In 1981, when brothers Gilbert and Jamie Hernandez self-published Love and Rockets it rocked the underground comics scene by introducing a genre-crossing artistic style (which would become known as magic realism), interconnecting stories, multicultural (particularly Latino) characters, strong women, positive gay and bisexual characters, and a focus on everyday people (rather than superheroes).
One Love and Rockets character, first introduced in Volume II, was Julio, whose storyline Gilbert Hernandez has now compiled and extended into a separate graphic novel, Julio’s Day (Fantagraphics Books, $19.99), a brilliant graphic novel out in March, which compresses Julio’s entire life into 100 pages.
The story begins and ends in complementary frames of black representing the nothingness which life both springs from and returns to. The blackness resolves into/fades from the open mouth scream of a newborn/dying old man. Starting with Julio’s birth in 1900 and ending with his death in 2000, Julio’s Day presents representative moments from Julio’s life, moments that simultaneously illustrate both the micro and macro influences that impact Julio, his extended family, his close friends, and the larger world beyond his rural Southern Californian village.
The wars, diseases, natural disasters, great depressions, and revolutionary social/cultural changes of the 20th century generally happen off page, as they occur a world away from Julio’s little village. Yet Hernandez is able to illustrate that those events had a global reach and dramatically impacted the lives of everyone — including the people in Julio’s life.
A remarkable accomplishment that is likely to find its way on numerous Best of 2013 lists and garner Hernandez more well deserved awards and accolades, Julio’s Day is, at its heart, a gay story.