Most comic creators, in keeping with the majority of popular entertainment that involves telling continuing stories with the same characters, keep a weird kind of “no-time”, in which the times and events change, but the characters neither change significantly or age.
There have been exceptions, of course, like Frank King’s remarkable newspaper strip from the early 20th Century, Gasoline Alley, in which the characters grew, changed, aged, had kids who aged and so on through generations.
Most creators, however are afraid to rock the boat and mess with a successful formula, so the characters stay the same while the world changes around them.
Jaime (I think pronounced “high-may” or “high-me”) Hernandez not only bucks that trend, but defies most of the expectations for pop culture in creating comic characters that are deeply human, richly portrayed, agonizingly frail, astonishingly strong and remarkably affecting. His primary character, a bisexual Mexican-American woman named Maggie Chascarrillo, has been going through changes (hard changes) since she first appeared in the fanzine style publication Love and Rockets in the 80’s.
Love and Rockets was a showcase for Jaime and his brother Gilbert (Beto) Hernandez, who are often referred to as “Los Bros Hernandez”. Gilbert has his own different and distinct style and can be the subject of another post.
Jaime’s Maggie, and her punky lover/friend/antagonist/companion Hopey, were the subject of a long and involving series of stories in Love and Rockets for over 20 years. The stories have recently been collected into Locas, a 700 page “graphic novel” by Fantagraphics Books. There have also been a series of smaller collections, Music for Mechanics, Wigwam Bam and Blood of Palomar.
In the course of these stories Maggie ages, gains weight (she started out kind of cute-heavy, never the clichéd bombshell type) and goes through the kind of changes, hard learning and disillusionment that real people come up against in the real world. In the beginning, Hernandez mixed her “real world” stories with sci-fi fantasies in which she was a “ProSolar Mechanic”, but eventually dropped that in favor of following Maggie, Hopey and a rich cast of supporting characters through the even stranger world of here and now.
Love and Rockets ceased for a while but reappeared in 2001. Maggie is now middle aged, overweight, dyes her hair and is still struggling to figure out where she fits in a life that seems to sweep her along in strange, scary and unpredictable currents. There is new collection of the most recent stories called Ghost of Hoppers.
Hernandez’s clean, spare and elegant drawing style borrows from the pleasing simplicity of Dan DeCarlo Archie comics, the stark chiaroscuro of Milton Caniff and Noel Sickles and the clarity and efficiency of Alex Toth. Like Toth, his pages are masterful compositions of black and white balance, with bold blacks and delicate sinuous lines.
Unfortunately, I can’t point you to an official site or large collection of Hernendez art on the web, so I’ll suggest several smaller bits. The Fantagraphics page for Hernendez lists current books, including a six-page preview of Ghost of Hoppers.
Note: the links here include some NSFW material.