Hernandez, Gilbert 1957(?)-
HERNANDEZ, Gilbert 1957(?)-
PERSONAL: Born c. 1957; married; wife's name Carol.
ADDRESSES: Home—Woodland Hills, CA. Agent—c/o Fantagraphics Books, 7563 Lake City Way, Seattle, WA 98115.
CAREER: Graphic novelist, 1982—. Worked as a janitor.
Heartbreak Soup, Fantagraphics Books (Westlake Village, CA), 1987.
(With Jaime Hernandez, Mario Hernandez, and Dean Motter) The Return of Mister X, Warner (New York, NY), 1987.
The Reticent Heart and Other Stories, Fantagraphics Books (Seattle, WA), 1988.
Birdland, Eros Books (Seattle, WA), 1992.
Poison River, Fantagraphics Books (Seattle, WA), 1994.
Yeah!, Fantagraphics Books (Seattle, WA), 1999.
Fear of Comics, Fantagraphics books (Seattle, WA), 2000.
Luba in America, Fantagraphics Books (Seattle, WA), 2001.
Palomar: The Heartbreak Soup Stories, Fantagraphics Books (Seattle, WA), 2003.
Cocreator of and contributor to the adult comic book "Love and Rockets." Hernandez's work has been translated into six languages.
SIDELIGHTS: The work of graphic novelist Gilbert Hernandez has evoked comparisons to Latin American magical realist writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez and to Midwestern American humorist Garrison Keillor. Critics have praised the serious, provocative textual content and skilled artistry of Hernandez's work. "Gilbert's protagonists always seem to be moving in a sort of exodus through panoramas of history. The stories have exhaustive scale, imagining the history of the Americas in breaks and displacements," said Jeff Chang of ColorLines magazine.
With his brother Jaime, Hernandez is the creative force behind the successful adult comic book series "Love and Rockets." The two artists are often credited with helping to usher in a new era of appreciation for the genre. Hernandez, along with brothers Jaime and Mario, grew up in a large Mexican-American family where his creative urges were fueled by an early fascination with vintage films. Both Jaime and Gilbert have drawn on their Hispanic roots for the material in "Love and Rockets." While Jaime's stories focus on barrio life in contemporary America, Hernandez chronicles the characters and events of the mythical Central American village of Palomar. Both Jaime's stories and Gilbert's Palomar tales have been collected into book editions such as Heartbreak Soup, published in 1987. It was followed by The Reticent Heart and Other Stories in 1988 and Poison River in 1994.
Heartbreak Soup is the original story to be set in Palomar. It focuses upon the newcomer, Luba, who poses a threat to Chelo, the resident banmacradera (a woman who gives baths to men), since they share the same profession. Their conflict is resolved ingeniously and peacefully, and Luba becomes a permanent resident of Palomar. Patty Campbell, in a review of Heartbreak Soup for the Wilson Library Bulletin, wrote that "Hernandez draws us into the daily dramas of his characters' lives with amused compassion and enormous humanity." Mark Sinker, reviewing the book for the New Statesman, called it "one of the few extended strips where the comparison with the novel (in particular the magic realist novel) really makes much sense." Sinker praised Hernandez's believable portrayal of female characters and concluded that "it's surely no accident that the most innovative and perceptive of the new American comics comes from the heart of a rising culture" found in an increasingly Hispanic United States.
Luba's life prior to her arrival in Palomar is documented in Poison River, a tale filled with politics, love and gangsters. "It is an ambitious work. . . . [and] I found the storytelling technique fascinating," said J. Stephen Bolhafner in his Love and Rockets Web site review. A Publishers Weekly contributor called Poison River "an epic Latin American melodrama of lost identity, political violence and polymorphous sexuality."
Hernandez is also the coauthor of a futuristic tale of an architect gone amiss in The Return of Mister X, published in 1987, and an erotic comic, Birdland, published in 1992. A Los Angeles Times article quoted acclaimed British graphic novelist Alan Moore as stating: "Hernandez uses a genuinely poetic eye to show us all the rich and shadowy passions that surge behind the bland facade of normal life. . . . [He] shows us a little of what humans are actually worth, and while some of it, predictably, is bad news, there are moments of understated optimism that are both touching and illuminating."
In 1999, Hernandez made a foray into the world of children's comic books with the publication of Yeah!, a book that revolves around an all-girl rock band. Honey, Krazy and WooWoo, members of the band, are intergalactic superstars recognized on every other planet but their home territory, Earth. "It's sort of a modernized Josie and the Pussycats meets the Spice Girls," Hernandez told Los Angeles Times contributor Jordan Raphael. Time writer Andrew D. Arnold felt that girls, as well as their parents, would appreciate Yeah! He praised Hernandez's "clean line and lively colors" that fill the comic's pages. Raphael asked Hernandez how he manages to appeal to children's inner fantasies when he has no children of his own. Hernandez explained that he watches children's cartoons on television and listens to the conversations of young girls when he and his wife are at the mall. The cartoonist concluded: "Maybe that's why I do this: I have no children, so I create my own."
Fear of Comics was Hernandez's first collection of new adult comics since he and Jaime ended their work on "Love and Rockets" in 1994. This volume contains stories of a supernatural nature that describe the ghost of a mother who searches for her murdered children, a magical tree that gives helpful advice about love, and a gremlin that invades a small village. Hernandez also includes new stories about old characters from "Love and Rockets." Booklist reviewer Gordon Flagg noted that Hernandez's comics provide "an effective vehicle for Latin American-style magic realism." Although Library Journal contributor Stephen Weiner has appreciated much of the Hernandez's work in the past, he found Fear of Comics to be a "disjointed collection."
After a seven-year hiatus, Hernandez continued the saga of the legendary Luba in his work Luba in America. In this second volume of the "Love and Rockets" series, she leaves Palomar behind and travels to the United States to stay with her half-sisters, Fritzi (a lisping psychiatrist) and Petra (a lab technician).
"Love and Rockets, Volume II is our second wind," said Hernandez in a Time interview with Andrew D. Arnold. Booklist reviewer Gordon Flagg appreciated Hernandez's "expressive cartooning, masterful design, and . . . compelling characterizations." "The collection . . . [is] accessible even to the Luba neophyte," stated Robert Ito of Los Angeles Magazine. A Publishers Weekly reviewer praised Hernandez's "precise and anatomically impeccable" black and white drawings. He concluded that the artist's work is "engagingly bizarre, sexy, and unpredictably funny." "[Luba in America] is an awesome blend of political intrigue, sexuality and Gilbert's characteristically human portrayal of his characters," remarked a critic for Fantagraphics Books. And ColorLines magazine writer Jeff Chang wrote, "Here is the fundamental beauty of Love and Rockets: the heroism emanates from the quotidian and the grey. This second edition of Love and Rockets arrives at a time when art seems both more useless and more necessary than ever. Art cannot speak to the new horrors yet, but it must calm our souls."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Aztlan: A Journal of Chicano Studies, fall, 1999, Rachel Rubin, review of Love and Rockets, pp. 171-189.
Booklist, January 15, 1988, p. 819; March 1, 1988, p. 1088; August, 1994, p. 2012; January 1, 2001, Gordon Flagg, review of Fear of Comics, p. 896; April 1, 2002, Gordon Flagg, review of Luba in America, p. 1291.
Chicago Tribune, September 24, 1992.
ColorLines, spring, 2002, Jeff Chang, "Locas Rule: Los Bros Hernandez' Love and Rockets Is Back, and the Timing Has Never Been Better," pp. 39-42.
Entertainment Weekly, March 29, 2002; December 19, 2003, review of Palomar: The Heartbreak Soup Stories, p. L2T22.
Hispanic, May, 2002, p. 14.
Library Journal, March 15, 1990, p. 53; June 15, 2001, Stephen Weiner, review of Fear of Comics, p. 66; January, 2004, Khadijah Caturani, review of Palomar, p. 80.
Los Angeles, September, 2001, Robert Ito, review of Luba in America, p. 139.
Los Angeles Times, July 16, 1991, p. 6F; June 13, 1999, Jordan Raphael, review of Yeah!, p. 2
New Statesman and Society, July 29, 1988, pp. 48-49.
Publishers Weekly, August 5, 1988, p. 80; January 6, 1989, p. 51; August 22, 1994, review of Poison River, p. 52; March 25, 2002, review of Luba in America, p. 48; October 20, 2003, Heidi McDonald, "Gilbert Hernandez's Palomar," author interview, p. S12; November 10, 2003, review of Palomar, p. 45.
Science Fiction Chronicle, January, 1988, p. 52.
Time, March 6, 2000, Andrew D. Arnold, review of Yeah!, p. 76; February 19, 2001, Andrew D. Arnold, "Graphic Sketches of Latino Life," p. 64.
Village Voice Literary Supplement, December, 1992, p. 28.
Wilson Library Bulletin, February, 1988, p. 81.
Gilbert Hernandez Home Page,http://www.fantagraphics.com/ (May 11, 2003), review of Luba in America.
Love and Rockets Web site,http://www.geocities.com/Area51/zone/9923/luvrock.html/ (May 11, 2003), J. Stephen Bolhafner, review of Poison River.
Salon.com,http://www.salon.com/ (May 11, 2003), Amy Benfer, "Real Women." review of Love and Rockets.*