The Treat: Cartoonists Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez on ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ and ‘To Kill a Mockingbird'

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Cartoonists Jaime (left) and Gilbert Hernandez at the KCET/PBS SoCal screening of the “Love and Rockets” documentary. Photo credit: Morgan Pierre Photography.

Cartoonists Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez gained fame with “Love and Rockets,” an alternative comic book series that began in the early 1980s, influenced by mainstream and underground comics, punk rock, and Mexican-American culture. While Gilbert focuses on fictional characters from Palomar, a Central American village, and magic realistic elements, Jaime’s panels center on “The Locas,” a social group in Los Angeles, and particularly the Latin-American friends and sometime-lovers, Maggie and Hopey. 

A new box set, “Love and Rockets: The First Fifty: The Classic 40th Anniversary Collection,” was recently released to commemorate the series’ four-decade legacy, featuring copies of the original 50 issues of the comic magazines.  

The Hernandez brothers share the movies they have watched obsessively. Gilbert explains how he became “addicted” to Quentin Tarantino’s 2019 film “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” while Jaime recounts why he remains dazzled by Robert Mulligan’s 1962 adaptation of Harper Lee’s book “To Kill a Mockingbird” and how its meaning to him has changed over the years.   

This segment has been edited for length and clarity. 

Gilbert Hernandez: One movie I have probably seen more than any other, over and over, is “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” I liked the movie. One day, it was on TV, and I started watching it again. For some reason, I got addicted, like heroin. Every night, I had to watch a part. It went on for months, literally. Every day, I had to watch a part of that movie. 

There was a break, a vacation [then] I couldn't get into it anymore. My brain had absorbed every line, every camera angle, every acting moment, everything. 

It is super, amazingly indulgent. A guy makes a movie about wanting to be in a “Lancer” TV show? That's beyond something I would come up with. Or if I did, it would only be like a page, and here’s a whole film about it. 

[There’s] tension in the film, because it's the Manson story [and] killings. That doesn't happen till the very end, the nutty version, so there's a tension the whole time. You are not really sure what's going to jump out at you, storywise.

I was a little kid, and I remember hearing [about the] Manson killings, and I thought, “This is the most insane thing I've ever heard.” Then a week later, two weeks later, we find out, “Oh, it's just a bunch of girls who did it.” I was like, “Get me out of here.” So that's what I was sort of expecting watching this film. Then it turned out to be just a nutty film. So, I just loved it.

Jaime Hernandez: For many, many years “To Kill a Mockingbird” was my favorite movie, and I think it stayed my favorite for a long time because every two or three years … the meaning of it changed for me. 

It started when I was a very young kid, and Gilbert saw it the night before and told me about this movie. But he told me about it like an eight-year-old, talking about it, and I was like, “What is this? A scary movie? Boo Radley?” And I remember being like, “What the hell is he talking about?” 

Then I finally saw it, I was just dazzled. But what I was dazzled with was these little kids going through a scary movie, where it was about being scared of the dark and being scared of crazy people, and all this stuff. That was the first movie I ever saw where I related to the kids. I was their age, yet I found something different in them than I did in Disney.

I used to be so bored at the courtroom scene. When I got older, I started going, “Wow, these kids really are interested in stuff and they get to the middle of all this stuff going on.” Then, years later, I started going, “Civil rights. Oh, boy! We're tackling serious issues here,” and I started to be more concerned with that.

The world in it just changed over the years, and I saw different things to be influenced by at different ages in my life. I'm interested, now that we talked about it, to see it again.



Rebecca Mooney