Page 45 Review by Stephen
We had a great time. It was wonderful. We got to know each other. We also got thrown off a train at gunpoint.
Learn all about Jaime Hernandezs first trip abroad to Lucca and Paris via an unscheduled stop in Genovese! Poor Gary Groth he was doing his best.
Page 45s love affair with LOVE AND ROCKETS, one of the very pinnacles of comicbook achievement sustained for over three decades now, pre-dates Page 45 by many years; and Mark had been relishing it long before he introduced to me at Fantastic Store.
But before we go any further, a genuine FAQ: you can start anywhere, even as late as LOVE AND ROCKETS: ESPERANZA as I explained in that review, or the recent JULIOS DAY. And please, dont be put off by the body of work published over three decades: you dont have to read it all, you can dip in and out as you like, and come away each time completely satisfied.
Linger a little longer and you will see that the brothers have created entire communities with generations of history. I remember Mark writing that one of the details which impressed him the most was that the crowd scenes were far from anonymous those suited and booted individuals drinking in the background were either already well established members of the expansive cast, or about to step into limelight themselves.
Theres both a timeline and handy character guide here, as well as checklist of publications which is over seventy pages long, albeit including introductions and pin-ups published in anthologies. The brothers pay homage to their own favourite comics, plus theres a selection of letter column highlights culled from the first fifty issues including many a familiar name from Andi Watson and Evan Dorkin to Scott Hampton and Steve Leialoha, such was the breadth of the books appeal. Regardless of the recognition factor, what is fascinating is how quickly LOVE AND ROCKETS readers recognised what it was they held in their hands: something completely fresh and new and intoxicating.
Best of all, however, are the interviews, so utterly addictive that I almost missed my review deadline. All four interviews, coming in at a combined 150 pages, are phenomenal: Fantagraphics publisher Gary Groth interviewing Los Bros Hernandez; Neil Gaiman interviewing the brothers; Marc Sobel interviewing the brothers; then Marc Sobel interviewing Fantagraphics publisher, Gary Groth himself, beginning with his recollection of the earliest years.
Editor Marc Sobels interview with Los Bros Hernandez delivers some astonishing insights into the cycle of each storys conception, execution, then complete burned-out numbness in Jaime... and workaholic Gilberts crippling self-doubt halfway through each chapter early on.
Halfway through Id start telling myself, This is the worst thing Ive ever done. This is boring. The readers dont deserve this crap. Its just this weird thing that pops into my head halfway through, and I noticed the pattern after a while, so stopped believing in it
I really dont have that problem so much anymore, because I recognise my patterns of depression. Depression is just
some psychologist on TV said once and I always remembered it
its anything that keeps you from doing something.
They also talk about how the physical changes in their bodies over the years have affected how their hands and wrists operate, how they have adapted accordingly (I think many a younger artist would to well to read this in advance) and how Gilbert was initially confounded by how his work for other publishers, which required he use their standard-sized paper, affected his stress levels and strain.
What startled me is how they perceive the work of others around them. Not individual creators, but entire movements in particular the genre of autobiography, citing PERSEPOLIS and BLANKETS and formats like graphic novels as long as HABIBI. Which is interesting in the light of Neil Gaimans interview in which they exchange anecdotes about their most complex, long-form, pre-planned episodes, and how they were received when serialised (with difficultly) as opposed to collected together in more coherent graphic novels.
At one point Sobel asks Can you elaborate on what you mean by calling indy comics a ghetto? The answer will as corporate comics are so fond of promising surprise you. But then as Gilbert is swift to admit, he doesnt have access to everything published. This isnt unusual for comicbook creators. Many work so hard on their own books that they dont have time to look up above the parapet and take in the full extent of what else is going on around them. Thats not their job.
But if I am allowed a personal, self-serving observation, the world of comics looks very different and much more optimistic to those of us on the retailer frontline who can witness, first-hand, the overwhelmingly positive reception on the shop floor of the full diversity of graphic novels when stocked. As well as that full diversity itself! But then we are, as I am also swift to admit, in a very privileged position.
There is obviously so much more on offer than I can cover here but, on a more frivolous note, you will love the candid exchanges with Neil Gaiman subtitled The Name Game in which they each talk about how their names have been mispronounced and even misspelled over the years and, oh boy, I put my own hand up in shame.
In despair, Jaime even resorted to calling himself James for a year. Did you know that?
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