What follows is a conversation between The Factual Opinion and Michel Fiffe, the cartoonist responsible for Zegas, Fut Miso & Panoroma, the interviewer responsible for The Beat's Fiffe Files, and the editor responsible for Savage Dragon's Twisted Funnies. Michel is also responsible for two "Master Posts" focusing on the work of The Hernandez Brothers. (One, Two)
The impetus for this conversation came about due to the shared belief between Fiffe and Tucker Stone that the most recent issue of Love and Rockets contains the greatest work of Jaime Hernandez' already legendary career.
The comics contained in Love and Rockets New Stories # 3 are heavily spoiled below.
Michel Fiffe: I may have been playing it cool or something, but I doubt it because I'm pretty unabashed about my love for the series. You're probably thinking about Cav. I sold him on the first 2, and he was pretty much done with Jaime's superhero wrap up.
TFO: How'd you feel going into this one then? I hadn't really enjoyed some of Gilbert's stuff in the last two volumes, and I kind of felt like what they were doing wasn't working for the format. Jamie's super-hero stuff felt like something that needed to come out more frequently, that it was more of a serialized pleasure. The first two collections felt like the Brothers were atonally mashed against one another--but with volume three, all of those complaints were out of the window. All of their contributions complemented the other so well. I didn't dislike the first two volumes, and I wouldn't say I was disappointed in them either. They were a great way to check in, but I just felt that the wait...if I'm going to wait a year for them, and I really don't mind waiting a year for them, the same way I don't mind waiting on Woodring, Ware, Clowes & Ryan--I just would prefer to read something that doesn't leave it hanging, the way the super-hero stuff in Volume 1 did.
Fiffe: Oh, yeah, the superhero stuff... maybe Jaime wanted to have a cliffhanger and make you come back for more. It's a serialization mentality. Or maybe the story grew out of proportion? I assume that they both work on whatever type of stories they feel like, regardless of format. Meaning that the format isn't going to dictate the story no matter what. However, I think that for this 3rd installment, this third issue, they may have been aware of the restrictions of new schedule and presentation. Ultimately, I think it's a minor issue for them. I could be wrong.
TFO: The cover for volume 3 really breaks me up, now that i've read it. Whereas the cover for New Stories Volume 1 feels like a pretty simple "let's crack this open and see what's inside" and the cover for Volume 2 seems like a colored page from "Hypnotwist", the cover for number three is just incredibly painful--the adults (authority? safety?) looking off at the distance at a puckered blue anus (maybe, probably not, sorry) while Perla looks right at the reader and Calvin looks off to the side, seemingly unaware of what's coming (and that's probably true, because Perla's rainbow shirt indicates that they just moved in)--this cover is way more involved in what's behind the pages than the first two volumes were.
Fiffe: You see that as an anus?
TFO: I said I was sorry.
Fiffe: Huh. Well, I see your point and agree completely. I don't think every cover has to signify anything too deep. It depends on the story.
TFO: Oh, it doesn't have to at all.
Fiffe: Speaking of the impact of the #3 cover reminds me of the cover of # 29, with Beto's rooster, which is one of my favorite covers of all time. It's both iconic and makes more sense after you've read the story. The first "New Stories" cover was pretty and interesting, an iconic first issue cover.
TFO: Fantagraphics really should put together a fancy collection of all of the old Love and Rockets covers. Look, I don't disagree that New Stories #1 has a good cover. But this one here, for #3...that's a GREAT cover.
Fiffe: Yeah, it's completely heartbreaking and expertly composed. Calvin off to the side.... Esther just... standing there with this gaze... it's beautiful. The first two covers were solid and eye catching, but my reading the story didn't enhance my feelings for them, not the way this one does. #3's cover is... is... is perfect too strong a term?
TFO: I don't think perfect is too strong. Look at everything--that background color versus the black line that has the red letters on it, forming the title and then compare it to the covers for volume 1 and 2...This new one pops. It's so strong, it feels fresh.
Fiffe: #2 pops really well I think, especially in today's "stands" so to speak, but #3 really did it for me.
TFO: Yeah, I'm kind of being a little silly. This is a great vs. awesome vs. perfect debate. You want to talk about these stories in order? Or should we jump right to Jamie?
Fiffe: Yes, let's move on. But let's do it in order. It's only fair.
TFO: Okay: "Scarlet by Starlight". This might have my favorite last couple of panels of any Gilbert story I've read since Heartbreak Soup. When the guy says "not any more!" I actually laughed out loud, which is a statement I think I hate more than anything when people use it as a description of praise. But that's what happened!
Fiffe: Yeah, it was good, that line. I thought the whole thing was pretty solid, I don't know... I liked it fine. Beto has this thing, this ability to make his dialogue seem so brisk and natural yet it tells you just enough.
TFO: Pardon me for being uneducated in all of the various strands of history, but this is a Fritz movie they haven't mentioned before, right?
Fiffe: I don't believe so. I honestly lose track of all of the B-movies within the story. And pardon ME, but was that even Fritz? I thought she only appeared in the one pager movie scene in the second story.
TFO: I think it's Fritz, isn't it? That isn't her at the start of "Killer*SadGirl*Star", when all the guys are trying to convince Killer to do a sequel/remake to a Scarlet movie they just watched a clip of?
Fiffe: Yeah, it may be Fritz, but I don't recall her being mentioned or shown without fur on her face. Who knows? Let's not get tangled up in this.
TFO: Of course. There's a lot in "Scarlet by Starlight" that's just straight up funny, which I think is so far getting ignored because of how nasty it gets--I guess kiddie-rape is something that just never works for some people--but when the guy blows his brains out while screaming (with a laser pistol) or when the other guy says "I told the truth about him" after giving a speech praising the molester's "love of all children"--it's a black humor school, to the extreme. When you get near the end, and the main guy is laying on the ground holding himself in the fetal position while the girl drives/flies the two of them home--there's so much here that I thought was hilarious.
Fiffe: Oh, yeah... it's funny as shit. And Beto made me care a little about these characters I've never seen before. Which begs the question, is this issue SO GOOD to us because we're familiar with the characters? I don't think so, but a case could be made.
TFO: Not for me. Calvin was able to break my heart in about 15 ways, and I don't remember him at all. I'm jumping ahead, but that's my feeling on it.
Fiffe: Good point. I didn't remember him either. I also didn't feel the need to rifle through my own back issue to find out so I guess I answered my own question.
TFO: But if we're going to speak of people we're familiar with, maybe it's time to talk about "Love Bunglers Part One"?
TFO: Go right ahead! I'm no friend of dream sequences.
Fiffe: I hate them, they're cheap plot devices. Having said that, I totally bought into this one. Jaime really captured the horror of that kind of dream.
TFO: I've re-read this volume four times now, and I felt like that dream sequence was a kind of synthesis of the experimental comics that Gilbert is more well-known for. Specifically, reading it again reminded me of "Hypnotwist", Sloth, but not in a way that felt like Jamie was "pulling a Beto", more that he was utilizing a tactic he doesn't resort to as often as Gilbert does. When he wants to go fantastic, he usually does super-heroes and sci-fi, right?
Fiffe: Sure, sure. But Jaime has pulled this kind of thing off recently, with Maggie's nightmares? Those were genuinely creepy. But yeah, it's a sensibility that Jaime doesn't usually apply to his stories.
TFO: Yeah, I don't mean to imply it's his first time or anything like that. But the nudity, the fear on her face when she's sliding--there's something in there that strikes me as a Beto comic.
Fiffe: Oh, yeah, yeah. For me, I just noticed that he rarely pulls this kinda thing. When Maggie gets to the bottom of the stem and realizes she's just as high as she was when she started, that's the kind of detail that you can only find in that kind of nightmare. It's nice to see Jaime pull it off alongside the stuff he's known for... and make it all work well together.
TFO: Oh god, and he totally nails the way it feels to be sinking into something when you're trying to float, like if you're on an inner tube that deflates in the middle of a lake. When she sinks into the middle of the leaf and says "i finally make it over to my stomach"--i'm not scared of heights, but that panel made me feel a little sick. What about the Calvin appearances in Part One? Did you have any inkling of who he was and what he was doing when you read this the first time?
Fiffe: Ha! No way. At that point, I had no idea what to expect from the story. I was surprised at how many points of views Jaime juggled and it never seemed forced.
TFO: I was a little bit lost the first time reading through it--I couldn't remember where Maggie was at with the guys in the course of All Love and Rockets Stories Ever--but I really wanted to know what was going on with that guy, why he was skulking around like that, bugging the tenants, hiding his face. The first time through, I thought he must be another wanna-be suitor, just one of a nastier variety. I liked it fine, but I think it gets most of its power (outside of the dream sequence) from when you've finished the whole book and gone back to it. How about you?
Fiffe: Well, yeah, that's the thing. Calvin isn't even called out by name until the end. I thought he was just a creep or a stalker, like bad news was definitely gonna happen. But there's NO WAY we could've known who he was, and Jaime played that up perfectly. And then when Maggie confronts him at the end of Part 1, that was so telling... but we didn't know WHY. All we knew is that Maggie knew SOMEBODY was there. Was he a regular stalker, was he just a homeless person she felt bad for?
TFO: Yeah, the way he hides his face could go a bunch of different ways when you read it the first time. There's no specific indication of who he is, how he knows her. He could just be the regular homeless guy that she's tasked with running off the property. It's genius, makes the part where his identity is revealed in "Part Two" that much more painful. It's just a throwaway moment where his idea of what life is like for Maggie is presented as a sad little fantasy (because he assumes she's dating the one guy who "treated her right"). That part hurts so fucking bad.
Fiffe: I gotta say, Jaime has the same mastery over dialogue as his brother. That old argument of "Jamie draws better and Beto is the better writer" is a bunch of horsheshit that exposes the cretins that don't really "get" "comics" "storytelling".
TFO: I have zero patience or interest in the lets-compare-the-Brothers game. Self-indulgence is a lot of fun when you're talking about shitty comics, but when you're talking about these two guys, you should probably get out of your own fucking way and just look at the panels for a while. They're brilliant, I wouldn't ask them to change a thing. Sorry, I'm ranting.
Fiffe: Rant away. No, don't! Let's no waste any more time on that shitty, archaic, ass backwards argument. Those people probably hate comics.
TFO: Let's get "Killer*Sad Girl*Star" out of the way. I kind of didn't care that much about it? I felt like it was a bit of Speak of the Devil (murder in the sand dunes!). It was just okay.
Fiffe: Beto has this weird expression that he gives his characters, like a glossed over look. Almost like models in a jeans commercial or something, one of those "pensive in the wind" looks. So that "pensive" look made me misread the murder scenes in the story, which was purposeful, I think. I haven't fallen for Killer the way I have for Fritz, Petra, or especially Pipo. They're such great characters.
TFO: Your pensive weirdness really shows up in the beach cop's face. Such a strange looking character. Is it weird that I couldn't tell if the cop was a girl or a guy?
Fiffe: It had boobs! They call her "she"!
TFO: I just keep waiting on Killer to WANT something. She seems to bounce around like a pinball, no real personality beyond an affected disinterest.
Fiffe: Killer's a kid. That's no excuse AT ALL (especially considering "Browntown"), but I dunno...Maybe she's that kind of character, like an open kind of thing. Lots of people are like that, aloof with a lot of mystery and promise. Usually, their act fails. I hope Killer's doesn't. In this case, I think Beto's material may work best once read all at once. As opposed to his NEW LOVE stuff, these broader human dramas should be read as a whole, not as chapters.
TFO: I think my favorite panel in this one is the part where the ugly school girl says "Few actors win awards for playing retards any more." The looks on their faces are so fucking strange.
Fiffe: I take that back, Hector aged fine. He looks good. Usually frizzy hair and stubble means moral bankruptcy. Hector's always had stubble. Why am I talking about this?
TFO: Because Hector is awesome and fun to think about.
Fiffe: Or it's just a weird drawing. You know, Beto's new art kinda reminds me of late 70s/80s Ditko. He's locked into this strict language of showing things. It's VERY strict.
Fiffe: No, further. Sorta like Shade... more like all the horror stuff he did for DC, his Captain Universe stuff, his Renegade Press stuff...It's not stiff at all, I don't believe. But there's this really "set in their ways" kind of approach to drawing.
TFO: Okay, I don't know that stuff that well. The most Ditko-y thing I've seen recently is that DJ Bryant guy in MOME. That panel where the guy is screaming about hating his wife and there's all those half-faces and angles drawn into it.
TFO: I'll trust you on this one. It does seem like Gilbert is really locked in when he's drawing Killer. Almost every drawing of her has her posing, which could go both ways--she could just be doing that because she's a vain kid, a wanna-be model/actress who is imitating what she believes she's supposed to look like. Or it could just be that locked-in language is something Gilbert wants to use for this story.
Fiffe: I usually notice that trait in Beto's work when he draws his Palomar material. His other stuff can be very fluid and bizarre and experimental. I know that a "wonky" style wouldn't work for Palomar, but that's not what I mean. "Duck Feet" was much looser than say... the High Soft Lisp material.
TFO: Are we ready for this thing? This "Browntown"?
Fiffe: You mean the Best Story in the Universe? Sure.
TFO: Here's me on my mountain: this is my favorite thing I've ever read by Jamie Hernandez, and when I read it together with "Love Bunglers", I think it's the best thing I've read by Jamie Hernandez. At the same time, there's some serious gaps in my reading experience with Jamie Hernandez, so I'm kind of dependent on you to make an argument for why that's true--I can only back it up by pointing at things like "Death of Speedy" (which I love) and saying that this had more panels that made my jaw drop, and that I felt a more keen sense of emotional pain and unbearable sadness in this than his prior stuff.
Fiffe: OK, let's see... He's had some exemplary stories out there. Recently, too. "Browntown" does have panel after panel of heartbreak. I think the level of remorse and sympathy we may feel during this story, we may have felt in varying degrees in reading his other highlights. "Flies on the Ceiling" is one. "Everybody Loves Me, Baby" is another [Penny Century #7]. Those were my top 2. "Browntown" is just more complex, more involved, more ambitious, and structurally tighter. This is not to say that those previous works AREN'T, I'm just saying that Jaime's just gotten better at it. Here's an artist at the top of his form, telling some of the most mature and compelling stories in ANY medium... and the thing is, I could've said that 5 years ago, I could have said that 10 years ago. This new one is a masterpiece, and although I feel biased saying that because I like the Bros.' work so much, I think it will hold up as a work of art forever. I hate to sound like I'm a soapbox or something, but this medium is tremendously lucky to have this kind of story in existence. It's an example of not only "Pure" comics, but "Perfect" comics. Let's deconstruct it further! I have a few things to say about drawing, but it can wait. Have at it...
TFO: My favorite panels are the one where Maggie is finishing her first letter while her little brother is showing her his toy car and the panel where Calvin is crawling out of the cave and crying, and--well. There's other ones, but those are the two that I fell in love with the most. Those panels reached up and grabbed me by the throat. My only concern when going through this is that I think it's going to be easy for some readers to get trapped in treating it as a story about rape, when I think it's a lot more nuanced in the way it handles the situation. I mainly feel that nuance in the way Calvin, because he's a little boy, honestly believes that he has to keep suffering the way he does so that he can "protect" his sister from the same kind of assault. It isn't until the very end of the story that he finally snaps and does something completely for himself--killing his rapist--that the magnitude of what he's suffered is made totally clear. It's built up for a while, slowly, in the two panels where we see his age change during between assaults, or when we see how the kids are all at a movie and he's the only one not looking at the screen (that's a fucking drawing right there, how difficult it must be to have that kind of distinction between what the eyes of four black and white characters are focused on), and it all builds to the violence. And that violence is horrifying, it's not a satisfying moment in the slightest. And it shouldn't be, because this isn't a rape/revenge story about a kid who gets justice. It takes one panel transition for him to start crying. There's no satisfaction to be had.
Fiffe: Yeah, the handling of his point of view is done very respectfully, and in a very sobering way. There's is nothing romantic about his revenge at all. I didn't get off at his revenge. It was a really moving scene, totally unpredictable and yet, it made perfect sense.
TFO: I don't want to ignore the stuff with Maggie either, but it's hard not to go right to the Calvin story. I think there's something kind of magnificent about that part where she starts to climb on her dad's lap, only for him to respond with such venom--he may be cheating on his wife, but he has an ideal of purity for his children. It makes it that much worse, him having that, while being completely ignorant of what's happening to his son. And yet, when he shows up at the end and says "You have to come right now"--I can't help but forgive him immediately. Calvin could've come back from what he'd suffered so far, but it's impossible to be optimistic about him coming back from the kind of violence he unleashes on his tormentor, no matter how young he is.
Fiffe: Maggie's father was awesomely portrayed. Everyone was, even the bus driver in the one panel picking Maggie up for school. But I don't think anyone could've noticed Calvin's predicament. He bottled it up completely. I predict that you're right, and that some people, even die hard L&R fans, won't be able to see past a rape story, no matter how it's handled. Which is a shame becasue it's SO NOT about that. It's a major part of the story, but it's not in After School Special mode either, which most comics seems to fall into.
TFO: That's exactly what i'd worry about with it. We're so inured at this point to expect stories dealing with this subject matter to be either rape/revenge exploitation or to be an after-school-special sort of warning stories. The expectation for this subject matter to be handled poorly is totally understandable, especially when you're talking about comic books. But this isn't one of those at all! It's not a story about rape motivating some kind of badass vengeance, it's not a story for perverts to get off on, it's not a story that pretends that sexual violence of this sort will somehow result in a codified response shared by all victims--I finish reading "Browntown" and don't have feel any sense of surety of where Calvin's life will go next. I feel confused about his future, and that's far more mature an outcome than I'd ever have if someone said "this story has a bunch of molestation at the core".
Fiffe: The Bros. really handle that kind of stuff well. Things that everyone else exploits to further whatever agenda they may have, such as suicide, date rape, spousal abuse, the Bros. handle all of it extremely well. That's hardly the case for any sort of media, y'know? It's all taglines and topic of the week. Look at Jaime and Beto's respective contributions to the STRIP AIDS benefit anthology from the 80s--they're the only ones that don't even mention AIDS. As a result, their stories make a much stronger impact that the others. It may seem petty to nitpick that particular anthology, but I'm just referencing it as an example.
TFO: I'd attribute some of his success here to the fact that it's a one-man-show--when you're dealing with this kind of subject matter for television, film, even mainstream-y comics, you've got more people in the room, and everybody is going to have some kind of point of view on it, and they're all going to feel the need to make it something they're comfortable with. Jamie only has to achieve his own goals, and he's not trying to tell a story "about rape", he's trying to tell a story about one specific character: Calvin. This isn't a story about what happens to boys who suffer this kind of violence. It's about ONE BOY, his family. It doesn't have an agenda beyond that. I think that's part of why it isn't "offensive" in the way that it is whenever a super-heroes girlfriend gets assaulted.
Fiffe: Even when a super hero's girlfriend gets assaulted, it's not to make a point, it's to titillate the audience. But this comic isn't for that audience anyway. It's almost a moot point. It's kind of like when presumably adult comic book readers dismiss Love & Rockets as "that lesbian" comic. No amount of great storytelling is gonna burst that moronic bubble.
TFO: Can you talk a little bit more about what you meant by "pure" and "perfect" comics?
Fiffe: Sure. "Pure" comics use the elements inherent in comics, right? That's not an easy thing to pull off, being that most comics don't really utilize the advantages of the form. "Pure" comics don't necessarily mean good comics, either; there are plenty of "pure" comics that can have thin stories, idiotic stories, artwork that falls against the story, and yet they still appropriate the things that make comics unique... and even if "pure" is difficult to achieve, that's not enough. However, If you have a story that's mature and compelling, funny, heartbreaking--all the things we've been talking about here--and it's all handled in a masterful way that never talks down to the reader or disrespects the reader's intelligence, AND it utilizes "pure" comics trait? That's "perfect".
TFO: Can you nail down for me what it is that makes this one "pure"?
Fiffe: Ok, what makes this "pure" is the timing of it, the specific "beats" of the story and the way it leads the reader. It's deceptively simple, you don't notice it, but you're not supposed to. A lot of it has to do with the drawing. The kind of emotion you can't get from an actor, or prose, or any other cartoonist whether it be "cartoony" or "photo-realistic". Jaime's drawings aren't just pretty pictures, they're components of the comic. Of comics. It's in the page design, it's the shift between styles within a scene or even a panel, it's freezing the perfect moments to amplify what he's trying to say. He draws that. He draws those perfect moments, even with all the imperfections they sometimes imply.
TFO: What you're describing reminds me of how I felt reading Weathercraft, that sense that Jim Woodring is concerned with the rate at which the reader moves through the page. There's a definite sense that he must have thought about how the eye is going to move, and since he didn't use dialog as a crutch to dictate how much time you spend on the panel, he had to determine pacing with the layouts, with the parts of the action he's stopping to capture. Sorry to interrupt.
Fiffe: S'cool. You don't get that "pure" kind of involved mastery anywhere else, I mean in any other form. And a large part of this achievement is in Jaime's drawing, in his actual skill as an artist. If this were drawn any differently, it would be completely different, obviously. It's all in his skill, his old school loyalty to "Good" drawing. I don't want to define "good", so maybe let's use another word without watering down my meaning. How's "well crafted"?
TFO: That works, and acknowledging the fact that Jamie is committed to being a great craftsman is always worth the time. I'm sure he has to rush stuff at times, but his line never really seems to suffer. I can't think of "unfinished" work that he's put out before its time.
Fiffe: I was fortunate enough to chat a little bit with Jaime at the last Mocca. He thought it was funny that it's always the guys that can't draw that rail against good drawing. Sorry... "well crafted" drawing.
TFO: My general anecdote about that was when my dad looked at some of JH Williams work in Detective, read an issue, and then said that the story was pretty predictable and not very interesting. I waited for him to mention the art, and when he didn't, I told him that the art was the big draw on this one. He said "isn't it the artist's job to draw it well? Why would you read one of these things that wasn't drawn well?"
Fiffe: HA! Yeah, seriously. But "drawing it well" ...I dunno, it's gonna get ugly defining that. I define good drawing by the specific strengths of the artists, generally.
TFO: I just define "good art" as what I like. I know that's not at all the right way to do it, but I've got other hobbies that interest me more than figuring out some codified rules of aesthetic "bestness". Plenty of other people are more interested in that than I am, they're better at it too. They can have it.
Fiffe: Here's the rub: "Browntown" would NOT be as effective with an artist of lesser caliber. With Jaime...look, there are artists that are undeniable. You can't say SHIT about them. Toth is another one. But Jaime tells relevant, poignant, and hilarious stories. He's left, as you noted, to create on his own, without being held back by a committee. He's the best example of a true modern artist creating on his own terms and benefiting from such freedom. What it comes down to is this: there's a subtlety and naturalism to every single line that defines every single character in his stories. Calvin looking off while the movie plays, the little brother's hand while Perla is writing a letter, Maggie's face when she discovers her dad cheating... it all exists because of Jaime's unparalleled draftsmanship. I tell you, nothing has humbled me and inspired me as much as this story. It aims high and we all gotta catch up.
TFO: I totally agree. Jamie's always been a giant talent, and I think it's worth noting how much of what we consider "comics" to be seems tied up in the kind of work he's produced. It's incredible to see him still accelerating to a higher level, considering how great he's been already.
Fiffe: Yeah, it's actually kind of unbelievable. People at Mocca kept saying how humble he is, how nice... "what a nice, humble guy". Sure he's nice, but he knows he's good. He knows he can run circles around all of us. That's besides the point here, I know... but he ain't humble, and why should he be? He's the best.
TFO: Humility is just a personality trait. It doesn't have anything to do with being an artist. It's nice if you just want to talk to somebody, I guess. But the current popularity in comics of figuring out "who the nice guys are" is a fucking joke. It's supposed to be an artform, not a social club. Know your role.
Fiffe: No, it doesn't, you're right, but I'm putting it in the context of the conversations I had with folks that met him. They've probably met legendary artists who were total dicks, so they equate good manners with being artistically humble. Jaime may feel humbled at times, I'm sure...Wait, it's not a social club? I've been going to the wrong parties. Anyway, how about that ending, huh?
TFO: The ending is just another level of pain in a lot of ways--besides the thing that came up above, where Calvin is still worried about Maggie after all these years, there's also the bludgeoning gut-punch when you find out that Maggie never found out what happened to Calvin, that he didn't really grow up with her, that his life fell apart before he could have a chance to really have one. But it's also another mash-up of brilliant, subtle art--the way that Jamie uses the narration to tell you what Maggie & Ray talked about (and they talk about a bunch of important stuff, stuff like "i don't want to date you" and "my life is a trainwreck") while just showing all these coy little facial tics that degenerate into Maggie looking hollowed out by life--that's a brilliant ending. So amazing, like she's accessed all the pain she has for Calvin without knowing why, without even knowing that he's right outside, watching over her in his own sad little way.
Fiffe: Right, we're wrapped up with Maggie and Ray's relationship and all of its complexities, but it's signed off with Calvin's presence. I have to say, the last page made me cry. I wasn't bawling, but I had to stand up and open my eyes really wide and pace around my living room for a few minutes. It took me a while to really absorb what was happening. When was the last time a comic made you do that? If ever?
TFO: Don't Go Where I Can't Follow tore me apart. I didn't really go to that place when this ended, but I'll own up to a disconnect on my part, as I was caught up in thinking "what a perfect ending".
Fiffe: Well, it was the reveal that got me. I totally didn't see it coming.
TFO: Oh, I didn't see it coming either!
Fiffe: Calvin's slouch alone is telling. Such a life he's had. I read it in one shot. And only once with a few scenes that I re-read. I was completely immersed. Kat thought I was reading porn from the other room.
TFO: I envy you a bit for going into it so deeply. I feel like I was reading this a bit analytically the first time through. Oh, I've got something to say, but let me put in perspective first: I trust Jamie to do the right thing by his art, his creations, characters, completely. But I really hope that he doesn't unleash a bunch of "untold Calvin stories" the next time one of these books comes out. This was just so perfect.
Fiffe: I don't think he will. He never really does that. I think the characters couldn't be in better hands.
TFO: I'm thinking we're reaching a good endpoint ourselves. Would you be willing to tell me what kind of impact you think this comic might have on your own work?
Fiffe: Well, I'm at this weird point in trying to tell the stories I want to tell. I can't think in slick high concept terms, and that's just the way the culture is right now, no matter where you go. So I just create the comics that I'd like to read. I want to tell stories that ring true, that aren't cliched log lines. Jaime is the best example of doing just that, of just creating his own thing... have you read his Art of Book?
TFO: No, I haven't.
Fiffe: The part that resonated with me was around the time period right before he started Love & Rockets. He felt like he was trying to fit into the comics biz, trying to belong, and trying to find his place in the comics world...and he just couldn't fit in. Reading about this Master of Comics going through that was a little heartbreaking. But he then went on to create his own thing, on his own terms, and he hasn't looked back since. It's THAT kind of drive that made "Browntown" possible, and I truly believe this story has raised the bar. I'm actually going through a creatively frustrating period, and reading this story, reading how good comics can be, how brilliant and beautiful they can be, really cuts through all of the bullshit and all of the nonsense.
TFO: The quickest way to forget about mediocrity is to experience the form at its best. That's what this was. It's a gift.
Fiffe: Yeah, and I don't mean to sound as if I have difficulty in talking about my work, it's just that... I'm up against THAT story. We're ALL up against it. So what I meant when I said I'm not good at high concepts, well then, that's gonna have to be fine! There are far more important concerns at work here. I can't reduce my output to a quick pitch--so what? I don't think Jaime does. None of the artists I profoundly respect and admire have to do that. That's not their business as artists, as comic book storytellers.
They just create, and that's all I want to do. And Jaime always reminds me of that.
-Michel Fiffe & Tucker Stone, 2010
All other art from Love & Rockets New Stories #3. Property of Jaime & Gilbert Hernandez