Vegas-based comic creator Gilbert Hernandez has a lot in common with his main character

Thought bubble: Gilbert Hernandez helped usher in alt-comics in the current era.
Carol Kovinick Hernandez
J. Caleb Mozzocco

Gilbert Hernandez, one of Los Bros Hernandez responsible for the seminal Love and Rockets comics series that began in the early ’80s, has made his home here in Las Vegas for 13 years now. When he and his wife started a family, Vegas’ home prices beckoned, and Vegas was close enough to LA to make visiting easy. But Hernandez’s birthplace of Oxnard, California, continues to inform his work.

His latest is the original graphic novel Bumperhead, starring a young man named Bobby whose story begins with him as a child in a SoCal setting quite similar to that of Hernandez’s 2013 Marble Season. It then follows Bobby as he grows from a little kid to an angry young man to a rather lost middle-aged man, drifting from girl to girl, drug to drug and musical trend to musical trend through a 1970s adolescence.

Despite the similarities in their biographies—particularly in setting and the importance of punk rock—Hernandez says the book isn’t autobiographical. He and Bobby just have things in common, like the rock music of the ’70s and the high school girls of Bumperhead. “By the way, that’s the part of the story people are convinced I made up,” Hernandez says. “For the record, I knew all those girls. For real.”

The dramatic lives of Bobby’s parents are made up, as are the male characters, “Except for Rufus,” Hernandez says of the character who gives Bobby the cruel titular nickname. “He is closely based on a real asshole I knew.”

And Bobby’s friend Lalo’s anachronistic iPad, which appears throughout the characters’ lives? It’s simply meant as “a surreal thread to tie the story together.” Most of the characters refer to it simply as a “sci-fi toy,” albeit one that correctly predicts the future (as readers will know, but the characters can’t).

While Bumperhead focuses on adolescence and Marble Season dealt with childhood, Hernandez has no plans for making a thematic trilogy, following the pair with a book about being a grown-up or growing old.

“I’ve dealt with adulthood in most of my other works, and there are no plans to do the story of becoming a cartoonist,” Hernandez says. “That wouldn’t be a universal story. It distances me from most readers. I prefer to do stories where the reader can relate to the experience of having been there.”

Bumperhead By Gilbert Hernandez, $22.

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