Monday, February 25, 2013

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

The Definitive Love & Rockets Reading Guide and Full Bibliography
by Jeffrey O. Gustafson

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 represent the high-water mark of independent, creator-owned comics, indeed comics period. The importance of Love and Rockets and the stories contained therein can never be understated. Los Bros' work is required reading, collectively and individually one of the most important literary achievements in a generation, and without hyperbole, Nobel-worthy.

Each author's stories are independent of the others, and should be approached separately. Jaime ("Xaime") has almost exclusively told one continuing story over the last 30 years, Locas, while Gilbert ("Beto") has serialized several different ongoing stories and many short stories over the decades in Love & Rockets (the longest work being what I call 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 121 issues over 30 years, in four distinct phases across four anthologies and seven mini-series; collected in 27 sequential hardcover & softcover albums, collections, and graphic novels; and nine softcover omnibus collections.

The easiest way to read Love & Rockets is in Fantagraphics' fantastic softcover omnibus editions, which collect all of Jaime's work through 2005, and the first half of the Gilbert Palomar/Luba cycle at just $15 to $19 a volume. 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, 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 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 (graphic novella 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 only)
8: The Love Bunglers, serialized in Love & Rockets New Stories 3 and 4, not yet collected
9: And Locas continues in Love & Rockets New Stories 5 and 6 (untitled, not yet collected)

There are also two oversized hardcover omnibus collections, LOCAS I and LOCAS II, but only LOCAS II is in-print. There is also an excellent Jaime Hernandez art book, The Secrets of Life and Death: The Art of Jaime Hernandez from Abrams Comic Arts.

The Palomar/Luba cycle, by Gilbert Hernandez

Initially the extraordinary character drama following the inhabitants of Palomar, a 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 only three of the Fantagraphics omnibus volumes:
1: Heartbreak Soup
2: Human Diastrophism
3: Beyond Palomar

The story continues in the sequential Fantagraphics collections:
4: Luba in America
5: The Book of Ofelia
6: Three Daughters
7: High, Soft Lisp
8: New Tales of Old Palomar (coming Summer 2013)

There is also one all-ages book collecting the age-appropriate post-Palomar Luba material:
9: The Adventures of Venus

There are three 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
B: The Troublemakers
C: Love From the Shadows

Finally, Julio's Day, coming this summer from Fantagraphics, collects his most recent non-Palomar/Luba story serialized in Love & Rockets.

There are two hardcover omnibus collections covering the above material: Palomar, out of print; and LUBA, in-print, collecting most of the Palomar/Luba material not collected in the softcover omnibus editions.

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 (all of which are in-print), including but not limited to:

Girl Crazy, form Dark Horse
Sloth, from Vertigo
Speak of the Devil, from Dark Horse
Yeah!, with Peter Bagge from Fantagraphics
Citizen Rex, with Mario Hernandez from Dark Horse
Fatima: The Blood Spinners, from Dark Horse (not yet collected)
Marble Season, his autobiography coming this spring from Drawn & Quarterly

Finally, there is the graphic novel Birdland, from Eros comics (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

There will also be several books on Los Bros coming out in the summer from Fantagraphics:
-The Love and Rockets Companion: 30 Years of Love and Rockets 
-The Love and Rockets Reader: From Hoppers to Palomar 
-Love and Rockets: The Covers

There are two Love & Rockets Sketchbooks focusing on both brothers' works, only Volume Two is in-print.

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 (50 issues between 1981-1996)
By Los Bros:
Love & Rockets (self-published, 1981)
Love & Rockets Volume 1 (Number 1, reprinting the self-published issue, 1982)
Love & Rockets Volume 1 (Numbers 2-50, 1983-1996)

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 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 (5 issues, 2008-present)
By Los Bros:
Love & Rockets New Stories (1-5, 2008-Present; Volume 6 coming this fall)

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. (Bold numbers represent items that are in-stock or that can be ordered from Jim Hanley's Universe.)

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)

Outside of Love & Rockets and Gilbert's non-L&R creator-owned material noted above, both brothers' have also had short stories and artistic contributions featured in several work-for-hire and anthology projects for many of the major publishers since the mid-1990s.

All the in-print material above is currently available or can be ordered from both Jim Hanley's Universe locations in New York City. We also have t-shirts and out-of-print material as well.

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And check out Jeffrey O. Gustafson's comic review blog at