My first post about Jaime Hernandez work was already a couple of thousand words long, and all I really talked about there was the various kinds of distance crossed in LOCAS: The Maggie and Hopey Stories.  That’s the first in a series of maybe eight or nine posts about Jaime Hernandez’s work, and the next “real” post will look at the same era of those stories as collected in the more recent paperback editions.

That post is almost done, but I’m amused to find how much I’ve not even talked about.  This is always the way, of course – criticism cannot hope to be truly comprehensive, and a large part of the art involves working out what you can talk about to make a coherent point without telling any lies about the rest.  Still, given how rich these stories are, and how much they’ve made my brain fizz while I’ve been re-reading them, I feel the urge to follow the instruction of my Irish Lit tutor and “Say more”.

Thankfully, I’ve got a little bit of spare material at hand.  You see, the initial idea for Keep Your Distance #1 was to replicate the way those stories skip back and forward through time by including a lot of footnotes that would take you in and out of the flow of the main argument, complicating your reading as you went.   Whatever surface cleverness that provided ultimately didn’t seem to be worth the way it broke up the throughline of the piece – turns out that Jaime Hernandez is a genius and I’m not, go figure.

So, rather than let those tangents go to waste I’m going to post some of them here in the run up to Keep Your Distance #2.

First up, a few thoughts on The Wrestling Stuff and the way you can sometime drag problems of your own making with you into a book!

While I’m not the intended audience for this Kate Skelly-curated book of Hernandez’s drawings of female wrestlers, I do still enjoy Jaime’s wrestling stories.  They give him an excuse to break out some wild caricature and to test his skill at panel composition, and they introduce another flavour to an already spicy cocktail of genres.  All of this is for the good.

The thing is, though, these work best for me when they’re part of the low-key/far-out tapestry than they do when allowed to stand alone.  Whenever the story lingers in this world, as it does intermittently throughout the strip’s run and completely for the brief span of Woah Nellie, I find my interest splintering.

Now my knowledge of the off-centre world these wrestling strips take place in is limited to trying to make sense of twitter posts by my friends and listening to that one Mountain Goats album, but I think I get it.  I’ve spent enough time in bookselling / comics / Scottish politics to understand what happens in worlds that are allowed to grow into their own pocket universes for at least for as long as there’s a crowd around to get the in-jokes.  The way people’s roles start to eat their faces, the bitter rivalries that can only come from the knowledge that your enemy knows you more intimately than many of the people you love… like I said, I think I get it.  Maybe that’s the problem though – when I’m in this space for too long, I’m too busy thinking about how to react to actually react.

Somehow this isn’t an issue when the wrestling escalates into the cosmos in Hernandez’s later stories, but there’s a different type of familiarity at play there, one that has already been well chronicled on this website.  Maybe I just need to read more wrestling comics to make Woah Nellie sing for me like God and Science does.  Maybe one day we’ll find out.  For now, I only know that when we’re deep in this world I’m not.

Still, some cracking pages to appreciate as pages along the way.  Can’t fuck with that.

When I first started trying to work through this, I thought I’d just encountered a weirdly specific failure of the imagination on my part. This is almost right, but not quite, and in the end it’s exactly this sense of things almost-but-not-quite being as I understand them that seems to make it hard for me to stay fully involved when these bouts take over the story.

On this occasion I am very much letting my brain get in the way of the eyes and the page.

Just don’t tell Vicky though, cos I can still see well enough to know that wouldn’t end well for me!

Leave a Reply