FEATURING AN INTERVIEW WITH GILBERT HERNANDEZ PLUS COMICS FROM THE BEST INDIE TALENT AROUND
ISSUE #5 JUNE / JULY 2013 FREE
Pages 2 — 27 GILBERT HERNANDEZ
Page 15 YOU HAVE BEEN READING
Page 28 — EDITOR
Daniel Humphry @Daniel_Humphry ART DIRECTOR
Steve Leard @SteveLeard COPY EDITOR
Lucy Rice COVER ART
Joseph William @JoeWilliam88
It may be tempting fate, but I think summer is here. Cider adverts are back on telly, puffy-nippled Alpha males are rolling topless through the streets and our local park attendant has already deposited his first bollock-the-disposablebarbie commission. What’s more ELCAF comics festival is upon us. We finally get to catch up with a load of the artists who’ve blessed our pages and hopefully meet a load of you guys too, so do come and say hello. We’ll be the ones with red sweaty faces carrying bagfuls of free comics. Speaking of this month’s comic, we were honoured when Gilbert Hernandez agreed to speak with us openly on comics and the industry that peddles them. Take it from a hack who’s sat through too many PR led interviews to count: it’s a rare treat when an artist of Gilbert’s experience opens up beyond vague anecdotes and book shilling. Anyway, I rambled too much last issue and so in the name of brevity (and rapidly declining sun) I’m off. We’ve some excellent comics for you this issue and we hope you enjoy reading them as much as we did putting them together. To the sun! DANIEL HUMPHRY
Editor, OFF LIFE
wearerandl.co.uk OFFLIFE.CO.UK INFO@OFFLIFE.CO.UK @OFFLIFE_COMIC
FOR OVER 30 YEARS GILBERT HERNANDEZ HAS BEEN CARVING A NICHE AWAY FROM THE SPANDEX AND SUPERPOWERS OF MAINSTREAM COMICS. HIS WORK HAS BEEN PRAISED FOR ITS STRONG FEMALE CHARACTERS, PERSONAL STORYTELLING AND HANDLING OF REAL LIFE ISSUES. OFF LIFE SAT DOWN WITH GILBERT TO DISCUSS WHY HE DUCKED WHEN THE COMIC INDUSTRY WEAVED, AND HOW HE FEELS ABOUT THE DIRECTION THAT COMICS HAVE TAKEN.
From the start of your career you’ve created
When it came to making my own comics, the superhero formula didn’t feel right if what I wanted to do was tell stories about people. The kids’ comics like Archie did, they were really just about hanging out, and so they really influenced my style of telling day-to-day stories. I just brought them to a new audience of adult readers.
comics that, at least emotionally, are very grounded in reality. What drew you towards that side of the comics medium?
Well, growing up I started reading kids’ comics like Archie and Richie Rich. They seemed to be just as entertaining as superheroes and were a little more down to Earth.
Like many of today’s indie artists you didn’t wait for
Speaking of autobiography, your latest book Marble
a publisher and instead just started putting out work.
Season goes back to yours and your brother’s
Did that shape your style?
childhoods. Why did you want to revisit that period
I suppose it did. At the time I really appreciated underground comics, their no holds barred stories and attitude. That freedom and honesty really influenced my approach to comics. Like if they could get away with what they’re doing – maybe I could too. The freedom with creator owned and indie comics means that I’m not really edited. When I work with a DC or Marvel there is a lot of editing and it loses some of that personal expression.
of your life?
I hadn’t connected to my readers with a personal story for quite some time; I’d been doing a lot of crime and horror and melodrama. In my early Palomar stories there were lots of small personal tales about people’s lives and they had a bit of my life in them – but I’d never done a story of things that actually did happen to me. Is there a message you’re trying to tell about your life
It’s well documented that the West Coast punk scene
within Marble Season?
was an influence on your work. Can you see a trend
It’s probably more about all of our lives. Back then all you care about is pop-culture and what you’re doing the next day. You’re pretty much the master of your own universe. I wanted to put across a normal childhood from a child’s point of view, and for me in the early 60s we didn’t have iPads or Netflix or any of that instant gratification stuff – aside from watching a show or reading a comic we were just outside with our imagination. I can see how that childhood has been clipped a little bit because of modern technology and instant entertainment – that’s probably why it’s harder and harder to get young people to read comic books.
in what is now influencing younger artists?
I think the late 80s explosion in indie comics is really the influence on this next generation of artists. It’s great now that a lot of indie comics are getting press outside of the comics world, simply because it helps artists to look at the bigger picture. At the same time, if comics get too insular, too much about the indie scene and just indie audiences, then the whole thing starts to eat itself alive. That’s what kills a lot of creativity. Being popular and out there doesn’t mean you can’t have a personal vision – just look at Dan Clowes. I guess any cartoonist worth his salt just has to put up with those pressures once your work is out there.
It’s no secret that the comic medium is often criticised for its portrayal of women. Your work, however, has always been praised for its strong female characters.
Do you think there’s too much replication of the
Was that an intentional effort?
indie styles that artists like you, Clowes and Tomine
A lot of the kids’ comics I read emphasized teenage girls, if it wasn’t a story about Archie then it was about Betty and Veronica – they’d have stories without boy characters and that was normal to us. With Love and Rockets, it seemed natural to have women characters. People don’t seem so interested in female characters or even female artists in mainstream comics. Perhaps it’s a bit of a boys’ club.
have helped popularise?
That might be true. I notice that the best work lately is shorter material, more experimental and more confessional material. But what there isn’t a lot of is fiction with original characters and long stories. Me, Tomine and Clowes do it but very few others do. That’s something I miss. There’s a lot of confessional and autobiographical comics and small experimentation but not a lot that goes past that. I wonder if this current generation is just about possibly replicating. That’s not a bad thing when you start out, but you have to find your voice.
At least your work is demonstrating how female characters should be treated.
Well, yeah, but at the same time it might have hurt us. My brothers and I have never really broken through
as cartoonists, we’ve always done fine and had good support from out readers, but it’s never gone past that. I wonder if perhaps that’s because some of our main characters are women or Latino – maybe that’s a block for some people. Is that disappointing?
A little bit. I’ve always expected the rest of the world to be a little more open minded, but coming from the way politics in America are, we can obviously see that’s not true. You’ve been creating comics for over 30 years now. Are you happy with how the medium and the industry has shaped up?
I’m just glad it’s still there so that I’ve got somewhere to go! It’s difficult to know what to say about how the art form has grown up. The best thing I can say is that there’s an opening for an artist with a different point of view to make a real splash. There’s a door open, a road to travel on which wasn’t there in the 70s or 80s. Thankfully, comic books will never go back to being one thing, and there’s gotta be somebody around the corner to do something new with them. I just hope it’s soon so that I’m still around to enjoy it. What do you think needs to happen for comics to gain a better standing?
Everybody should just stop buying all the other comics and just buy mine – that’ll save comics! No, seriously, more exposure to indie comics and no more to mainstream comics – they get enough with all the movies. Do you think the mainstream comics that do gain exposure perhaps hurt the entire comic medium?
It hurts comics in the sense that they could be more than just that. I’m just as happy as anyone with a movie like Avengers, I mean what a matinee movie, but it does emphasise ‘that’s what comics are and that’s the best they can do’. We all know there’s so much more, but I guess it’s easier to go watch a spectacle at the movies than it is to pick up a book. YOU CAN READ MORE ABOUT GILBERT AND DISCOVER HIS BACK CATALOGUE AT FANTAGRAPHICS.COM
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JOE LIST HATRED @JOELIST PAGE 13
TIM BIRD OFF SEASON @PSEUDOBOY PAGE 4
INTERVIEW GILBERT HERNANDEZ PAGE 15
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DAN BAILEY DAVE @RUBBERPENGUIN PAGE 8
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