Love And Rockets’ Hernandez brothers on 30 years in comics
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Still producing their regular (although less frequent) series Love And Rockets after 30 years, Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez—Los Bros to their fans—are contemporary comics’ closest thing to an institution. In an era where comic books’ aptness for adult, socially well-adjusted readers was still in doubt—at least as far as mainstream media were concerned—the brothers’ stories demonstrated the medium’s vast potential. With Gilbert’s sprawling Palomar stories, set in an imagined Latin American country, and Jaime’s tales of aging punks adjusting to adult life in Southern California, Los Bros Hernandez weave tales of divergent yet equally accomplished craft. And as the recent issues of Love And Rockets: New Stories attest, they’re still at it, with Jaime’s two-issue “The Love Bunglers” standing as yet another high-water mark, both for the artist and for comics as a whole. While the Fantagraphics 30th-anniversary collections won’t be out until 2013, the brothers are touring the country with their newest issue of New Stories in tow. Grabbing dinner before an appearance in Philadelphia, they spoke with The A.V. Club about the changes they’ve seen the comics industry go through in the last 30 years, how they manage the vast fictional worlds they’ve created, and why they’ll be doing Love And Rockets until they die.
The A.V. Club: You’ve been doing a tour to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Love And Rockets, including several convention appearances. How has that world changed in the three decades you’ve been making comics? In the ’80s, practically every article about Love And Rockets and Maus and Watchmen started with some variation on “Pow! Bam! Comics aren’t for kids any more!”
Jaime Hernandez: Even when we asked them not to.
Gilbert Hernandez: “So we want to do this interview, but you have to promise not to start with ‘Pow! Bam!’” And they would. Every time.
AVC: Do you even recognize what it’s become?
JH: Well, let’s say this: The last SPX [Small Press Expo] show was a lot different than the first San Diego show we ever did. [Laughs.] It was terrific. A really great show. It’s kind of funny because Gilbert and I were raised on the mainstream. So, when we had a show at San Diego or say like a HeroesCon, the superhero stuff was normal. If you didn’t like it, you just walked by it. It’s like that. Go to this SPX show, and they’re nothing like that there. If you just mention the [superhero] stuff, it’s like, “I didn’t read that,” or they don’t want to talk to you, that kind of thing. Of course, there’s a few people there who did grow up with the stuff. So that’s one of the biggest changes that I sense.
GH: I might just be in a bubble, but here’s the trouble I see with the independent comics: We’re the only guys—maybe there’s a couple of others—that put out comics out on a regular basis. Everyone else puts them out five to 10 years [apart] now. It’s just gotten really bad. So that’s why there’s no beachhead, no swell of indie comics that people are making a big deal about. But at the same time, the mainstream seems to be surviving on the fact that there’s great, big Hollywood movies based on the products, and the actual comics aren’t a big deal anymore. That’s what I see. I’m not there. I’m not going to the comics stores and seeing how well they’re selling or how wonderful everything is with mainstream comics, but you hear people are leaving DC in droves. That kind of stuff. And I’m thinking they’re having a little trouble there. The movies are doing great, because The Avengers was a movie, this and that. But I don’t know what’s going on with them, but I do see a very serious attention to, “Well, the new Charles Burns book is out.” Or the new Dan Clowes book. Or the Chester Brown book that came out. That kind of thing. And I see that as [being] taken more seriously and attention to that. Unless it’s just the areas I’m going to. I might not know what else is going on. We don’t get the “pow zam” stuff so much. We get more now, “Well, you’ve been doing this for 3,000 years, so you must be old and tired. What are you doing next?”
AVC: “Does your arthritis inhibit your drawing?”
GH: Actually, I do have arthritis, and I’m worried about it.
JH: That’s a story in itself.
AVC: Gilbert, you especially are putting out so many different books now, going in so many directions.
GH: Well, right now we’ve got the new edition of Love And Rockets coming out. I just had the Venus collection. I’m doing a book with Dark Horse called Fatima: The Blood Spinners, and that’s a zombie-massacre comic. Emphasis on the “massacre.” [Laughs.] I’m always having too many comics come out at once. They all cancel each other out.
AVC: And then Marble Season? You’ve been talking about that semi-autobiographical graphic novel for a while now.
GH: Oh, Marble Season I’m working on. That’ll be coming out next spring just because of scheduling problems. That’s interesting, because I’ve never really gotten that close to doing autobiographical comics. I’ve dabbled here and there, but this is actually the closest I’m doing to stuff that happened to us as kids. Now, I say semi-autobiographical because a lot of the stuff that people will read, [they’ll] think this is my life story. It really isn’t. It’s only part. A lot of things that say happened to Jaime, I will apply to the main character. Something that happened to another kid, I’ll apply to the main character. It sounds like he had this eventful life going on, but some of it’s mine, some of it is Jaime’s, some of it’s my older brother’s, some of it is kids’ in the neighborhood. It’s the closest to actual things that happened, but I’m still changing it up.
AVC: It’s not like a memoir.
GH: No, it’s just more like looking back at what was great about being a kid. Because normally, in Palomar, especially, and Love And Rockets, it’s looking back at how rotten it was to be a kid. [Laughs.] So, I decided to do a valentine to the past. Because there’s enough fun stuff about the past growing up that fills a book. And I left a lot of stuff out.
AVC: For people who’ve come to Love And Rockets with the Palomar or the “Locas” stories, it can be a shock to go back and read the earliest issues, when there was much more of a science-fiction influence. You’ve talked about being inspired by punk bands, but most of them only released an album or two before they broke up. When did you realize that you could be in this for the long haul, that you could think beyond the next issue?
JH: I would say by the second issue, I was thinking, “Oh yeah, we gotta do another one.” Maybe Gilbert was thinking earlier. And then we’d go and do the next one. And then we started to think, “This shit has to come out more often,” because Fantagraphics were still running by the mainstream way of doing things: When they finish a comic, they schedule another one. An “it comes out on time, or else” kind of thing. But we knew that we weren’t that fast, so we were going to make our own pace. It was still like, “Okay, when you’re done, you start working on the next one.” Like Gilbert has said in the past, he said it was our duty to keep doing this, and when we were done with one, start working on the next one. It just seemed like a natural thing to do. We were raised on that way of working on comics.
GH: Yeah, we were raised on the mainstream way. Not waiting around. I didn’t realize it. When we were kids, we read underground comics. We didn't know they did it whenever they felt like it. So it was our duty as almost-adults [Laughs.] to just put it out because that’s what you’re supposed to do. Kind of like schoolwork, except it was schoolwork we could do. Because when I had to do schoolwork, I couldn’t. I just didn’t get it. But doing my schoolwork that I could do, which was comics, that’s what made me do it.
AVC: Did you feel a duty to your fans or to yourselves?
GH: First us, but getting it out there to a publisher, to our readers, to the retailers, the distributors—we had a duty to put out this book. I don’t know what was going on in the distributors’ heads. We didn’t know. We just heard from retailers that they liked our comics. We didn’t know whether they ordered two copies and stuck them back in the porn section. We didn’t know anything about it, but it was our duty. These people are counting on us to do our comics because they want us to do our comics. That’s what made it important. If they were asking us to do something else, it would have been a different story. I don’t know how that would have worked out. It was more, “You guys are doing this comic. I like this comic.”
AVC: You might not have thought about it in these terms until journalists started bringing it up, but there were few Latino characters in comics before you came into the picture. Was it was as simple as wanting to draw people you knew, or was that something you purposefully set out to change?
JH: It was a mixture of a lot of things. It was wanting to tell personal stories, so it was basically our upbringing, and then also, “Hey, this stuff’s not in comics. Let’s show them our version.” We’re from Southern California, and all they’re seeing is one side of it. They’re seeing the beach and stuff like that. “Well, let’s show them this side of it. Let’s show them how punk is from my personal stance. Let’s show them how being a Mexican in Southern California is.” I also don’t see a lot of women being treated fairly in comics—so it was that. It’s like taking advantage of a lot of stuff that wasn’t there, as well as just wanting to tell personal stories from our side.
AVC: What about you, Gilbert? Jaime’s Hoppers bears some resemblance to Oxnard, but Palomar is an invented country.
GH: It’s funny because I, more often than Jaime, am accused of being an indulgent writer. All those parts of the stories that they like, those are indulgences. I wanted to do a small Latin American town because I wanted to. I wanted to draw that way, draw those things. I wanted to create those characters because I wanted to. I wasn’t going to sell Inhumans fans my stories. [Laughs.] I just wanted to do it. I was compelled to do it because that’s what made me feel good, was to draw comics. And I knew it was [taking] more of a chance. If this gets to people who aren’t interested so much in comics but are into those kind of stories—who like those films or books—they might like it. It got to them somehow. This might be getting some notice. That was what we were thinking. The good thing about being youthful and naive, you just think, “This is going to work,” whether it does or not. “This is going to work. This is going to happen.” Even if it’s just a few people who respond to it. That and just drawing certain things I like to draw.
I happen to think Latinas, Latin women, are the most beautiful women in the world. So that’s what I’m going to draw. I love women from all cultures, of course, but if I was going to deal with any of them, that would be No. 1 for me. [Laughs.] Just to draw Latin women and have adventures with them. Like Jaime was talking about, his stuff is sort of almost based on the Betty And Veronica comic, but bringing it into the real world, more or less. Same for me. I just want to have my girls, hotties, that we read stories about. That’s what made it my indulgence. It could look bad on the surface sometimes. For example, I have a character, Luba. I drew Luba that way knowing the response it would get. I knew what would happen, but the trick was you look at her, you have your prejudices, now read the story. They were going to read the story because they were already reading Jaime’s stories. They were already reading Love And Rockets for Jaime’s stories because they were interested in punk and the good drawing and the connection to the characters, but I knew that if I drew my things my way, they might fall into my writing and look at it [skeptically] “Oh, who’s this character?” But if they read it, they’d change their minds. As soon as they read the Luba stories, all that prejudice was dropped.
AVC: Are you competitive with each other? How much were you or are you aware of what the other person’s working on? Or are you just like, “Wow, this is great.”
JH: Yeah, it was more like that. Early on, when Gilbert found his—I don’t know what you call it—his vision, his focus. It seemed like he found something where he knew what he was going to do with it, and he knew how he was going to do it. I was still kind of experimenting: “Oh, I’ll just do fun stories and see what comes out ’til the next issue and then do whatever.” And then I noticed his stories started really going somewhere. They were focused, like he had a plan. I had no plan. I had to learn in the first few years how to put my stuff together. I don’t regret what was before, because I like a lot of the stories where Maggie and Hopey were doing nothing but living. I like that part. But, at the same time, he was doing stories that were just really focused, and so I said, “Shit. I gotta get off my ass.” And I had to learn really quick how to do it.
GH: It’s funny how it comes all in a circle, because I had to do that because his stuff was already getting attention. Which is not bad. I really wasn’t jealous. It was more like, his stuff’s getting all this attention just for him waking up in the morning and doing stories. Whereas, I don’t have that. I don’t have that immediate draw from the readers, so I had to work harder to work on something that was a little different where you would follow stories for a different reason. Even if it all ends up the same, one big happy family, that’s great. To get there, I had to figure out a way to not get attention, but put equal weight on the other side of the book. But like I said, it all comes from duty. It was never a competition. I’m just not the jealous type that way. I’m not like, “He’s famous and I’m not, so I’ll show him!” It was more like, “He’s doing this half of the book; I got my half. Okay, this is what I can do.” And then the readers will have so much more to read.
AVC: There are Jaime people and there are Gilbert people, but I don’t think there are people who love Jaime’s work and hate Gilbert’s—
GH: Well early on… [Laughs.] It was pretty clear right away what they were looking at and enjoying in Jaime’s work. I knew that right away. So it didn't matter to me to be as looked-at that way. It didn’t look like, “Gilbert Hernandez, whoa. His drawing has gotten better, and it’s slicker.” I knew that was about the mainstream. I knew that’s what we weren’t about. So I just did it my way and did it the best I could.
AVC: These are stories about communities, dramatically in the case of Gilbert’s Palomar, perhaps more subtly in Jaime’s Hoppers stories. Where did the ambition to create something that size come from? It’s not something that had been done in comic books before, although some serial strips had followed that path.
JH: I guess the main thing for me was just that I thought that it was important if I had a large body of work, so I wanted to continue. Also, as I got to know the characters better, I wanted to create these characters to where they became so human that you couldn’t not like them, or you couldn’t not relate to them. So I guess that was the thing that was driving me by then: You’re going to know Maggie more. I’m going to know Maggie more. The more I do her, I’m going to know her more, and hopefully you’re going to know her more. So I guess character-building was the most important thing that was driving it.
GH: I guess part of me was wanting to be taken seriously in that I had something going on in my brain, in my soul, having to prove that. I grew up being really insecure and dumped on, over-feeling certain things in a negative way. So I thought I had something to prove. It was simply that I admired the old comic strips that lasted for years. And I thought, “That means it’s good. If they can last, it’s good.” So if Fantastic Four, in comic books, can have 270 issues or whatever, then it must be good. I wasn’t judging the quality of the work. It must be good because it still stands. People want to know about the Fantastic Four. And I just admired the fact that Superman comics, Action Comics, were still in print. It was issue 475, and it’s still there. Like I said, I didn’t think anything outside of that. Just that it was happening. That it must be good. There must be something that’s still vital to people in a way. So that’s what I looked at. If I created something big enough, I’ll have enough to draw from for years and years and years—because I really did want to do this for years and years and years. It wasn’t just, “Create this giant thing and it’s over.” No, no, no. I just felt like I had all these characters in this town. I’m just going to keep going and going, and they’re going to grow with me like they did in the Gasoline Alley strip. I don’t know what stuck with me, why that was important, but I wanted to have a life, and to be able to draw comics and build on something that had already gotten a pretty decent response. “Well, I’m going to keep that going.” My job, my duty, is to keep going, keep adding something to it. Of course, there’s spots in it where I went too far and got really crazy with it: Too much dialogue, too much intensity in the story. [Laughs.] I guess that’s just the energy of my brain, it works that way.
AVC: In a way, that’s a carryover from superhero comics, that faith in continuity. There may be asterisks pointing you to the fact that something happened in New Mutants #23, but they assume you remember who Colossus’ sister is.
GH: He had a sister?
AVC: I think so.
JH: You mean Colossa?
GH: Would she join the steel team? That’d be awesome!
JH: She was not of mutant kind.
GH: Oh, she didn’t have the power?
JH: I don't know! I just wanted to use that word.
AVC: Jaime, some readers have said that “The Love Bunglers,” the most recent Locas story, felt like it could be an ending to the overall story, but then you’ve done that many times over the years.
JH: False endings. [Laughs]
AVC: You said in an interview with The Comics Journal in 1988 that you were ready to put the story to bed.
JH: And I brought it back. [Laughs] So I’m not going to say that again.
JH: But if I’m going to say it, I’ll say “for now.”
AVC: There are panels in “The Love Bunglers” that call back to specific moments in stories as far back as The Death Of Speedy. What sort of relationship do you have with this massive world you’ve created? It’s a bottomless well of subject matter, but it’s also this huge block of story you have to carry with you everywhere you go. How do you negotiate with the past you’ve created? Do you have to research your own back issues?
JH: Oh, it can get pretty intense and complicated. I’ve known Ray since issue #20 of the comic. I think he was mentioned in issue #19 maybe, or a couple issues before, but I remember Ray from this time and I know that he was after Maggie at this time. I try to think of it like I’ve known this friend of mine. So the actual details of when did he break his arm or something like that, are not important until I need it and then I have to really research: When did he do that? No one broke their arm. I’m just making up an example. So keeping all this stuff in my head and trying to remember all this continuity, I am thinking that Ray is this guy I’ve known for 20, 30 years, and I know what he is like. I know what he’s thinking, so if I put him in a brand new story, if there’s nothing I really have to research as far as a detail—like when he went to the Army or something—then I just know this is Ray, he is now almost 50 years old and he was 20 years old then, and so it’s just like keeping tabs on a friend. So I know what Ray is up to now and what he’s been through basically as far as growing as a person.
AVC: “The Love Bunglers” is very much about that, how the past does or doesn’t make itself felt in the present.
JH: And so the same with Maggie.
JH: I know how she grew up emotionally—what her ups and downs were, basically, even if I don’t know the exact details. Like I said, every once in awhile, I do have to go back, but overall, it’s just this is my friend Maggie and I know she had a hard time at a time of her life and I know how she is going to react to a modern-day situation. Because I’ve known her, and I know she’s experienced in some ways because of what she’s learned in the past and stuff she’s never learned in the past. Some people learn, some people never learn and they’re sometimes the same person. So that’s basically how I do handle it. It’s not as hard as you’d think, but every once in a while, I go, “What did I do? Oh, OK. So I have to fix this.”
AVC: Gilbert, you seem to have a bit more of a love-hate relationship with Palomar, in that you’re clearly pushing to do books that create a new world from scratch, or almost from scratch, in the case of the Fritz stories. In the Love And Rockets: New Stories #5, Fritz is shooting a movie based on what’s happened in Palomar, which seems explicitly designed to mess with your carefully laid-out continuity.
GH: I’ve always been conscious of this, because a lot of times you read old movie reviews and they really love a certain director’s, say Fellini’s, work. They say, “Oh, he’s got it down.” And then in his later work, he goes back and trashes what he’s done before. And I’ve been conscious that I never want to go there. I never want to do that. “Oh yeah, he used to love his fat women, his fat beautiful women, and then he started making fun of them at the end.” I never noticed that, but critics have said that. I don’t want to do that. I never want to be there.
Now, if I have to go back to Palomar, there’s part of me that’s going to be like, [in a weary voice] “All right. Now what do I have to do?” Whereas, before, I wanted to do it. I don’t want to get to that. I don’t want to trash it. So I pulled an 8 1/2. If you don’t know what to do, write about not knowing what to do. So I had a movie version of Palomar. This is the Fritz world, so it’s about a movie that’s low-budget and it’s a Palomar movie, but it’s like they didn’t get the rights to do it, so they kind of made their own story, and since Fritz is Luba’s half-sister, she kind of plays up the character as a combination of several characters from Palomar. The movie’s not quite right. It’s not right. It’s got elements of it, but what the center of it is that there’s the feeling that people don’t like it there. So what I tried to do, without trashing my Palomar, is make it so it gets trashed in the movie, but only because the people who made the movie felt that way. Not me. Not my readers. But the characters do. So that’s real dicey. It can look like I’m trashing it, but I was real careful. So I literally have the character, Pipo or someone says, “Everybody hates living there, and she says, “No, no. Those are my feelings. You can ask anybody else and they feel differently.” Of course, many readers aren’t going to see that. They’re going to say, “Gilbert’s trashing Palomar. Don’t do that.” But they’d be right. You don’t trash what you basically built your life on.
AVC: The talk about there eventually being a Love And Rockets movie has died down, but it was fairly persistent for a while. Did the frustrations of trying to get the movie made, and obviously not doing so, find their way into this story?
GH: Well, I thought about my frustration with people who are just full of shit in Hollywood and keep making movies. We went through a lot of crap—25 years and it’s just crap—about them making movies. What can you do? They got the purse strings.
AVC: Did it feel like it was close?
GH: There’s stuff that was close to maybe getting it made but not close to making it good. Never close to making it good. That’s what the problem was. They just could not see that you could make a good movie from this material. There was always the argument that “you guys don’t know movies at all.” I know movies. I know what a good movie is. But you guys are steering away from that. You guys don’t want that. You want some kind of comic-book connection. Some kind of, “This is the new comic-book movie.” So, basically, they’re really incompetent. The people who make movies, the artists, they know what they’re doing. The people who get the movies going don’t. It’s a project to them.
AVC: It seems like it’s gotten worse. So many studios are run by Wall Street types with no artistic background at all. It makes you long for the days when Samuel Goldwyn could get a movie made just by saying, “Yes,” although it probably wasn’t great if he said, “No.”
GH: Yeah, it’s just gotten so fragmented. The thing is our movie, our story, is a no-brainer. I think it’s too simple. You can make a good movie out of barely what we have. And people do it. They all say, “You don’t know how to make movies.” They make movie after movie after movie after movie—ours wouldn’t be the one that would ruin the company. I mean, you make 200 movies a year. So it’s just a business thing. Everybody’s calling on the phone with sunglasses. They’re at the pool, on the phone, and it’s just a different world of how they make things.
AVC: The question that’s rarely asked is, “What does the work being adapted have to gain from the process?” Even some very successful adaptations don’t really add much.
GH: For me, the reason to make the movie is that if people like the comic, then people would like the movie if it was well made. There are good movies for them, but very few. And I mean that in a true sense. If they love your story for freaking 30 years, then they can do a movie about it.
AVC: You mentioned people asking you what it’s like to have been doing this for 3,000 years. The model has really shifted over that time, to the extent that you’re some of the few serious cartoonists still serializing stories in individual issues rather than putting out original graphic novels. Do people still have the same enthusiasm for reading part of a story, rather than waiting for the collection?
JH: Different people. A lot of people have gone by the wayside. If they do like it, they don’t come to the signing. They don’t really. I don’t know. I mean it’s hard to tell because we are just by ourselves at our drawing table, and then we don’t see much of the response unless we go to a convention or read it on Facebook or Twitter. The thing about Twitter and Facebook now, people connect more and you hear more stuff going on, unlike the old days where you didn’t know anything. There were times when we were asking, “Who’s reading this?” Or better yet, is anybody reading it? I can only go by the kind of responses I have issue-to-issue. Like the last two issues, “The Love Bunglers” and then “Browntown.” Those were two big years for me, and I was just overwhelmed with what people thought about it. I was like, “Hey, I did pretty good.” At the same time I know that I’ve had two big years, and then it’ll kind of go sleepy again. But that’s not going to stop me because I know that the work I’m doing is going to be building for the next time.
I’m still the naive cartoonist who thinks that just drawing stories is going to satisfy. Just drawing. Doing the work is going to satisfy. I don’t know if the person who reads it online is going to go, “This doesn’t work. I don’t know what this is.” Then if it’s on paper, they say, “Oh, I love this.” I don’t know that. I’m still partly that kid who is naive enough to go, “I’m telling a good story here, and it’s going to come through no matter where it is.” I don’t know the rest of that. After that, it’s out of my hands. But I don’t know as far as alternative comics, indie comics. I don’t know how they shop. I know the mainstreams, how they shop. They go to the comic store. They get their stack. They go through the box. Get their stack of comics. So in a way I kind of like that. It’s almost rigid.
AVC: Sure. Every Wednesday.
JH: Every Wednesday they get their comics. They’re happy. Then they write letters about how bad that issue was or whatever. But it’s still that ritual of getting the comic.
GH: I don’t know how that works with indie comics. I just know that once in a while, every 25 years, Dan Clowes puts out a book and it’s a hit. But as far as regular comics, Jaime and I are probably two of the very, very few who put out comics on a regular basis. Even if it’s yearly, it’s still a regular basis. I don’t know how, except they’re reading. People are fickle.
JH: I don’t know how the indie fan picks comics. One thing I do know is when I go to SPX and I see the mini-comics, and I go to San Diego and I see the mainstream and the semi-mainstream and the semi-alternative; there’s all those different camps. I know that people still get it on their drawing board or their computer, and they still have panels, so I know it’s still this sequential thing that I’ve been doing forever. So I’ve never been worried about, is this going to reach them because it’s always the same weird thing that comes from your drawing board, whether it is on a computer or it is from your hand. It’s always the same thing, and it’s always going to be that thing of, “Here’s this image and here’s this image and then the next one and the next one.” So that’s why I don’t worry about it too much, because I know somehow they’re going to figure a way to put what I do in the format that’s going to reach them.
AVC: Do you use computers at all?
JH: No, a sheet of paper. A ruler. There are those times when I’m starting a comic, and it’s time to rule panel borders, where I go, “There’s got to be a better way.” I remember there were artists that would hire someone and say, “Lay me out some pages.” Stuff like that.
GH: You know how this is going to end? I don’t know how this is going to end. I guess people wonder because we’ve been doing it for so long. Our time is up. Normally, in the normal world of art comics, our time is up. Everybody gets 20 years if they’re lucky. We’re on 30. You know what I mean? And the guys who last, like say Robert Crumb, is because he does comics sporadically. But the person who does comics all the time, they use up their juice. Kirby was only around for 30 to 35 years of stuff worth reading. Ditko’s 25 years, let’s say. I’m just being generous here, in general.
We’re just doing a comic book and the next issue, the next issue. It’s still working right now. It doesn’t spook me, but it’s also like, “Let’s keep going.”
JH: A lot of times I wonder if I’ve still got that energy. I still trust that there’s something that I have worth telling. But when is the day when someone goes, “I didn’t like his later stuff because he stopped knowing how to draw”? Where I’m drawing Maggie or Hopey with crooked eyes, really stiff or something?
GH: When we were really younger, we would see that and we would correct it immediately. We would not allow that to go out. There’s a period when a lot of artists just start giving up on that. We’re not there yet.
JH: Sometimes it’s their health, and they have a shaky line and they just cannot see it.
GH: Charles Schulz had this shaky line because that’s how his body worked. Reed Crandall, a great old comic-book artist, I loved his art and then toward the end he did that “Dynamo” story and it’s like everybody’s really wide and it bothered me that everybody’s wide. And I asked somebody about that, and they go, “Well, his vision was so fucked up. He just drew that way.” That’s how he saw. After that, he really didn’t do much that was worth anything. For me, I don’t know what’s going to happen. It could be arthritis, because I’ve got arthritis encroaching. I don’t know. Is it going to be my brain? Am I just going to start drawing wonky stuff? Or am I going to be so tired that I just go, “I don’t care. They don’t read it anyway.” Or is it just going to be that one day Gary [Groth] calls up and says sales are so bad now. We’re just going to have to cancel our book. That’s where I see it’s going to end, where it’s just that we can’t do it anymore; nobody wants to see it anymore. But otherwise, we don’t know how to stop. We’re just going to keep going until it destroys itself or we give up because we win the lottery or something. You know what I mean? Even then, we’d still be doing comics. I don’t know how this is going to end. It’s like we’re in the middle of it.
JH: I cannot see a future without it. The only thing I can see in the future is I picture Love And Rockets number whatever way down the road and they have to explain: “This special issue, Jaime died halfway through doing it. So there’s going to be some pages with just pencils on it and some blank pages. But we thought we owed it to him to finish it, to print it.” A half-issue and then, well, that’s it.
GH: It was difficult on certain, different levels when Charles Schulz quit Peanuts first. Even though I wasn’t following the strip at that time, you think that Schulz just said, “That’s it. We’re done.” There’s no way. There’s no such thing in my lifetime.
AVC: And then he died.
GH: A week later. It turned out he had stomach cancer, he knew he was dying, so he had everything arranged. But Peanuts was him. He had to do it until the very end. Until he physically couldn’t anymore because he was so sick.
JH: Zak Sally asked me in an interview, “Don’t you think that when the strip ended, it ended him? That he was kept alive because of the strip?”
GH: He just was probably in such pain that he was like, “Okay, that’s it.”
JH: It could have been something as sad as he was at the drawing board, and his wife kind of took the pen and goes, “Come on. Let’s go to bed.”
GH: And he cried himself to sleep.” This could have happened. We don’t know. We know Jeannie [Charles Schulz’s widow], but I don’t want to ask her. It’s so private. So for the Hernandez brothers, who knows? We’re going to just keep going.
JH: As long as we’re allowed, as I always say.
GH: Here’s a cheat. I do have a cheat: I have stories that are projected so far in the future because I have to go by age now. I’m 55. I might be doing this when I’m 60. When Love And Rockets [New Stories] #10 comes out, I’ll be 60. So I consider those things. I believe in being prepared. A lot of people don’t, and all of a sudden it catches up to them and they’re like, whoops. I haven’t projected past that, but know what I’m doing up until Love And Rockets #10.
AVC: In what level of detail?
GH: I know what’s happening in the story, how it’s going to work in the reprint books. That’s how my brain works. I have a very busy brain. So I know how this is going to work in reprints down the line. When I started doing that at first, I was kind of spooked. I was going, “Am I going crazy? Is this going to work? Is this going to fall apart? Am I wasting my time?” No, everything I prepared for, it happened. So I have to trust that that’s going to continue. It’s all about trust. I don’t know. Like [Jaime] said, what if Love And Rockets #7 just fails? We just look at each other and we’re like, “I think we’re done, man.” It’s not going to happen, but that could happen.
JH: Or like, “Nah, we’re not done. I’m going to go off and do it myself.”
GH: You could just get worse and worse and not ever be good again.
AVC: Kind of like those ’60s bands with one original member.
GH: The replacement drummer is “the original member.”
JH: And they’re doing the old stuff, and it’s like, “Well, I’m not sure you guys are ‘continuing.’”
GH: So right now, it’s a bit of a cheat that’s going to work for me. I am prepared to do stories in the future that I’ll be able to. I don’t know how well I’ll be able to draw by then, but I’ve already started them. This is my trick. I have to trick my own mind. I’ve got stories that I’m want to be doing when I’m 75 that I’m already drawing. Not the whole thing, just bits of it, because that’s how I’ve always worked since I was a young person. If I started something and abandoned it and look back at it literally years later, I could finish it. I can. So I’m hoping upon hope that I can continue that. So I’m okay until I’m 75 years old, if things hold up. My brain holds up. My energy, enthusiasm. My neck holds up for the drawing board. I will have something, and it won’t be as horribly shabby as the last days of Wallace Wood or the last days of great, great cartoonists. And then there’s the problem with Alzheimer’s that’s in my family and in my wife’s family. I might just lose my marbles in 10 years and not know what I’m doing. Hal Foster, for the last 10 years of his life, he didn’t know he created Prince Valiant. That is just outrageous to me. That is just horrible. But that’s life. That’s how it works. I’m still working on the superhuman, I’ll-be-young-forever motif. I’ll be 33 for the rest of my life, and then I’ll drop dead.
AVC: What about you, Jaime?
JH: I don’t look as far ahead as Gilbert does. I go issue by issue with a kind of tiny inkling of something coming up in the future, like, “This is going to happen to Maggie.” I’ll get to it when I get to it. I know a turning point in someone’s life is coming, but I haven’t figured out what. Sometimes I do have, like, one scene, “Oh boy, that’s going to be so cool.” And I create the next five years, which was kind of the way “The Love Bunglers” were. I know there’s going to be a payoff somehow. Whether it’s bad or good, there’s going to be a conclusion.
AVC: “Love Bunglers” definitely felt like something you’d been building to.
JH: Sometimes they’re accidents. The end of “Love Bunglers” happened because my wife said, “If you put Maggie through the wringer one more issue, I’m going to stop reading your comic.” And I said, “I guess it’s time to give her, give Maggie her thing.” At least for once. Until the next time. So it’s those accidents once in a while that make me kind of shift and go, “Okay, I know how to do it. She wants Maggie to have a fun time. Okay, good. I can do it.” And then I start to work on it and it works out and then I go, “Hey. Pretty good.”
GH: Just to finish what I was saying, I’ve been very impressed with the saying that chance favors the prepared mind. That’s where I’m at. If I’m prepared, chances are I’ll end up where I want to be. I am doing those few pages and I’m getting ideas for later books that I may do when I’m 75, God willing. If I actually draw pages of it, come up with ideas for it, I won’t have to approximate that when I get there. I can’t just let it go. I can’t draw it crooked. I can’t draw it lazy, because there will be pages done already or at least prepared that I have to match. So it’s all this weird psychology I’m doing on myself. I’m fighting with my aging self. I’m fighting with the old Gilbert. It’s kind of like Total Recall. I’m fighting with the old Gilbert who might get lazy or sick or tired, but he has to step up to the Gilbert I am now. I’m my own science-fiction movie. So I’ll write a story, like the last Fritz book, that I actually have ideas for. They’re not important ideas to where I need to do them now. They’re ones I can just let go, but it’s enough to make me say I can’t hack this up.
JH: That’s funny. I mean, I’ve never heard you say that before. I’m doing it on a kind of shorter, smaller level that I am forcing myself to start a fresh story, whether it’s connected to Love And Rockets or maybe I’ll find a publisher somewhere else down the road. I’m making myself do more work by starting a story, like he says, just a little bit of it, and then leaving it alone and working on my current work so when it’s time, I’ll get to it. But in my case, it’s just getting myself to be more prolific, because I am getting very comfortable with just Love And Rockets, and once in a while, I do like to branch out. I’m not as good at it as Gilbert. That’s why he has three things going when I have one thing. I’m just not the type of artist he is, but I am training myself to be like, “Okay, if I do a splash page of some story and then I lay it out, I can’t ignore it when it’s time to do it. I have plans for five stories down the road, but if it’s not written down or anything, I will never get to it. So I’m forcing myself. I’m kind of like what Gilbert is doing. Gilbert’s is on a grander scale. Mine is just to get me off my ass.
GH: The way I see it is not fear but the concern, sleeping with one eye open, is that people just stop reading it. I think that’ll stop it. I don’t think it’s going to be our age or anything. Well, who knows? A car hitting us or whatever. Somebody just says, “Stop.”