Fantagraphics Studio Edition: Jaime Hernandez

This Fantagraphics Studio Edition illuminates Jaime’s distinctive artistic process. Collected here is nearly 200 pages of raw, unretouched original art comprising complete stories, selected from among his most critically acclaimed, including “Chester Square,” “In the Valley of the Polar Bears,” and “Wigwam Bam.” The state-of-the-art reproduction captures every nuance of the artist’s virtuosic pen lines. This is truly the closest one can get to sitting next to the artist as he draws and watching the comics pages take shape.

The Studio Edition also features a new interview with Hernandez, conducted by Fantagraphics publisher Gary Groth, that explores the artist’s inspiration and the formal elements of his craft. Plus, over thirty pages of never-before-published material in various stages of completion that reveal the lively, pencilled underdrawing behind each gorgeously inked panel.

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As with all AE format material (Artist’s Editions, Artifact Editions, Gallery Editions, Art Editions, Studio Editions, etc), this is a collection of classic comic material and I’ll be reviewing the book and not the story. For a complete list of all current and announced editions, with review links, please visit our Index. Also, see What is an Artist’s Edition and our Artist Index.

Fantagraphics has released as complete a package as possible showcasing Jaime Hernandez, moving from discussing the work to showing the finished product and then offering a glimpse of the process in action. It opens with a comprehensive interview by Groth, going over his process from a variety of perspectives: tools, influences, composition, character development, and much more. From there we move into fourteen complete stories, covering work from 1986 to 1994. Wrapping it up are thirty-three pages of “Outtakes”, work in various forms of completion.

The glossy paper is, for me, the only misstep. If the purpose of the format is to showcase the original artwork, then present it as it is. The final printed version of a comic is massaged and corrected; this book offers the original art boards and as such should be as close as possible to presenting them as they are. The glare is distracting, and the gloss on black margins shows every fingerprint.

Scans are clear and clean; no issues to be found. Blacks vary greatly, with more gradients visible in the older work. No margin notes, but a fair number of corrections to the art and lettering.

Covey’s design is simply stunning. The goal was a high-end art book and he crushed it. Everything oozes attention to detail, from the copper Xaime on the cover to the interview layout to the page and story numbers along every outer edge and back to the cloth cover. Let’s not forget the beautiful box that simply screams for you to keep the book in it and on a shelf. This is the first AE format book that easily compares to Taschen’s high-end volumes.

The black margins are substantial, offering one and a half to two inches of border to most of the artwork. With the heavy use of black in the work these margins really make the art pop. I was disappointed to see the page numbers disappear from the larger pages in the Outtakes section.

Inside the heavy cloth cover is a sewn binding of heavy glossy paper stock. The book comes without shrink wrap in a detailed cardboard case and that ships inside a plain white shipping box. A small cardboard card with the publisher’s blurb, price and UPS is included instead of being a sticker on the back.

Since this volume ends with work in 1994 we can only hope for a sequel…

Fantagraphics Studio Ed HC Jaime Hernandez

from Things From Another World