Aha Moment: Love and Rockets

Feature

Friday, August 10, 2012

Comic books have not traditionally been a friendly place for women, unless they’re wearing spandex bodysuits with push-up bras. But artists like Jessica Abel are changing the way women appear in and write comics. Abel is the author of the graphic novel La Perdida, about an American woman’s misadventures in Mexico City. And, along with her husband Matt Madden, she’s teaching a new generation of graphic artists: her classes now often have more women than men, she recently told the Los Angeles Times.

Abel was drawn to the genre more than two decades ago by the Latina mechanic Maggie Chascarillo, a character in the series Love and Rockets by Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez. “It just immediately spoke to me,” Abel remembers. “First of all it's beautiful. It's beautifully drawn, the title is very compelling, and it just felt like, this is gonna be good.”

At the time, Abel was a college freshman, a punk girl from Chicago awkwardly transported to small-town Minnesota. Love and Rockets, on the other hand, is set “in a Mexican town outside of LA, a very poor neighborhood,” Abel says. “Even though it's not my environment, Jaime is so good at telling us about that world that it feels like you could know it. It's a world you want to enter into even at its grubbiest, even at its meanest. That's when I really started feeling like I could take hold of this identity for myself, and build it, and do something with it.”

When Abel started drawing comics, it was a boys’ world, and remains that way in many respects. “Being female and wanting to do this was my opportunity to be punker than I was before,” she says. “I would've been thrilled if there were more women involved in it, but it was a cool challenge that there weren't.”

God and Science: Return of the Ti-Girls, Jaime Hernandez's latest installment in the Love and Rockets series, is out now. Jessica Abel's new book is Mastering Comics: Drawing Words & Writing Pictures Continued.

→ Is there a book, movie, song, movie, or other work of art that has changed your life? Tell us in a comment or by email.

(Originally aired: October 31, 2008)

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Contributors:

Catherine Epstein

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