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The "Palomar" stories contain examples of:

  • Anvilicious: "An American in Palomar" concerns a U.S. photographer who visits the village intending to produce an exploitative book of photos showing how supposedly downtrodden and abject the residents are. The story spells out his intent, and his failure to understand Palomar's culture on its own terms, with third-person narrative captions emphasizing how arrogant he is. In the end, having slept with the naive Tonantzin while allowing her to assume he can give her a break in Hollywood, and having thoroughly annoyed the savvier villagers, he is beaten up on the way out of town, experiencing a moral epiphany as he blacks out. Gilbert himself later admitted this wasn't one of his subtler efforts.
  • Bizarro Episode: "Birdland", the Palomar story published under Fantagraphics' Eros imprint, is a bizarre pornographic story involving alien abductions, hypnotism, and the Orgone theory. While Fritzi and Petra play important roles in it, its connections to the rest of the series are virtually non-existent, and it's never been mentioned since.
  • Values Dissonance: The series' casual approach to nudity extends to child characters as well as adults. This has occasionally resulted in the books being challenged in libraries in more conservative parts of the United States on the grounds of being "child pornography".
    • "For The Love of Carmen" is Heraclio's first-person account of growing up in Palomar. (trigger warning) The much older Luba has sex with him one time as a young teen. He honestly relates how the trauma and confusion of dealing with this lasted through college, and even into his marriage. The town and his wife considered it to be a kid getting lucky, since there was no standard age of consent. Carmen feels Heraclio lied about being a virgin before their wedding, justifying an affair and then aborting the resulting pregnancy out of panic. Heraclio is devastated, but loves her deeply and they stay together with a new pregnancy at the end of the story. Luba is well known to be promiscuous, but the age difference is never challenged, even though a neighbor and the sheriff notice Luba's daughter Guadalupe looks a lot like him. Once Heraclio realizes this later in the series, he accepts Lupe with open arms.

The "Locas" stories contain examples of:

  • Growing the Beard: Many critics pinpoint "Vida Loca: The Death of Speedy Ortiz" as the arc in which Jaime's narrative and characterization skills first reach maturity, following his shift from SF action-adventure tales to realistic depictions of Mexican-American urban life.
  • Jerkass Woobie: Vivian "Frogmouth" Solis is loud, obnoxious, sharp-tongued, quick-tempered, and moody, and has a knack for getting herself in trouble by hanging with morally questionable individuals. Despite this, she shows moments of genuine vulnerability which endear her to Ray and Maggie even as she often frustrates and angers them.

The band: