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Gilbert Hernández was born and grew up in Oxnard, California to a Mexican father and Texas-born mother. He had five brothers and one sister, raised by their mother and grandmother, as their father was rarely around. They were exposed to comic books early in life through their mother, who passed on her love of the medium to her children. Young Gilbert read all he could, with the exception of romance comics. He set his passions on becoming a graphic storyteller, learning everything he could by studying what he found in comics, while developing his drawing skills through constant practice.
The radio was always on at home, and he grew up listening to the rock and roll of The Beatles, The Beach Boys and The Rolling Stones. Hernandez found high school boring, sympathizing neither with the jock nor the nerd crowds, and called himself and his brothers “just regular rock ‘n’ roll guys”, and would make his way to Los Angeles for excitement. His drawing skills were admired by his peers, who urged him to aim at a career in drawing superheroes. Hernandez tried to learn more formal drawing skills, taking night classes in figurative drawing, but the apathy of his teacher drove him to quit. He made the decision to focus on comics when he got into high school, and upon finishing high school he devoted what energy he could towards that goal.
He was particularly enamored with the work that Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko produced for Marvel Comics, as well as Hank Ketcham’s Dennis the Menace and the Archie comics line. His brother Mario was responsible for introducing Gilbert to the underground comix movement when he smuggled a copy of Zap Comix into the house. Another big influence on Hernández’s work has been rock music, including punk, new wave and glitter rock. In particular, the “Brothers Hernández” were influenced by the energy and diversity of the late 1970s California punk and hardcore scene. Hernández has credited punk rock with giving him the confidence to start drawing his own comics.