In part two, we continue our conversation about the importance of character continuity in the Love & Rockets universe, plus the evolution of Maggie, the importance of Hopey, and why not all that much has changed since Hernandez was a five-year-old drawing Batman comics.
Were you worried that someone would notice an inaccuracy in your characters’ story, or is it mostly just important to you personally that things stay accurate in the context of that universe?
It’s mostly for me. Hopefully it’s for the fans, too. If they don’t care, that’s okay, too, though. But for me it just puts history in perspective and it just helps me understand my world better, if it’s all in place. If I mess up, I’ll do a whole story to correct it. Sometimes those have been my best stories.
It’s sound as though, to some degree, you’re figuring out the world as you go along.
You said fairly recently in an interview that Maggie was “born to be fat.”
That wasn’t something that you had planned from the beginning, was it?
Oh, no, no. it wasn’t planned at all. I don’t remember the real reason I started to make her gain weight. Maybe it was just the way I was drawing at the time, rounder figures, or something.
She had to suffer for your art.
[Laughs.] Yeah. And so, when I made her heavy—no pun intended—her character just became rounder. There was just so much to her, that I said, “she’s arrived.” She wasn’t as full a personality as she was until that happened.
Did you feel she was lacking in something, at some point?
No. At the time, I didn’t know it. It was something I didn’t know myself, at the time. There was more of her to understand, to figure out. Maggie just became more complex then. It just made her seem more real.
Is that why you returned to her? The story was still unfinished?
Yeah. Maggie’s just got so much more going on than the other characters, for me. I like doing the other characters, but I’ll always go back to Maggie and the joy of creating her life. There’s just something about the character that I enjoy playing with and finding out where she’s going and who she is.
How long did it take to figure out that she was your vessel?
It was from the beginning. I had planned to have one main character that the whole world revolved around, even if she wasn’t in the story. But I wanted a sidekick, too, and that’s where Hopey came in, because I wanted my Batman and Robin, my Betty and Veronica. I just needed the characters to bounce off of each other.
But Maggie I wanted as a core character that everything revolved around.
You knew that the two leads were going to be female?
Before Love & Rockets started, I didn’t. I just knew that there was going to be a supporting cast, but I did like the buddy thing, because you find more about a character when you have something for them to bounce off of. Because, if you get Maggie’s opinion the whole time, it sounds almost preachy, like she’s the only one with things to say.
Does it feel too much like your voice coming through her, if there’s only one character?
Yeah. And I needed someone to argue with her, I needed someone to knock her down, if she was out of line. If it was just her, I think it would read like I was almost preaching, but if I had opposing viewpoints, it makes everything fair. Everyone is right and everyone is wrong.
Obviously you still enjoy drawing her and writing her, but do you still enjoy discuss her with people?
Maggie? Yeah, sure. Sometimes I get the same questions I’ve been getting the last 25 years, but overall, yeah. As silly as it sounds, they’re real people to me, so sometimes I talk about her like she’s my buddy, my friend who I saw last week, or that I know, but I haven’t seen in two years, wondering what she’s up to.
You miss her a little bit, when she’s out of your life.
The art book that came out fairly recently [The Art of Jaime Hernandez], how large of a role did you play in the creation of that?
A big role. Todd Hignite, who was the author, really wanted my input because I’m the guy it’s about, and he didn’t want it to be just from his point of view. He wanted to see where I came from. Hearing it from the source was the best way to go. He just wanted to go behind and see my upbringing and things like that. And that’s always the funnest part for me, talking about me being five years old, drawing comics.
Because they’re nice memories?
Yeah. Because it’s fun. It was all part of the learning process. For me, it was all Love & Rockets today, from me doing a Batman comics, when I was five or six, it’s all the same for me. It’s all part of the process of how I got to where I am. And it’s all just magic for me. I got something out of that when I was five, that I don’t know that I’m doing now, but it’s in there.
Does it surprise you at all that people are into the minutia of it—that people want to see the pencil drawings and the lines and the mistakes?
By this point, no. But I guess because it is so important to me, when I’m asked, I get excited, because someone else feels like I do. they’ve got the same interest that I have. I have a lot of people who approach me about my technique. For me, that’s not as thrilling as the spirit when five years old, being into comics and just living life and things like that.
For me, that’s the soul of creating. It’s just much more thrilling that talking about ink technique, because, for me, the actual process of putting the lines and the ink down serves the purpose of telling the story.
It sounds like that part has always come naturally to you.
Yeah, well, it took a long time [laughs].
Were you always the best artist in your class?
Yeah, yeah. Every once in a while, there was a kid who would be the guy, and I’d be like, “wait a minute, I thought I was the guy.”
Were your brothers ever “the guy?”
I’m sure they were in their class.
Was there competition between you?
No, because I knew where I stood, because I was the fourth brother in the line of six kids—five brothers and a sister. And I knew Mario was the oldest, so he drew the best. Then came Gilbert, then came my other brother, Richie. And then there was me. It was kind of handed down. I respect that. I knew I wasn’t as good as them.