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An Interview with Jaime Hernandez

Comics auteur Jaime Hernandez, co-creator--along with his equally talented brothers Gilbert Hernandez and Mario Hernandez-- of the groundbreaking Love and Rockets.

Love and Rockets co-creator on Oxnard’s ‘80s punk scene, 
the artists who inspired him, and the enduring relationship 
between his “Locas” Maggie and Hopey
By Sean Mageean

Since the early 1980s Jaime Hernandez has made his mark on the world when he, along with his brothers Gilbert and Mario, began producing the creator-owned independent comic book Love and Rockets. Although Mario left the project after the first few issues, Jaime and Gilbert soldiered on, and in the process created some of the most highly literate and personal comics of all time. While Gilbert Hernandez primarily focused on humanist stories laced with tinges of magical realism (and influenced by the films of Fellini, Pasolini, and Buñuel), revolving around a huge cast of characters in the fictionalized Latin American village of Palomar in his Heartbreak Soup saga; Jaime Hernandez took a more street level, Bukowskian approach--though occasionally also throwing in sci-fi and monster movie tropes--in his Locas stories featuring the up and down romance between punk rock girls Maggie Chascarrillo and Hopey Glass, navigating life with their slacker friends in the predominantly Chicano barrios of Hoppers (a fictionalized version of Oxnard, California--the city the Hernandez Brothers grew up in). In addition to producing stories for Love and Rockets, Jaime Hernandez has done the occasional assignment for both Marvel Comics, and DC Comics; illustrated numerous album covers; created covers for magazines including The New Yorker; done illustrations for books by other authors, and he just recently released a children’s book of folktales from Latin America. I interviewed the highly esteemed auteur during a signing event at Hi De Ho Comics and Books in Santa Monica, California in the month of May.

I know that you grew up in Oxnard, California--so let’s start there. I’ve read that your mother was a collector of comics and loved them during her childhood...so, did she in some way instill a love of comics and drawing into you and your brothers when you were kids?

Yeah, yeah! She encouraged my oldest brother, Mario, to start buying them. She was determined to be able to say: “I will never throw away my kids’ comics,” because her mom always threw hers away. She always had to hide them. But, yeah, she thought: “I loved comics as a kid. I have all these kids that would just jump into it.” Of course, we just dived in, you know? So, yeah, that was a big step in what became where I am today. 

I think I once read that your mom would also draw some of her favorite Golden Age (1940s - 1950s) comics characters when she was a kid--like The Spirit, or Shazam (the original Captain Marvel)...is that right?

She would kind of take drawings from the comics and then make portraits--and to us, it was like, wow! What is this? And she would explain to me: “That’s the Black Terror, he was in these comics or those comics or whatever comics; that’s Blackhawk--they were a team from different countries fighting the Nazis.” It was like, ahhh...., it was like, cool, man!

Nice! Let’s talk about some of your artistic influences. I always thought when I saw the early issues of Love & Rockets that you had a great style--your own style, but with certain influences from classic Archie Comics artists like Dan DeCarlo and Bob Montana, in terms of drawing cute girls, and maybe a bit of Wally Wood and Alex Toth in terms of your chiaroscuro technique or great use of black and white. Who were your main influences?

Well, the people that you’re talking about...and also Jack Kirby. I like the Dennis the Menace artist [Owen Fitzgerald] who did the comic book; I like the Harvey Comics artist Warren Kremer, who did Little Dot, and Richie Rich and stuff like that. I loved the Little Archie artist, Bob Bolling. And all the illustrators who were doing the Warren magazines-- Creepy and Eerie

So, like, Steve Ditko, or Reed Crandall--who also did Blackhawk back in the day?

Sure--Ditko! Yeah! You know, whatever we [Jaime and his brothers Mario and Gilbert] were looking at, I was influenced by. Some of them a bit closer than others, but it was just like all these different artists. You know, Bruno Premiani--who did Doom Patrol.

Yeah, that’s interesting that you mentioned Bruno Premiani...I was thinking about his art in relation to yours on the drive down here. His style on old, 1960s issues of Doom Patrol was so clean, and so is yours. It reminds me of your style to a certain extent.

I’m sure it’s in there...nothing was literally ripped off, but it all stuck with me. So if somebody says, I see a little Ditko in your work, I go, yeah, it’s probably there.

Yeah, and, I mean, hopefully I didn’t infer it that way, because I think of you and your brothers as being highly original, but I just meant that everybody has influences. Beyond comics, what were other artistic influences? Were there things from Mexico or artists from Mexican culture--like Diego Rivera or Frida Kahlo? 

Not ‘til I was older. I was not schooled in fine art until my teenage years. As a kid, I was raised on junk culture. Movies, TV, wrestling... monster movies...the whole gamut. Yeah, and that all had a weird relationship, I thought. And music, of course. It all kind of belonged together somehow..it was all related. And, I don’t know, it was just something that stuck with me and I took the best elements from it.

Going back to monster movies and whatnot for a minute, did you have any favorites in terms of actors--like Boris Karloff or Bela Lugosi--or any specific 1950s or early ‘60s sci-fi genre films?

Universal [Pictures] monsters were always very important. They were kind of the ‘Star Wars’ of their day. 

Yeah, those films stand the test of time...most of them...actually...

Yeah, you had Frankenstein, you had The Wolf Man, you had Dracula, you had The Mummy...

Yeah, Boris Karloff, again, doing double duty--playing Frankenstein, and the Mummy...

[Laughs] Yeah, sure, so I grew up on all that stuff...you know, whatever TV had for me. But I also saw a lot of old classic Hollywood movies--my mom was a big fan of old movies. So, it was just a mixture of all that stuff that all somehow ended up in my work--even if you can’t tell sometimes.

Uh huh. So, let’s go to music. Obviously, when you were a teenager or in your early twenties you were--and still are-- into punk rock, but what are your memories of music as a child? What was your first exposure to music that you remember liking?

I was four years old when The Beatles came on and were popular...so, the British Invasion was big when I was four or five. Mom always had the radio on. She liked that music. So I grew up on, basically, pop and soul, you know? Whatever was on the Top 40 at the time. When I became a teenager was when I started to make up my own mind of what I wanted to hear. My brothers were into pre-punk--like glam, stuff like that...

Like Slade, and stuff like that?

Yeah--Slade, T. Rex, Roxy Music, and bands like that. And I was the biggest Kiss fan when I was fifteen, in 1975. 

[Laughs] Were you part of the Kiss army?

No! ...pre Kiss army! [laughs] So, it seemed obvious that, eventually, when punk would come along, of course I’d jump in. It was something perfect for me!

So, in the early punk days was there actually a vibrant scene happening in Oxnard--or would you guys have to head down to L.A.?

At first we’d go to L.A.--when we could...when someone had a car, and when we could afford gas, you know? 

To see bands like The Germs, or X...?

Yeah, bands like those... And then our scene in Oxnard started to grow. We would meet someone else who was a punk...and then they had a friend who was a punk...and we all started to find each other. Because, at first, it was like, I didn’t know there were any punks in Oxnard. And eventually we found each other and it just grew, and grew, and grew...until pretty soon we had our own scene in Oxnard and didn’t have to go to L.A. all the time. 

Well, let me ask you this, I’ve heard sometimes that it was very difficult--at least down in the Orange County punk rock scene--during the late ‘70s and early ‘80s in terms of jockish people just wailing on punkers, or antagonizing them or whatever for being against the societal norm--was it actually hard to be a punk rocker and defend yourself in Oxnard and Ventura back in those days? 

You were obviously a minority [laughs]...but I guess by that time I didn’t care...you know, I came from Lowrider culture, so I was being chased by them...

Well, that’s what I was going to ask, too...was it, like, with the vatos or cholos in Oxnard--were they alright with you and your brothers being punk rockers, or were they kind of like: “Aye, esse, what IS this...?”

No--all my friends thought we were nuts! They liked their soul and funk...like old-school Earth, Wind & Fire...and Kool & the Gang...stuff like that. So they thought we were weird with our rock ‘n’ roll kinda thing...‘cause it was rare--for Mexicans, anyway--to be into rock ‘n’ roll...at least in my town. So, we had to deal with that...but it was rare that we got threatened. But, like, I said, by that time we were strong enough where it was like, yell at us all you want...!

Your other brother, Ismael Hernandez, was actually in a punk band back then--called Dr. Know, right? What year did he join the band? 


Him, and Gilbert and me would hang out with punks, and Ismael saw a friend in high school that he kinda knew--and the guy had a Clash button on...and Ismael was like: “At Oxnard high school???--That’s a strong kid!” And then Ismael and this guy kinda hooked up, and then Ismael was introduced to Kyle, the guitar player of Dr. Know. That was about 1981...‘82...maybe earlier...I can’t remember exactly. He hit it off with these two guys and they said: ‘We’re starting a band--we need a bass player!’ So my brother decided: “Okay, I’ll learn bass.”[laughs


So he learned bass just to be in the band--very cool!

Yeah! And I remember I went to their first gig at Ventura College. They played one song in front of the class...they didn’t have vocals because the singer couldn’t get off work, so the three of them just played this one song, and it was over...and I was their audience...or me and the classroom, you know. I guess I was the only one who understood what they were all about. [laughs]

Right! [laughs]

I was at an historical concert. [laughs]

Agression (sic) album cover by Jaime Hernandez

And then, from there, how did you come to design some Dr. Know album cover art, as well as art for other Nardcore [Oxnard Hardcore] bands--like Ill Repute and Agression (sic)-- that were on the Mystic Records label?

Before that, we [Jaime and Gilbert] were doing flyers, too. It was pretty obvious...Gilbert and I were the ones who drew...so they always came to us. You know, punk flyers were usually paste-ups of photos and letters. When Raymond Pettibon did the Black Flag flyers, it made a lot of sense...it was kinda like, comics and punk! And I really liked that he drew their flyers. And, so, it kinda became obvious that that’s how you make flyers--you draw ‘em. That’s how it came about for me.

So, Raymond Pettibon was an influence, then? 

Yeah, because I remember going to shows in L.A., and then you come out, and someone’s passing out flyers. And in those days, Black Flag numbered their flyers...so, I thought, these are like collectors’ items!

And now they are!

So, I thought, I’m gonna try to get as many as I can! But I could only get to L.A. once a week...or once a month...so, I’ve got some of their early ones [Black Flag’s flyers]... like no. 11, no. 12, some like that. But I just liked that idea, and I go, yeah, you should draw your flyers--that’s cool...it’s like comics! So, it was like, well, if you can draw, why not?’ And so Gilbert and I were the artists of our group--of our scene--and they would always come to us.

Classic ‘Nardcore’ flyers by Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez


And at this same time were you and Gilbert also doing little spot illustrations for comics fanzines like The Comics Journal and other publications? 

Yeah, Gilbert and I were still trying to somehow find a way to get in to comics. Though we didn’t want to follow the rules, so we would just do spot illos ‘cuz it was like: ‘Hey, I’m published!’ [laughs] So, it was kinda like that...and it was kinda like: ‘Hey, this doesn’t make us any money, but I love it that my stuff is out there!’ And shortly after was when we got that idea to make our own comic.

Let’s talk about that. How long did it take you guys to actually put together your very first issue of Love and Rockets?

I can’t remember...I do remember Gilbert was already working on “B.E.M.”...he had been working on it, but it was unfinished, because he didn’t know where it was going to be published, or where we was going to send it. It was like, he was just doing it--almost for himself, you know? And I had been designing characters--like Maggie...when I became punk, Maggie became punk! She cut her hair. She was a rocket mechanic at first, then I kinda made her a punk rocket mechanic. [laughs] And so, when our older brother Mario had the idea, like: “Hey, I know someone who can print this and make a comic.” Gilbert and me were like: “Okay,” and they just assigned me a certain amount of pages. And I did it fresh. I said, okay, I’ve got this character named Maggie, and she’s a rocket mechanic and she’s a punk. I don’t remember exactly how long it took us--but not that long.

The first, self-published issue of Love and Rockets no. 1, 1981- art by Gilbert Hernandez

And then after you sent a copy of your first self-published Love and Rockets comic to Gary Groth at The Comics Journal, he pretty much said: ‘This is great--we want to republish it and distribute it!’ --correct?

Yeah--it was that easy. Gilbert sent him a copy to be reviewed in The Comics Journal--and Gary wrote back saying: “We like this--can we publish this?” And overnight we were like: “Okay..,” and we’ve been with them [Fantagraphics Books] ever since. 

Okay! I’ve always loved your iconic cover to Love and Rockets no. 1 [the first Fantagraphics Books-published issue] but I’ve always been curious about some of the female characters depicted in the police line up. Were some of them never used in any of your stories...like the cyber-punk looking woman...is she based on one of Gilbert’s characters from the “B.E.M.” story?

Jaime Hernandez’s iconic cover to the Fantagraphics Books edition of Love and Rockets no. 1, 1982

I think what we were trying to do was put every genre of comic in one cover--but the woman in the middle with the curlers [in her hair] and the robe kind of represented that you may think you know what you’re getting ...but this is different. The superheroine in the cover lineup was used later...

Isn’t she called Comrade 7?

Yeah. But the rest of them...they were just...never used.

Have you ever thought of putting them in something--like even just a little short story?

I remember Gilbert was thinking of doing short stories with the characters...but they just never turned out.

 Locas: Maggie, Hopey, Terry, Izzy, Penny, & Daffy

Okay. Well, let’s talk about ‘Maggie’ Chascarrillo and ‘Hopey’ Glass and some of the main characters in the “Hoppers” Universe, so to speak--or the Jaime Hernandez universe--who inhabit most of your stories (as differentiated from Gilbert’s or Mario’s stories) in Love and Rockets. When you made the decision--after the first few issues--to transition from sci-fi-based stories of Maggie as a pro-solar mechanic to a more realistic depiction of Maggie and her punk rock friends, what was your main catalyst for that? Was it due to your own experiences in--and an homage to--the Oxnard punk rock scene? 

Yeah--I was finding out that my real life was becoming more interesting than rockets and robots. The characters were important to me...[it was] more important to create the lives of these characters, and the dinosaur got in the way, basically I don’t wanna do a dinosaur because you’re not going to take this seriously, if someone’s life is in danger, or if someone’s going through an emotional down. You know, you’re not gonna really care if all of a sudden the dinosaur walks in and they go: “Yeeeek!!!” And another thing was kind of challenging ourselves and challenging the readers, that, I’m gonna make you be entertained by normal people on the street, as much as you are by some fantastic fantasy. And it was kind of a challenge, you know, so that was another thing.

Hopey’s punk band La Llorona on the classic cover of Love and Rockets no. 24

And did you guys pretty much decide from the start that you were going to do it “Gasoline Alley”-style--for lack of a better phraseology--in terms of aging your characters in real life time (like the famous Gasoline Alley newspaper comic strip by Frank King) instead of keeping them forever young? 

That kind of happened more naturally... I know Gilbert was influenced by Gasoline Alley and he liked how they aged, but I think we were already thinking that, if these are real characters--then someday they’re going to be old...so I think it was a mixture of both. Because I used to think the Gasoline Alley thing was it--like that’s where we got it from...but I’ve looked at old sketches that I did before Love and Rockets, and I have a Maggie aging chart...so it made me rethink this...and I’m thinking it just seems natural, in a way.

Well, let’s build off that...were some of your Love and Rockets character based off of people you knew...or did you try to inject parts of your own personality into the Maggie and Hopey stories?

Yeah--nobody specific...but I borrowed personalities and fashion styles. I created someone simply because I liked the haircut...I created somebody because I wanted an ‘Eeyore type’ [as in the character Eeyore from the Winnie-the-Pooh books by A.A. Milne], like a crabby person... and their personality built up around that. I like that this character dresses all in black.

Like your character Isabel “Izzy" Reubens?

Yeah. So, it almost never comes from a specific person, just something someone wears, or a personality type...things like that...

I remember back when I was first getting into Love and Rockets, one story in particular that really stunned me, because it was so well done, was “The Death of Speedy Ortiz.” How did that story come about?

I remember, one, I wanted to do a story about my Lowrider days. I was doing a lot of punk stuff...and I was like, yeah, but I kinda miss my days before punk, too, because they were just as fun. And so I thought, I wanna have one where they just hang out and cruise, and stuff like that. So, I had an idea that I’m gonna show street life, and my other childhood at that point...and also at the time I wanted to kill a character...I wanted a character to die. And I picked him.

Why him?

It just worked out...I mean his life was spiraling...you know, he started to get crabby and got kinda mean, and things were not going his way...


Yeah, I kinda remember that...like he was hitting on Maggie, and she was kinda rebuffing him, and trying to get with her younger sister, Esther, and in the back of the fast food restaurant in one scene, “Speedy” was screwing some other chick...Blanca...


Yeah...

Pages from Jaime Hernandez’s groundbreaking story The Death of Speedy Ortiz

But still I was kinda surprised when that happened, and I did think in some ways it was a moving story, because even though “Speedy” Ortiz was a troubled person, it seemed to me that he came across as a real person...having flaws and all of that, because prior to that you don't have that many examples of this in comics...I mean maybe Denny O’Neil’s characterization of Roy Harper as a junkie in DC Comics’ Green Lantern/Green Arrow title in the early ‘70s. Also, I guess “The Death of Speedy Ortiz” story in some ways was a validation of the humanity of a character from a cultural group--Chicanos--that had not been given much of a voice up to that time in comics?

Yeah.

As far as you know, were you the first comic book writer/artist to create stories that explored the Lowrider Chicano subculture?

Probably not the first, but in comics one of the first...

How much of an influence did the American underground comix scene from the late ‘60s -late ‘70s have on you and Gilbert when you started Love and Rockets? Were there particular underground comix artists you liked? 


Yeah, [Robert] Crumb, and [Gilbert] Shelton...and “Spain” [Manuel Rodriguez]...and Robert Williams. They were out there, and they were kinda a springboard for doing your own shit...for doing it your way...without any rules...‘cause, you know, when our comic started in the early ‘80s, Marvel had a stranglehold on everything! You had to do it their way or you were not gonna be published. But we had other ideas, and so did a lot of other people. I think when our comic was published, there were a lot of cartoonists going: “I wanna get my stuff published, too!” --so they started coming out of the woodwork. They had always been doing stuff, and they just had nowhere to go. And then they got published, like we did...so we kinda helped bring everybody out of the shadows. 


The cover for Love and Rockets no. 4 - illustrated by Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez featuring Locas, and Out O’ Space by Jaime Hernandez; and Music for Monsters (with Bang and Inez), and Heartbreak Soup (with Luba) by Gilbert Hernandez

Who were some of your peers from that time?

People like Peter Bagge, and Charles Burns--you know, that’s what I thought, I don’t know what they thought! 


The Hernandez Brothers: Gilbert, Jaime, and Mario at a signing for Love and Rockets in the early ‘80s.

What about female cartoonists?

Yeah, there were female cartoonists as well. There was Mary Fleener, and Roberta Gregory...

Carol Lay?

Carol Lay had already been doing stuff...I remember her from way before we started. Yeah, and they [other alternative comics artists] were being published, too, but there was not an alternative market to support it. So, I think it didn’t become a community until the early ‘80s, when everyone started to have the support. Someone might tell you different--but this is my story.




The Dragon Slayer: Folktales from Latin America by Jaime Hernandez


So, beyond Love and Rockets, what can you tell me about some of your other projects--like the children’s book, The Dragon Slayer: Folktales from Latin America; and haven’t you been doing some things for The New Yorker magazine from time to time?

I did The New Yorker through the ‘90s--now and then. They stopped calling after awhile. 

Why?

I dunno...they had other cartoonists that worked faster...I dunno. 


 A Jaime Hernandez - illustrated The New Yorker magazine cover

Somebody at The New Yorker doesn’t know what they’re missing!

From The New Yorker and Raw [magazine] I met Francoise Mouly, who had Toon Books [an imprint created to publish age-appropriate comics for children] and she had asked me years ago if I would ever do a Toon Book, and I thought, yeah, that’d be great...do a kid’s book, that’d be great--but I hadn’t an idea. And then we finally came together a year or two ago, and we talked about it, and she had this idea for a book. I thought, good, I don’t have to come up with anything! [laughs]. Yeah, so we got together and we researched old [Latin American] folktales and we chose ones to do. Basically, it was as simple as that. 

Based on this book’s publication do you see yourself going more in this direction--doing more books for children? I could see this book being a nice addition to a lot of public school libraries in California and other states--and even internationally.

Yeah, I think it’s a great idea and a good place to go, but right now I’m really focusing on Love and Rockets--as a magazine--again. Trying to get back on schedule. At the same time I’m illustrating a book for someone...as we speak...we’re almost to the end of it. 

Can you talk about that or is it under wraps? 


It’s officially been announced just in the past couple of days. It’s a book [Split Tooth] by a woman [Tanya Tagaq] from the Great White North, who grew up Inuit--and she’s from really high up in the snow. She’s also a pretty famous throat singer...

Tanya Tagaq’s novel Split Tooth - cover illustration by Jaime Hernandez

Like a Tuvan throat singing kind of thing...?

I don’t know what you call it, but throat singing... [laughs]...yeah. And it turned out that she was a fan of my comic. And one day she said: “Would you like to illustrate? -- I’m writing a book.” And she was kinda nervous about it and was, like, I don’t know if my writing is good or whatever... but she found a publisher, and the first person she thought of to illustrate it was me. And I thought, cool! And so, I’ve been learning a lot about her culture...it’s just this really cool story--she tells really great stories--and I get to do a few illustrations in it. I’m really glad that she trusted me with it, because I didn’t really know that much about her world--and I’m learning a lot. 

So, it was probably an exploration for you, too, learning about her and her cultural background? 

Yeah! And it was a little...different...because she’s telling really personal stories--and I’m, like, are you sure you wanna trust me with this...? [laughs]. And she’s totally into it. So, if she’s okay with it, I’m okay with it...and I think it’s gonna come out really well and I’m really happy with the stuff. Working with someone else is just--I’m not as comfortable--so, it took me awhile to get into doing it--because Love and Rockets is my own thing, and if I mess up--I’m the only one to blame, you know?

I want to circle back to Love and Rockets, but I’d also like to ask about the recent Doom Patrol variant cover you did for Gerard Way’s DC Comics pop up imprint--Young Animal Comics--feturing Way’s new iteration of the Doom Patrol. Would you be interested in doing more work for DC Comics...are there old silver age characters that were your favorites as a kid that you’d enjoy...like, if you were given complete control for an independent story or one-shot special?

You know, when I was younger I would have...but now, not really. I mean, for one reason...say you grew up on The Doom Patrol... why wouldn’t you want to do The Doom Patrol? Well, Bruno Premiani did an excellent job --what do they need me for?

So you feel like it would be redundant? 

Yeah, like if they asked me to do the old [Stan Lee and Jack] Kirby Fantastic Four-- could I top that one?! [laughs]

But you did do a short, retro-‘60s Marvel Comics story, right? With the Wasp and the Scarlet Witch and...who was the villain...didn’t he have a crush on them? That must have been fun, I guess, right?


The Space Phantom! That was a lot of fun--but, you know, it was all fluff. So, I guess , yeah, in a way I did do characters I wanted to do. I mean, when I was young, I drew the best Wonder Woman that ever lived! But now, I’m like, eh, you don’t need me...

Back to Love and Rockets, I’ve noticed that in the last few issues of the comic you have gone back to relating some stories of Maggie and Hopey and their punk rock and cholo circle of friends when they were in their teenage years--besides the present day stories of them as middle-aged women. What prompted that decision? 

With the flashbacks I wanted to show Maggie and Hopey in love--meaning the ‘I can’t live without you’ love--because I think it’s always been implied, but I’ve never actually really shown it. 

Maggie Chascarrillo and Hopey Glass’ first kiss

Maggie, Hopey and Izzy-- three of Jaime’s “Locas

I always thought, at least in the first run of Love and Rockets--from the 1980s--that Hopey’s love was deeper...that Maggie was kind of a free spirit and in love with love and experiencing new lovers... like, besides her relationship with Hopey, when she fell for the prosolar mechanic Rand Race in the very early sci-fi-based stories, or when she was romantically involved with the artist Ray Dominguez...

Well, basically, I guess you could spell it out as this... Hopey is lesbian and Maggie is bi-sexual...and there was a time when I toyed with the idea that you can’t really pin Maggie down. She is madly in love with Hopey, and it has nothing to do with her gender or whatever...she’s fixated on this one person...but, however you want to read it is fine.

Hopey, Maggie, and Penny Century

Hopey and Maggie

Since Love and Rockets was so groundbreaking culturally as a series, all these years later, have you had many instances of younger creators coming up to you in the comics industry who are a part of the LGBTQ community and saying what an influence you and your work has had on them and their work or their lives? 


Sure. I’ve had creators, I’ve had readers come up...and it’s great! Especially from queer women--because that’s one thing I cannot personally be, you know? I mean, a Mexican that grew up in Southern California comes up to me--and I go: ‘Well, that’s exactly what I am...so I know exactly what I’m talking about.’ Dealing with women--I don’t know everything about women. Dealing with queer women--I don’t know everything about queer women. I just do my best. And when someone comes up to me about that and says what a wonderful job I do, I’m thrilled to death because I did something right! 

Would you attribute that at all to just having grown up in a really loving household with a mother who was a very compassionate person, or having sisters as well--or is it just something innate to you as a person, that you were able to do that? 

It’s just mostly observing...and...uh...trying to put myself as close to it as possible without being it.

Okay. Moving back to music, I know that beyond the Nardcore bands, you’ve done some album art for bands including Los Lobos, 7 Year Bitch, The Makers, Indigo Girls... have you done anymore album covers or record art at all?


The Makers - Tear Your World Apart

The Coyote Men - Call of The Coyote Man

Los Lobos - The Town and the City

7 Year Bitch - Gato Negro

Indigo Girls - All That We Let In

 Indigo Girls - All That We Let In

The Shame Idols - I Got Time

Christian Death - Absinthe

Not recently, but I just did a poster for a band called Speedy Ortiz.

A band named after your Love and Rockets character you killed off? Wow! Are they punk rock?

I guess so--I don’t know how to label this stuff any more! [laughs] I just know they have a brand new album and they asked me to do the art...so they’re selling posters...t-shirts with my image.

What did you draw for them? 

The members of the band with a horse.

Speedy Ortiz - a band named after Hernandez’s tragic cholo character from Love and Rockets--illustration by Jaime Hernandez

Okay, going back to your first album cover designs,--what’s your favorite Nardcore album art you did? I remember my cousin, Bert, and I thinking the Stalag 13 album cover was really cool we we first saw it!

It’s hard to say...not really a favorite...but I remember thinking the Stalag one was the most interesting because they just wanted three panels of a guy leaping with a guitar.

Jaime Hernandez’s album cover to In Control by Stalag 13

Yeah, about a year ago, my cousin--who lives in Portland, Oregon now--found a t-shirt of that classic Stalag 13 cover art by you at a thrift store and he snapped it up right away! So, wrapping it up, what music are you enjoying currently...whether it’s from the past or the present? 

There’s one record of a band that I never paid attention to back in the day ... a band called The Heaters...they were part of the New Wave--so, I ignored that because I was into the punk side of things then, but they made a record in 1983 that they did by themselves, and it wasn’t released until a couple of years ago...and I found it by accident and I really fell in love with it. 

What about The Plugz--are you a fan of The Plugz? 

Yeah--I can’t find anything of them on CD.

I just got into their album Electrify Me recently and I love it!

Yeah-- that may be my favorite by them--the Electrify Me record!

Outside of the Oxnard scene, what were some of your other favorite old-school So Cal punk bands from the late ‘70s/early ‘80s? You mentioned Black Flag-- did you like Social D. ?

I liked X, I liked Black Flag, I liked the Go-Go’s--at the time, they didn’t have records...maybe they’d have a single here or there...so, a lot of the songs I learned by watching them live! I liked Fear, I liked The Dils, I liked The Plugz...I’m leaving out so many...

What about The Avengers--Penelope Houston’s San Francisco punk band? 

I saw their last show [not the one where they opened for The Sex Pistols at Winterland] it was in late ‘78...there was this young band that was just starting out that opened for them called the Go-Go’s. [laughs]

With all of the mainstream and independent comics i.p.s being optioned for movies and TV series these days, is there any hope of some of your and Gilbert’s stories from Love and Rockets being translated into film or TV?

Maybe one day. You know, it’s very frustrating when you talk with the [film] people and you realize, oh, they really don’t want to do what I want to do. [laughs] To me, Love and Rockets is exactly what it is...to them, it’s what it could be. So that’s a big disagreement right there. [laughs] So, yeah, in the near future I’m not really interested.

Okay, well thank you for your time, Jaime, and for agreeing to let me interview you during this Free Comic Book Day signing event at Hi De Ho Comics and Books in Santa Monica. I really appreciate it.

Sure, man! 

The Artist and his Muse (Jaime and Maggie)

- Sean Mageean
© Copyright http://www.psychedelicbabymag.com/2018

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