Diaflogue: Jaime Hernandez Exclusive Q&A

López: Throughout the book, Maggie seems to be in a midlife crisis. Why did you decide to explore these questions through her?

Hernandez: Probably because I was asking myself those same questions at that time. A lot of my characters are growing old alongside me, so I can understand and write them better.

panel from Esperanza by Jaime Hernandez

López: In ancient Mesoamerican folklore, dogs are often associated with death. One tradition has dogs guiding the dead through the underworld, which actually somewhat parallels the climactic sequence in Ghost of Hoppers. Did you consciously draw from these stories?

Hernandez: No, since childhood I always heard stories about the devil sometimes coming to people as a black dog, sometimes as a baby and other times a red vision. I thought the dogs were a good dramatic device.

panel from Esperanza by Jaime Hernandez

López: I feel like you’re doing something different with the “Angel of Tarzana” vignettes — they’re almost visual poems. Why do you write them?

Hernandez: To take a break from the dialogue driven stories I usually do. These also gave me more opportunity to draw more action and movement without it having to be a fantasy superhero comic.

López: I really like the story where she plays catch with her father. It struck me suddenly: This is the only functioning relationship in the entire book. Why did you do this?

Hernandez: I did actually want to portray a happier family life. It was something I hadn’t done much with some of the other characters.

Gilbert & Jaime Hernandez at the Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery, 2007
Gilbert & Jaime Hernandez, at the Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery, 2007

López: You and Gilbert have talked before about how you play off of each other. Do you still influence each other, and if so, how?

Hernandez: Gilbert does and always has got me off my ass to try to do better work every time by simply doing the work he does. I like the height he raises his bar.

López: In the ’80s, you painted the “punk” landscape — the grungy buildings, the hobos, the graffiti…. There was a conscious effort to evoke that place and time. What landscape are you trying to paint in these stories?

Hernandez: The aftermath. The fallout. Life goes on with or without my characters and some of them can deal with it and others can’t.

López: You’ve been working on these characters for almost 30 years. At this point, is it difficult or easy to write about them?

Hernandez: Writing the characters is very easy because I know them so well. Writing stories for them is the difficult part.

López: I noticed that depending on the collection, stories come in a different order. Do you revise the structure of your stories or even modify them when you assemble the larger collections?

Hernandez: When we’re putting together a single collection made up of a few issues of L&R, I mess with the order of stories so it will read more like one long connected story. When the material goes into the Complete L&R series, I usually let it play out like it did in the original comic. It just seems right that way.

López: There are definitely storytellers who write to convey ideas through characters (moral, philosophical, etc.) — and there’s others who are more naturalistic, who just want to get down the interactions between people. Where would you put yourself in this spectrum?

Hernandez: A little in between the two. I like to get moral and philosophical sometimes, but I always try to handle it naturally through the characters, instead of preaching through captions, like it came out of a textbook.

López: What advantages do comics offer you to accomplish this goal?

Hernandez: In comics, I can use as many or as little words as I want. In prose, all you have is words. Of course, you can reverse the argument, but that doesn’t concern me.

Jaime Hernandez at the Emerald City Comicon 2009
Jaime Hernandez, at the Emerald City Comicon, 2009