Comic Book: Love And Rockets
Love and Rockets
is a long-running black-and-white comic book anthology series created by Gilbert, Jaime, and to a lesser extent Mario, Hernandez, often credited as "Los Bros Hernandez". The comic began when the brothers self-published their first issue and sent it to The Comics Journal
for review. It impressed the people there so much that the magazine's publishers, Fantagraphics, decided to republish the comic and give the brothers an ongoing series.
The original Love And Rockets
ran for fifty issues before a hiatus began in 1996, during which the brothers worked on other projects mainly spun-off from their ongoing plots. A "Volume 2" series began in 2001 and ran for twenty issues until 2007. In 2008, Los Bros bowed to the move from individual issues to larger bound volumes as the primary medium for art comics, and began an annual "Love and Rockets: New Stories" series in book format.
While the series contains a number of one-off short stories, the majority of the issues deal with one or both of two long-running serials. The first is Gilbert Hernandez's "Palomar" stories, a series on the borders of Slice of Life
and Soap Opera
, covering several decades in the history of the people of the small Central American village of the title, in the village itself and elsewhere in Central America and the USA. The second is Jaime Hernandez's "Locas" series, dealing with the lives of two Hispanic-American friends and occasional lesbian lovers, Maggie and Hopey, and the characters who circle around them. The "Locas" stories initially had prominent pulp-SF and superhero elements, but soon became more naturalistic stories set in the working-class punk and/or Latina subcultures in California.
Not to be confused with the Bauhaus
spin-off band, although they did
name themselves after this comic.
The "Palomar" stories contain examples of:
- 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.
- Similarly, Ofelia, Luba's cousin and guardian from toddlerhood until her teenage marriage to Peter, often threatens her into obedience with a Death Glare and clenched fist.
- Badass: Petra is a kick-boxing expert and severely beats several people she believes are hurting her sister Fritzi (AKA Fritz), including Fritz's girlfriend Pipo.
- Badass Grandpa: Gorgo
- Bigger Is Better in Bed: Gato, who has been married to both Pipo and Guadalupe, has a huge one. Pipo has apparently become accustomed to it and doesn't think much of average-sized men. She dates Igor, of comparable size (Gato and Igor actually compare in a bathroom), and later has several sexual encounters with an unnamed, sleazy-looking character who dwarfs even Gato and Igor. She has no problem with his size in any opening. But then there's Fritz, who has a fulfilling sex life with mostly average-sized men - ironically including Pipo's son Sergio - and is twice married to the "love of her life," Scott the Hog. He's described as having a barely functioning "choad."
- Brainless Beauty: Tonantzín, Khamo.
- Brains and Bondage: Fritz and Pipo frequent a BDSM sex club, and Fritz in particular is obsessed with making her waist smaller with a corset. They are both intelligent and highly successful in show business.
- Butch Lesbian: Maricela, although not to an extreme degree.
- Buxom Is Better: This trope gets Played With many different ways throughout the series. Luba's breasts are enormous. So are those belonging to most of her female relatives, especially her mother Maria and half-sisters Fritz and Petra. Their huge busts are constantly commented on by others and are a very integral part of the character arcs of Luba, Maria, and the rest of the girls in the family. The attention they receive runs the realistic gamut from fascinated and aroused men, disgusted men with a preference for thinner women, and jealous women who call them names like "blimp-chest." Luba in particular has complained that her build makes people automatically assume that she's a whore.
- Cerebus Retcon: Dios mio, poor Fritz. Initially introduced as a sexy, funny, kinky, Really Gets Around Cloudcuckoolander, once she starts getting stories centering around her it becomes increasingly obvious that she's an incredibly damaged but heartbreakingly, unjustifiedly, optimistic woman who's been sexually and financially exploited and emotionally abused by just about everyone she's ever known except her sisters.
- Changing of the Guard: After Volume 2, the focus of the Palomar-related tales shifts from Luba and her immediate family to Guadalupe's daughter Killer.
- Does Not Like Shoes: Many characters walk around barefoot from time to time, which isn't so odd in a place like Palomar. Doralis, however, goes barefoot, indoors and outdoors, even in LA (although she does sometimes wear boots as part of her TV show costume).
- Driven To Heroic Sacrifice: Tonantzin
- Drop the Hammer: Luba's trade mark.
- Photographer Howard Miller, on his first visit to Palomar and prior to his Character Development, embodies flavor 2 of this trope (Americans as inconsiderate, ethnocentric and invasive).
- Also a Discussed Trope, in that several Palomar residents—most notably Luba, Chelo, Carmen and Pipo—have a priori negative views of America and its official language, English. Indeed, Luba and Pipo both refuse to learn English after immigrating there. Other characters, particularly Heraclio and Israel, have a more benign view of the U.S.
- Everybody Has Lots of Sex: The Volume 1 stories feature a great deal of non-marital sexual activity, considering their being set mostly in a tiny, insular, defiantly pre-technological (no phones, TV or computers; few cars) Central American village. In the miniseries and Volume 2 stories, set mainly in Los Angeles, this trope is dialed Up to Eleven, at times approaching Self-Parody. Whether the activity is opposite-sex, same-sex, two-person, multiple-partner, vanilla or kink... apart from prepubescent children, the very elderly and infirm, and the mentally disabled, there's scarcely a character who's neither said to have had, nor depicted having, sex at least once.
- 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. Gilbert's dark SF protagonist Errata Stigmata, with her distinctive part-white hair, has made a few cameos in "Palomar" stories, including as a visitor at a fiesta, as a child's doll, and as a receptionist at Pipo's boutique.
- Femme Fatale: Maria and her female descendants, to some extent.
- Gayngster: several characters in the "Poison River" story.
- Harmful to Minors: In "Human Diastrophism," the toddler Casimira, exposed to her mother Luba's verbal and physical abuse of her children, starts yelling at and beating up her doll, addressing it by her sisters' names and even her own. Her ten-year-old sister Guadalupe tries in vain to have her cuddle the doll instead, presumably reflecting her own wish that their mother would be more loving.
- Hollywood Pudgy: In-universe. The series points out how ludicrous this is with Doralis, one of Luba's daughter who stars in a hit TV variety show. She started out as a back-up to an anorexic blond who insults her for her incredibly voluptuous figure. The blond ends up getting edged out of the show and Doralis gains millions of male and female admirers.
- Generational Saga: several family lines within the story, but especially Luba's family.
- The Illegal: Much of Luba's family immigrates to the US illegally.
- It Works Better with Bullets: Double Subversion. In "Duck Feet," Chelo, the town sheriff, gives Tonantzín a pistol so she can patrol the village while Chelo is sick. Tonantzín realizes Chelo wouldn't trust her with a loaded gun, and takes the town's other pistol from Chelo's desk instead. Later, when Geraldo takes Tonantzin hostage with that pistol, which he'd earlier stolen from her, Chelo reveals she knew Tonantzin would switch the guns, and so had left the pistol in her desk unloaded too.
- Laser-Guided Karma
- 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.
- Left Hanging: the final Palomar story at the end of Volume 1 ends with a massive cliffhanger that also appears to be setting up a Cross Over with Jaime's "Locas" storiesnote . It has still never been resolved or even referred to.
- Lipstick Lesbian: Doralis, Luba's TV-star daughter, is one of these. Her older sister Maricela, not so much. See above. It's implied that Luba's other three daughters (besides clearly straight Guadalupe) are or will grow up to be lesbians as well. Considering how they look in a future dream sequence, it's safe to say they will also be the lipstick variety.
- Little Miss Snarker: Venus, Petra's daughter.
- Love Dodecahedron: This happens often.
- Loads and Loads of Characters
- Mad Artist: Humberto, in "Human Diastrophism," becomes so obsessed with creating art for art's sake that when he observes a serial killer in the act, he simply sketches him and doesn't report the murders. He even posts the drawings on the walls of his house and around the village, so removed is he from concern over being caught. When Sheriff Chelo later punishes him with a lifetime ban on drawing or painting, Humberto creates sculptures instead, hiding them at the bottom of the river.
- Magic Realism: This series features a lot of it, for example the nude painting of Luba that continues to reappear throughout the series despite several on-panel destructions.
- Male Frontal Nudity: Appears frequently for a non-pornographic, U.S.-published comic book saga. (That it's an alternative comic, with minimal Executive Meddling, helps.) What's more, men's genitalia, though occasionally having plot significance, are generally presented as no more shocking or comical than women's genitals are.
- Manly Gay: Israel and some of the aforementioned Gayngsters.
- The Napoleon: Carmen - short and domineering.
- Parent Service: In-canon - Doralis's role as kids' TV show presenter.
- The Pornomancer: Fortunato, a blond, light-eyed man who appears out of the blue at multiple points in the series, and has sex with almost every female character. He even scores Doralis, otherwise a stalwart Lipstick Lesbian. Fortunato's conquests are not limited to the beautiful women, either - he has sex with the dwarfish Boots in one scene.
- Really Gets Around: Tonantzin has many many lovers.
- Recursive Canon
- Repeating so the Audience Can Hear: Because of his burn scars, Khamo can't speak intelligibly. Casimira interprets his mumblings for Luba, but it's not clear if she actually understands him or if she just says what she thinks her mother wants to hear.
- Resentful Guardian
- Ofelia, as a young woman, at first resents being stuck raising her toddler cousin Luba in addition to her own ailing mother. However, she soon finds herself bonding with the child. Not that this prevents her from being an abusive guardian at times.
- Luba veers between genuine love and concern for her children, and seeing them as an unasked-for burden.
- Retired Badass: Gorgo.
- Rich Boredom: Young Luba.
- The Runaway: Maricela flees Palomar for the U.S. with her lover Riri in order to escape Luba's abuse and to live more openly as a couple.
- Sanity Slippage
- Tonantzin is at first an upbeat, hedonistic sort who dreams of Hollywood stardom. However, after her own lover, Geraldo, takes her hostage in "Duck Feet," she becomes pathologically obsessed with his radical politics, as well as with doomsday scenarios, dressing like her aboriginal ancestors, and prolonged fasting (after Gandhi's example). Although she seems to recover, she ends up committing self-immolation at a political protest in the U.S..
- Luba undergoes a more temporary version of this trope 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 give her daughtersnote 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.
- Scars Are Forever: Khamo, very much so, after he throws himself on Tonantzin in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent her death from self-immolation.
- Serial Killer: The main storyline of "Human Diastrophism."
- South of the Border: Palomar is in an unnamed Central American country which is almost certainly Mexico.
- Stylistic Suck: Scenes from Pipo's B-movie loosely based on Palomar, Proof That the Devil Loves You, are interspersed with an in-continuity Palomar tale in New Stories Vol. 5. The film stars Fritz as the tree-dwelling Brainless Beauty "Bula," a Flanderized composite of Luba and Tonantzin. For protection, she carries a "symbolic screwdriver," lampooning Luba's signature hammer. The Sherrif, an over-the-top tinpot dictator with a fondness for striking Captain Morgan Poses with her foot resting on thin air, is a Take That to Chelo, with whom Pipo has often come into conflict over the latter's illegally short hemlines. Pipo herself serves as the inspiration for an unnamed Mary Sue character who starts a rebellion against the Sherrif and is immediately shot dead, and whom her young son avenges. The dialogue in these sequences is deliberatedly stilted and silly. All together, it serves as Gilbert's own send-up of the Palomar saga.
- Take That: The "Love And Rockets X" storyline set in LA contains several playful barbs aimed at the popular British post-punk band who had adopted the name "Love And Rockets" without the Hernandez brothers' permission.
- The Theme Park Version: Painfully invoked in canon. It turns out that some evil Hollywood types made a film very loosely inspired by the Palomar community, in which Fritz appeared as a character fusing elements of her sister Luba and Tonantzin, that depicted all the residents with contempt as deranged, violent, stereotypical peasants. It's implied that this contributed to Fritz and Luba falling out, as well as the reported film (not yet depicted in the comic) which had Fritz playing their mother Maria.
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Fritz's two-time husband and "one true love" is Scott the Hog. He's fat, snaggle-toothed, and apparently has a short penis that barely works. She's beautiful, has huge breasts, a slim waist and curvy hips. Then there's Luba and her husband Khamo, who used to be beautiful himself until he was severely burned on 95% of his body.
- Verbal Tic: Blas's "Awwww."
- Wide-Eyed Idealist: Steve.
The "Locas" stories contain examples of:
- All Just a Dream: Subverted towards the end of "Bob Richardson," the final "Locas" story of Volume 1. Just as Maggie and Hopey are about to be reunited for the second time, there's a three-page sequence in which a noticeably younger Maggie wakes up to find that everything that's happened from "The Return of Ray D.," when she and Hopey split for the first time many years earlier, has been a dream. However, the setting then jumps right back to just before their second reunion.
- The Artifact: the hangovers from the earlier SF tone, like H.R.'s horns.
- Art Evolution
- The first instance occurs in Volume 1 Issue #2, with the first long "Locas" arc, "Mechanics." Characters lose their somewhat Uncanny Valley eyes, with their wide inverted (white) pupils, in favour of more realistic eyes.
- The second, more significant instance takes place in 1985, shortly after the conclusion of the final SF/action-adventure arc, "Las Mujeres Perdidas." Here the ink lines become bolder and more assured, and there's increased use of shading and Chiaroscuro. Of note is that this art style, which Jaime is best known for, initially appears in "How to Kill a... (By Isabel Ruebens)," the second-ever "Locas" story in the very first issue, in between two thinner-lined, "Uncanny Valley eye" stories, thus making it an Art Shift here.
- Art Shift: Apart from the isolated one in the first issue (see above under Art Evolution), the major instance throughout "Locas" occurs whenever there are scenes centering on very young children and the adults who interact with them. Jaime typically draws these sequences in a minimalist, gag-a-day Newspaper Comic style. The major exception to this is "Browntown," which features a realistic style throughout, suiting the story's dark and ultimately tragic tone.
- Banana Republic: Zymbodia, and nearby Zhato which is ruled on and off by dictators from the San Jo family.
- Black Comedy Rape
- Breakout Character: Ray, Doyle, Vivian (AKA "Frogmouth").
- Butch Lesbian: Hopey at times, several other minor characters.
- Cerebus Syndrome: "Vida Loca: The Death of Speedy Ortiz" is the first arc in which a prominent character, who isn't a disposable cartoonish villain, dies.
- Changing of the Guard: With Maggie's story having in effect concluded in Love and Rockets: New Stories no. 4, the next installment introduces a new protagonist, Vivian's half-sister Tonta. She's a younger, if less glamorous, counterpart to Maggie in terms of her naivete and Punk Rock aesthetic.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Penny.
- Convenient Miscarriage: Hopey becomes pregnant with Tex's child, but miscarries.
- Dark and Troubled Past
- The tough, no-nonsense, musically talented Terry Downe ends up as one of the more successful "Locas" characters, as her band gains in popularity. However, the story "Tear It Up, Terry Downe" reveals that her stepfather kicked her out when she was a teenager. Having nowhere else to go, she roomed with a lecherous drug dealer. During this time, she became the dominant, abusively possessive girlfriend of the then-innocent runaway Hopey; however, as Hopey took to the punk lifestyle, she quickly inverted their relationship. Terry then suffered heartbreak as Hopey attached herself to Maggie instead.
- Doyle Blackburn is a usually upbeat, carefree, hard-partying drifter. However, "Spring 1982" provides a glimpse of his past as a miserable ex-con and recovering drug addict in a troubled relationship with a stripper for whose business he works.
- Depraved Bisexual: Lois.
- Does Not Like Shoes: Several characters, most notably Maggie, often go barefoot outdoors.
- Driven to Suicide: Speedy.
- Early Installment Weirdness
- The first two years' worth of stories are mainly SF/action-adventure oriented. The existence of superheroes, extraterrestrial and extradimensional villains, and surviving dinosaur species, all are common knowledge in-universe. Although the fantastic elements never completely disappear, they fade into the background as the focus of the series shifts to realistic portrayals of interpersonal relationships within the southern Californian Punk Rock scene, the Mexican-American community, the Professional Wrestling field, and elsewhere.
- Early stories frequently play with Fourth Wall tropes, having characters compare their predicament to the climax of a Comic Book story and, in a couple of instances, show full awareness that they're comic book characters.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: Maggie and Ray, at the conclusion of "The Love Bunglers," finally find lasting love with each other, but not until they reunite after two years because she'd been unaware her long-lost mentally ill brother Calvin had beaten Ray and left him with a long period of recovery from brain damage.
- Easily Forgiven: Following a night out with his lifelong friend Doyle, Ray awakes one morning with not only a hangover but also a feeling of unease and dread he can't quite determine the cause of. Later that day, hanging out with Doyle again, he suddenly remembers that Doyle had gone down on him. Despite Ray being straight, and notwithstanding the morally questionable aspect of Doyle's actions (even though he too was drunk), the two of them simply laugh it off and the incident is never mentioned again.
- Expy: Jaime's SF heroine Rocky appears briefly as a friend of Danita's, with her robot Fumble apparently as a lifeless toy in her bedroom.
- Face on a Milk Carton: Hopey, in "Wigwam Bam." Subverted in that she's not a "missing person" at any point in that story, except figuratively from Maggie's life. The "Hopey's face" mystery turns out to have been a marketing gimmick by a punk band formed by some of her fans.
- Fiction 500: H.R. Costigan.
- Friends with Benefits: Maggie and Hopey veer between this, Just Friends, and open-relationship lovers for much of the series.
- Golddigger: Penny.
- Horror: Izzy, due to her persistent guilt over her divorce, abortion and suicide attempt, becomes a perpetual victim of harassment by The Devil. When he reveals himself fully to her in Mexico, she begins to undergo Sanity Slippage which continues as, upon her return to Hoppers, her house becomes infested with ceiling flies, demonic apparitions and uncontrollable gigantic growth when she suffers anxiety over public speaking. When the devil threatens to haunt Maggie as well, Izzy finally exorcises him by burning her house down and leaving Hoppers forever.
- If It's You, It's Okay: Hopey is mostly lesbian; 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).
- 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 her suitor H.R. 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. It turns out that "the gift" of such powers is every woman's birthright, and that Penny had previously failed to manifest her gift because she'd wanted it too much.
- The Jail Bait Wait: In the Whole Episode Flashback "Bay of Threes," H.R. (Herv) Costigan and Penny play a chaste cat-and-mouse game as they meet on three separate occasions as she moves from childhood to adulthood. Approaches Squick territory in that Herv launches a "stay in school" lecture tour of West Coast high schools just to track her down. The story lampshades this when he asks Penny's principal if there aren't any female problem students he can talk to and the principal upbraids him for treating her pupils like "death row inmates." Herv and Penny finally hook up once she's legal.
- Literary Agent Hypothesis: it's hinted in a couple of the later more naturalistic stories that the early "Maggie the Mechanic" stories were daydreams, or fantasies Maggie made up to entertain Hopey.
- Magic Realism: Most prominent in the early, SF adventure stories, as well as throughout Izzy's arcs, which contain a number of Horror elements.
- Mistaken for Prostitute: Happens to Maggie three times. 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.
- Professional Wrestling: Maggie's aunt Vicki, Rena, El Diablo Blanco, Gina and Xochitl, among several others, are pro wrestlers. Vicki also strongarms Maggie into playing the part of her accountant, and tries, less successfully, to get her into wrestling herself.
- Punk Rock: Several of the main characters are fans; Hopey and Terry perform in bands.
- Punny Name: Penny Century ("penitentiary"), Julie Wree ("jewelry") and Mary Christmas.
- Rape as Drama: "Browntown" tells the story of how an unnamed boy repeatedly raped Maggie's brother Calvin over a period of a few years as they grew up together, until Calvin finally snapped and brutally beat the boy with a stick, possibly to death. It's implied that this trauma was the cause of Calvin's lifelong psychosis, which later figures crucially in the resolution of Maggie's storyline.
- Remember the New Guy: Happens all the time, as characters drift in and out of the story, and "new" characters are often revealed to be old friends and acquaintances of Maggie and Hopey. The most extreme example is Maggie's husband T.C.: we don't even know Maggie is married before she announces she's getting a divorce. T.C. himself is seen for the first time after the divorce announcement, in a story where we learn that he and Maggie met for the first time over 15 years earlier, during the early years of the series.
- Sacrificial Lion: Speedy.
- Sealed Evil in a Can: Parodied in "Maggie vs Maniakk." Maggie plays with a "Mayamese mini transporter" and accidentally frees Maniakk, a costumed super evil trapped in the ninth dimension by Ultimax, a superhero now down on his luck.
- 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.
- Tattooed Crook: Hopey and Maggie's friend and sometimes landlady Izzie Ortiz has a frequently-visible tattoo on her arm of the emblem of the "Widows", the all-female street gang she used to be a member of.
- Uncle Pennybags: H.R. Costigan.
- Wrench Wench: Maggie.