Thursday, February 21, 2013

Reading Love and Rockets - The Definitive Guide to Comics' Supreme Masterpiece

Updated for Spring 2015.

The Definitive Love & Rockets Reading Guide and Full Bibliography

In 1981, brothers Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez, spurred on by their brother Mario, self-published an independent comic anthology called Love and Rockets. Within a year, Fantagraphics began publishing their work, bringing to the world a seismic change in what comics as a storytelling medium were capable of. Featuring mature, character based stories, the quality in art and story of the work of Los Bros Hernandez continue to represent the high-water mark of independent, creator-owned comics. The importance of Love and Rockets and the stories contained therein can never be understated. Los Bros' work is required reading.

Each author's stories are independent of the other's, and should be approached separately. Jaime ("Xaime") has almost exclusively told one continuing story over the last 34 years, Locas, while the far more prolific Gilbert ("Beto") has serialized several different ongoing stories and many more short stories over the decades in Love & Rockets (the most prominent being the Palomar/Luba Cycle), plus numerous other works for other publishers.

The comics of Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez contained under the Love & Rockets umbrella of titles have been published across 124 issues over 34 years, in four distinct phases across four anthologies and seven mini-series; collected in 29 sequential hardcover & softcover albums, collections, and graphic novels; and eleven softcover omnibus (Love and Rockets Library) collections.

The easiest way to read Love & Rockets is in Fantagraphics' fantastic softcover omnibus editions - The Love and Rockets Library - which collect all of Jaime's work through 2007, and most of the Gilbert Palomar/Luba cycle. Below is the definitive reading order of all of both authors' Love & Rockets work to date, plus Gilbert's extensive non-Love & Rockets catalog of creator-owned material. At the bottom of the page I also list the full Love & Rockets bibliography, covering every issue and collection under the Love & Rockets umbrella of titles and graphic novels from 1981-present.

LOCAS, by Jaime Hernandez

The story of Perla Luisa Chascarillo ("Maggie") and her friends, Las Locas, the epic starts out as throwback sci-fi adventure stories and quickly segue into an extraordinary chronicle of the Los Angeles Barrio Punk-Rock scene of the 1980s (in a universe with superspy professional wrestlers and superhero women). Following Maggie and her paramours Ray and Hopie as they grow and age in real-time over more than 30 years of story and featuring Jaime's clean, clear art-style and astonishingly frank characterizations, Locas is simply the finest ongoing character drama being produced by anyone in any medium, the great American graphic novel, comics towering literary achievement.  

Most of the Locas material is collected in the softcover omnibus Love and Rockets Library editions from Fantagraphics:
1: Maggie the Mechanic
2: The Girl from H.O.P.P.E.R.S.
3: Perla la Loca
4: Penny Century
5: Esperanza

Locas continues:
6: La Maggie La Loca (serialized in The New York Times Magazine and collected in The Secrets of Life and Death, see below)
7: God and Science, The Return of the Ti-Girls (hardcover)
8: The Love Bunglers (hardcover)
9: Untitled, Love & Rockets New Stories 5 and 6 (not yet collected)
10: Untitled, Love & Rockets New Stories 7 and 8 (ongoing, not yet collected)

There are also two oversized hardcover omnibus collections, LOCAS I and LOCAS II, but only LOCAS II is in-print. In 1988, Fantagraphics released The Lost Heart and Other Stories, reprinting various short stories for the bookstore market.

There is also an excellent Jaime Hernandez art book, The Secrets of Life and Death: The Art of Jaime Hernandez (Abrams Comic Arts, 2009), which also collects La Maggie La Loca and some of Las Locas' first fanzine appearances from 1978 and 1979.

The Palomar/Luba cycle, by Gilbert Hernandez

Initially the extraordinary character drama following the inhabitants of Palomar, a financially poor yet socially rich central American town, over time the story follows several of the inhabitants and their decedents as their lives take them to America and through the world of organized crime, B-movies and beyond. Featuring Gilbert's dense and fearless art, complex in story and structure, fiercely political and unblinkingly sexual, a unique and original vision that stands as the medium's second finest ongoing work behind only Jaime's Locas.

There are five of the Fantagraphics omnibus The Love and Rockets Library volumes:
1: Heartbreak Soup
2: Human Diastrophism
3: Beyond Palomar
4. Luba and Her Family  
5. Ofelia

There are two hardcover omnibus collections covering the above material: Palomar, out of print; and LUBA, in-print. In 1988, Fantagraphics released The Reticent Heart and Other Stories, reprinting various short stories for the bookstore market.

Palomar/Luba continues:
6: High, Soft Lisp
7: Children of Palomar (New Tales of Old Palomar)
8: The Adventures of Venus
9: Untitled, Love & Rockets New Stories 5-8 (ongoing, not yet collected)

There are four spin-off original graphic novels from Fantagraphics, essentially in-universe presentations of movies mentioned throughout the post-Palomar/Luba cycle, in Graphic Novel form:
A: Chance In Hell (2007)
B: The Troublemakers (2009)
C: Love From the Shadows (2011)
D. Maria M. Book 1 (2013)
E. Maria M. Book 2 (2015)

Julio's Day (2013) collects his non-Palomar/Luba story serialized throughout Love & Rockets Volume II.

Significant Non-Love & Rockets material by Gilbert Hernandez

Gilbert Hernandez is one of the most prolific cartoonists on the planet, and has produced a significant amount of other material outside of the Love & Rockets auspice (most of which are in-print), including:

Birdland (Eros, 1992; out of print)
Girl Crazy (Dark Horse, 1996)
Yeah!, with Peter Bagge (DC, 2000)
Grip: The Strange World of Men (Vertigo, 2002; Dark Horse, 2014)
Sloth (Vertigo, 2006)
Speak of the Devil (Dark Horse, 2008)
Citizen Rex, with Mario Hernandez (Dark Horse, 2009)
Fatima: The Blood Spinners (Dark Horse, 2012; 2014)
Marble Season (Drawn & Quarterly, 2013)
Loverboys (Dark Horse, 2014)
Bumperhead (Drawn & Quarterly, 2015)

Gilbert also worked with Jaime and Mario on Dean Motter's The Return of Mister X (Vortex 1984-1985); the series has been collected numerous times (Vortex, 1986; Warner Books, 1987; iBooks, 2004; Dark Horse, 2006 - all out of print).

From Los Bros Hernandez:

There is one softcover Fantagraphics omnibus focusing on both the brothers' work, also containing contributions from Love and Rockets founder, Mario Hernandez:
-Amor y Cohetes

For the series' 30th anniversary, Fantagraphics released several books about Love & Rockets:
-The Love and Rockets Companion: 30 Years of Love and Rockets 
-Love and Rockets: The Covers
-The Love and Rockets Reader: From Hoppers to Palomar

There are two Love & Rockets Sketchbooks focusing on both brothers' works (only Volume Two is in-print). A retrospective, Ten Years of Love and Rockets was released in 1992.

The Full Love and Rockets Bibliography (1981-Present)
Below is the comprehensive list of anthologies, mini-series, collections and graphic novels that make up the entirety of the Love & Rockets oeuvre from Los Bros Hernandez.

Love and Rockets, phase one (51 issues between 1981-1996)
By Los Bros:
Love & Rockets (self-published one-shot, 1981; reprinted as the first Fantagraphics issue)
Love & Rockets (Volume 1: Numbers 1-50, 1982-1996)
Love & Rockets Bonanza (One-shot, 1989)

Love and Rockets, phase two (30 issues between 1996-2000)
By Jaime:
Whoa, Nellie! (1-3, 1996)
Maggie & Hopie Color Special (One-shot, 1997)
Penny Century (1-7, 1997-2000)
By Gilbert:
New Love (1-6, 1996-1997)
Luba (1-5, 1998-2000)
By Los Bros:
Measles (all-ages anthology prominently featuring work from Los Bros, 1-8, 1998-2000)

Love & Rockets, phase three (36 issues between 2000-2007)
By Los Bros:
Love & Rockets Volume II (1-20, 2000-2007)
By Gilbert:
Luba (6-10, 2002-2004)
Luba's Comics and Stories (1-8, 2000-2006)
New Tales of Old Palomar (1-3, 2006-2007) 

Love & Rockets, phase four (7 issues, 2008-present)
By Los Bros:
Love & Rockets New Stories (1-7, 2008-Present)

Sequential Collections and Graphic Novels:
In 1985, Fantagraphics began publishing sequential albums in hardcover and softcover of the all Love & Rockets material, containing stories from both brothers in each volume. Beginning with Volume 7, Fantagraphics alternated between brothers for each volume. Volumes 1 through 15 are numbered. Starting with Volume sixteen, Fantagraphics presented the stories as unnumbered graphic novels in varying formats.

1: Music for Mechanics (Los Bros, 1985)
2: Chelo’s Burden (Los Bros, 1986)
3: Las Mujeres Perdidas (Los Bros, 1987)
4: Tears from Heaven (Los Bros, 1988)
5: House of Raging Women (Los Bros, 1988)
6: Duck Feet (Los Bros, 1988)
7: The Death of Speedy (Jaime, 1989)
8: Blood of Palomar (Gilbert, 1989)
9: Flies on the Ceiling (Jaime, 1991)
10: Love & Rockets X (Gilbert, 1993)
11: Wigwam Bam (Jaime, 1994)
12: Poison River (Gilbert, 1994)
13: Chester Square (Jaime, 1996)
14: Luba Conquers the World (Gilbert, 1996)
15: The Hernandez Satyricon (Los Bros, 1997)
16: Whoa Nellie! (Jaime, 2000)
17: Fear of Comics (Gilbert, 2000)
18: Locas in Love (Jaime, 2000)
19: Luba in America (Gilbert, 2001)
20: Dicks and Deedees (Jaime, 2003)
21: The Book of Ofelia (Gilbert, 2005)
22: Ghost of Hoppers (Jaime, 2005)
23: Three Daughters (Gilbert, 2006)
24: The Education of Hopey Glass (Jaime, 2008)
25: High Soft Lisp (Gilbert, 2010)
26: God and Science: Return of the Ti-Girls (Jaime, 2012)
27: Julio's Day (Gilbert, 2013)
28: Children of Palomar (Gilbert, 2013)
29: The Love Bunglers (Jaime, 2014)

The Love and Rockets omnibus softcovers already noted above were released sequentially as The Love and Rockets Library.

1: Maggie The Mechanic (Jaime, 2007)
2: Heartbreak Soup (Gilbert, 2007)
3: The Girl from H.O.P.P.E.R.S. (Jaime, 2007)
4: Human Diastrophism (Gilbert, 2007)
5: Perla La Loca (Jaime, 2007)
6: Beyond Palomar (Gilbert, 2007)
7: Amor y Cohetes (Los Bros, 2008)
8: Penny Century (Jaime, 2010)
9: Esperanza (Jaime, 2011)
10. Luba and Her Family (Gilbert, 2014)
11: Ofelia (Gilbert, 2015)

Outside of Love & Rockets and Gilbert's major non-L&R creator-owned material noted above, both brothers have also had short stories and contributions as writers, artists, and cover artists featured in many work-for-hire and anthology projects since 1980, as well as a handful of scarce mini-comics published at various conventions over the years. For a comprehensive index of every single work by Los Bros through 2013, as well as timelines, character guides, interviews, and more, see the utterly indispensable resource The Love and Rockets Companion: 30 Years of Love and Rockets by Mark Sobel & Kristy Valenti.

Version 3.0, 03/15. A version of this article originally appeared on JHU Online in February 2013.  

More Love and Rockets from The Comic Pusher:
Gilbert's Year: Julio's Day Reviewed
The Poetry of Childhood: Gilbert Hernandez's Marble Season
Sibling Rivalry in Los Bros Hernandez's Love and Rockets New Stories 6
The Best Comics of 2013

Further reading, from Fantagraphics: 
How to Read Love and Rockets

No comments:

Post a Comment