LOVE AND ROCKTOBER | Comics Time: Ghost of Hoppers

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Ghost of Hoppers

(Love and Rockets Book 22)

Jaime Hernandez, writer/artist

Fantagraphics, 2006

120 pages, hardcover

$18.95

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Jaime Hernandez has long displayed an infrequently utilized but alarming alacrity for horror. The Locas comics’ outbursts of genuine violence have been scary–I’ll never forget Hopey getting stomped on in the bathtub and staggering out, leaning naked against the door frame, or Speedy half-lit by the streetlight, a portrait of a young man at the very moment he hits rock bottom that chills me to my very soul. But in general the real terror, the real exercises in creating and sustaining horror imagery, emanate from Izzy Ruebens. Maggie and Hopey’s long-suffering, eccentric mentor has slowly withered, almost, over the years, from the semi-comical parasol-wielding goth of the strip’s early, punky days to the stoic, emaciated, frequently naked presence we’ve seen in Penny Century and now Ghost of Hoppers. Whether she’s simply mentally ill or genuinely haunted (and the two aren’t mutually exclusive possibilities, to be sure) is almost immaterial. In either case, the danger comes simply from seeing what she sees. The shadows, the stains, the shattered and inverted crucifixes, the black dog, the flies on the ceiling–these are monumental horror-images, frightening not because of some physical threat they present but the violation of reality they represent. They’re frightening by virtue of their very existence. Something is wrong with them. All of the damage they’ve caused–and based on what we know of Izzy’s guilt over her abortions and suicide attempts, the damage that caused them–has been self-inflicted.

At first I struggled with why Jaime would choose this particular storyline–Maggie Realizes She’s All Grown Up, basically–to delve deeper than ever into this aspect of the Locas world. I mean, this thing becomes a horror comic toward the end, easily the most sustained such work in the whole Locas oeuvre. What does any of it have to do with the misadventures of Maggie, the story’s protagonist? But then it clicked: She, too, is threatened here by the violation of her conception of reality. Is she the badass punker she always thought she was, or has she grown up to be a square like everyone else? Is she basically just a fun-loving straight girl with one exception that proves the rule, or might she be physically and emotionally attracted to other women after all? Is she okay with the friends-with-benefits relationship she’s had with Hopey since time immemorial, or does she want something more? Were she and Hopey really the center of the universe, or were there equally vibrant and vital relationships that continued on without them? Can she maintain her self-image as a troublemaker when she’s at a place where she really kind of hates trouble? Does Hoppers–her neighborhood, her hometown, her group of friends and fellow travelers–still exist in her mind as a screwed-up but happy place to visit, or has the passage of time rendered that all a lie? No wonder the black dog chooses now to pay her a visit. She had so much to be frightened of already. Thank goodness that life sometimes grants even hapless Locas an exorcism or two on the house.

2 Responses to LOVE AND ROCKTOBER | Comics Time: Ghost of Hoppers

  1. rev'D.76 says:

    “Haven’t you noticed?”

    “What?”

    “There is no tree.”

    That bit stood out for a loooong time– in part, because I had a great deal of trouble tracking down ‘Home School’, so I didn’t get what Maggie’s phantoms were talking about. All I knew is that I couldn’t ever quite -see- Mrs. Galindo’s tree. (& couldn’t be sure that I ever had!) Only ever protruding into the frame in front, usually with this or that character speaking when the p.o.v. switched, so as to obfuscate the incongruity of the starkly empty yard…

    I dunno. There’s been a lot of discussion / debate re: the Blue Sun in ‘Browntown’, but I’d like to hear some folks tackle Mrs. Galindo’s tree, too. Jaime’s knack for eerie subjectivity stone rivals his brother’s.

  2. Allan C says:

    Izzy first moves into the Gallindo house in ‘Locas vs Locos.’ The Garcia boys help her move in, while Terry and Hopey watch and kibitz…and there the tree is, front left of the house. Izzy appears in the scene, of course, but there are many others there too, and that segment of the story focuses mostly on the dialogue between Terry and Hopey.

    I think the ability to see the tree (or at least a ‘witch tree,’ which may not be the one ordinary people see) may depend on the POV and who the character is. Hopey has some superstition; she may not see ghosts, but she believes others do, and that’s enough to wig her out. (CF when Maggie’s own ghost from the future appears to Penny in ‘Ghost of Hoppers.’) Hopey is half-Hispanic, but Terry is pure English-German Anglo. As an evil person and maybe (?) a lapsed Catholic you’d think she’d know the devil when she sees him, but she is resolutely skeptical.

    Yeah, there’s material for an essay here, tracing that tree through the eyes of 20 years of witnesses. Also, the devil is the father of lies, and he may well be lying to Maggie.