The central character of the "Palomar" stories from 1983 through 2007, Luba is the child of the wealthy matron Maria and her servant Eduardo. Cast out of the home, along with her parents, when Maria's husband realizes she isn't his, Luba grows up amid poverty and political unrest in various Central Americannote likely Mexican, but never identified as such villages. Following Eduardo's incapacitation from a head injury and Maria's subsequent desertion, Luba's cousin Ofelia raises her until, at age sixteen, she marries the wealthy bandleader/gangster Peter Rio. Bored and lonely as a result of Peter's frequent business trips, she becomes addicted to speed, ultimately causing the premature (apparent) stillbirth of her first child, a boy, following which she gives up drugs. After Peter suffers a permanently incapacitating stroke, and as his organized crime enemies close in for revenge, Luba and Ofelia skip town, eventually settling in the fictional isolated village Palomar. There, Luba establishes herself as a ba˝adora (bath-giver), initially competing with Chelo before the latter becomes town sheriff, upon which they become close allies. Luba also runs the village movie theatre. At Chelo's urging, she successfully runs for mayor. With Ofelia's help, she raises seven children (six daughters and one son) from nearly as many fathers, and later marries her on-again, off-again lover Khamo. When Peter's enemies finally catch up with her and attempt to kill her longtime family protector, Gorgo, she emigrates to America, taking with her younger children and Ofelia and settling in Los Angeles, eventually managing to bring Khamo over and to start a business that provides immigration and tax services.
Abusive Parents: Luba, though not without genuine love for her children, is at times verbally and physically abusive towards them, particularly during "Human Diastrophism" and especially toward her eldest child Maricela, who ends up fleeing Palomar forever with her girlfriend Riri as a result.
Buxom Is Better: Luba's breasts are enormous, a trait she shares with most of her female relatives. The attention she receives as a result runs the realistic gamut from fascinated and aroused men, disgusted men with a preference for thinner women, and jealous women who call her names like "blimp-chest." Luba has complained that her build makes people automatically assume that she is a slut.
Drop the Hammer: Luba is rarely seen out of doors without her signature hammer, which she uses for self-defence.
Drugs Are Bad: Luba, during her marriage to Peter, grows bored and lonely with his frequent absences and, under her friends' influence, becomes hooked on speed, until an injection mishap results in massive hemhorraging and the premature (apparent) stillbirth of her firstborn son.
Expy: Luba has the same name and appearance as a character in Gilbert's early Mind Screw SF story "BEM", and there have been a couple of dream and hallucination sequences in which Palomar characters have seen her as the "BEM" Luba.
I Have No Daughter: When her eldest child Maricela skips town with her lover Riri, Luba (who'd been particularly abusive to her recently) mourns her disappearance at first. However, years later, when Guadalupe, her second-oldest, is heading off to school in the U.S., Luba tells her that should she run into Maricela, Guadalupe is to inform her she's not welcome back in Palomar (not that Maricela has any intention of returning). Some time after Luba emigrates to America, she and Maricela have a brief, tense reunion; years later, they finally reconcile.
Law of Inverse Fertility: Luba has an astonishing ability to get pregnant through casual liaisons that only happened once: some fans suggest that she actually prefers to be a single mother and does it deliberately.
Mistaken For Prostitute: This often happens to Luba, due to her large chest and multiple lovers. In "Human Diastrophism," she hollers out the window, to anyone within hearing range, "I've never once done 'it' for money! Ever!!"
Maria, tired of living in abject poverty after Eduardo's head injury and subsequent alcoholism make it impossible for him to hold down a job, abandons him and their daughter. Eduardo eventually dies of complications from his injury. All this, however, happens before Luba is old enough to remember, and by this time Ofelia is already raising her. Nonetheless, at the conclusion of "Poison River," a tearful Luba includes her parents among those she resents for abandoning her.
Luba attempts this herself during her mental breakdown in "Human Diastrophism," handing off each of her in-town daughters to their respective fathers. However, other villagers, realizing she's not herself, bring them back.
Resentful Guardian: Luba veers between genuine love and concern for her children, and seeing them as an unasked-for burden.
Rich Boredom: Young Luba, as a result of her husband Peter's frequent out-of-town trips.
Sanity Slippage: Luba undergoes a temporary version of this during "Human Diastrophism." The combined stress of romantic troubles, raising four daughters (including a somewhat rebellious teenager), and the presence of a serial killer in town results in wild mood swings and increasingly frequent and violent abuse of her children. This culminates in a breakdown in which she attempts to hand off her daughtersnote except for Maricela, who's already skipped town away to their respective fathers and, during a confrontation with Guadalupe, bursts into hysterical laughter at the sight of her most recent ex, Khamo, sporting an aboriginal mohawk in solidarity with his new love, Tonantzin. A monkey in a tree then knocks her out, and as she recuperates from the head injury, she appears to have recovered from her Sanity Slippage as well.
Ofelia is Luba's older cousin and her guardian from early childhood through mid-adolescence. She also spends much of her life caring for her aged, and variably mentally competent, mother Hilda. Although she at first resents having to care for a toddler, she soon warms up to Luba and even tries her best at teaching her to read. However, she also tends to discipline her with the threat of a clenched fist, and sometimes more. As a young woman, Ofelia gets involved with a Marxist group, and survives a rape and attempted murder on the part of anti-Marxist agitators in Isleta; her fellow activist friend does not. The trauma, which she never speaks of to anyone, leaves Ofelia with chronic back pain. She re-enters Luba's life when Peter suffers a permanently incapacitating stroke and his enemies close in for revenge. Ofelia, Hilda and Luba spend some years wandering, including a stop in Isleta where Ofelia covertly gets revenge on her assailant and a long stay at a hippie commune where she finds romance with a healer/agitator (whose drug treatments, however, Luba blames for Hilda's worsening health and ultimate death). Ofelia eventually settles in Palomar, living with Luba and helping raise her children, and later immigrates with her to Los Angeles. However, the two have a falling out over the memoir Ofelia plans to write about herself and her family, and she leaves with her lover Rico.
Abusive Parents: Ofelia often threatens young Luba into obedience with a Death Glare and clenched fist, and occasionally more. She is shocked to find, many years later, that Luba remembers this.
Cut Herself Shaving: Ofelia, throughout her life, covers up her rape and near-murder by claiming her bad back is the result of a church collapsing on her.
Determinator: Ofelia, seeing the toddler Luba watching her from a distance, and concerned above all else with keeping her safe, manages to flash her glare and fist at her, warning her to keep quiet, while being raped.
Hypocrite: In "Human Diastrophism" and, years later, in "The Book of Ofelia," she takes Luba to task for abusing her children, despite having been an abusive guardian to Luba herself.
I Should Write a Book About This: Subverted. "The Book of Ofelia" arc is so titled for her plans to write about Luba and her family. However, between Writer's Block, a heart attack, and a falling out with her cousin, Ofelia never ends up writing it. She does tell Luba, before walking out, she'll write that book, but it'll be entirely about her own life, with no mention of Luba.
Revenge: Ofelia tracks down and shoots the man who raped and nearly killed her.
She Will Not Cry So I Cry for Her: Ofelia says that she takes Luba's emotional burdens on herself because Luba never cries (not in Ofelia's sight, anyway). When she finally does see Luba cry, she passes out and then reacts with joy:
I still carry the weight of you all on my back and I don't feel a bit of pain any more! Luba cried! She's alive! My baby cousin is alive!
Luba's eldest daughter (with Antonino, her lover from the commune she and Ofelia lived in), Maricela has a happy enough childhood, but during her teens her relationship with her mother becomes strained at best, fractious at worst. Having to keep her lesbianism, and her relationship with Riri, a secret from Luba doesn't help. Things come to a head when Luba beats Maricela so severely she inadvertently breaks her arm. Shortly after it heals, Maricela talks a reluctant Riri into running away with her to America. As an illegal immigrant, she takes a job in L.A. as a street flower salesperson, paying protection money along with Riri to avoid being reported to the authorities. Within a few years, the two women split up over mutual infidelity, and a distraught Maricela trashes her tyrannical employer's shop and gets arrested just as her sister Guadalupe and friend Pipo visit her. (It's presumably their intervention which saves her from deportation.) Maricela eventually masters English, gets a library job, and raises a daughter. Although she keeps her vow never to return to Palomar, she does have a brief, tense reunion with Luba during a family health crisis some time after the latter immigrates to L.A. as well. Some years later, mother and daughter finally reconcile, during another health crisis.
Butch Lesbian: After she arrives in America, Maricela cuts her hair short and stops wearing dresses or skirts.
Childhood Friend Romance: "War Paint," the one Palomar story which Jaime wrote and drew, shows the very young Maricela and Riri as friends.
Manipulative Bastard: In "Human Diastrophism," the functionally illiterate Tonantzin brings letters from her jailed radical lover Geraldo to Maricela and Riri to read to her. When the subject of the letters turns from politics to religion, Tonantzin appears bored. So Maricela and Riri, fearing they'll lose their eye candy,note Tonantzin has taken to dressing scantily like her indigenous ancestors make up further political letters out of whole cloth. They fail to realize that doing so sends Tonantzin deeper and deeper into Sanity Slippage and poor health as she takes "Geraldo's" mention of Mahatma Gandhi's fasting to heart. What's worse, as they confess all this to her sister Diana, they admit they have no regrets.
The Runaway: To America, to escape her mother's abuse and live more freely as a lesbian.
Your Cheating Heart: In "Love and Rockets X," she catches the eye of the bisexual teenage Kris who, after some mutual flirting over time, invites her over, ostensibly in order to have her father arrange legal immigration status for her and Riri. Although their near-liaison is cut short, Riri (despite having been less than faithful herself) leaves her anyway.
Luba's second-oldest daughter (with Heraclio Calderon), Guadalupe, at around the age of ten, takes on a burden of familial responsibility in excess of her years, tending to her mother when she finds herself trapped in a hole (and is too embarrassed to seek help), helping her and Ofelia mind her younger sisters Doralis and Casimira, and defending her mother's honour even in the face of her own doubts. Upon learning who her father is, she forms an instant, lasting bond with him. Guadalupe attends college in the U.S., where she becomes a grade school teacher while moonlighting as a belly dancer. She marries her fellow (older) Palomar expatriate, Gato Reyna, with whom she has a son, Jaime. After Gato's death, Guadalupe has a one-night stand with Hector, who fathers her daughter Dora, better known as "Killer."
I Didn't Mean to Turn You On: Guadalupe receives unwanted romantic attention from Pipo's son Sergio for years. Only once does she even consider taking him up on his offer to take her away with him.
Luke, I Am Your Father: In "Human Diastrophism," Heraclio and Guadalupe learn from Luba what a few villagers have long suspected because of the physical resemblance.
Nice Gal: Although most of the recurring "Palomar" characters have at least some sympathetic qualities or moments, Guadalupe is one of the very few who doesn't have a mean bone in her body. However, unlike her aunt Fritz, she knows how to stand up for herself. And although she has been known to lose her temper when pushed too far, she never stays angry for long and doesn't hold grudges.
Super OCD: In addition to her desperate, determined need for her family always to get along and her little sisters to stay put at all times, the young Guadalupe is prone to painful obsession with weighty questions such as the infinity of space and the possibility of extraterrestrial life.
Thicker Than Water: Played with in "Human Diastrophism," Guadalupe vehemently defends Luba's upstandingness as a mother to her older sister Maricela. She continues to obey and stick up for Luba even in the face of the latter's increasing verbal and physical abuse and otherwise erratic behaviour. This takes a toll on Guadalupe's own emotional well-being, as she trembles visibly with each new outburst from her mom, even if not directed at her. Finally, after Maricela runs away and her youngest sister Casimira is hospitalized, she cracks under the strain and lashes out verbally against Luba, then runs into Heraclio's arms for protection. However, by arc's end, as her mother has returned to something like her former self, Guadalupe realizes she still loves her, flaws and all, and that Luba still loves her children.
One of the four children (along with the younger Casimira, Joselito and Concepcion) Luba has with Khamo, Doralis endures an unhappy marriage, at age fourteen, to her first sexual partner, Chester, at her mother's insistence. They divorce following a fight that lands Chester in jail. While still a teenager, Doralis volunteers to immigrate to L.A. and serve as Luba's "eyes and ears" vis-Ó-vis their other expatriate relatives. Family friend Pipo gets her a showgirl job on the Spanish-language children's TV program she sponsors. When the show enters the English-language market, Doralis's charisma and looks make her even more popular than the host, Inez, and Doralis gets her own kids' variety show. Doralis comes out as a lesbian on her program, sparking its quick move to prime time as well as tension with her mother, though never a complete rift as with her older sister. Indeed, in an unexpected way, Doralis ends up being the catalyst for Luba's and Maricela's reconciliation.
Camp: Doralis sports bizarre, flashy, constantly-changing wigs and costumes on TV.
Does Not Like Shoes: Doralis, as a teenager, goes barefoot indoors and out not only in Palomar (where she isn't the only one to do so), but also in L.A. She does however generally wear boots as part of her show costumes.
Parent Service: In-universe. Although El Show de Doralis is a kids' program, most of her fan mail comes from adult males.
Proud Beauty: Doralis's voluptuous figure (including, unlike her mother, grandmother and Aunt Fritz, her hips and behind as well as her bust) is to a great extent responsible for her rise in show business. Inez, her first show's Nothing but Skin and Bones host, tries to compensate for her own eclipsed popularity by calling her fat, but this doesn't bother Doralis in the least as she's proud of her body.
Plucky Girl: Despite having as tumultous a life as most any of the Palomar characters, nearly nothing seems to faze Doralis: not her mother's erratic and abusive behaviour during her childhood, nor Inez's unabashed jealousy, nor the public backlash against her for coming out, nor even the cancer which ultimately kills her. The only times she's shown as anything other than happy and carefree are during her forced marriage to Chester (which culminates in a bloody fight where she gives as well as she gets), and when Luba is cool to her following her coming out.
Maria Inclan Martinez
Maria, who appears mainly in Whole Episode Flashbacks, is Luba's, Petra's and Fritz's mother. A teenaged beauty queen, she marries an unnamed wealthy man, but cheats on him with Eduardo, an Amerindian groundskeeper on their estate, resulting in Luba's birth. Her husband, upon realizing Luba isn't his, expels the three of them. Following Eduardo's incapacitation and subsequent inability to keep a job, Maria abandons him and Luba, eventually marrying U.S. organized crime accountant Hector Martinez, who fathers Petra and Rosalba (Fritz) with her. Maria separates from Hector but this time takes her daughters with her. Gorgo, a hitman who has a lifelong unrequited love for Maria, arranges for her, Petra and Fritz to flee to the U.S. in order to protect them from Hector's enemies, telling them (with Hector's assent) that he's been murdered so they won't try contacting him. There, she pursues her show business career, as a belly dancer with an unusual talent, while taking a succession of lovers and raising her daughters, inculcating in the initially-resistant Fritz a lasting passion for dancing and show business. However, she never attempts to find Luba, and vice versa.
Amazonian Beauty: Through a lifelong workout regimen, Maria has a conspicuously muscular abdomen, and knows how to use it.
Belly Dancer: With a twist: Maria has the celebrated ability to crack walnuts with her abdominal muscles.
Fond Memories That Could Have Been: Though refusing throughout her life to contact, or even acknowledge the existence of, her first daughter, Maria's last words, as she dies of a brain tumour at an advanced age, are "Where's my daughter? Where's Luba?"
Our Ghosts Are Different: After Maria's death, Doralis spots her otherwise-unnoticed ghost at an L.A. restaurant, seemingly eating a meal. Doralis is also able to speak with her, although Maria indignantly denies that they have any relation to each other.
Parental Abandonment: Played straight with Luba; averted with Petra and Fritz, even when Maria separates from Hector. The discrepancy may be due to class snobbery and possibly racial prejudice on Maria's part: Luba's father is a labourer of Amerindian descent, whereas Petra's and Fritz's father is a well-to-do professional as well as Hispanic like Maria.
Petra, the older of Maria's two daughters with her second husband, is a medical technician and a bodybuilding/general fitness enthusiast with a huge sexual appetite. Several years after divorcing Bobby (Venus's father), she marries pediatrician David Vasquez and becomes stepmother to his two sons Rogelio and Joey, and has a daughter, Marie, with him. Their marriage is not a happy one. Petra and Fritz learn from Gorgo about their long-lost sister; however, although Luba is friendly to them when they hang out, she keeps them at arm's length. Petra eventually leaves David when Fritz confesses she'd slept with him, despite this being before he and Petra had started dating. Nevertheless, Petra is fiercely protective of her younger sister, breaking with her only when her subsequent boyfriend, Hector (a courier service worker), makes a similar confession about himself and Fritz, the blow exacerbated when she then learns Fritz is starring in a B-movie about their mother (an argument over which leads Luba to break with her sisters as well). Petra eventually finds happiness with her third husband, Vic.
Badass: Petra has muscular arms and wicked boxing skills, and uses them on those who mess with her sister and with Hector.
Canon Immigrant: Like Fritz, Petra originally appeared in Gilbert's non-Palomar erotic satire miniseries, Birdland.
D-Cup Distress: Petra initially has an even more enormous bust than her mother and sisters, but hates it and gets breast reduction surgery (much to Maria's disdain), rendering her chest merely "big." Her breasts eventually get bigger again, along with the rest of her, when, secure and happy with her third husband and tired of her once-freewheeling lifestyle, she puts on a considerable amount of weight.
The Fundamentalist: Downplayed. Petra is a born-again Christian but doesn't talk about her religious life, let alone try to convert anyone else.
Good Parent: Notwithstanding her morally questionable actions vis-Ó-vis others, Petra is consistently a loving and supportive mom to Venus and Marie.
Green-Eyed Monster: Petra is jealous to an extreme, breaking up with David and, subsequently, Hector when she learns that Fritz had slept with them before their involvement with Petra. She also stops speaking to Fritz over it, the second time. As well, when Carlos, with whom she's cheating on David, tells her he's going back to his girlfriend, she trashes his store.
Knight Templar Big Sister: Petra disguises herself as a man, including her voice, in order to beat up Fritz's ex-husband Scott "the Hog" for extorting money and sex from her, as well as her subsequent girlfriend Pipo for emotionally abusing her. Pipo ends up hospitalized as a result. (Petra never tells Fritz it was she who administered the beatdowns, although Hector figures it out in Pipo's case.)
Violently Protective Girlfriend: Petra similarly metes out punishment to Hector's ex-girlfriend when the latter vindictively, and under completely false pretenses, gets a restraining order against him and then proceeds to follow Hector around so she can report him for "stalking."
Your Cheating Heart: While married to David, Petra sleeps with Carlos, and attempts to seduce Pipo's son, the star soccer player Sergio.
Rosalba "Fritz" ("Fritzi") Martinez
The younger of Luba's sisters, Fritz (nicknamed for her resemblance to Fritzi Ritz of the Newspaper ComicNancy) shares Petra's voracious sexual appetite but not her forcefulness. A psychotherapist who sometimes moonlights as a belly dancer, Fritz goes through a succession of partners, casual or otherwise. Her spouses are, in succession, punk rocker Scott "the Hog" (twice), motivational speaker Mark Herrera, model Enrique Escobar, and finally her fellow Palomar expatriate and longtime girlfriend Pipo Jiminez. Years prior to the latter marriage, she has a relationship with Pipo's son Sergio, sometimes seeing Pipo (with Sergio's knowledge) on the side. Despite her many, many partners, Scott and Pipo are the only ones she's ever truly loved. Fritz later goes full-time into film acting, appearing in a (later notorious) adult film and then starring in a succession of B-movies (several of which Gilbert has issued as graphic novel "adaptations") which gain her an international cult following. One of these, Maria M., in which she plays a fictional version of her mother, contributes to her estrangement from Petra and Luba. She remains close with her niece Venus and cousin Guadalupe.
Brains and Bondage: Fritz and Pipo frequent a BDSM sex club, and in particular Fritz—a psychotherapist who speaks six languages—is obsessed with making her waist smaller with a corset.
Canon Immigrant: Like Fritz, Petra originally appeared in Gilbert's non-Palomar erotic satire miniseries, Birdland, in which, while sharing her later incarnation's passion for kinky sex, she was happier and more assertive.
Cool Aunt: Although she has no children of her own, Fritz is great with her nephew and nieces. For example, when she spots Luba's daughter Socorro feeling down at a party to celebrate her departure for an out-of-town gifted children's school, Fritz makes her laugh by acting like an over-the-top idiot.
Extreme Doormat: For all her psychotherapeutic training and experience, Fritz is totally lacking in assertiveness. As a result, she falls victim to emotional and financial abuse from Scott, as well as emotional abuse from Pipo. Her responses to such mistreatment generally consist of denial or tears, as well as steadily building alcoholism.
Fritz does, however, also have a passive-aggressive tendency, which manifests when, for example, she tells Petra about her years-ago casual liaison with David, despite it being a one-time only encounter which happened before Petra and David started dating. Because all her confession does is hurt Petra's feelings and contribute to the breakup of her marriage, Mark characterizes Fritz's action as "hostile."
Fetish: From the moment her police officer lover, in her teenage years, teaches her how to use one, handguns are Fritz's biggest turn-on. Not only does she have a passion for target practice, she also loves to use unloaded pistols in foreplay, although she stops the latter when she sees how much this disturbs Pipo.
Fritz is this to Scott, whom she loves dearly, even after their divorce, despite his emotional, sexual and financial abuse of her.
To a more qualified extent, this trope characterizes her relationship with Pipo, who's often verbally abusive to her. "Qualified," because Fritz, as with most of her partners (except Scott), doesn't love Pipo initially, and indeed only gives herself to her physically after a long period of resisting Pipo's advances. As well, by the end of Love and Rockets Volume II, Pipo seems to have laid off the abuse entirely and their new marriage seems poised to be a happy one.
The Pollyanna: Her victimization, heavy alcohol use and tendency to flee in tears from arguments notwithstanding, Fritz remains on the whole a determinedly cheerful and optimistic person.
Speech Impediment: Fritz speaks with a "high, soft lisp," which some find charming, even arousing, and others (including Petra) annoyingly contagious. Oddly, her lisp manifests in her English, Italian and Spanish, but not her French, Japanese or Russian. In any case, she's unself-conscious about her speech impediment ("I talk normal. It'th everybody elthe who'th different") and able to control it when she acts and makes public appearances as a star.
Venus, Petra's oldest daughter, is an athletic, precocious, wisecracking, imaginative kid who turns out, as of her latest appearance in her late teens, to be one of the happiest and best-adjusted "Palomar" characters. She not only appears frequently in L&R Volume II and the two "Luba" miniseries, but also stars in her own adventures in the multi-author kid-friendly comics anthology, Measles (later collected as The Adventures of Venus).
Can't Get Away with Nuthin' : Zig-zagged. In an early appearance, preteen Venus openly smokes a cigarette with her friend Yoshio at a cafe. (Curiously, the cafe staff either don't notice this or choose to ignore it.) She gets anxious when she sees her Aunt Fritz heading inside, and puts it out while telling Yoshio to wave the smoke away. This proves successful. Afterwards, the two friends head for a comic shop where Venus browses a gay erotic comic. Carlos, the salesclerk, gently takes it away from her, but soon afterward rushes out to where she's hanging with her friends, apologizes for having to do that on the job, and gives her the comic for free. However, at home her mother discovers it, gives her a lecture, and tells her that from now on she can only buy comics under her supervision.
Childhood Friend Romance: With her lifelong best friend, Yoshio. (Although he falls for her long before she does for him.)
Venus: (drawing with her toddler sister) Now remember: mom has big boobs; Tia Fritz has super big boobs and Tia Luba has super duper big boobs. Petra: Venus, why don't you teach your sister to draw something else, huh?
Innocent Prodigy: Though intelligent, and often witty beyond her years, Venus has her naive moments, as when, learning of Petra having trashed her favourite comic book shop, she assumes her mom did so in retaliation for salesclerk Carlos not returning Venus's feelings for him. In fact, Petra's motive is jealous resentment toward Carlos when he leaves Petra for his regular girlfriend.
Little Miss Snarker: Venus is an often sardonic observer not only of her own life but also of the goings-on in the adult characters' lives.
Anybody who doesn't believe in the infinite artistic possibilities of the comic book medium just can't see the forest for the trees!
Other Palomar Residents
The muscular Chelo has been a mainstay of Palomar even longer than Luba has. As a young adult, unable to have children of her own, she becomes a midwife, delivering many of the series' characters. Later, she goes into business as a ba˝adora (bath-giver). When the younger, more attractive Luba comes to town and sets up her own such business, stealing away many of her customers, Chelo asks the corrupt, bullying Sheriff Borro to intervene. Instead, Borro locks up the both of them so they can duke it out. However, the two women bond as Luba opens up to Chelo about her hardships, and they become fast friends. Before long, Chelo replaces the unpopular Borro as sheriff, overseeing the village with tough but fair and compassionate justice. Years later, finding maintaining order herself a challenge, she talks Luba into running for mayor, her influence ensuring Luba's election.
Body Horror: In "Chelo's Burden," the final Palomar story of Volume 1, Chelo, suffering from stomach pain, learns from a local healer that the reason she's been infertile all her life is that she's been carrying a dead, mummified fetus in her womb since she was a teenager.
Moral Guardian: Chelo forbids women over the age of eighteen to show more than three quarters of their legs in public, except at the beach. She frequently encounters resistance from Pipo and Tonantzin on this matter.
My Greatest Failure: In "Human Diastrophism," Chelo, already under stress with the hunt for a local serial killer, deals with rampaging monkeys by shooting a number of them out of a tree. However, one of the "monkeys" turns out to be Luba's daughter, the toddler Casimira, whom Chelo unintentionally shoots in the shoulder, and who ultimately loses her arm as a result. Despite Luba's and others' ready forgiveness, Chelo never forgives herself for her near-fatal mistake. More constructively, Chelo learns from this that she's been overextending herself and could use others' help maintaining law and order.
Reasonable Authority Figure: Although Chelo has more or less sole authority over policing, justice and local ordinances, and maintains a no-nonsense attitude on patrol, she's honest, impartial and compassionate in performing her duties, avoiding the use of force where possible, and overlooking violations of her own decrees when enforcing them would do more harm than good.
The Sheriff: And then some, as Chelo not only enforces the law but, given Palomar's size and isolation and her moral authority, gets to make laws herself, such as her dress code for women.
Margarita Luisa "Maggie" Chascarrillo
The central character of the "Locas" stories from 1981 through 2011, Maggie is a Chicana (Mexican-American) woman born and raised (for the most part) in the fictional, mainly Chicano southern Californian town, "Hoppers"note official name Huerta, based on the Hernandez brothers' hometown of Oxnard. In her early teens, she discovers a talent for mechanical work and a passion for punk rock culture. The latter breaks the ice between her and the angry, alienated Hopey, with whom she becomes best friends and eventually on-again, off-again lovers. Following a two-year period of adventures at home and abroad as an assistant to mechanic Rand Race, on whom she has a mostly unrequited crush, she abandons the mechanic's life. Maggie then takes up a series of odd jobs, a two-year romance with childhood friend Ray, followed by another open relationship with Hopey, followed by a long period of wandering. Eventually reuniting with Hopey back home, Maggie reconnects with her one-time high school lover Tony Chase and marries him, only to divorce him amicably two years later because she's still restless and unsatisfied. Soon thereafter, she accepts her first steady job in years as an apartment complex manager; several years later, she comes full circle in her career by opening her own garage. She even manages to find lasting love.
Beware the Nice Ones: Maggie is generally friendly (or at least civil) and even-tempered (the latter, especially, compared to Hopey). But push her too far, and she'll unleash a torrent of hurtful language, maybe even decking you for good measure.
Closet Geek: Maggie has a lifelong passion for superhero comics, but rarely speaks of it to anyone, the major exception being her roommate Angel Rivera, also a fan.
Heroic Self-Deprecation: A frequent negative self-talker, Maggie even has a dream (in "The Race") where this trait of hers is externalized as a malicious, violent, foul-mouthed imp:
I'm the monster inside ya that makes ya fuck up every day of yer shit life. I prevent you from doing anything right, ya old fucking loser!
If It's You, It's Okay: Maggie has claimed that Hopey is the only woman she has ever wanted to have sex with, although she does have a brief casual kissing fling with Vivian (for whom Maggie appears to be her one exception, despite her homophobia).
"Margarita Luisa" is her legal name, but she's almost never addressed as such.
"Maggie," the name her friends, acquaintances, lovers and most others call her, originated in her early childhood with Louis, co-owner of Sal's Garage.
Her immediate family always calls her "Perla" or "Perlita." (Her legal first name is from the Greek for "pearl.")
Hopey often affectionately calls her "Maggot" or "Magpie." Maggie herself, in early adulthood, also labels her diary The Book of the Magpie.
Her Tia ("Aunt") Vicki, a professional wrestler, calls her "Shrimp," sometimes affectionately, sometimes...not so much.
Rand Race calls her "Margie" because he mishears her name when first introduced. Because of her long-lasting crush, she never bothers to correct him (or perhaps she doesn't even realize his mistake). Maggie finally sets him straight when she catches him having spent the night with a rival for his affections. Race does call her "Maggie" in his final in-continuity appearance.
The Klutz: The first couple years' worth of "Locas" stories selectively portray her as one. In her eagerness to prove herself as a junior mechanic, while simultaneously crushing hard on Race, she'll have Slapstick mishaps on the job, to the frustration of foreman "Duke" Moralis, the amusement of Race, and her own mortification.
Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places: One of Maggie's major weaknesses. Sometimes she falls for someone who just isn't right for her, doesn't reciprocate the feeling, or both (Rand Race, Speedy Ortiz, Vivian Solis). Other times she enters into a relationship with a decent, compatible person but becomes restless and leaves for no good reason (Ray Dominguez, Tony Chase). And then there's Hopey, whom she loves deeply (and vice versa) but can't find full satisfaction with, even via an open relationship, because they're prone to fighting and because Maggie feels she needs a man for complete sexual fulfillment.
Mistaken For Prostitute: Happens to Maggie three times during her long period of wandering in the latter third of Volume 1. Played with the first two times as she does in fact accept money for sex, after being unintentionally propositioned, the first time because she needs cash for a bus out of town and the second time out of depression. Played straight the third time, as she simply beats up her propositioner.
Vitriolic Best Buds: Maggie and Hopey often quarrel verbally (and physically, when younger) over matters of varying importance, but only once does a fight split them up for a significant length of time.
Weight Woe: Maggie begins putting on weight around age twenty, due to emotion-based overeating. For some time, this causes her great frustration and embarassment. By middle age, however, she appears to have made peace with her body, as she not only no longer angsts over her weight, but often dresses in sexy, revealing clothing despite it.
Wrench Wench: Maggie is well-known in Hoppers for her skill as a mechanic and both starts off and ends up working as one.
Esperanza Leticia "Hopey" Glass
Hopey is Maggie's best friend and sometimes lover. Of mixed Scottish and Colombian heritage, as a child she resists her mother's attempts to make her a TV star. In high school, Hopey is initially friends with the class Alpha Bitch, but then falls under the influence of her classmate, the domineering punk rock guitarist Terry Downe, leaving home to live with her in a sleazy punker's crash pad. She becomes estranged from her mother, who'd raised her and her brother Joey after divorcing their father. As Hopey embraces the "angry punk" lifestyle, she quickly inverts her relationship with Terry, and eventually attaches herself to Maggie instead. Nevertheless, she continues to play bass (poorly) for Terry's band, eventually leaving Hoppers and Maggie to go on tour. Following the band's acrimonious backup, Hopey makes her way back home with their roadie Tex, unintentionally becoming pregnant with his child and suffering a miscarriage. A reunion with Maggie proves short-lived as they part ways again after a bitter fight over their clashing attitudes toward their Hispanic identity. When Hopey's band goes on tour some time later, she and Aggie have a bittersweet reunion and get back together in another open relationship, which survives both Maggie's marriage and Hopey's taking up with her coworker Rosie. Hopey, her angry punk rebel days behind her, becomes a kindergarten teacher's assistant and eventually a teacher, settling down with an unnamed woman with whom she raises a son.
Butch Lesbian: Hopey sometimes dresses and wears her hair this way.
Former Friend of Alpha Bitch: Hopey is best friends with the popular girl Julie Wree in high school, but when she befriends Terry, they drift apart. As Hopey transitions into an angry punk rebel, she enlists Terry's help in beating Julie up for no apparent reason. They remain enemies even after Julie becomes something of a punk wannabe herself.
Former Teen Rebel: Hopey, who's seen in a first issue Flashback trashing the principal's office after getting suspended, eventually goes into teaching.
Green-Eyed Monster: As a teenager, she behaves this way toward her first lover, Terry, using the very same threat ("If I ever hear that you've been with someone else, I swear I'll...") that Terry once used on her. She's rather less possessive with Maggie, because, as she admits to a friend, she realizes Maggie needs a man as well as Hopey to keep her satisfied.
If It's You, It's Okay: Hopey is mostly lesbian, though she refuses to label herself. However, she has a two-week threesome fling with Penny and Tex, her band's male roadie.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Hopey can be insulting, moody, combative, even downright cruel. She often toys with people and lacks respect for boundaries, openly and repeatedly trying, for example, to seduce her brother Joey's fiancÚe, Janet. However, her love and concern for Maggie is genuine, as is her regard for her closest friends.
Pervert Mom: Inverted. Hopey confesses to Janet that when she was in her early teens, she found a photo of her mother, at fifteen, in a swimsuit. It turned her on so much she fantasized about doing her mom at that age and even started wearing it inside her panties.
Punk Rock: Hopey not only plays in Terry's band and later her own, but spends much of her adolescence and young adulthood living the "angry punk" life. In her mid-teens she shaves her head except for a single lock, spray paints slogans on walls (thus starting a long-running cat and mouse game with a police officer) and has Terry help her beat up her former best friend, the preppy Julie Wree. Although she mostly tones down the violence as an adult and lets her hair grow out somewhat, she still experiences the urge to rebel against authority for some years to come.
Vitriolic Best Buds: Maggie and Hopey often quarrel verbally (and physically, when younger) over matters of varying importance, but only once does a fight split them up for a significant length of time.
Although not introduced until the series's fourth year, Ray eventually emerges as the male lead in the woman-centric "Locas" tales and sometimes as a mouthpiece for ideas Jaime Hernandez feels he can't express through Maggie. A Chicano native of Hoppers, Ray hangs with Speedy's gang as a teenager, occasionally participating in minor burglaries but shunning any involvement in violence. After high school, he leaves town to attend an East Coast art college, but drops out after one semester and spends the next three years working, painting and having affairs with women artists such as the snobbish Maya. (He takes up and abandons his art sporadically thereafter.) Returning to Hoppers, Ray feels alienated from his old gang due to their increased penchant for turf wars. Instead, he reconnects with childhood friend Doyle and begins dating Maggie; they live together for two years but split up when Maggie goes back to the just-returned Hopey while Maggie's friend Danita seduces him. Eventually, Danita, having trouble balancing work, single motherhood and a boyfriend, and frustrated with Ray's refusal to marry her, leaves him. Ray then has a torrid on-again, off-again fling with his old junior high crush Penny Century. When she too disappears from his life, he moves to Los Angeles and, while working in middle management, becomes infatuated with troublemaker Vivian "the Frogmouth" Solis. However, no sooner do they finally hook up than Maggie re-enters Ray's life and he dreams of winning her back. Just as it seems he can hope for no more than friendship with her, a brutal assault changes Ray's life in ways he couldn't have imagined.
Brilliant, but Lazy: In addition to his artistic talent, Ray is, while no genius, a good deal more intelligent than much of the cast; however, he lacks the ambition and drive to make the most of his gifts, preferring to drift passively, at times passive-aggressively, through life.
Characterization Marches On: In his second appearance, throughout "Vida Loca: The Death of Speedy Ortiz" (he'd been introduced in the previous story), Ray, in his early twenties, comes across as a braver and more proactive man—indeed, as the neighbourhood voice of reason—than he would be when just a few years older. No in-story explanation is given as to why he later seems to lose that sense of inner conviction and resolve.
Cool Loser: An adult example. Though attractive and possessing a sense of style (albeit a quirky one), Ray is far from the "alpha male" type. Due to a lack of self-confidence and resolve, he often has trouble meeting women, as well as holding on to the relationships he does have. His friends tend to be similarly low-ambition sorts (Doyle), lacking in confidence (Maggie), or those with a knack for getting themselves in trouble (Speedy, 'Litos, Vivian).
Cowardly Lion: While Ray proves to be right in having no part of his old friends' gang violence, his fear of confrontation is sometimes excessive. When dating Vivian, he fails to stand up for her to her thuggish ex-boyfriend Sid (contrast this with Maggie, who stops Sid from knifing her and then insists Vivian get a restraining order immediately). After Sid's murder, Ray similarly refuses to be by her side when she pays her respects to Sid's even more aggressive and unbalanced homeboy Elmer, and even declines to help her retrieve her purse after she flees Elmer.
Cower Power: One evening, outside a bar, Ray sees Vivian outside with Sid and darts around the corner, finding himself standing in a flower bed and staring at a brick wall. Although realizing the comic absurdity of his situation, he's too scared to move, and slow to react even when he hears Sid's angry voice around the corner, emerging only when he sees Doyle. He later realizes that the noise he heard was rival gangsters killing Sid. By standing there cowering, Ray had likely saved his own life.
Determined Defeatist: Despite Ray's faults, his beating himself up over his faults, and the rough patches he goes through, he never gives up on his search for love, nor on his art, for very long.
The Ditherer: Ray is the "Wishy-Washy" variety of this, to his romantic partners' frustration, particularly that of Danita, who wants above all a man who'll be a proper daddy to her son Elias.
Only Sane Man: Ray fulfills this role in "Vida Loca: The Death of Speedy Ortiz." Dismayed at his old Hoppers buddies' embroilment in an escalating war with a Dairytown gang over turf and women, he not only refuses to take part, but repeatedly tries to talk them out of it. Although they don't listen to him, his stance leads Maggie to notice him for the first time as an adult: "Why are you the only sane person here?" she asks him affectionately, as they wait to see their friend 'Litos, who's just gotten himself shot.
Private Eye Monologue: Beginning with the Penny Century miniseries, and continuing through Love and Rockets Volume II and New Stories, Ray's Inner Monologuenarrates most of the stories in which he appears. Many readers have noted his narration's resemblance, in terms of rhythm and attitude though not subject matter, to that of Raymond Chandler and similar "hard-boiled" authors and films.
Other Hoppers Residents
Isabel Maria "Izzy" Ortiz Reubens
Izzy is the oldest of Maggie's and Hopey's Hoppers friends. At age eight she bonds with Maggie while babysitting her. (Years later, it's Izzy who introduces Maggie to Hopey.) As a teenager, she's a founding member of the gang Las Widows, but after serving a misdemeanour jail sentence she straightens out and completes high school. While in college, her relationship with her father falls apart over her aspiration to become a writer rather than a teacher. Izzy marries her English professor, Jack Reubens, but divorces him a year later and has an abortion. Guilt from her Roman Catholic upbringing dogs her over these actions, and she attempts suicide. After recuperating in hospital, she travels to Mexico where, despite initially finding happiness as nanny to a young boy and lover to his single father, her guilt and psychic sensitivity leave her vulnerable to horrific demonic visions and visits from Satan. Following her return, alone, to Hoppers, family and friends notice Izzy's no longer the same: she neglects her appearance, seldom leaves the old, reputedly haunted house she's purchased, and becomes generally dour and occult-obsessed. Nevertheless, she remains a close, even wise at times, friend to Maggie and lets her and Hopey live with her temporarily. As well, despite her brother Speedy's suicide, and another mental breakdown and institutionalization, she achieves some degree of success as an author. However, she has trouble dealing with the publicity and becomes increasingly temperamental, at times alienating her friends. When the Devil threatens to haunt Maggie as well, Izzy finally exorcises him by burning her house down and leaving Hoppers forever.
Deadpan Snarker: She can be this in her more stable and less depressed moments.
The Eeyore: Izzy, post-Mexico, rarely smiles or laughs, and her dialogue tends toward the gloomy and fatalistic. At times this crosses over into outright morbid and disturbing pronouncements, as when she and Hopey come across Maggie and Daffy chatting whimsically about marriage. Hopey mischievously says that Izzy has some thoughts on the subject, whereupon Izzy launches into an allegory about two cats tied together by their tail and hung on a clothesline, then left to attack and cannibalize each other. The nauseated Daffy, her good mood ruined, excuses herself and heads home.
Go Mad from the Revelation: In "Flies on the Ceiling," the Whole Episode Flashback of her Mexico stay, Izzy demands that the Devil, who's been sending her demonic visions, show himself directly. When he does, she first laughs uproariously, then vomits Bad Black Barf which morphs into lizards, and then flees in terror. (The reader gets only a partial glimpse of the Devil's grinning face.) Despite an attempt at returning to normality with her lover and his son, Izzy before long flees Mexico and becomes the unkempt, morose, haunted figure the comic introduces her as.
Guilt Complex: Although the Devil's visitation is the immediate cause of Izzy's mental breakdown, it's her obsessive guilt that provides the groundwork.
Izzy: Oh, God. Why me? I'm not the first person that ever got a divorce... or an abortion... or attempted suicide... The Devil: No... It's not your sins, but your guilt that allows me to come to you.
Involuntary Shapeshifting: Izzy's anxiety over her upcoming promotional television appearance and book tour causes her to grow to gigantic proportions. She ends up giving a talk at home, lying down. (Oddly enough, in "The Race," which takes place around the same time, Maggie dreams of Izzy shrinking.) She eventually returns to normal height.
Psychic Powers: In "Bob Richardson," Izzy has a brief clairvoyant episode, through Maggie's eyes, of Maggie visiting the beach. Shortly thereafter, she has another one of Maggie petting a dog, this time from the dog's point of view.
Team Mom: Izzy has always felt a special responsibility to look out for Maggie, and also cares deeply for the well-being of Hopey and Penny. In her more stable moments, she serves as a source of advice and wisdom for them.
Weirdness Magnet: Due to her ongoing burden of guilt and psychic sensitivity, bizarre things happen when Izzy's around. For years, these phenomena (ceiling flies, demonic apparitions, her gigantism episode) are confined to her house, though others can occasionally see them as well. However, her association with Maggie eventually gets the latter caught up in the weirdness as well. Maggie finds herself physically unable to drive home from Izzy's neighbourhood at night. She receives a phone call, in which Hopey says "I love you" to her for the first time, despite her phone being out of order. Finally, visiting the ruins of Izzy's home shortly after her disappearance, Maggie has visions of demonic apparitions, as well as more mundane ones of her and Izzy's past, and finally one of Izzy telling off the Devil as she sets her house on fire and takes off.
Penny Century (BeatrÝz Garcia)
Penny is the second-oldest of the core "Locas" circle. Born in Chester Square, Texas, she meets and bemuses billionaire H.R. (Herv) Costigan as a young child, then again as a knockout would-be runaway in junior high, shocking him by contemptuously returning his amusement-park token he'd given her upon their first meeting. The now besotted Costigan trails her years later to her high school, where they flirt; they finally hook up when she's eighteen and working as a waitress. Shortly after this, BeatrÝz moves to Hoppers and befriends Hopey and Maggie, who inadvertently gives her the nickname "Penny Century" which she uses from then on. Herv and Penny eventually marry, him out of love (though he's not above cheating) and her in the futile hope his wealth can give her super powers (though she does have some affection for him). In the early years of their marriage, Herv preoccupies himself with tracking Penny down as she frequently runs off to have adventures and dalliances without him. However, in time he essentially leaves her to her own devices as his business takes him around the world. Penny amuses herself at one or another of his many luxurious homes, roleplaying as a Super Hero, taking lovers (including Ray), mothering two children (neither of them Herv's), and variously hanging out with, hosting, or pestering her friends (often at the same time). Years later, she declines to be by her aged husband's side as he dies, and though she later sheds a tear at his grave, her only voiced regret is that he never was able to make her a superhero.
Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Penny and Herv spend little time together as husband and wife, and when they do, they're generally exasperated with each other, Penny over Herv's compulsive need to please her with material possessions while protesting his inability to give her the one thing she really wants, and Herv over his inability to please her and her attempts to run off. Nevertheless, as the story "T42" shows, they do find each other amusing, even enchanting, in this case making up after a fight by sharing a laugh and dancing together.
Cloudcuckoolander: Penny is energetically cheerful, eccentric, impulsive, hedonistic and often heedless of others' concerns, though never in a malicious way. Though generally enjoying her Idle Rich lifestyle, Penny has no regard for her husband's property, casually tearing up valuable first-edition books for her scrapbook and driving luxury cars into the swimming pool. (Fortunately for her, Herv doesn't seem to care.) In "All This and Penny, Too...", she roleplays as a superhero, hiring guys to dress as stunt Super Villains, heedlessly (again, neither maliciously nor sadistically) battering them until they all quit. She loves dressing in Camp costumes, or going nude, even outdoors, as the fancy strikes her.
Golddigger: Although, as noted above, not without genuine affection for her suitor, Penny accepts Herv's proposal mainly for the prospect of luxurious living. On occasion this trope is subverted when she expresses the desire to work for a living again; however, being Penny, she inevitably either forgets about it or quickly gets fired for irresponsibility and goes back to her Idle Rich lifestyle.
I Just Want to Be Special: Penny's lifelong dream is to gain super powers. It's the main reason (along with the opportunity to live the high life) she agrees to marry Costigan, and so she's disappointed when he can't oblige her because, he claims, super powers can only come from a Freak Lab Accident. Penny contents herself with dressing occasionally in superhero costumes and, in one story, hiring guys to roleplay as stunt villains.
In the Alternate Universe story "God and Science: Return of the Ti-Girls," Penny gains super powers, for her and her children, from a sorceress's magic bath, and becomes first a Great Gazoo-type nuisance then, after her children are separated from her, a Chaotic Evil menace to the superhero community. When she finally has a My God, What Have I Done? realization and surrenders, it turns out that "the gift" of super powers is every woman's birthright, and that Penny had previously failed to manifest her gift because she'd wanted it too much.
Ms. Fanservice: Whether as a natural brunette or with hair dyed blonde or silver, Penny's got movie-star looks. Of all the "Locas" characters, she's the one who most often appears scantily-clad or nude.
Punny Name: BeatrÝz gets her nickname when Maggie, in one of their initial meetings, dismissively calls her "Penny of the Century," a garbling of Hopey's and Izzy's nickname for her, "Penny Tentiary," because she's "kooky."note Of course, as Maggie points out to Hopey, penitentiaries are for criminals, not the mentally ill. BeatrÝz mishears this in turn as "Penny Century" and, far from being insulted, immediately adopts it for her own.
Rich Boredom: At times, Penny grows tired of her luxurious, no-responsibility lifestyle and either runs off seeking adventure or takes a service job. Neither lasts long.
The Runaway: In the Whole Episode Flashback "Bay of Threes," when Costigan meets her the second time, Penny, in her early teens, is hitch-hiking off the highway, looking to run away from home. However, in the next scene, which takes place shortly afterward, she's hanging out in her neighbourhood with a friend, having apparently decided to stick around.
Shameless Fanservice Girl: Penny not only goes nude at home on a whim, but occasionally and deliberately flashes men both at home and outdoors.
Shipper on Deck: Penny, for Maggie and Hopey. In "Ninety-Three Million Miles from the Sun," she lies to and manipulates them in order to reunite them, assuming they'll live monogamously Happily Ever After. She doesn't understand that her friends prefer, indeed need, an open relationship, in order to get along with each other and to be happy in and of themselves.
The Tease / The Vamp: Penny is a less malicious, more heedless combination of these two with her lovers, particularly Ray. When she learns that he crushed on her from a distance in junior high, she begins to flirt with him, first when he's living with Maggie (by flashing him) and continuing when he subsequently dates Danita (by repeatedly stopping by their apartment with a flimsy excuse). When Ray's single again, she seduces him, then, when he confesses his feelings for her in the throes of passion, disappears for months without a word, shattering his confidence with women. No sooner does he finally land a date with someone than she shows up again to pick up their relationship (such as it is) where they'd left off.
Why Do You Keep Changing Jobs?: Before as well as after her marriage to Costigan, Penny is too irresponsible to keep a job for long. Indeed, her second appearance is in a short titled, "Penny Century, You're Fired!", her boss at an assembly line shouting these words as she daydreams about being a superhero. In a later story, she deliberately causes an accident as a restaurant server so that, being fired, she's free to have lunch with friends.