Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Revealing the secrets of life and death

Back in the early 1980s when the Hernandez brothers (Jaime, Gilbert, and Mario) launched their comic book series Love and Rockets with a self-published first issue, they could not possibly have known that their work would redefine alternative comics for a new generation.  However, they did have ambitions, as evidenced by an interview with Jaime Hernandez in 1985.  He said that what he wanted of comics as a medium was “…to just make it good, so when someone who reads comics is asked, they won’t have to be ashamed.  I just want to make them legitimate, not only for the comics fans in their little rooms wishing they were Wolverine or something.”

While this battle for legitimacy is still going on today, it’s obvious that comics have come a long way, baby, and that J Hernandez has contributed greatly to this shift in perception both with his own work, and also by inspiring other artists.  With his knack for depicting believable (flawed, complex) characters in an elegant yet dynamic style, he has undoubtedly influenced many comics creators working today.

As a long-time reader of Love and Rockets, I was quite excited to stumble upon the book The Art of Jaime Hernandez: the Secrets of Life and Death by Todd Hignite.  In this beautifully designed book, Hignite uses a wealth of images as well as text to paint a vivid portrait of his subject.  The pictures – from family photos to punk rock flyers to pages from Jaime’s sketchbooks – are a fascinating collection for any L & R enthusiast.  More importantly, however, these images are always the perfect complement to the writing that they accompany, and vice versa.  The reader doesn’t get to see, say, the doodles on Jaime’s PeeChee folder just because, but because they serve some purpose in the larger narrative of the book.

Hignite details Hernandez’ career chronologically, beginning with a childhood spent reading comics, and creating his own from an early age.  In twelve well-researched chapters, Hignite guides the reader through the artist’s continuing love of comics in his teenage years, and then his prolific career, which has spanned more than two decades.  The book explores how influences beyond other cartoonists have shaped Hernandez’ work, particularly Latino culture and the punk movement.  Interviews with Hernandez, as well as a few family members and associates, offer personal insights and keep things from getting too dry.

If you are a fan of Jaime Hernandez, this book offers an excellent behind-the-scenes look at the life and work of a beloved artist.  If you are interested in alternative comics and aren’t yet familiar with the works of Mr. Hernandez, I don’t know what you’re waiting for.


1 comment:

  1. Yay, I am loving this post! We should all send love letters to our favorite writers/artists/musicians: they speak to the soul, do they not?!!

    Can't wait to groove on the book that is literally in your hands ... cool!


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