
Hernandez: It happened naturally. The storytelling was more of a learning process for me than the art was in the early L&Rs. I was trying whatever worked. Soon I started to visualize the story like a movie, with cinematic jump cuts and things like that, and came to realize I could cut a lot of corners and fit in more story. That also taught me how to let the character’s body language and expressions tell the story instead of letting the words do it. Finally, it taught me that leaving out actual “story” involves the reader more by letting them fill it in themselves.
López: How do you structure your stories?
Hernandez: It’s different most of the time. If the characters write the story, which they most often do, it’s sort of waiting to see what will turn out. If an idea writes the story, it’s more tightly structured: making sure there’s a beginning, middle and end.
López: You have a very intuitive approach to storytelling — you listen for your muse and almost “transcribe” what she says. Do you ever have “fights” with your muse?
Hernandez: Every time. That way it will flow naturally but still connect with the reader. Muse doesn’t always translate on its own.
López: How do you calibrate your artistic process?
Hernandez: I trust my instincts. I have to.
López: How did this process play out in the writing of the first half of the book (the “Maggie” stories)?
Hernandez: I don’t remember. It was quite a few years ago. The usual, I suppose. If I’m doing Maggie, she’s always gonna tell me where to go. Yeesh! Listen to me! “And then a UFO came down and ...”
López: One new character is Vivian, a femme fatale: she destroys everything she touches, and in turn, everyone that touches her either lives to regret it, or dies. How did you come to create her?
Hernandez: I wanted to create a character with no boundaries: someone who basically has nothing to lose. A character like that is the funnest and easiest to write because they can be put into any situation and it works. Making her very sexy only lets her character get deeper into trouble.
López: Why did you decide to put her in Maggie’s life?
Hernandez: It wasn’t planned, but I discovered they worked really well together because Maggie is the opposite of Viv. With Maggie’s nagging conscience, I can only take her so far. Dragging her into Viv’s world gives her (and me) a lot more to work with.
López: Sometimes I think of Vivian as being a darker counterpart to Penny Century; they’re both desirable and somewhat volatile. Is this an apt comparison?
Hernandez: In a way, but I understand Viv’s demons more than I do Penny’s and hopefully that makes them feel a little different from each other. I know why Viv is crazy but I don’t know why Penny is crazy and I prefer it that way. Both give me a lot to work with in different ways.
We're all a-buzz over the 2011 Small Press Expo, which is just around the corner on September 10th & 11th in Bethesda, Maryland! And here are our Fantagraphics panel highlights -- plot your weekend accordingly:
Saturday, September 10th
Excruciating Detail: Drawing the Grotesque 1:00 pm | White Flint Amphitheater
Historical comics ranging from Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy to the horror comics of the 1950s have specialized in images of the grotesque. Sean T. Collins will speak with cartoonists Lisa Hanawalt (I Want You), Benjamin Marra (Night Business), Tom Neely (The Wolf), and Johnny Ryan (Prison Pit) about the act of drawing horrific, visceral, visual detail in contemporary comics that speak to horrors that are both timeless and contemporary.
The Secret History of Women in Comics 1:30 pm | Brookside Conference Room
The increased involvement of women in the comics field over the past several years has been a significant positive change in a historically male-dominated industry. However, just as it’s worth celebrating this progressive revolution, it is also worth noting that today’s women cartoonists are part of a lineage of pioneering women who have made many contributions to the field. Heidi MacDonald will discuss this history with Jessica Abel, Robyn Chapman, Alexa Dickman and Diane Noomin.
Anders Nilsen: Questions and Answers 2:00 pm | White Flint Amphitheater
This year Drawn and Quarterly publishes Anders Nilsen’s opus Big Questions. A dozen years in the making, this book sensitively depicts a philosophical crisis in a community of birds whose lives are forever changed by the destructive intervention of human violence. Nilsen has also published books including Dogs and Water, Don’t Go Where I Can’t Follow, Monologues for Calculating the Density of Black Holes, and more. Nilsen will discuss his work with moderator Bill Kartalopoulos.
The entry of comics as “graphic novels” into the publishing landscape has encouraged work that conforms to the narrative biases of conventional literary fiction. Joe “Jog” McCulloch will talk to Marc Bell (Pure Pajamas), Matthew Thurber (1-800-MICE) and Jim Woodring (Congress of the Animals) about producing graphic narratives that follow less conventional, more associative, and even visually based narrative logics that lend integrity to apparent surreality.
Stories of Cultural Identity 3:30 pm | Brookside Conference Room
America’s own culture wars are only part of a global struggle with identity, as nations the world over attempt to address the challenges of assimilating multiple cultures within a stable society. Moderator Rob Clough will talk to Jessica Abel (La Perdida), Marguerite Dabaie (The Hookah Girl), Sarah Glidden (How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less) and G. B. Tran (Vietnamerica) about comics that deal with issues of cultural identity.
Johnny Ryan Q+A 5:30 pm | Brookside Conference Room
As comics have increasingly entered into the worlds of literary publishing and gallery arts, Johnny Ryan has almost single handedly extended comics’ satirical, parodistic, disreputable and scatological traditions in his comic book series Angry Youth Comix. More recently, he has entered the realm of visual pulp with his epic, no-holds-barred, manga-inflected graphic novel series Prison Pit. Ryan will discuss the development of his work with moderator Chris Mautner.
Sunday, September 11th
You Don’t Know Jacques: The Work of Jacques Tardi 1:00 pm | White Flint Amphitheater
In a special slideshow presentation, Fantagraphics co-publisher Kim Thompson will discuss the career of seminal French cartoonist Jacques Tardi, whose work Thompson has been translating in a new series of English-language editions. Relatively unknown until recently in the US, Tardi is a giant of French comics publishing. Active for over forty years and the author of dozens of books, Tardi is a foundational figure of auteurial bande dessinée.
In the early 2000s, corporate publishers nearly raced to acquire graphic novels. Now, as the mainstream publishing industry faces severe contractions and as online media assumes many traditional functions of publishing, cartoonists face a rapidly changing publishing landscape, one that includes a resurgent small press. Johanna Draper Carlson will speak with Domitille Collardey, Mike Dawson, Meredith Gran, Roger Langridge and Julia Wertz about publishing options today.
Diane Noomin Q+A 4:00 pm | White Flint Amphitheater
Jim Woodring: Seeing Things 5:00 pm | White Flint Amphitheater
Jim Woodring first made his mark with his probing, autobiographically-based series Jim. Since then, he has expansively focused on his character Frank, an anthropomorphic cartoon character moving wordlessly through a hallucinatory world of delight and terror, drawn in both meticulous pen-and-ink and gem-like color. His latest book is the Frank graphic novel Congress of the Animals. He will discuss his career in this spotlight session with moderator Ken Parille.
The great Jim Woodring is down in Australia, and if you missed him at GRAPHIC this past weekend, don't fret!
On Thursday, August 25th, Jim will be doing a free talk at the Earthed at Tanks Arts Centre, as part of the Cairns Festival, an annual arts and culture festival in North Queensland. It's his first time back to the festival since 2007, so don't miss it!
And then on Sunday, August 28th, Jim will be taking part in the Melbourne Writers Festival! Join him at 4:00 PM at the Ian Potter Centre for an hour-long discussion of his work.
UPDATE! Thanks to commenter Charles C. Good for the following additional information:
"He'll be in Melbourne for more than just that one event. He's also doing a second discussion and there's also a night-time event where he and a few other artists will be drawing in front of a crowd while a live band plays. You can see the details for all three events here."
Wendy does lovely work on her own, as well, including this piece off her website.
And here's her collaboration with Josh for Mome 22 -- a heartwarming portrait of the friendship between... rocker Axl Rose and auteur James Cameron. Pre-order now, and be among the first to read of their adventures! And stay tuned as we introduce you to more first-time Mome artists on the FLOG!
Fantagraphics Booksand the Ninkasi Brewing Company are proud to present... METALHAUS!
For one night only, join Portable Grindhouse editor Jacques Boyreau, along with Darren Aboulafia and Tim Colley, for a "designer mess-up of VHS flotsam, hipster kitsch, and remastered live shows from seminal provocateurs like David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Blondie, Roxy Music, P.I.L., The Clash, and, oh yeah, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Twisted Sister, AC/DC."
Oh, and did I mention... there will be a special guest appearance by Killbot, a 9-foot-tall killer robot! Capitol Hill, you are doomed.
The Metalhaus reign of TV-trash-terror starts at 10:00 PM on Saturday, August 20th, at the Northwest Film Forum [1515 12th Ave, Seattle]. You do not want to miss this.
This weekend, the Boise Art Museum unveils a new exhibit that is right down our alley: Comics at the Crossroads: Art of the Graphic Novel.
The exhibition spotlights 40 different comic book artists from the Pacific Northwest, including our own Jim Woodring, Ellen Forney, Shannon Wheeler, and Colleen Coover. We're also excited to see Fanta-friends David Lasky and Matthew Southworth included in the line-up!
Included in the exhibit will be original artwork, unpublished drawings, book covers, and more!
A preview party for Comics at the Crossroads is happening this Friday, August 19th at 5:30 PM, and the exhibit runs from August 20th to November 27th at the Boise Art Museum [670 Julia Davis Drive, Boise, Idaho].
Mome 22 introduces a slew of first-time contributors, and today, we continue our spotlight on these newcomers with a new favorite of mine, Malachi Ward! Malachi was gracious enough to spend some time signing with us at San Diego Comic-Con, despite the fact that Mome 22 was delayed in customs and didn't make it after all. Quite clearly, he is awesome.
Malachi debuted this gorgeous self-published comic at SDCC. If you turn it over, it has an entirely different cover and different story. I tried to convince Malachi that he could trick people into buying two copies that way, but he is far too nice for that kind-of trickery.
Malachi also does a collaborative comic with Matt Sheean titled Expansion. Above is a sneak peek at Expansion Part Three, which they plan to debut at APE 2011!
And here's a sneak peek at his contribution to Mome, Vol. 22! Don't you wanna see more? Well, pre-order now! And stay tuned as we introduce you to more first-time Mome artists on the FLOG!
And this Friday, August 19th, Jacob will be appearing at Easy Street Records in West Seattle! Enjoy an ice cold beer as the store spins hits from the "grunge" era, and join Jacob for a presentation, followed by a Q&A.
(And don't miss the vinyl section upstairs at Easy Street, man, oh man...)
This fall fashion comic for New York Magazine didn't win any awards as far as I know, but it totally wins for "Most Likely to Catch Janice's Eye." (It helps that the comic shares a title with one of the best albums ever made ever.)
And here's a panel from Jim's contribution to the upcoming Mome. Hey! What's gonna happen to that beautiful baby doe?! Find out when Mome 22 hits the streets later this month! And stay tuned as we introduce you to more debuting Mome artists on the FLOG!
This interview was conducted by Fantagraphics' Eric Buckler. Thanks to Eric and Lorenzo! (Ed. note: Hi Lorenzo! We miss you in North America! xo janice)
Lorenzo Mattotti is a talented necromancer; his hands give life to some of the most charged and heart-pounding characters in cartooning and illustration today. Having a cabaret of phantoms at his disposal, Mattotti has assembled comics that are a dangerous and dark exploration of human emotion. His latest cartooning project was a collaboration with Claudio Piersanti called Stigmata, which follows a man who bleeds from his palms as he trudges down a dark path that mutates wildly from the straight and narrow.
Mattotti has now collaborated on the book The Raven with Lou Reed, a project where he re-interpreted the works of Edgar Allen Poe and Lou Reed into creatures and situations in painting and illustration. Mattotti creates images from these stories that help to unlock any hidden power the pieces may have, as well as perfectly stating the obvious elements.
This interview was conducted at 3:00 am between Seattle, WA and Paris, France.
Eric Buckler: How did the Raven project come together?
Lorenzo Mattotti: I was contacted by Lou Reed's agency to ask me if I was interested in a collaboration. I didn't understand very well initially what he wanted. He wanted to make an illustrated book involving The Raven. At the beginning, I understood that he wanted to make a graphic novel, but when I read the text, I understood this was impossible. [laughter] So, he informed me that he would like me to make a book inspired by the show he made with Robert Wilson. But really, I still didn't understand it that much, so we decided to meet each other. I went to New York and we met, and I wanted to know how free I could be to make the book. Did he want classic illustration or could I be free to make my own interpretation? Lou wanted me to make my own interpretation, hearing the music. The style could be different according to the atmosphere and the music, in a very free way. I showed him one of my sketchbooks. Normally, it is very free, my personal work. So, I started to do many sketches in black and white, and I sent them to him by mail. He wanted to see everything. He told me what he preferred, and what he didn't really like, and we decided what to make in color. There were different techniques: there was pencil, brush, crayon, and ink.
Buckler: Do you have any personal connection with Edgar Allen Poe's work? Is it important to you?
Mattotti: I like his work very much. When I was young, it was strange, because I started to read Edgar Allen Poe done by a very good comics artist, Dino Battaglia. He made a version of a little novel by Edgar Allen Poe in a wonderful way with very evocative drawings. So, then I started to read the stories. I think Edgar Allen Poe is really inside my imaginary world because he has influenced so many other writers and so many other artists. I think he is now part of our collective imagination, really inside my idea of terror. The mystery, you know, the darker, the obsession of the head, of the brain. When I knew that he (Reed) wanted to make a book about Edgar Allen Poe, for me it was really natural. I did Jekyll and Hyde, and for me to go inside the obsession, you know to take the dark side of ourselves, for me, it is pretty much my work. And the idea that I could work with Edgar Allen Poe and Lou Reed pushed me to go really in a very straight way to not be afraid to make very strong images. I was justified. So it was really natural and it was really a pleasure to have the possibility to make these kind of images. It's a part of my work.
Buckler: What about the music of Lou Reed? What kind of a connection do you have to his music?
Mattotti: I knew the music of Lou Reed at the beginning of the '70s. I wasn't really impressed by his way of singing, to use the voice like an actor. Sometimes it was strange the way he changed his voice, sometimes he spoke, sometimes he sang. It was the way he interpreted the words, the expression of his voice. I remember there was a very good record, No Prisoners, I think, a live performance where there was really an atmosphere of the cabaret. I remember that I was thinking of a way to draw in this kind of voice. I was always interested by the music in the way that I draw. Really, I remember that I was thinking what kind of sign could be the voice of Lou Reed: very dry, and black & white with strange variations. I think that it is kind of my thinking with the voice of Robert Wyatt.
Buckler: Who was that?
Mattotti: Robert Wyatt, Soft Machine -- you know, an English group from the '70s?
Buckler: Oh, OK, Soft Machine.
Mattotti: Yes, the drummer of Soft Machine. Also, he has a strange way of singing. So for me it was very good to know that Lou Reed wanted to work with me.
Lorenzo Mattotti, signing books at TCAF 2011
Buckler: You illustrate in different styles throughout the book. Can you talk about how you decided on these different styles?
Mattotti: I found it more and more interesting to make books where I can put inside different ways I interpret images. The idea that the book would be not so monolithic; only one style, only one direction, really intrigued me. I normally use different ways to draw so I can make the same object represent different emotions. I wanted the freedom to interpret it in the same book, to put different emotion in different ways. Always the idea develops not in a closed way, but the book is like a laboratory, a development of different ways to interpret the text. I have always been interested in this. I can interpret one page one way, but I say, “Oh, maybe it is possible in another way, look at this.” I want to give to the reader the possibility to open their imagination, give them inspiration to think about a different way. Always the images must be strong, not a sketch.
Buckler: The book is full of creatures. Can you talk about where some of these come from, how you craft those creatures?
Mattotti: Creatures are always our insides. Its part of a long work that I have always done in my sketchbooks. I think in 30 years, I'll continue to make drawings like that in my sketchbook. They are always drawings about my insides, so they are metaphor, they are symbols, symbols of our natural inside. So, I don't think they are different creatures from us, they are not animals, they are us. They are our brains, they are our ideas. The drawing gives us the possibility to change the form to make signs that interpret the reality. They are the concretization of our imagination. So, maybe sometimes they explain much better than a realistic image would. So, the creature from inside you. You may think that they are creatures of another world but they are creatures of our world; the spider, the monster, the stranger, the character. The distortion is the distortion of our brain.
Buckler: So, you lent the creature inside of yourself to this work to help translate it?
Mattotti: To what?
Buckler: You said that the creatures were a concretization of the creature inside of you?
Mattotti: They are a concretization of ideas, of sensations, of emotions. I don't have an animal in my brain, I have emotion, contradiction, tension, pieces of sensation and emotion. And when I draw, my creatures are the concretization of emotions. I do not know before I draw what will happen on the paper, they go out in a very natural way. They are the symbol of sensations that I have inside.
Buckler: Can you take us through creating one of your images? What your process is?
Mattotti: There is always a different creative process. It depends very much on the work. In this case, I read the text of Lou Reed [Edgar Allen Poe], and sometimes I was impressed by some images. But it was more natural when I put on the music. So, I put on the music and I read some of the text, then I started to draw. The music gave me much more of the images, the atmosphere and tone of my images. Much of my work is influenced by music, so for many other images I let myself go on the melody and the atmosphere of the music. In my history, the music gave me some ideas and perspective for some of the work. It is not always like this, sometimes I must make an illustration and I try to make the composition in a very logical way, much more like a project, I have to make sketches and little by little I change. I do that when I have to make posters, or covers for magazines. When I make a comic it is between that. In a way it is a project, a very rational project, logic project, in another way you must make it possible for the drawing to develop the sense. So it is between the two.
Buckler: Could you talk further about how music relates to your art?
Mattotti: I could give you an example?
Mattotti:Fire is completely influenced by the music of Peter Gabriel and Brian Eno. I remember the first images of Fire were done hearing the music of Peter Gabriel. Always, my books have a sort of soundtrack that I use to concentrate with. The book Carnival, for me it was about the possibility to try to relate the place between music and images.
Buckler: Do you listen to music while you make art?
Mattotti: Yeah, yeah, all the time.
Buckler: You originally went to school to be an architect, correct?
Mattotti: Yeah, but I never wanted to be an architect. I really went into architecture because I couldn't go to fine art school. So, I decided to go into architecture school. There were good subjects. In a strange way I learned many things that I couldn't learn in a fine art school.
Buckler: Did you learn things in architecture school that you have been able to use in your career as a cartoonist and an artist?
Mattotti: I think architecture gave me the notion of space, the structure of the images. The idea of the project. Also, it gave me other influences in how to approach a subject. Not only in an artistic way, but about the historic way, also the logical side of the subject. In a way, it is more scientific. I learned how to be more scientific in the way I work.
Buckler: Can you talk about the difference between creating these kind of illustrations for The Raven and creating comics?
Mattotti: It is a big difference. This kind of book is a sort of a mosaic. I started with some images from one side and another side and little by little the world of this book started to exist. In the comics, I am obliged to start the development of the characters. The structure of the pages are completely different. You must think about the tolerance of the style. If you change the style, it must be justified around the subject of the story. Maybe it is more complicated to make the comics, for me it is more complicated. There must be a tension inside that is done with the images and the text. Here in a book like The Raven, or other books, I am more free, less obligations. In a way I can go on the extreme side, the free way. The relation of the text and the pages is completely different. It is a sort of complimentary thing, you must open the structure of the text that you read, you put a way to interpret it. I don't think it is easier. I think it is more simple than comics. Comics are more complicated I think.
Buckler: Do you believe that this project can be interpreted any further, into another form?
Mattotti: Maybe, yes. It could be interesting. Lou Reed, once in an interview, said that this text could be a ballet. He is always interested to reinterpret this text in a different way with different artists. Maybe it could be a dance, or an animation. I don't know. I remember one idea that could be beautiful: if there is a reading with the music and a projection of the images. Could be interesting to make something with animation or something strange in the theater. I don't know in the future what Mr. Lou Reed will do, he has so many projects -- me, too. It's like a mine, it's a big concentration of images. It's a pity the book is not published with the CD inside. It could be a beautiful addition if people could hear the music and look at the images and read the text.
Buckler: I am sure you get asked this a lot, but I wanted to concentrate on your art. Who are some graphic artists who have influenced you?
Mattotti: There are so many, but I always say that for me one of the big masters is Alberto Breccia, the Argentine master. He opened so many doors, he opened the possibilities in comics, possibilities for the expressionists to be abstract. The explosion of sensation. There are so many other masters. I think about [Dino] Battaglia in Italy. There are many painters; Francis Bacon, Caravaggio. I love Alfred Kubin and Odilon Redon. For me this book is really in the tradition of the symbolic illustrator, like Alfred Kubin or Odilon Redon.
Buckler: Who are some cartoonists who have influenced you?
Mattotti: When I was younger I read all kinds of cartoonists, I was always influenced by the story of the cartoon. In Europe we have different tradition in comics: such good creators like Hugo Pratt, but I also like American comics like Walt Kelly and Dick Tracy [Chester Gould], [George] Herriman. I really fell in love with [Lyonel] Feininger, I use many ideas of Feininger. I grew up with comics history. Jose Muñoz, I am good friends with Jose Muñoz, so he influenced me. The relation with life and work. Also, Art Spiegelman influenced me. Robert Crumb, who opened the door for independent comics. There are so many. I grew up with comics. It was the '60s and '70s. For me comics was like film or literature.
Buckler: Are there any other projects you have in the works that you wanted to talk about?
Mattotti: Now I am working in animation, experimental for television. I will be working in one of my first books Huckleberry Finn Adventures by Mark Twain. We are putting color to it right now with computers, it will be put out in France. I will maybe put out new pages or a new version of Chimera. I want to continue some of my old comics projects, black and white. I had stopped for a while.
Buckler: Is there anything we didn't cover, anything you would like to add?
Mattotti: This book, The Raven, is really a collaboration with Lou Reed, because he wanted to give me ideas, to control and be part of the project. He really wanted to work on this project. The melody of the images was done together.
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