Love and Rockets
Cover illustration by Gilbert Hernandez for Love and Rockets #16, depicting two of his major Palomar characters, Heraclio and Carmen.
|Publication date||September 1982–April 1996|
|Number of issues||50|
Love and Rockets (often abbreviated L&R) is a black and white comic book series by Gilbert Hernandez and Jaime Hernandez, sometimes cited jointly as Los Bros Hernandez. Their brother Mario Hernandez is an occasional contributor. It was one of the first comics in the alternative comics revolution of the 1980s.
The Hernandez brothers self-published the first issue of Love and Rockets in 1981, but since 1982 it has been published by Fantagraphics Books. The magazine temporarily ceased publication in 1996 after the release of issue #50, while Gilbert and Jaime went on to do separate series involving many of the same characters. However, in 2001 Los Bros revived the series as Love and Rockets Volume 2.
Love and Rockets contains several ongoing serial narratives, the most prominent being Gilbert’s Palomar stories and Jaime’s Hoppers 13 (aka Locas) stories. It also contains one-offs, shorter stories, surrealist jokes, and more.
Palomar tells the story of a fictional village in Latin America and its inhabitants. Its vibrant characters and sometimes-fantastic events are sometimes compared to the magical realism literary style of authors such as Gabriel García Márquez. The series is also sometimes referred to as Heartbreak Soup, after the first story set in Palomar.
Hoppers 13 follows the tangled lives of a group of primarily chicano characters, from their teenage years in the early days of the California punk scene to the present day. (Hoppers, or Huerta, is a fictional city based on the Hernandezes’ home town of Oxnard, California.) Two memorable members of Jaime’s cast are Margarita Luisa “Maggie” Chascarrillo and Esperanza “Hopey” Leticia Glass, whose on-again, off-again romance is a focus for many Hoppers 13 storylines. The series is also often called Locas (Spanish for “crazy women”) because of the many quirky female characters depicted.
One of the more interesting aspects of the Love and Rockets opus is the way Los Bros Hernandez portray the passage of time in a relatively realistic manner despite the traditional constraints of the medium. For example, Maggie’s character debuted as a slight yet curvy young adult mechanic living in a world both distinctly chicano and punk with a sci-fi twist. As Jaime developed her character in more detail, she started to gain weight slowly. Over the years, Maggie and the other characters have evolved, growing more layered and complex as their stories develop. The present Maggie is now the manager of an apartment complex with bleached blonde hair and a penchant for wearing sexy bathing suits on her rubenesque figure. Jaime has also made extensive use of flashbacks, with Maggie and the others presented at different ages from toddlers through teenagers and young adults to thirtysomethings. The first issue of volume two of Love and Rockets featured a cover with a range of different Maggie ages/looks.
The original runs of Palomar and Locas have each been collected in recent one-volume editions by Fantagraphics (see Palomar (graphic novel)), although not all of the stories involving “Locas” and “Palomar” characters are contained in these collections. The original fifty-issue Love and Rockets “Volume One” has also been reprinted in its entirety in both a fifteen-volume paperback library, and more recently a seven-volume mass-market paperback series by Fantagraphics.
Many attempts have been made to make L&R into a movie, or series of movies. However, until recently, the movie rights had been held up in litigation for over 15 years.
- Margarita Luisa “Maggie” Chascarrillo – Best friend (and occasional lover) of Hopey; otherwise dates men, most prominently Ray Dominguez. Befriended Hopey in the punk rock scene of their southern Californian home town. Briefly becomes a world-travelling mechanic who goes on science-fiction flavored adventures in the early issues.
- Esperanza Leticia “Hopey” Glass – Sharp-tongued, wild and adventurous best friend of Maggie. Portrayed usually as a lesbian. Plays bass very poorly in a series of punk bands.
- Beatríz “Penny Century” García – bombshell friend to Maggie/Hopey and wife of the ridiculously wealthy H.R. Costigan.
- Isabel “Izzy” Reubens – Friend/mentor to Maggie. A writer who suffers a nervous breakdown after a divorce/abortion, becoming a notorious “witch lady” in Maggie’s hometown.
- Daphne “Daffy” Matsumoto – a rich young friend of Maggie and Hopey who is a prominent supporting character in the early comics, but later goes off to college.
- Ray Dominguez – One of Maggie’s boyfriends, a painter. Jaime follows his life from Hoppers to L.A.
- Doyle Blackburn – Ray’s childhood friend, who struggles with a history of violence.
- Rena Titañon and Vicki Glori – stars of the Mexican women wrestling world. Rena is Maggie’s friend. Rival Vicki is Maggie’s aunt.
- Danita Lincoln – Maggie’s coworker at Vandy’s. She dates Ray after Maggie leaves town; also works as a stripper with Doyle’s girlfriend Lily.
- H. R. Costigan – horned billionaire who has on-again, off-again affair with Penny Century.
- Terry Downe – Talented, coldly pretty guitar player who still pines for ex-girlfriend Hopey.
- Rand Race – Handsome, world-famous mechanic who hires Maggie and takes her on adventures, oblivious to her crush on him.
- Eulalio “Speedy” Ortiz – Isabel’s brother, a member of the local “Hoppers” gang, shared a mutual crush on Maggie until his untimely death.
- Vivian “Frogmouth” Solis – A troublemaking stripper and aspiring actress that Ray first develops a crush on and then begrudgingly becomes friends with. Separately, she is friends with Maggie.
- Luba – hammer-wielding, sexually promiscuous, no-nonsense mayor of Palomar.
- Luba’s children: Maricela, Guadalupe, Doralis, Casimira, Socorro, Joselito, Concepcion
- Luba’s lovers: Archie, Khamo, Peter, Jose
- Ofelia – Luba’s cousin who helped raise her and her children.
- Heraclio and Carmen – a loving couple who served as central characters for many early Palomar stories.
- Israel, Satch, Vincete, Jesús – Heraclio and Pipo’s childhood gang of friends.
- Chelo – sheriff of Palomar, midwife who delivered many of the main characters
- Pipo, Gato, Sergio – Beautiful, vain Pipo; her angry but devoted husband Gato, and her son (by Manuel) Sergio. a world-famous soccer star.
- Tonantzín – Hard-partying Palomar girl who becomes passionately politically active.
- Manuel and Soledad – friends/rivals, stars of the first Palomar story “Heartbreak Soup”
- Fritz, Petra, Venus – Fritz and Petra are Luba’s long-lost half-sisters who share her voluptuous figure and penchant for adventure. Venus is Petra’s precocious, comics-loving daughter.
- María – Luba’s mother, who abandoned her when she was a toddler. Emigrated to United States and became mother to Fritz and Petra.
- Errata Stigmata – a somewhat surreal character, Errata is a small child who develops stigmata apparently as a reaction for severe emotional trauma. Her first appearance was in “Radio Zero” and her origin is told in “Tears from Heaven”.
This list provides an example of the types of stories that helped Love and Rockets gain critical acclaim.
- Mechanics – the original “Maggie the mechanic” story, in which Maggie travels to Africa with a group of mechanics and becomes caught in the middle of a political revolution. Introduced Jaime’s striking artwork and confident storytelling style.
- The Death of Speedy Ortiz- Jaime moves away from the “Maggie the mechanic” stories to permanently settle on adventures in Maggie’s personal life. Maggie’s longtime crush Speedy commits suicide. She also begins dating the understated artist Ray.
- Flies on the Ceiling – The story of Isabel Reuben’s nervous breakdown in Mexico, where she moves after having an abortion and a divorce.
- Wigwam Bam – Hopey leaves Maggie and her hometown of Hoppers to find adventures, dealing with being too old for her punk rock lifestyle.
- Home School – Using Peanuts and Dennis the Menace inspired artwork, Jaime tells the story of toddler Maggie and slightly-older Isabel becoming friends under the shadow of fighting parents.
- The Ghost of Hoppers – Grown-up Maggie, now a building supervisor in the San Fernando valley, sees visions of ghosts after a creepy visit from Isabel (from Love and Rockets Vol. 2).
- Heartbreak Soup – First Palomar story. Tells the story of notorious ladies’ man Manuel, and his affair with beautiful 14-year-old Pipo, and its effect on his friendship with repressed misanthrope Soledad.
- An American in Palomar – A self-important American photographer tries to frame Palomar as a downtrodden, poverty-stricken town to further his own career.
- For the Love of Carmen – A one-issue meditation on the marriage of Heraclio and Carmen Calderon, citizens of Palomar.
- Human Diastrophism – Palomar’s residents hunt for a serial killer as Luba finds herself helplessly in love with a young construction worker, and hard-partying Tonantzin becomes politically active. Published in book form under the title Blood of Palomar.
- Love and Rockets X – Mostly set outside of Palomar, a young, white garage band named Love and Rockets runs into racism between blacks and whites; as well as clashes between rich and poor through Los Angeles. Set near the time of the 1992 riots. Tangentally inspired by how the actual English band Love and Rockets got their name from this comics series.
- Poison River – An immensely complex story of Luba’s pre-Palomar life. Details a complex plot involving the Mexican government, the mob, transsexuals, racist comic books and Luba’s beauty queen mother Maria.
- The Love and Rockets page at Fantagraphics
- A chronology, character list, and many links to reviews and other fan pages
- A review of L&R at PopMatters
- Shelf Life is a Sequart column that often reviews early Love and Rockets books.
- A review of Gilbert’s L&R spinoff New Tales of Old Palomar #1 at The Daily Cross Hatch, from March 15, 2007
- Interview with Gilbert Hernandez at The Daily Cross Hatch, from April 02, 2007
- Interview with Gilbert Hernandez, Part 2 at The Daily Cross Hatch, from May 01, 2007
- Guest strip from Gilbert Hernandez (an unused page from L&R Vol 2, Issue 20) at The Daily Cross Hatch, from April 06, 2007
- Xicanosmosis A cultural studies essay examining the relationship between the work of Frida Kahlo and Gilbert Hernandez