Latino Studies Los Hernandez Bros
by
Nhora Lucía Serrano
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 April 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 15 January 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199913701-0095

Introduction

Near the end of the 1970s, American counterculture’s hippie ethos was dimming in favor of the more distinctive punk mindset that would epitomize the 1980s. For the most part, counterculture comic artists not only inscribed a critical opposition to mainstream cultural mores but also challenged the societally acceptable boundaries of comics. From the notable small-press or self-published underground comix of the 1970s to the emergence of the alternative comics scene of the 1980s, counterculture comic artists were trailblazers. Included in this exalted category are Los Bros Hernandez one of the very first Mexican-American voices in US comics who interrogated mainstream constructions of Latino/a identity. Inspired by the Silver Age of comics (c. 1956–1970) as well as the vitality and diversity of the late 1970s California punk and hardcore scene, Gilbert, Jaime, and Mario—generally known as “Los Bros Hernandez”—are prolific comics writers and artists from Oxnard, California, who collaborated on the award-winning Love and Rockets. All three brothers credit their passion for comics to their mother who introduced them to this medium at an early age. From Bob Bolling (Little Archie), cartoonists Owen Fitzgerald and Hank Ketcham (Dennis the Menace), Harry Lucey (Archie), to the works by Marvel Comics’ Jack Kirby (Fantastic Four) and Steve Ditko (Spider-Man), Charles Schulz (Peanuts), and R. Crumb (Zap Comix), their storytelling was influenced by the superhero genre, character-focused comic strips, and the 1960s counterculture. In the hands of Los Bros Hernandez, the Americana landscape was transformed into a multicultural urban setting where superhero action and counterculture shock were eschewed in favor of thoughtfully developed Latina protagonists, complex telenovela narratives, and lush Latino settings. Generally known as a multiracial, genre-bending, punk rock DIY ethic series, Love and Rockets originally began in 1981 as a self-published series. In 1982 the series gained wider recognition when the brothers submitted a copy of their first print to The Comics Journal, a US magazine of comics news and criticism. Soon after, Fantagraphics Books republished the first issue with a color cover, and the series readily became popular as one of the earliest alternative comics. Ever since this first publication, and because they were the main contributors, either Gilbert or Jaime would take turns in drawing the cover. While there were many diverse narratives within the series—one-offs, homages to newspaper comic strips, short stories, science fiction stories, and fantastical and absurd jokes—the two most significant storylines were Gilbert’s magical real world of Palomar (aka Heartbreak Soup) set in a fictional Latin American village and Jaime’s Chicano urban-punk scene of Hoppers 13 (aka Locas) set in a fictionalized version of Oxnard. Consequently, Los Bros Hernandez are known as significant contributors to and influential in the rapid growth of US Latino/a comics.

General Overviews

In spite of the popularization of graphic novels in film, the surge in comic conventions worldwide, the growing presence of scholarly panels on graphic narratives at academic conferences, and the proliferation of comics theory in and outside the classroom, in the 21st century US Latino comics is still a relatively new field of study. Nonetheless, Los Bros Hernandez remains pivotal to understanding the representation of the Latino/a in comics, the complex artistic and literary influences for the Latino/a comic artist and writer, and the consumption of comics by Latino/a audiences. As they were at the onset of their career, Los Bros Hernandez are still in production today with Fantagraphics Books. Beginning with Volume 1 (1982–1996), Love and Rockets was initially large in size like a magazine and gathered together the first fifty issues. After a short interlude, Los Bros Hernandez continued their association with Fantagraphics Books and produced Volume 2 (2001–2007), a twenty-issue publication in the standard US comic book size. Most recently, a third volume was started in 2008 and is published in the now standard one-hundred-page, graphic novel size. After the long-established success of Love and Rockets, these US Latino comic storytellers also began publishing independently from one another in the 1990s, separate from the heading of Los Bros Hernandez, with both newly created characters as well as a refurbishing of familiar ones drawn from the Love and Rockets panorama. For example, from the 1990s to present day Gilbert has published The Troublemakers, Luba, and New Love; Jaime has published Whoa Nellie, LOCAS: The Maggie and Hopey Stories, and Penny Century; and Mario, the most sporadic contributor of the three brothers, has published Brain Capers. The popularity of Love and Rockets has led to inclusion in anthologies catered to the comic connoisseur and the mainstream audience alike. Brunetti 2006 has included works by Los Bros Hernandez in an anthology that attests to Gilbert, Jaime, and Mario’s influential role in the general field of comics, and to their importance in the rising field of US Latino comics studies. Moreover, while scholarship on Los Bros Hernandez is still a burgeoning scholarly inquiry, in 2013 ImageTexT: Interdisciplinary Studies published a one-time, special issue (Royal and González 2013) dedicated solely to Los Bros Hernandez. This commemorative issue acknowledges the iconic role Los Bros Hernandez have played in comics studies and the industry. Aldama 2010 is another recent, essential study that places Los Bros Hernandez in the greater global context of multicultural comics.

  • Aldama, Frederick Luis, ed. Multicultural Comics: From Zap to Blue Beetle. Cognitive Approaches to Literature and Culture. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010.

    E-mail Citation »

    Aldama provides a critical introduction that situates Latino comics, and Los Bros Hernandez, in the greater world graphic narrative traditions.

  • Brunetti, Ivan, ed. An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons, & True Stories. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006.

    E-mail Citation »

    The comic artist Brunetti gathers together a “best of” anthology of contemporary art comics in North America who are considered pioneers in their respective mediums and genres. Included are Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez.

  • Hernandez, Jaime. LOCAS: The Maggie and Hopey Stories. Seattle, WA: Fantagraphics, 2007.

    E-mail Citation »

    Gathered in one volume, fifteen years of this Love and Rockets storyline (1982–1996) is presented in its entirety. In this storyline, the Southern California punk-rock scene serves as the backdrop for Maggie and Hopey, a pair of young Latina living in a L.A. barrio.

  • Hernandez, Jaime, and Gilbert Hernandez. Mister X. Vols. 1–2. Toronto: Vortex Comics, 1984.

    E-mail Citation »

    Jaime Gilbert Hernandez fused Chicano barrio aesthetics with the re-creation of Dean Motter and Paul Rivoche’s never-completed comic book, Mister X.

  • Hernandez, Mario, and Gilbert Hernandez. Citizen Rex. Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse Comics, 2011.

    E-mail Citation »

    A true sociopolitical critique of modern-day socioeconomic divide and exploitation, Citizen Rex takes places in Neutropolis and recounts the story of the historiographer Sergio “Bloggo” Bauntin.

  • Los Bros Hernandez. The Complete Love and Rockets. Vol. 1, Music for Mechanics. Seattle, WA: Fantagraphics, 2008.

    E-mail Citation »

    US multicultural urban locales and rural villages in Latin America are the settings for this alternative comic serial.

  • Reynolds, Eric, ed. Love and Rockets: The Covers. Seattle, WA: Fantagraphics, 2013.

    E-mail Citation »

    This is a color compilation of the iconic comic book covers from over thirty-five years, without any trade dressing or marketing logos. Included are the initial 1982 cover and all subsequent covers that previously had only been reprinted in black-and-white.

  • Royal, Derek Parker, and Christopher González, eds. Special Issue: The Worlds of the Hernandez Brothers. ImageTexT: Interdisciplinary Comics Studies 7.1 (2013).

    E-mail Citation »

    This is special issue dedicated solely to Los Bros Hernandez. From book reviews, bibliography of primary and secondary materials to scholarly articles (by Derek Parker Royal, Christopher Pizzino, F. Vance Neill, Jennifer Glaser, Jesse Molesworth, Frederick Luis Aldama, and Christopher González) Los Bros Hernandez and their iconic role in comics studies and industry is fully presented and praised.

  • Sobel, Marc, and Kristy Valenti, eds. The Love and Rockets Companion: 30 Years (and Counting). Seattle, WA: Fantagraphics, 2013.

    E-mail Citation »

    Considered a must-have book for any fan of Los Bros Hernandez, this compilation contains an array of useful, firsthand critical information, unpublished art, and album and DVD covers. From extensive interviews with Gilbert, Jaime, and Mario Hernandez—conducted by Neil Gaiman, Gary Groth, and Marc Sobel—to foldout family trees for the Palomar and Loca storylines, and an essential character glossary, Sobel and Valenti introduce the world of Los Bros Hernandez to novice and longtime fans alike.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.

Article

Up

Down