In 1982, Gilbert, Jaime and Mario Hernandez self-published the very first issue of "Love and Rockets." Alternating focus between "Locas," the misadventures of punk rock girls, Maggie and Hopey and "Palomar," which centered on the lives of the eccentric inhabitants of the fictional town of Palomar, "Love and Rockets" has since gone on to become a multiple award-winning and highly influential comic book. 30 years later, at Comic-Con International in San Diego, the brothers sat down at a panel to discuss their influences and their creative process over the last three decades.
Mario Hernandez explained to the crowd that their collective love of comics was actually inherited. "My mom used to read comics as a kid, she had that interest and when we were old enough she would pass comics to us, just to keep us quiet, just to entertain us and it just grabbed us," he said. "We eventually started drawing our own little folded piece of paper type comics and the rest is history."
"The first comic that really hit me was the first 'Fantastic Four.' I looked at the cover and I really liked the monster, but wasn't really interested in the adventure aspect," Gilbert Hernandez said. "Mario explained to me, 'See this guy, that rock guy is a good guy. He's a monster that's a good guy and he fights other monsters.' The idea of mixing the two was instantly interesting to me."
In their late teens, the brothers' desire to make their own comics grew. "There was no alternative scene. The underground wasn't really going anywhere," Jaime Hernandez said. "We were living like most comic book kids, but the comic books we wanted to do ourselves were different. We didn't want to do it their way, but we were buying their comic books.
From the beginning, the brothers struggled to get their work published as Jaime explained to the crowd, "I just sent the stuff hoping someone would see it, needing a prayer. I wasn't thinking of money or anything, because I didn't think I could ever make money in comics. I just wanted to be seen, you know? Just see it in print and be proud of that."
In order to self-publish the first issue of "Love and Rockets" the Hernandez brothers had to borrow money from family and battle mainstream tastes. "Nobody had any money. The first couple printers turned us down because they thought it was too pornographic," said Mario.
"We had to fold and staple them ourselves," Jaime added. "That took a long time."
The critical success of "Love and Rockets" #1 would eventually lead the Hernandez brothers to a publishing deal with Fantagraphics Books. "I sent it to 'The Comics Journal' just because they would review it and that would be a free ad and we could afford that," said Gilbert. "I was thinking they'll give us a review, it doesn't matter if it's good or bad."
"Plus these guys were really nasty," Jaime added, "So if they hate it, they're going to savage us and if we can stand that, we're going to do okay, but they ended up loving it."
The punk aesthetic of "Love and Rockets" was born out of the late '70s music scene. "There was always someone outside of the shows giving out flyers to another show and some of the flyers were drawn like comics," Jaime explained. "I just remember thinking, comics and punk -- that's perfect.
"The punk thing was not a success thing as far as you're going to make it and be a millionaire one day," he continued. "We didn't care about that, it was just we get to do our thing and be happy. That's all we cared about."
Another influence for the brothers was the irreverent humor of "Mad Magazine." "I never realized how influential it was all around," said Gilbert, who cited the publication's artwork and humor as helping to shape their sensibilities. "I love Marvel and DC, but there was something about 'Mad Magazine,' about how truthful it seemed. The whole thing gave you a feeling this was about the real world and Marvel and DC are cool fantasies."
When a fan asked Mario why he didn't contribute more creatively to "Love and Rockets" he explained it was because he had already established a family. "I was settled down. These guys were still single. The world was their oyster. Once 'Palomar' and the Maggie and Hopey epic tales came out I just kind of thought, 'You know, this stuff is so good and it's just climbing. There's no way I'm going to catch up to those guys.' It's their book and it turned out to be this great thing of course. We're still here 30 years later."
"Love and Rockets" is known for its large number of strong female characters. When asked who or what their influences were for these powerful ladies, Jaime said it was a combination of the women in his life and what he wanted to see. "I was friends with a lot of women and it was obvious a lot of the comic artists and writers were not at the time," he said. "I got my cake and ate it too because I like drawing women and if I made them strong enough, not strong enough beating up people, but powerful just in their personalities and their lives and their brains, then I could draw them any way I wanted to."
At the end of the panel, Jaime was asked if readers had seen the last of the "Locas" characters. "The last story I did last year was kind of putting an end to a lot of character's lives for the moment, but my characters aren't going away unless they die, so they'll be back in one form or another."
Stay tuned to CBR News for more coverage from Comic-Con International 2012.