ARTICLE

'Bumperhead': Author masters novel about growing up

Award-winning author crafts 'must share' book

In his last graphic novel, “Marble Season,” artist and author Gilbert Hernandez explored the childhood of one imaginative boy growing up in 1960s California.

Using an episodic narrative style and stunning, spare drawings, Hernandez captured the rawness and beauty of childhood.

In his latest work, “Bumperhead,” Hernandez takes his trademark illustrations and pitch-perfect ear for dialogue a step further, exploring not just the childhood of one character, but his jubilant teen years, his struggle to find his place in society, and his eventual slump into adulthood.

The result is a work as carefully crafted and heartbreaking as a classic play: it will surprise you, bring you to tears, and leave you spellbound.

“Bumperhead” is the story of Bobby, a young man with an unfortunately large forehead, hence his nickname. Bobby comes of age in the 1970s: he experiments with drugs, falls in love, and connects with music so strongly he paints his face and screams Alice Cooper out his bedroom window. Bobby is not prone to self-reflection and coasts through life content to wait for “the future,” not realizing that life is passing him by. His spin into complacency is measured in both dramatic and slight changes to his illustration: a slouch in his shoulder, an increasing emptiness in his eyes. These small touches remind us why Hernandez has won nearly every industry award for his work.

Hernandez is the master — and he isn’t afraid to throw a curve ball. Throughout Bobby’s life, his best friend carries around an iPad (or a “future predicting toy”), which, at first, seems odd against the 1970s backdrop. But this juxtaposition is exactly Hernandez’s point, as it forces the reader to consider how silly — and unfulfilling — our relationship with technology can be.

Like the best art, “Bumperhead” is meant to be shared, discussed, and treasured for years to come.

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