About a year too late, I’m finally reading Love and Rockets New Stories #1, with #2 next on the pile. I’m probably still a fairly recent convert in the appreciation of Los Brothers Hernandez but they’re just constantly amazing me right now. About half of New Stories #1 (and I’m assuming #2) is Jaime’s superhero story, “Ti Girl Adventures Number 34,” set so firmly in the world of Maggie, Hopey, the Frog and Penny Century but focusing on Angel, the young ingenue who lives in the apartment complex that Maggie manages who gets wrapped up in an adventure to help rescue Penny Century’s daughters.
Gilbert, with some assist from Mario, spends the other half of the book with a variety of stories, having fun playing with story and art. He’s got a story where Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis (called “Duke” and “Sammy” here) go off into space to take on an alien race. Gilbert’s first story in the book, “Papa,” contains some of my favorite art in the book. There’s one page that’s just simply incredible.
The page is like a one of those shots from a movie, showing clouds crossing the sky but sped up about 25 times so it looks like a whole day is happening in one minute. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like this done on a comic page this abstractly and this effectively. Gilbert builds this page on five images, each concentrating on a slightly different aspect of the sky and the weather. From the clear, early morning first light through to the thunder, lightning and rain, Gilbert shows the passage of time through some wonderfully abstract images. The 3rd, 4th and 5th panels mean almost nothing taken out of context but within the confines of that page, complete the idea that Gilbert is trying to express to the reader.
As important as his storytelling is the joy and fun in Gilbert’s artwork. To borrow a phrase that I like from one of my old art professors, drawing is about mark making. In some ways, the image is secondary to the marks you put down on the paper. Put down the right marks and the image will come out of that. I think too many cartoonists and comic artists lose sight of the marks and lines they’re putting down and focus heavily on the image. But in Gilbert’s “Papa,” there’s a liveliness and an energy in every mark that’s on the page. The third panel in the “day” page above is conveyed purely through the marks. Through the varying weight of line, Gilbert creates tension and excitement in a panel that’s storm clouds rolling in. Without getting terribly realistic, Gilbert shows you the electricity that’s in the air preceding a huge storm. It’s all right there in the marks that Gilbert makes.
It’s one page out of a short story but, like some of the best storytellers can, that one page tells its own small story of a quiet countryside and the storm that engulfs it.