Jaime Hernandez draws compelling comic books that have nothing to do with saving the world.
Growing up in the 1970s in Oxnard, Calif., he and his brother Gilbert — co-creators of the pioneering indie comic “Love and Rockets” — realized that everyday life was anything but ordinary, and that some of their acquaintances were every bit as interesting as Batman or Captain America.
Now 53 and known worldwide, Hernandez has spent more than 30 years writing and sketching the lives of Maggie, Hopey and the other “Locas” (crazies) who populate his universe.
This weekend he’ll be the special guest at Autoptic, a festival of indie art and music. He’ll speak at 7 p.m. Friday at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, which mounted a retrospective of his work that ends Sunday. We reached him by phone last week.
Q: How did you come to believe that everyday lives could be more interesting than those of superheroes?
A: At the time we were starting the comic, real life was more interesting than your usual superhero stuff. We were experiencing a different life than most media were giving you. We’re from Southern California, and there was a thriving punk rock scene there, and I came from [Latino] low-rider culture. It seemed like good stuff to put in a comic.
Q: At the time, were you reading any other early “real-life” comics?
A: Very little. There wasn’t much. As funny as it sounds, Archie and Dennis the Menace were about real life even if they were kid comics. They didn’t have fantastic things in them — they were just about kids living their lives. I remember reading an old Marvel comic and seeing an image or a small scene of people just talking, not being “super.” I thought, “That’s fascinating!”
Q: How did you find the confidence that others would find this kind of thing as fascinating as you did?
A: When we put out our comic, I threw in fantasy, dinosaurs, rocket ships — everything. But people said, “I like Maggie and Hopey.” And I was like, “Oh, really, you like it? Good!” Because that’s what I wanted to pursue. So eventually that took over. I wanted to do this, and then once I had the support, there was no stopping me. It wasn’t that big of a risk because I came from nothing, and I had nothing to lose. It was naïve and cocky at the same time. I was too dumb to doubt.
Q: How do you approach the narrative aspect of your comics?
A: I’m really concerned about telling the best stories I can. And I try to keep it honest and true, I guess. I’m not trying to manipulate a fantasy, or [aid] escapism. I’m trying to tell it as it is.
Q: Why have you focused on drawing female protagonists?
A: I like drawing women — that’s one reason. And in the beginning, it was like a challenge: “There’s not enough women in comics, and I’m going to prove to you that a woman character can be good — and in charge, too.”
Q: Maggie and Hopey are in their 40s now. What has the process of aging your characters been like?
A: It’s tricky to draw a person getting older because there’s only so many lines you can put on a face without making them look 80. But in terms of story, I mostly just watch myself and see what I’m doing, or what people around me are doing — especially people I’ve known my whole life.
Q: Do you ever have a hard time putting Maggie and Hopey through a really emotional plot development?
A: Since I’m boss, they’ve got to do what I tell them. But sometimes I actually do get uncomfortable with situations I have to put them in because the story led them there. The good part is that you get to see another in-depth side of this character that you never have before. But sometimes I get embarrassed, and I actually blush.
Q: What’s it like to see your work anthologized and exhibited?
A: Exhibits make me nervous. When I draw my comic, I get to hide behind it. When they hang my art up on the wall, I feel more exposed. It’s scary to me. I don’t have the best time at my shows. I’m very grateful, but for me it’s like, “Aaah! Get me out of here!”
Q: How long do you expect to be doing the series?
A: As long as my body and mind will let me. And the market. There may be a time when I have three readers and I can’t afford this anymore.