Today Gilbert Hernandez is an elder statesman of comics. In 1981 he and his brother Jaime created Love and Rockets, which, as all good comic geeks know, was one of the first series made expressly for grown-ups. There were no superheroes in Love and Rockets, only some truly badass punk lesbians and a fictional Latin American village where surreal things just seemed to happen.
But even Los Bros Hernandez had to start somewhere. Gilbert’s latest, Marble Season, is a semiautobiographical look back at his childhood in Oxnard, California, concentrating on that magical kids-only time between school and dinner. Since it’s the 60s, there are no video games or after-school programs to keep the kids inside; parents and teachers remain vague rumors, not actual presences. Young Huey and crew—his brothers Junior and Chavo and their friends—occupy themselves with marbles, baseball, and GI Joe. They write and perform in plays and “movies” about their favorite superheros, and, of course, read and trade funny books, which were then only starting to be called “comics.”
If it feels like there’s no plot to Marble Season, that’s just because there’s no plot to life when you’re a kid, either. Friendships form and rupture, sometimes for no reason. Neighbors come and go. The boys begin to realize that girls are actually sort of interesting. The only event approaching serious drama is when Junior gets his comics taken away until his grades improve.
How did Hernandez get from playing Captain America (using a Frisbee for a shield) to writing Love and Rockets? He’ll be at Quimby’s on 4/18 to explain. But it might be evident from Marble Season. If Hernandez loved funny books and storytelling as as much as Huey, his fictional counterpart, wouldn’t the most natural next step be to try to write some comics of his own?