I’m posting something a little different today. Monday night I attended a lecture by Love & Rockets co-creator Jaime Hernandez. Tuesday morning he led a small seminar concerning the creative process for a group of about ten of us (including local underground comix legend Mad Peck).
The other day I realized that I’ve been reading the work of Los Bros Hernandez (as Jaime and Beto are collectively known) work for almost half my life (!!). But that’s not so surprising considering how fully realized, complex, and absorbing their work is —it’s detail-oriented and rewards close reading. Above all, it’s humane and HUMAN, with a depth and sense of craft that’s novelistic in approach. It would be condescending, not to mention simply WRONG, to say that it’s a level of depth virtually unseen in the world of comics, but that’s just what people have been saying for years. I myself would like to see the end of comics being held to a different standard from fiction, but I might as well wish for a pony while I’m at it. Rant over. Their books are amazing and you should all run out and buy ‘em. (If you’re intimidated by the 25 years of story there, you could always start with the brand new pocket-sized editions of Heartbreak Soup and Maggie the Mechanic. Or just take a leap of faith with the massive single collections Locas and Palomar, also from Fantagraphics. )
I actually bumped into Jaime and curator Felicia Salinas on the walk over, so I got to introduce myself and chat with him for a bit before the seminar began.
The process of demystifying people’s creative development is almost always a little disappointing, like peeking behind the curtain to see what the Wizard really looks like. Nevertheless, the comics seminar led by Jaime Hernandez yesterday morning had some illuminating moments.
He works fairly improvisatorily with regards to plotting out his stories. He trusts his own sense of pacing by this point and once he has a general story blocked out he starts the story from the beginning. But he admits that he often jumps forward and backward as he goes, leaving panels blank here, jumping one page forward or back here and there.
Someone asked about where the inspiration for certain characters comes from —specifically about Vivian the Frogmouth, a fairly recent addition to the series. He said she was drawn from Jean Peter’s character in Pick-Up On South Street —someone who’s trying really hard to make something of herself and be trusted but she just never gets a break. “She’s a problem, but a lovable problem.”
I tried to get him to reveal the secrets of Flies on the Ceiling, which is possibly my favorite Jaime story ever. It contains some of his most beautifully composed, haunting images —it’s hallucinatory, at times feverishly intense, and it’s not easily forgotten. He said he’d known for YEARS that he wanted to write the story of Izzy in Mexico, but that he’d had lots of starts and stops along the way. In fact he’d tried to plot it out and it wasn’t working. Only when he went expressionistic (or “crazy” as he put it) did it start to come together.
He said that Beto had millions of ideas, all the time. By contrast, he had to let things gestate for a long time in his head before they felt right, or real. Only then would he be ready to commit them to paper.
As for the possibility of a Love & Rockets movie: Jaime said he’d been doing power lunches for well on twenty years, with very little to show for it. He even intimated that he and Beto had tried their hands at their own screenplay, but that hadn’t panned out. They’re keeping a very close eye on everything from a creative standpoint —they are clearly VERY wary of people who may have good intentions but creative divergences. (I assumed from Jaime’s “been-there-done-that” tone that it’s happened ad nauseam, unfortunately.) But he’s hopeful that someday the right combination of creative forces will fall into place. So we’ll see…
We ended on a goofy pop culture note. His favorite movie? “The Ghost and Mr. Chicken,” he said, laughing. Followed quickly by a more highfalutin pick: “Los Olvidados.”
I didn’t bring anything for him to sign, so he drew me a little picture instead:
ALL ARTWORK © 2007 JAIME HERNANDEZ