Love and Rockets: New Stories volume 6


By The Hernandez Brothers (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-679-9

It’s nearly Christmas again so it must be year since the last annual instalment of Love and Rockets: New Stories. Yep, there it is and about time too…

With this volume the most iconic, transcendent and formative force of the American independent comics movement enters its 40th year of publication. Love and Rockets was an anthology magazine featuring the slick, intriguing, sci-fi-tinged hi-jinx of punky young things Maggie and Hopey – las Locas – and heart-warming, gut-wrenching soap-opera epics set in a rural Central American paradise called Palomar.

The Hernandez Boys (three guys from Oxnard, California: Jaime, Gilberto and Mario), gifted synthesists all, captivated the comics cognoscenti with incredible stories sampling and referencing a host of influences – everything from Comics, TV cartoons, masked wrestlers and the exotica of American Hispanic pop culture to German Expressionism.

There was also a perpetual backdrop displaying the holy trinity of youth: Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll – also alternative music, hip hop and punk.

The result was dynamite then and the guys have only got better with the passing years. Mario only officially contributed on rare occasions, but Jaime’s slick, enticing visual forays explored friendship and modern love by destroying stereotypes of feminine attraction through his fetching coterie of Gals Gone Wild, whilst Gilberto created a hyper-real landscape and playground of wit and passion created for his extended generational saga Heartbreak Soup: a quicksilver chimera of breadline Latin-American village life with a vibrant, funny and fantastically quotidian cast.

The shadows cast by Palomar still define and inform his latest tales both directly and as imaginative spurs for ostensibly unaffiliated stories.

This masterful anthology of wonders simultaneously runs a string of contiguous story strands, opening with Jaime’s evocative ‘Fuck Summer’ wherein young Tonta Agajanian is losing her battle with boredom. The older, cooler kids don’t want to hang with her or her charming associate Gomez, and for some reason Coach Rivera is chasing her all over town, cutting into her precious vacation time and pushing her to join the swim team…

With no other resort they head to the swimming hole where wild girl Gretchen keeps finding “presents” from a forest spirit.

Gilbert then offers ‘Song of Our Sad Girl’ as Doralis “Killer” Rivera apparently quits her cinema career before heading back to Palomar to visit her distanced family. With flashbacks inter-cutting to the grandmother she’s playing in her new movie Maria M, the story primarily focuses on the starlet’s latest crisis.

She’s fleeing rumours that she’s pregnant and just wants some peace and a normal life. At least that’s what she’s telling herself…

‘Wrench World’ (Jaime again) finds Tonta the recipient of some shocking news: her step-father has been shot and her far-from-normal mother is the prime suspect. Even her older brothers and sisters believe the old bitch did it…

Killer’s star shines in ‘Willow, Weep No More’ (by Beto) as her quest for understanding the family – and especially her grandmother – turns up an old tape of shocking content…

Jaime then begins a series of revelatory vignettes filling in detail and character on Tonta’s extended, unconventional family of half-siblings in ‘Crimen Uno’ before the surly girl and BFF Gomez stalk Coach Rivera to some quirkily engaging ‘Tarzana Adventures’.

Thereafter Tonta’s little sisters need some surly-styled comforting in ‘Urchins’ whilst ‘Crimen Dos’ covers the elders’ discussion of their mother’s other (alleged) victims.

Gilbert’s firm grasp of the Hollywood rumour mill is shown in ‘…Killer’s Dad – Grampa Hector?’ and ‘Killer in the Mix’ sees the busty phenomenon head back to the USA in time for the release of the Directors Cut of Maria M, garnering grief from her friends about keeping the (alleged) baby she may or may not be carrying…

‘Crimen Tres’ continues with Tonta’s family simultaneously reminiscing and planning to get rid of their embarrassing surviving parent, whilst in ‘Pack Mules’ our girl and Gomez steal a car and head off to finally uncover Coach’s big secret…

It’s a doozy – seen in ‘Crestfallen Angel’ – but does break the ice, and, after ‘Crimen Cuatro’, Tonta at last begins to change her opinions…

An incongruous and lewdly fantastic untitled monster yarn from Gilberto segues into Jaime’s ‘Familylimaf’ wherein Tonta’s older sisters invade gym class and expose an unsuspected – an immensely humiliating – connection to Rivera after which ‘Crimen Cinco’ delivers one more shock to the girl and her constantly expanding family, before a reconciliation of sorts materialises in ‘Dogs Follow Dogs’

There are further familial secrets disclosed and generational ties uncovered for Killer in ‘Willow, Weep No More 2’ and ‘Willow, Weep No More 3’ after which Jaime hits the home stretch with ‘Crimen Seis’ – wherein the progeny get a good telling off – and Tonta gives in and joins the swimming squad in ‘Go! Go! Go!’ before ‘Crimen Final’ resolves the courtroom dilemma.

Gilbert ends his stint with a ghostly visitation in ‘And Palomar Again’ and Jaime takes us back to the beginning as Tonta heads back, back, back  to the swimming hole for more telling glimpses of her compelling family life in ‘Rrrregresamos’

Warm-hearted, deceptively heart-wrenching, subtly shocking, challenging, charming and irresistibly addictive, Love and Rockets: New Stories is a grown up comics fan’s dream come true and remains as valid and groundbreaking as its earlier incarnations – the diamond point of the cutting edge of American graphic narrative.
© 2013 Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez. This edition © 2013 Fantagraphics Books. All rights reserved.

Maria M. Book One


By Gilbert Hernandez (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-719-2

In addition to being part of the graphic/literary revolution of Love and Rockets (where his astonishingly addictive tales of rural Palomar first garnered overwhelming critical acclaim), Gilbert Hernandez has produced stand-alone books such as Sloth, Birdland, Grip and Girl Crazy, all marked by his bold, compellingly simplified artwork and inspired adaptation of literary techniques used by Magical Realist writers such as Carlos Fuentes and Gabriel García Márquez: techniques which he has amplified and, visually at least, made his own.

Hernandez also frequently acknowledges such outré mainstream influences as filmmakers Roger Corman and John Cassavetes, and crime writers Elmore Leonard and Jim Thompson as he entered new territories and reforms the cultural influences which shaped all us baby-boomers.

In Luba we glimpsed the troubled life of the lead character’s half-sister Rosalba “Fritzi” Martinez: a brilliant, troubled woman, speech-impaired psychotherapist, sex-worker, belly-dancer and “B-movie” starlet of such faux screen gems as We Love Alone, Seven Bullets to Hell, Chest Fever, Blood is the Drug and Lie Down in the Dark.

Although Fritzi only had a bit part in it, Hernandez “adapted” one of those trashy movies into a graphic novel (Chance in Hell, 2007) and repeated the story-within-a-story- within-a-story gimmick in 2009 with The Troublemakers – a frantic, hell-bent pulp fiction crime thriller which was part of the screen queen’s canon – and did it again in 2011 with Love From the Shadows.

Now he’s turned up the tension and doubled down on the plundering of his own mythologies. Maria M delves even deeper into the labyrinthine coils and onion-skin layers of meta-reality as the filmic biography of Fritzi’s long-absconded grandmother becomes a revelatory expose of the turbulent life of a beautiful, competent immigrant fugitive; carving out her own slice of the American Dream after escaping the rustic drudgery of Palomar.

Deftly mimicking a compelling-but-trashy post-Noir gangster thriller and sordid Fifties B-Picture melodrama, this first volume of Maria M sees a lovely Amazonian Latin beauty hit Everytown, USA in 1957, promptly befriended and taken in by couple of sympathetic working girls…

It’s all a huge mistake. Maria is actually the girlfriend of a mobster who has expedited her passage into the country. Unfortunately, by the time the mix-up is sorted and she finds his place, the poor guy is staring down the barrel of a rival’s gun.

Witness to murder and with no other place to go, the pneumatic stranger heads back to Trixie and Pam and begins her career in the men’s entertainment industry: “hostessing”, photo-shoots and – inevitably for someone with her looks – stag films…

Every attempt to go legit is frustrated by lustful men wanting her, and inevitably she settles for her new life. She still sees people from the Old Country, but they’re usually gangsters, hoodlums or worse…

She makes some friends along the way: other girls in the shady world of men’s movies, film critic Clyde and even bought cop Valdez, but her life only really turns around when she catches the eye of gang boss Luis Cienfuegos. The older man is so smitten with his sex kitten that he marries her…

His sons – both older than Maria – are dutiful and pay her every respect, but whereas taciturn, brutal Gorgo is clearly fascinated with his new stepmother, slick, businesslike, modern Herman makes no effort to conceal his distaste.

It’s a time of great turmoil for the Latino gangs in the USA. Tenuous alliances and collaborations are commonplace, but the assorted leaders have very different views on the rise of Communism in their homelands: beliefs which will inevitably lead to disagreements and bloodshed. And of course everybody plans on eventually being the only game in town…

Maria keeps herself insulated from her husband’s business, but does develop a passionate affinity for guns. It’s just as well. Over the next few years Luis barely survives numerous assassination attempts.

…And always silent, staring Gorgo waits in the background, watching her as his father’s employees, allies and enemies circle, drawn to her voluptuous beauty like moths to a flame…

In such a murky, dangerous world it’s impossible for Maria to keep completely apart from her husband’s affairs and when she is abducted by supposed allies Gorgo allows his true feelings to show in a savagely horrific manner, after which she divorces her man for the best possible motives…

Dark, evocative and astoundingly compelling, this perfect pastiche of a beloved genre and fabled time-period is a stunning graphic rollercoaster ride of sex, violence, greed, obsession and outlaw antiheroes: a mesmerising read jam-packed with Hernandez’s coolly understated narrative suspense, intoxicating illustration, brutally raw tension and sly elements of filmic surrealism which carry the reader through to the low-key cliffhanger ending in classic style.

And please, don’t get too het up over the convolutions and continuity provenances that resulted in this book. If you need to see the “True Story” of Maria, just check out the story ‘Poison River’ in the Heartbreak Soup collection Beyond Palomar, but otherwise why not just revel in a grim and gripping, saga of love and hope and inescapable doom…

Every adult lover of top-notch drama should snap up Maria M immediately to revel in the sheer brilliance of a master storyteller at the peak of his prowess, and open-minded comics fans should be advised to step beyond the costumes and chains of continuity to take a heady shot of pure imagination at work.
© 2013 Gilbert Hernandez. This edition © 2013 Fantagraphics Books, Inc. All rights reserved.

Love and Rockets: the Covers


By Gilbert, Jaime & Mario Hernandez (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-598-3

In the 1980s a qualitative revolution forever destroyed the tired moribund, stereotypical and ghettoised ways different genres of comic strips were produced and marketed. The iconic force most evidently shattering those comfy pigeonholes we’d built for ourselves were three guys from Oxnard, California; Jaime, Mario and Gilberto Hernandez.

Love and Rockets was an anthology magazine originally self-published in 1981which featuring intriguing, adventuresome larks and wildly different comic narratives that pretty much defied classification, all wrapped up in the sheen and ephemera of LA’s Hispanic and punk music scenes.

Stories varied from slick, sci-fi-soused hi-jinx starring punky young gadabouts and their extended eccentric circle of friends – or the heart-warming, terrifying, gut-wrenching soap-opera fantasies from the rural Central American paradise of Palomar.

Jaime Hernandez was always the most noticeable part of the graphic literary revolution: his sleek, seductive, clean black line and beautiful composition, impeccably rendered heroes and villains and the comfortingly recognisable – though thoroughly “roofied” comic book iconography – particularly appealing to readers raised on traditional Marvel and DC fare.

However his love of that material, as well as the influence of Archie Comics cartoonists (especially Sam Schwartz, Harry Lucey and Dan De Carlo), accomplished and enticing as it is, often distracted from the power of his writing, especially in his extended epics featuring of Maggie Chascarillo and Hopey Glass – AKA Maggie & Hopey, Las Locas, something never true of Gilbert, whose simplified cartooning and subtle, reined-in graphics never overwhelmed the sheer magnetic compulsion of his scripts…

The Hernandez Boys, gifted synthesists all, enthralled and enchanted with incredible stories that sampled a thousand influences conceptual and actual – everything from Comics, TV cartoons, masked wrestlers, the exotica of American Hispanic pop culture and even German Expressionism. There was also a perpetual backdrop displaying the holy trinity of youth: Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll…

The result was dynamite. Mario only officially contributed on rare occasions but his galvanising energy informed everything – and his covers here display a fondness for those battered genres both tantalising and darkly skewed…

Jaime’s sleek, enticing visual forays explored friendship and modern love whilst destroying stereotypes of feminine attraction through his fetching coterie of Gals Gone Wild, and Gilberto created a hyper-real rural landscape macrocosm in Palomar: a playground of wit and passion and human imperfection in the quicksilver form of a poor Latin-American village with a vibrant, funny and fantastically quotidian cast created for his extended saga Heartbreak Soup.

Life, death, poverty, adultery, murder, boredom, magic, weird science and gossip shaped Palomar’s metafictional environs, as the artist mined his own post-punk influences in his deceptively addictive primitivist drawing style which blended his personal mythologies of comics, music, drugs, strong women, gangs, sex and family.

The denizens and survivors of Palomar still inform and shape Beto’s work, both directly and as imaginative spurs for spin-off stories.

Winning critical acclaim but little financial success, the brothers temporarily went their own ways in the mid-1990s, creating side projects and special series before creatively reuniting a few years back to produce annual collections of new material in their shared or, rather, intermittently adjacent pen-and-ink universes.

In more than three decades of groundbreaking creative endeavour, Los Bros Hernandez crafted a vast and magnificent canon of cartoon brilliance and literary enchantment and this truly spectacular art book presents all the eye-popping front and back covers from 1982-1996: fifty incredible issues which graced and lit up comic shop shelves, always looking nothing like any publication produced at the time.

This huge hardback (338x262mm) comes with a cool cover-cel overlay and re-presents each glorious, intriguing and occasionally controversial image, restored, re-mastered and de-cluttered to remove all extraneous, obfuscating text – such as barcodes and pricing information.

Moreover, also included are many pages of original pencils and inks, correction stages, production ephemera from each part of the art-to-finished-cover process, plus an extensive commentary section where Los Bros share their thoughts and intimate moments of “creators’ remorse”.

As well as the captivating magazine iterations by the guys as they mastered their craft, this astounding collection also includes 28 pages of covers from the numerous collected editions which propelled the mature creators to global comics stardom and contributed so much to the growth of today’s graphic novel market.

Mesmerising, breathtaking graphic wonderment and enticing pop art masterpieces; these incredible concoctions capture the spirit of subversive, intoxicating youthful vitality which changed the comic industry forever and comprise a truly essential catalogue of artistic excellence no lover of narrative art should miss.

© 2013 Gilbert, Jaime and Mario Hernandez. All rights reserved.
Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Pretty, powerful, perfect picture magic… 10/10

The Children of Palomar


By Gilbert Hernandez (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 976-1-60699-625-6

In the 1980s a qualitative revolution forever destroyed the clichéd, segregated, stereotypical ways genres of comic strips were produced and marketed. Most effective in blasting the comfy funnybook pigeonholes were three young guys from Oxnard, California: Jaime, Mario and Gilberto Hernandez.

Love and Rockets was an anthology magazine (and previously a self-published comic in 1981) that broke all the rules, featuring intriguing, adventuresome larks and captivating, experimental narratives which pretty much defied classification, all cloaked in the ephemera of LA’s Hispanic and punk music scene.

Stories generally focussed on the slick, sci-fi-seasoned larks of young gadabouts Maggie, Hopey and their extended eccentric circle of friends or the heart-warming, terrifying, gut-wrenching soap-opera travails of rural Central American outpost Palomar.

The Hernandez Boys, gifted synthesists all, enthralled and enchanted with incredible stories that sampled a thousand influences conceptual and actual – everything from comics, cartoon shows, masked wrestlers, trashy movies and American Hispanic pop culture to German Expressionism. There was also a perpetual backdrop displaying the holy trinity of youth: Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll – for which please hear mostly alternative music and punk rock.

The result was dynamite. Mario only officially contributed on rare occasions but his galvanising energy informed everything. The slick and enticing visual forays by Jaime explored friendship and modern love whilst destroying stereotypes of feminine attraction through his fetching coterie of Gals Gone Wild, whilst Gilberto mostly crafted a hyper-real microcosm in his Latinate landscape: a playground of wit, toil, passion and raw humanity in a poor village with a vibrant, funny and fantastically quotidian cast created for his extended epic Heartbreak Soup.

Everything from life, death, adultery, magic, monsters, murder and especially gossip could happen in Palomar’s metafictional environs, as the artist mined his own post-punk influences in a deceptively effective primitivist art style which perfectly blended a personalised mythology of comics, music, intoxicants, strong women, gangs, sex and family. The denizens of Palomar still inform and shape Beto’s work, both directly and as imaginative spurs for spin-off stories.

Winning critical acclaim but little financial success, the brothers temporarily put aside their favourite toys to work on side projects and special series before creatively reuniting a few years back to produce annual collections of new material in their particularly peculiar shared or, rather, intermittently adjacent pen-and-ink universes.

In 2006, more than a decade after the canonical Heartbreak Soup stories, Beto popped back to his leafy arcadia via a three-magazine run entitled New Tales of Old Palomar, producing a too-brief selection of elucidating tales drenched in revelation and imagination which revealed a few answers to questions we never knew we had…

In the opening act of ‘The Children of Palomar’ the denizens of the little town are going about their daily business with a little less than usual calm since a couple of abandoned wild kids have been stealing food from everyone, everywhere. The naked little nippers are incredibly fleet-footed and not even Sheriff Chelo can catch them.

Her immediate problems are solved once sporty soccer-playing Pipo decides to prove who is truly the fastest runner in town, but unfortunately, once feral foundlings Tonantzin and Diana Villaseñor have been taken in, the village has to civilise and find homes for them…

The men meanwhile have devised a scheme to make Palomar a little export money. They mean well but when the mayor and his pals decide to blow up a boulder just as the stray kids take off, it takes all Pipo’s acceleration to prevent a horrific tragedy…

Another time little boys were on the other side of “The Crack” hazing young Gato before letting him join their black shirt gang. When they got bored and left, Pintor tried to help the traumatised candidate get home but the log across the giant gorge had vanished.

Stuck and terrified they were then abducted by strangers in space suits who experimented on them. The strangers spoke a strange language but another Palomar boy named Manuel was there and he said that soon they would be made to forget everything…

The villagers meanwhile had noticed them gone and Sheriff Chelo led a search party to the gap, but when their makeshift bridge sundered, only she managed to get across. By the time she found the kids their captors were arguing and the violence only escalated when she intervened…

The entire outpost then vanished in an explosion but at least she got the boys back…

Of course, Chelo had no idea that one of the ghostly White Strangers was still alive and intensely interested…

Palomar is surrounded by huge, ancient statues and the people all know they live in a world of magic. When babosa-selling Tonantzin began seeing a ghostly chuckling “Blooter Baby”, a wise woman explained that they only appeared to girls and women who would be childless, before telling her how to get rid of it.

Instead, she and the spectre reach an accommodation and the girl learns she is not alone before gaining a mission for life…

Our picaresque peregrinations conclude some time later when diminutive Carmen thinks she feels an Earth tremor no one else noticed. She considers asking the peculiar white scientists doing their weird bird research at the edge of town but doesn’t know their language.

Everybody goes about their day until the strangers kidnap Chelo and the horrified sheriff recognises one of the “aliens” from across the gorge all those years ago. Although formidable, she succumbs to superior force and wakes up maimed but back in bed in Palomar.

Not normally an unforgiving woman, Chelo goes looking for her tormentors as soon as she’s able… and finds them…

There’s fiction, there’s Meta-fiction and then there’s Gilbert Hernandez. In addition to Love and Rockets’ captivating tales of Palomar he has produced numerous controversial and groundbreaking volumes such as Sloth, Grip, Birdland, Girl Crazy and Julio’s Day: all distinguished by his bold, instinctive, compellingly simplified artwork and a mature, sensitive adoption of the literary techniques of Magical Realist writers like Carlos Fuentes and Gabriel García Márquez.

These techniques he has sublimely amplified and, visually at least, made utterly his own. This beguiling return to his landmark, signature series has been long overdue for a deluxe edition such as this splendid hardback, and such is the quality of the accessible writing and intoxicating art that first-timers will have no trouble slipping south of the border to join the veterans and devotees in a marvellous Latin mystery and adventure…
© 2013 Gilbert Hernandez. This edition © 2013 Fantagraphics Books, Inc. All rights reserved.

The Love and Rockets Companion – 30 Years and Counting


Edited by Marc Sobel & Kristy Valenti (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-579-2

In the 1980s a qualitative revolution forever destroyed the clichéd, stereotypical ways different genres of comic strips were produced and marketed. Most prominent in destroying the comfy pigeonholes we’d built for ourselves were three guys from Oxnard, California; Jaime, Mario (occasionally) and Gilberto Hernandez.

Love and Rockets was an anthology magazine (which first appeared as a self-published comic in 1981) featuring intriguing, adventuresome larks and bold experimental comic narratives that pretty much defied classification, all wrapped up in the ephemera of the LA Hispanic and punk music scene.

Most stories focussed on either the slick, sci-fi-soused hi-jinx of punky young gadabouts Maggie and Hopey (and their extended eccentric circle of friends) or the heart-warming, terrifying, gut-wrenching soap-opera fantasies from the rural Central American paradise of Palomar.

Jaime Hernandez was always the most visible part of the graphic and literary revolution: his sleek, seductive, clean black line and beautiful composition – not to mention impeccably rendered heroes and villains and the comfortingly recognisable comic book iconography – being particularly welcomed by readers weaned on traditional Marvel and DC superheroes.

However his love of that material, as well as the influence of Archie Comics cartoonists (I often see shades of the great Sam Schwartz and Harry Lucey in his drawing and staging), accomplished and enticing as it is, often distracted from the power of his writing, especially in his extended saga of Maggie Chascarillo and Hopey GlassLas Locas, something never true of Gilbert, whose cartoony, reined-in graphics never overwhelmed the sheer magnetic power of his writing…

The Hernandez Boys, gifted synthesists all, enthralled and enchanted with incredible stories that sampled a thousand influences conceptual and actual – everything from Comics, TV cartoons, masked wrestlers and the exotica of American Hispanic pop culture to German Expressionism. There was also a perpetual backdrop displaying the holy trinity of youth: Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll – for which please hear mostly alternative music and punk rock.

The result was dynamite. Mario only officially contributed on rare occasions but his galvanising energy informed everything. The slick and enticing visual forays by Jaime explored friendship and modern love whilst destroying stereotypes of feminine attraction through his fetching coterie of Gals Gone Wild, and Gilberto created a hyper-real microcosm in the rural landscape of Palomar: a playground of wit and passion in the quicksilver form of a poor Latin-American village with a vibrant, funny and fantastically quotidian cast created for his extended serial Heartbreak Soup.

Everything from life, death, adultery, magic, serial killing and especially gossip could happen in Palomar’s metafictional environs, as the artist mined his own post-punk influences in a deceptively effective primitivist art style which blended the highly personal mythologies of comics, music, drugs, strong women, gangs, sex and family.

The denizens of Palomar still inform and shape Beto’s work, both directly and as imaginative spurs for spin-off stories.

Winning critical acclaim but little financial success, the brothers temporarily went their own ways, working on side projects and special series before creatively reuniting a few years back to produce annual collections of new material in their particularly peculiar shared or, rather, intermittently adjacent pen-and-ink universes.

In more than three decades of groundbreaking creative endeavour, Los Bros Hernandez have crafted a vast and magnificent canon of cartoon brilliance and literary wonder and this long-overdue companion volume collects rarely seen conversations with the boys as well as two new interviews and also offers a host of truly essential lists and features no serious student of Love and Rockets lore can afford to miss.

Heavily illustrated throughout with candid photos, seen, unseen and unpublished art from the artists and excerpted examples by the many assorted creators who inspired them – everybody from Jack Kirby monsters to Jesse Marsh’s Tarzan to Warren Kremer and Ernie Colon’s Hot Stuff, the Little Devil – this invaluable volume commences with Interviews

The first is from The Comics Journal #126 (January 1989), conducted by publisher Gary Groth and covering ‘Origins’, ‘Early Affection’, ‘Mostly Music’ (with a Love & Lists  album discography) and a solo section on both Jaime and Gilbert.

The Comics Journal #178 (July 1995) saw Los Bros chatting candidly with Neil Gaiman on personal work and the state of the Comics biz.

Completists will be delighted to know that although both these features have been edited for relevance the entire, unexpurgated interviews can be found online if you are of an historical bent.

Marc Sobel conducted a new interview with Los Bros especially for this volume, discussing ‘30 years and Counting’, ‘Family’, ‘Bent Worlds’, a list of the story within a story of ‘Rosalba Fritz Martinez’ B-Movie Roles’, ‘The Naked Cosmos’, ‘Influences’, ‘Post-Comics Depression’, ‘The Indy-Comics Ghetto’, ‘Preconceived Notions’, ‘Anthologies’, ‘The Future of Comics’ and more.

The editor also spoke at length with Gary Groth on why and how he took a chance on three unproved kids and the effect the series has had on the global comics scene, encompassing, ‘Back to the Beginning’, how ‘Four-Color Separations’ worked, ‘Breaking into Bookstores’, ‘Foreign Affairs’ and so many more dark secrets…

Fascinating as the background insights are, the true worth of this huge tome (368 pages and 195x240mm) is the fan-friendly such as the 20-page Timelines listing all the stories, descriptions and references for both Locas and Palomar continuities, and the immense (73 page) Character Guides for each ongoing epic – originally compiled by Chris Staros in his fanzine The Staros Report and completely updated for this book.

Love and Rockets took the comics community by storm when it debuted and although the magazine only infrequently published letters of comment, when they did the missives were usually outrageous and often from impressive and familiar names. In the Letter Column Highlights section the likes of Steve Leialoha, Scott Hampton, Steve Rude, Mark Wheatley, Christie Marx, Kurt Busiek, Evan Dorkin, Andi Watson and many others famed and infamous passed comment and made waves. This is followed by an illuminating group of Bros.’ Favorite Comics which is both revelatory and charming.

Invaluable to all devotees and prospective beginners alike, the Checklist catalogues every story and piece of artwork by the brothers in all iterations of Love and Rockets as well as all the specials, miniseries, side-projects and even outside commissions ranging as far afield as GI Joe to DC Who’s Who, and the whole glorious compilation is capped off with a vast fold out dust-jacket featuring the Locas/Luba Family Charts.

A genuine phenomenon and classic of comics entertainment, Love and Rockets should be compulsory reading for any friend of the art form. This Companion tome will make navigating the huge interconnected Hernandez universe simplicity itself and I thoroughly commend it to your house…
© 2013 Fantagraphics Books, Inc. Love and Rockets © 2013 Gilbert Hernandez and Jaime Hernandez. All images, articles and stories © their respective copyright holders.

Julio’s Day


By Gilbert Hernandez (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-606-5

In the 1980s a qualitative revolution forever destroyed the clichéd, stereotypical ways different genres of comic strips were produced and marketed. Most prominent in destroying the comfy pigeonholes we’d built for ourselves were three guys from Oxnard, California; Jaime, Mario (occasionally) and Gilberto Hernandez.

Love and Rockets was an anthology magazine featuring slick, intriguing, sci-fi tinted hi-jinx of punky young things Maggie & Hopey – the outrageously beguiling las Locas – as well as heart-warming, terrifying, gut-wrenching soap-opera fantasies from the rural Central American paradise of Palomar.

Supreme synthesists, Los Bros Hernandez Boys enthralled and enchanted with incredible stories that sampled a thousand influences, conceptual and actual; everything from Comics, TV cartoons, masked wrestlers and the emergent exotica of American Hispanic pop culture to iconic German Expressionism. There was also a perpetual backdrop displaying the holy trinity of the young: Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll – for which please hear alternative music and punk rock.

The result was dynamite. Mario only officially contributed on rare occasions, but Jaime’s slick, enticing visual feasts explored friendship and modern love whilst destroying stereotypes of feminine attraction through his fetching coterie of Gals Gone Wild, whilst “Beto” exhaustively crafted a hyper-authentic rural landscape and playground of wit and passion created for his extended generational saga Heartbreak Soup: a quicksilver chimera of breadline Latin-American village life with a vibrant, funny and fantastically quotidian cast.

Everything from life, death, adultery, magic, serial killing and especially gossip could happen in Palomar’s meta-fictional environs, as the artist mined his own post-punk influences through a powerfully effective primitivist style which blended the stylised mythologies and iconographies of comics, music, recreational drugs, gangs, sex, forceful, capable, dominating women and the inescapable bonds of family using a narrative format which is at the graphic vanguard of Magical Realism.

There’s fiction, there’s Meta-fiction and then there’s Gilbert Hernandez. In addition to his astonishingly captivating Palomar tales he has authored stand-alone books such as Sloth, Grip, Birdland and Girl Crazy, all marked by his boldly compelling, disingenuous artwork and a mature, sensitive adoption of literary techniques by writers like Carlos Fuentes and Gabriel García Márquez: techniques which he has amplified and, visually at least, made his own.

He then went on to examine filmic and literary influences such as Roger Corman, John Cassavetes, Elmore Leonard and Jim Thompson as he broke new ground and reprocessed the cultural influences that shaped all us baby-boomers, with “adaptations” of the trashy B-Movies which featured as perennial plot “maguffins” in his stories and affected his cast of characters. Those became a little more actual in his “adaptations” of thrillers like Chance in Hell, The Troublemakers and Love from the Shadows

Always winning critical acclaim but seldom financial reward, the brothers eventually went their own ways, but a few years ago creatively reunited to produce annual collections of new material in their particularly peculiar shared or, rather, adjacent pen-and-ink universes and this rapturously beguiling pictorial elegy began in Love and Rockets volume II, #1 but remained unfinished until completed in this stark evocative monochrome hardback.

Here Gilbert foregoes many of the signature elements he invented and the chaotically frenetic youth-fuelled backdrop he’s famous for to patiently detail the moving life-story of an ordinary man… and, of course, once you start looking you realise there’s really no such thing as ordinary…

It’s about families and friends, the secrets we must keep and how, even though the World changes, sometimes we just can’t…

I’d be doing you and the author a huge disservice by going into too much detail, but suffice to say that somewhere in Southern California a baby is born in 1900. From the start Julio is nourished and cherished by a loving family – all except his uncle Juan, whom only the infant’s older sister Sofia realised should be kept well away from all children at all costs…

Over 100 pages, until his passing in 2000, Julio grows up with friends Tommy and Araceli, dimly aware of yet barely affected by humanity’s great crises, although the fierce uncompromising nature of the times and the elements and environment shape the people of the village just as powerfully as any global war or Stock Market crash.

One tragic slip in a mere mudslide would come to affect the family for three tragic generations…

Moreover even in such placid outreaches, bullying, cruelty, bigotry and intolerance exist in abundance to mould young hearts and minds…

As he grows to maturity, Julio loses family, makes new friends and comes to realises he has a secret he cannot share with anyone: one that, despite the way the times change society before his eyes, he just cannot admit…

Dedicated to the proposition that big history happens somewhere else but its effects touch us all, this warm-hearted, deceptively heart-wrenching, challenging, and incontrovertibly groundbreaking epic is a grown-up comics fan’s dream come true and proves how far the medium has progressed.

From traditional world saving, anodyne fist-fights, fanciful fantasies and children’s escapism to the likes of Maus, One Bad Rat, Palestine, Persepolis, Pride of Baghdad Sailor Twain and so many more, comics have been continually evolving until they not only produce material equal to other art forms, but with Julio’s Day – the diamond point of the cutting edge of graphic narrative – at last arrive at masterpieces which can only be truly told as graphic narratives

…As you will surely see…

© 2013 Gilbert Hernandez. This edition © 2013 Fantagraphics Books, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Love and Rockets: New Stories volume 4


By The Hernandez Brothers (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-490-0

A year goes by like twelve long months when you’re waiting for a really special treat, but if that deferred object of desire is the next annual instalment of Love and Rockets: New Stories then the wait is always worth it.

One of the transcendent, formative forces of the 1980s comics revolution, Love and Rockets was an anthology magazine featuring the slick, intriguing, sci-fi tinged hi-jinx of punky young things Maggie and Hopey – las Locas – and heart-warming, gut-wrenching soap-opera epics set in a rural Central American paradise called Palomar.

The Hernandez Boys (three guys from Oxnard, California: Jaime, Gilberto and Mario), gifted synthesists all, enthralled and enchanted with incredible stories sampling and referencing a thousand influences – everything from Comics, TV cartoons, masked wrestlers and the exotica of American Hispanic pop culture to German Expressionism.

There was also a perpetual backdrop displaying the holy trinity of youth: Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll – for which last please also include alternative music, hip hop and punk.

The result was dynamite. Mario only officially contributed on rare occasions, but Jaime’s slick, enticing visual forays explored friendship and modern love by destroying stereotypes of feminine attraction through his fetching coterie of Gals Gone Wild, whilst Gilberto created a hyper-real landscape and playground of wit and passion created for his extended generational saga Heartbreak Soup: a quicksilver chimera of breadline Latin-American village life with a vibrant, funny and fantastically quotidian cast.

The denizens of Palomar still inform and shape his latest tales both directly and as imaginative spurs for ostensibly unaffiliated stories.

Everything from life, death, adultery, magic, serial killing and especially gossip could happen in Palomar’s meta-fictional environs, as the artist mined his own post-punk influences via a devastatingly effective primitivist style which blended the highly personal mythologies of comics, music, drugs, powerful women, gangs, sex and family using a narrative format which is the graphic equivalent of Magical Realism.

Winning critical acclaim but scant financial reward the brothers eventually went their own ways but a few years ago creatively reunited to produce these annual collections of new material in their particularly peculiar shared or, rather, intermittently adjacent pen-and-ink universes.

This fourth volume commences with the third chapter of Jaime’s compelling “those were the days” graphic revival of las Locas, aptly designated ‘The Love Bunglers’; further following the tribulations of middle-aged Maggie Chascarrillo, still looking for her life’s path and true love; still an uncomprehending, unsuspecting object of desire to the men – and some of the women – who flock around her.

Here the repercussions of the shocking return of her disturbed and long missing brother has shaken her world and looks likely to escalate into inescapable tragedy…

Gilbert again plunders the movie career of captivating, complex aging B-movie queen Fritz (See High Soft Lisp, The Troublemakers and Love from the Shadows) and her teen-tyro niece Dora “Killer” Rivera – granddaughter of Palomar’s formidable Matriarch Luba and another pneumatic, no-nonsense, take-charge character determined to do everything her way and own all her own mistakes – for the trendy, torrid and trashy ‘King Vampire’: a beguiling contemporary fang-banger romance wherein a troubled teen and her geeky boy-pal are spurned by the local Goth gang but not the two true bloodsuckers who have just flapped into town…

‘The Love Bunglers part 4’ cleanses the pictorial palate nicely as Maggie continues to stumble from misapprehension to miscue, after which Jaime offers another glimpse into her formative years with ‘Return To Me’, a stunning prequel to the previous volume’s astonishing, revelatory ‘Browntown’…

Gilbert then steps away from filmic conceit to examine the actress Fritz in the seductively mesmeric and innocuously shocking ‘And Then Reality Kicks In’ as the dowager starlet frankly discusses her drinking problem and stalled career with a friend before Jaime memorably closes out this year’s model with the poignant, trenchant and amazingly upbeat conclusion to ‘The Love Bunglers’

Warm-hearted, deceptively heart-wrenching, challenging, charming and irresistibly addictive, Love and Rockets: New Stories is a grown up comics fan’s dream come true and remains as valid and groundbreaking as its earlier incarnations – the diamond point of the cutting edge of American graphic narrative.

© 2011 Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez. This edition © 2011 Fantagraphics Books. All Rights Reserved.

Love From the Shadows


By Gilbert Hernandez (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-406-1
There’s fiction, there’s Meta-fiction and then there is Gilbert Hernandez. In addition to being part of the graphic and literary revolution of Love and Rockets (where his astonishingly accessible and captivating tales of rural Palomar first garnered overwhelming critical acclaim) he has produced stand-alone books such as Sloth, Grip, Birdland and Girl Crazy, all marked by his bold, instinctive, compellingly simplified artwork and a mature, sensitive adoption of the literary techniques of Magical Realist writers like Carlos Fuentes and Gabriel García Márquez: techniques which he has amplified and, visually at least, made his own.

Then he acknowledged such influences as Roger Corman, John Cassavetes, Elmore Leonard and Jim Thompson as he broke new ground and reprocessed the cultural influences that shaped all us baby-boomers.

In Luba we glimpsed the troubled life of the lead character’s half-sister Rosalba “Fritz” Martinez: a brilliant, troubled woman, speech-impaired psychotherapist, sex-worker, belly-dancer and “B-movie” starlet of such faux screen gems as We Love Alone, Seven Bullets to Hell, Chest Fever, Blood is the Drug and Lie Down in the Dark.

Fritzi has an irresistible or incredibly annoying lisp and unfeasibly large breasts.

In 2007 Hernandez “adapted” one of those trashy movies as the graphic novel Chance in Hell – although Fritzi only had a bit part in it – and repeated the story-within-a-story- within-a-story trick in 2009 with The Troublemakers – a frantic, hell-bent pulp fiction crime thriller.

Now he returns to his eccentric sideline to translate the wildly experimental independent/exploitation/sexploitation tale Love From the Shadows into a stunning graphic rollercoaster ride of broken families, counter-culture angst, embezzlement, greed madness, obsession, charlatanry, psychics and mysterious aliens in possibly the greatest tribute to scurrilous lowbrow movie maestro Russ Meyer ever seen…

“Playing” three different roles in this dubious epic, Fritzi is mostly Dolores, the estranged and distractedly promiscuous daughter of a successful author.  In a world much like ours she meanders her solitary way, only occasionally impeded by the ubiquitous, mysterious Monitors who perpetually pester normal citizens with their oddly intrusive and brusque personal questions…

With her equally neglected and emotionally abused gay brother Sonny, she visits the old reprobate, daydreaming of either a heartfelt reconciliation or bloody patricide, but the stay is filled with the usual mind-games and confrontations.

When they all visit the beach the old man wanders into a cave and is lost. When he is eventually found daddy dearest’s razor-like mind is utterly shattered…

Since he is clearly a far better and more friendly father whilst deranged, the siblings move in to the palatial home to look after him, but one day after a swim Dolores is inexplicably drawn away to the city where she joins a trio of conmen scamming old men and widowers. Wistful, dreamy, always looking for love, she becomes their stooge, playing dead wives and ghostly daughters till her sexually charged presence splits the gang with fatal consequences…

Meanwhile, her own father has died and Sonny is horrified to discover that the entire multi-million dollar estate has been left to his vanished sister. Hurt, outcast and permanently ostracized, Sonny uses his own small bequest to pay for sex-change surgery and becomes “Dolores”, beginning an oddly gratifying affair with a psychic named Anton who seemingly discerned all his/her secrets with one telling glance.

Impossible, surreal tragedy strikes when against all logic Sonny’s body repairs all the surgeries and rejects the hormone treatments, reverting to full masculinity, just as the real Dolores returns…

Missing his beloved Sonny, Anton meets Dolores and takes her to the Cavern where her father died. He convinces her to replace Sonny just as her brother had impersonated her…

Now rich and contented, Dolores is drawn into a world of cults, continuing her lifetime obsession with a certain type of man, but the liaison inevitably leads to heartbreak and bloody death… and always the evocative imagery and subtly dangerous attraction of The Cave impinges and threatens…

As the Monitors inexplicably vanish from the streets, Dolores dyes her hair and hopes she’s finally free, but she’s only heading into the shadows of that ever-calling cavern…

Beguiling and absolutely mesmerising, this perfect pastiche of the genre is stuffed with Hernandez’s raw sexuality, trippy, mind-warping tension and sly elements of filmic surrealism which carry the reader through the deliberately obfuscative, intentionally challenging narrative, whilst his superbly primitivist cartooning seduces the eye as much as his glandular heroine ever could. These books are truly movies so bad and different they ought to be made…

Every adult who loved Up!, Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens or Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! should snap this up immediately and revel in the graphic insanity, and open-minded comics fans should take a look beyond the costumes and chains of continuity to take a true walk on the Wild Side.

© 2011 Gilbert Hernandez. All rights reserved.

Love and Rockets: New Stories volume 3


By The Hernandez Brothers (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-379-8

A year goes by like 365 days when you’re waiting for something really special and very often the anticipation is far headier than the eventual pay-off. Mercifully in the case of Love and Rockets: New Stories such in not the case, as the third annual volume proves to be the best yet, combining eccentric drama, bright fantasy, captivating whimsy and appalling human frailty into a package of stunning graphic intensity.

In the 1980s a qualitative revolution forever destroyed the clichéd, stereotypical ways different genres of comic strips were produced and marketed. Most prominent in destroying the comfy pigeonholes we’d built for ourselves were three guys from Oxnard, California; Jaime, Mario (occasionally) and Gilberto Hernandez.

Love and Rockets was an anthology magazine featuring slick, intriguing, sci-fi tinted hi-jinx of punky young things Maggie and Hopey – las Locas – and heart-warming, terrifying, gut-wrenching soap-opera fantasies from the rural Central American paradise of Palomar. The Hernandez Boys, gifted synthesists all, enthralled and enchanted with incredible stories that sampled a thousand influences conceptual and actual – everything from Comics, TV cartoons, masked wrestlers and the exotica of American Hispanic pop culture to German Expressionism. There was also a perpetual backdrop displaying the holy trinity of youth: Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll – for which please hear alternative music and punk rock.

The result was dynamite. Mario only officially contributed on rare occasions but the slick and enticing visual forays by Jaime explored friendship and modern love whilst destroying stereotypes of feminine attraction through his fetching coterie of Gals Gone Wild and Gilberto created the hyper-real landscape of Palomar: a playground of wit and passion created for the extended serial Heartbreak Soup, in the quicksilver form of a poor Latin-American village with a vibrant, funny and fantastically quotidian cast. The denizens of Palomar still inform and shape the latest tales from Beto both directly and as imaginative spurs for unassociated stories.

Everything from life death, adultery, magic, serial killing and especially gossip could happen in Palomar’s meta-fictional environs, as the artist mined his own post-punk influences in a deceptively effective primitivist art style which blended the highly personal mythologies of comics, music, drugs, strong women, gangs, sex and family using a narrative format that was the graphic equivalent to the literary discipline of Magical Realism.

Winning critical acclaim but little financial success the brothers temporarily went their own ways but a few years ago creatively reunited to produce these annual collections of new material in their particularly peculiar shared or rather, intermittently adjacent pen-and-ink universes.

This third volume commences with Gilbert’s ‘Scarlet by Starlight’ a multi-perspective narrative that appears at first to be a science fictional fable before evolving into something far more disturbing. On a distant world, a team of three earthling explorers are becoming far too intimate with the primitive yet buxom anthropoids that populate the planet and as the human relationships break down, unwise new bonds are formed with unpleasant and even harrowing results…

Savage and sexually explicit, this exploration of drives and desires takes a further step into forbidden territory when the explorers return home…

Maggie Chascarrillo – star of las Locas – takes centre stage in Jaime’s ‘The Love Bunglers Part One’, a lonely middle-aged lady, still looking for her life’s path and still an unsuspecting object of desire to the men who flock around her. But who is that particularly dangerous-looking bum stalking her?

The central portion again features Gilbert’s newest fascination: the young, rebellious and dangerously pneumatic underage Latina spitfire dubbed “Killer” – actually the juvenile character Dora Rivera – granddaughter of Palomar’s formidable Matriarch Luba (see Luba and Love and Rockets: New Stories volume 2) grown to a far more dangerous age.

As seen in the previous volume, Killer, who is slowly making her way into the exotic B-movie arena that fascinated and overwhelmed her Aunt Fritz (See also High Soft Lisp and The Troublemakers) is a highly strung creature on the verge of losing all her remaining innocence and in ‘Killer*Sad Girl*Star’ is considering remaking one of her aunt’s strangest movies whilst becoming involved in a senseless tragic crime… or is she?

Maggie’s turbulent childhood is revealed in Jaime’s startling and truly disturbing ‘Browntown’ as the Chascarrillo family move to a new city where both parents and all four kids undergo differing ordeals which reshape them forever. A note of warning: There are some heart-rending situations of child-abuse here that, although artistically valid and even necessary, are also genuinely upsetting, so please remember that this is a book strictly for mature readers.

The harrowing revelations of ‘Browntown’ lead directly into ‘The Love Bunglers Part Two’ as many of the mysteries set up in the first chapter are thrown into stark relief by the events from Maggie’s past, leading to a surprisingly warm-hearted conclusion to this deceptively hard-hitting book.

Stark, challenging, charming and irresistibly seductive, Love and Rockets: New Stories is a grown up comics fan’s dream come true and remains as valid and groundbreaking as its earlier incarnations – the cutting edge of American graphic narrative.

© 2010 Gilberto, Jaime and Mario Hernandez. This edition © 2010 Fantagraphics Books. All Rights Reserved.