Trying to assess Gilbert Hernandez‘s importance in comics rich and varied history is a fool’s game. Suffice it to say, when he and his brothers Jamie and Mario launched their seminal “Love & Rockets” series in 1981, the comics industry turned on its axis, and hundreds if not thousands of comics released since have owed some debt to their work.
Ever restless and searching, Gilbert continues to expand his horizons and slay sacred cows, with the continuing “Love & Rockets” stories, his surrealistic experiments in “Blubber,” and a diverse series of graphic novels and miniseries. Among those graphic novels are the Fritz B-movie books, which cast his “Love & Rockets” heroine as a character in a series of books/films that employ and explore the conventions of exploitation cinema.
Gilbert’s next book, a hardcover graphic novel due in late July from Fantagraphics Books, will obliterate almost every taboo he hasn’t yet gotten to, as “Garden of the Flesh” takes a pornographer’s eye to the Bible itself. Want to see Adam and Eve conceive Cain and Abel? Ever wonder how Noah and his family kept busy on their ark? Hernandez has the answer, in all its graphic splendor.
CBR News discussed “The Garden of the Flesh” with Hernandez — why now is the right time to go hardcore, the late Darwyn Cooke, a certain “Love & Rockets” Easter egg, and why this book is ultimately about love and family.
CBR News: Comics creators have tackled the Bible many, many times before, including two stalwarts of the indie comics community — Robert Crumb in 2009 and Chester Brown earlier this year. Why did you decide to give it your own approach and why this particular approach?
Gilbert Hernandez: Adaptions of the Bible are usually grim and boring. I wanted to show a happy side to it — sex with hot-looking people.
Sexuality and nudity have always been large elements of your comics. But prior to this book, “Birdland” was the only time you’d taken the sex this far. What brought you around to doing another pornographic comic?
Nobody else is doing it right now. Comics are more uptight than ever when it comes to sex. We sometimes forget that sex isn’t always followed by misery.
You only cover the stories of Adam and Eve and of Noah, his family and their ark. Why did you stop before getting to Sodom and Gomorrah?!
I cover Sodom and Gomorrah in my other comics often. With this book, I wanted to show love, sex and family. I’ll get back to grim reality with future comics work.
Of course, the Bible is incredibly important to many people, and those same people often take a very negative view of pornography. You have to know this is extremely provocative.
Sure, but I’m only depicting vanilla sex, which is only for starting a family. No titillating violence or corn-holing or sex with animals. The same people that will complain about my book have done much worse in the bedroom, you betcha.
Although the Bible may not be this explicit about the bedroom exploits of Adam and Eve, or Noah and his family, it’s extremely graphic in many other regards — really awful things happen to people throughout it. Have you considered why there is such a distinction between how society tolerates the graphic violence of destruction versus the graphic realization of love?
The only really bad things that happen to people is the Devil taking Eve (the jury’s out on that one), Abel’s murder and the great flood. The rest is business as usual for a lot of humans.
Do you consider yourself a religious man?
No — I am spiritual, but that’s been taking a beating with politics in recent years.
Noah’s wife looks a little bit familiar. Any chance “Garden of Flesh” an unofficial entry in the Fritz B-movie books?
Caught me! Yes, that’s Fritz in that disguise, because it was decided that porn might ruin her fading career even faster. Since she was contracted to appear in the production, they came up with the disguise. As we already know, Fritz is an extreme exhibitionist and any chance to flaunt herself in front of a camera, well…
She was originally cast as Eve, but — this will be explored in a new comic coming to you in the near future.
Where is the line between erotic and pornographic? Is there a distinction at all? Where does this book fall on that spectrum?
The difference is in the eye of the beholder. Some depictions of sex are pleasant, as in my book, and some are ugly, as in others. Most people can’t see a difference.
“The Twilight Children,” your collaboration with Darwyn Cooke, was just collected into a trade paperback. Obviously the comic book community was very devastated to learn of Darwyn’s recent passing. You both are best known for working solo, so can you tell us a little bit about that experience of working with him as a collaborator and how “The Twilight Children” came to be?
My usual editor at Vertigo asked me if I’d like to work with Darwyn on a project. I said yes; I wrote the story, and Darwyn drew it, Dave Stewart colored it and it was done. Simple as that. I didn’t have to sweat it much because I knew Darwyn would do a great job whatever the subject. I’m proud to have worked with him on his last comic book story.
You still have “Love & Rockets: New Stories” coming out once a year, correct? And the next installment of the Fritz B-movies, “Maria M. vol. 2,” is on tap for later this year? Anything else in the works?
“Love and Rockets” will be returning as a 32-page comic book, three times a year. Vol 4 Issue #1 will be out in Sept, I hope. “Maria M. vol. 2” will be out before the end of the year, as well as “Blubber #3” and two new comics called “The Fritz Companion #1,” which will feature the back story on “Garden of the Flesh,” and “Psychodrama Illustrated #1,” which will feature “Twilight Zone”-type stories, sometimes featuring Fritz in a role. That’s if I can get these out in time. It’s pretty tight.
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