Quote of the day | Bad comics are the disease. Jaime Hernandez is the cure.
…Hernandez’s comics are in many ways an antidote to all the things that drive comics fans nuts despite their seeming appetite for wallowing in such things for weeks, months, years on end. Sexism in comics is always worth fighting because sexism is pernicious and harmful and thus worth calling into question every time it’s encountered, but for many adult fans part of the solution really is to put down the terrible comic that enrages you and buy something like Love & Rockets: New Stories #4 for its fragile, sympathetic portraits of a wide range of human experiences.
There’s a sense one gets when issues involving lousy or ugly or offensive comics are discussed on the comics Internet that the superhero genre is the extent of the comics experience. This can be both a good thing and a bad thing. It’s good in the sense that for most of the North American comics market, superheroes are if not the only game in town then at least the Super Bowl compared to the Pee-Wee League games being played by other kinds of comics, so the numbers necessitate a serious engagement with the genre’s problems and the problems of its publishers. And if you treat superhero comics as paramount, then your critiques of its practices gain in urgency, an urgency that’s probably required if those critiques are to be heard and responded to.
But it’s bad because, well, it’s not true. If you’re looking for realistic and well-rendered women characters, or for women creators operating on an equal playing field, or for a serious examination of issues of gender and sexuality in all their glory and misery, then yeah, you can kick against the pricks and hope that someday an issue of Captain Copyright or the Teen Trademarks will deliver these things. Or you can put those comics down, walk a few aisles over or click on a different website, and discover things like Jaime’s “Browntown”/”The Love Bunglers” suite, which over the course of two issues of Love and Rockets packs in more quality fiction about love, aging, motherhood, fatherhood, marriage, divorce, adultery, sexual assault, queerness, mental illness, adolescence, friendship, and sex than the last half-dozen comics-internet contretemps–causing comics combined. It needn’t be an either/or choice, mind you — it never has been for me and it likely never will be either. But there is a choice.
The best thing about Jaime’s comics in particular, from a superhero-fan standpoint, is that like many of the best superhero comics, they play off decades of accrued continuity without being slavishly beholden to them. Jaime’s been working with his cast of Los Angeleno ex-punkers since the first Reagan administration, and “The Love Bunglers” brings the stories of several of them to places that are perhaps best appreciated by people who’ve followed them over the course of that journey. But as Spurgeon forcefully argues in his piece, there’s something refreshing about that, too. Hernandez is making precisely the comics he wants to make, without worrying if this makes him accessible to any particular kind of audience — be it an audience of theoretical “new readers,” or an audience that treats what has come before as a gospel never to be deviated from. The audience he cares about is the audience for good comics. Aren’t you a part of that audience?