Posts Tagged ‘Mario Hernandez’

Your Love and Rockets 30th Anniversary thought of the day

July 12, 2012

Mario Hernandez is the great lost alternative cartoonist, the Lost Bro Hernandez. His interest in cosmopolitanism, leftist politics, the conflation of activism and terrorism by the authorities, the pas de deux between terrorism and authoritarianism, the revolutionary and counterrevolutionary power of art and pop culture, the Third World as a petri dish for first-world government’s reimportation of radicalism, all within the framework of vaguely science-fictional thrillers — he is in many ways the perfect comics-maker for our present moment. With its heavy use of blacks his style sits comfortably alongside those of his brothers, but its density and its bold slashing brushstrokes set it completely apart. If he’d had the time or inclination to produce the same volume of work, published with the same regularity, as his brothers, we’d likely have a third pantheon-level creator from the same generation of the same family, an astonishing thing to contemplate. As it stands we have a hidden treasure, a single gem in a stack of gems, and that’s not so bad either.

Love and Rockets, the great serial comic by Gilbert, Jaime, and sometimes Mario Hernandez, is celebrating its 30th anniversary at the San Diego Comic-Con International this week. Inspired by Tom Spurgeon, this week-long, daily series of posts will highlight some of my favorite things about Los Bros Hernandez and their comics. For more information, click here.

LOVE AND ROCKTOBER | Index, Acknowledgements, and Which Love and Rockets Books to Read First (UPDATED x2))

December 10, 2010

Below you will find links to all my posts from LOVE AND ROCKTOBER, a marathon examination of the entirety of Love and Rockets by Gilbert Hernandez and Jaime Hernandez (and sometimes Mario Hernandez), October-December 2010. I will continue to add links to Los Bros’ new comics as they are released and reviewed. Please click the links for full reviews.

Thank you to Paul Baresh, Jacq Cohen, and Eric Reynolds of Fantagraphics for their help and support during this project. Fantagraphics’ “How to Read Love and Rockets” page gets my highest recommendation for anyone interested in keeping track of the optimal reading order for the series or learning what comics are and aren’t in what book.

This was one of the most enjoyable and inspiring things I’ve ever done for this blog. Thank you for reading.

Special thanks to Gilbert and Jaime (and Mario) for the inexhaustible richness of their work.

One of the most frequently asked questions regarding Los Bros Hernandez and Love and Rockets is which book to start reading them with. With Gilbert, that’s easy: Heartbreak Soup, the start of the Palomar/Luba saga of life in a small Central American village and, eventually, California. (Prepare to ignore the following: If you’re feeling frisky, you could start with Beyond Palomar, which contains the stand-alone graphic novel Poison River. That’s the origin story of Gilbert’s main character, Luba, and thus is chronologically the “beginning” of her story; it’s also one of the greatest comics ever made. The book also contains another stand-alone story, Love and Rockets X, which ties in with the Palomar/Luba stories but doesn’t require knowledge of them to understand or enjoy. But nine times out of ten, you’ll probably want to start with Heartbreak Soup.)

With Jaime, it’s a little trickier: Maggie the Mechanic is the start of the Locas saga, about a group of Latina punk-rock kids and their circle of friends, but it’s a science-fiction comic at first, which is different than the work for which Jaime is most renowned (since he gradually dropped the SF elements from the storyline); moreover it’s drawn in a more traditional, maximalist style than his best-known work, and I’ve seen this be a bit off-putting for some readers as well. The Girl from H.O.P.P.E.R.S. is volume two of the Locas strips, so you’re joining things in progress if you start there, but it’s much more what people are thinking visually/tonally/narratively of when they talk about Jaime’s greatness; moreover, jumping right in isn’t all that weird, since Jaime tends to make large jumps in the chronology anyway. Personally, I still recommend starting at the start, with Maggie the Mechanic, provided you think you won’t find light science fiction and classic illustration off-putting; it really is where the story of Maggie, Hopey, Izzy, Penny et al begins.

UPDATE 07/17/12: Okay, I know where to start, but how do I proceed from there?

L&R has been published, collected, re-collected, and re-re-collected in a fashion that can get pretty confusing. Heck, even now, with a line of digest-format versions that can be seen as pretty much definitive, most of Gilbert and Jaime’s stuff is still being released in standalone graphic-novel formats before eventually getting rolled into the digest series. So you end up having to bounce around between formats a bit.

Below I’ve numbered the volumes you to read in the order you want to read them. Titles in parentheses contain material that has been collected in other, more definitive volumes and thus can be skipped (though of course you should read my awesome reviews anyway).

And now, the reviews.

An interview with Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez

The “Locas” Stories
(Locas [old, disavowed review])
1. Maggie the Mechanic
2. The Girl from H.O.P.P.E.R.S.
3. Perla La Loca
4. Penny Century
(Ghost of Hoppers)
(The Education of Hopey Glass)
5. Esperanza
6. Love and Rockets Vol. 2 #20
(Love and Rockets: New Stories #1 [old version])
(Love and Rockets: New Stories #1-2)
7. God and Science: Return of the Ti-Girls
8. Love and Rockets: New Stories #3
9. Love and Rockets: New Stories #4

The “Palomar”-verse Stories
1. Heartbreak Soup
2. Human Diastrophism
3. Beyond Palomar
3x. Birdland^
4. Luba in America
5. Luba: The Book of Ofelia
6. Luba: Three Daughters
7. High Soft Lisp
7x. The Adventures of Venus
8. Love and Rockets Vol. 2 #20
9. New Tales of Old Palomar
10. Chance in Hell
11. Speak of the Devil
12. The Troublemakers
13/14/15. Love and Rockets: New Stories #1-3 and “Dreamstar”
16. Love from the Shadows
17. Love and Rockets: New Stories #4

(Mostly) Non-“Locas”/”Palomar” Stories
Amor y Cohetes (Gilbert, Jaime, Mario)
Birdland^ (Gilbert)
Fear of Comics (Gilbert)
Love and Rockets: New Stories #1 (Gilbert and Mario) (old version)
Love and Rockets: New Stories #1 (Gilbert and Mario)
Citizen Rex (Gilbert and Mario)

^ (not quite a Palomar-verse story, but not quite not a Palomar-verse story)

LOVE AND ROCKTOBER | Comics Time: Love and Rockets: New Stories #1

December 6, 2010

Love and Rockets: New Stories #1
Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez, writer/artists
Mario Hernandez, writer
Fantagraphics, July 2008
100 pages
Buy it from Fantagraphics at some point
Buy it from

(Note: This review was originally posted on August 4th, 2008. For my more recent take on Jaime’s contributions to the volume, click here. And come back in two days for my review of Gilbert’s contributions to New Stories — the final LOVE AND ROCKTOBER review!)

This handsome new book-sized version of Los Bros’ hallowed series continues both Fantagraphics’ TPB hot streak – Mome and the Love & Rockets digests are also doozies of an argument for this format – and the Brothers’ almost absurd mastery of the art form.

Jaime’s contribution is your proverbial superhero epic, in which Maggie’s friend Angel joins forces with several different teams of female superheroes to help subdue Penny Century, who’s gone and pulled a Parallax (nerd points!) after her fulfilling her long-standing dream of gaining super-powers proves disastrous. It’s fun to see Jaime shift this seamlessly back into the sort of revisionist-genre storytelling he practiced in L&R‘s earliest issues. The trick to it is delivering everything you want in a superhero story – action, suspense, tight costumes – while maintaining his characters’ neuroses and having the events of the tale spring directly from them just like they would in a normal “Locas” story. Also, I don’t know if you’ve heard about this, but he’s pretty okay at drawing women, spotting blacks, and pacing panel transitions. I know, I hope you were sitting down.

For me, though, it’s Gilbert who’s killing the game here. Sandwiched between his brothers’ two superhero installments, Gilbert’s comics are mostly short, largely abstract, and completely devastating. Two subtly interlocking strips set in completely different milieux , “Papa” and “Victory Dance,” muse on love and restlessness, using disease and solitary travel to nail that feeling of wanting to drop it all and go somewhere, anywhere, as long as it’s somewhere else. Another strip flips this idea around, recasting Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis as jovial space barbarians who slaughter their way back together across a hostile world after their duo has been forcibly disbanded by aliens. Both “Victory Dance” and “?” showcase Beto’s skill at “choreographing” the images in each panel into a rhythm, the former literally through depiction of a dance, the latter with Woodring-esque surrealism. “Never Say Never” is also on the surreal side, invoking Freud and Dali with slightly blue gags about sex and money among funny animals. “Chiro El Indio,” written by Mario, reads like an out-of-continuity “Palomar” excerpt. “The Funny Papers” serves up three newspaper-size strips, any one of which would be the best strip I read all year. This is a guy who makes you want to push away from your table and give up.

LOVE AND ROCKTOBER | Comics Time: Amor y Cohetes

November 10, 2010

Amor y Cohetes
(Love and Rockets Library: Short Stories)
Gilbert Hernandez, Jaime Hernandez, Mario Hernandez, writers/artists
Fantagraphics, 2008
280 pages
Buy it from Fantagraphics
Buy it from

One of the things I’ve missed out on in reading through Love and Rockets one Bro at a time is seeing where they stood in relation to each other. I’m told by at least one trusted reader who was there at the time that “it’s the way they played off each other!” is an overrated element to the original serial-anthology format, but that’s fine, because my interest in this topic was more historical than critical. Isn’t it fascinating to know, for example, that “The Death of Speedy Ortiz” was in the same issues as “Poison River”? And I’ve heard straight from the Bros’ mouths that seeing what the other one was doing in the early issues helped shape the storylines that would define each of them: Gilbert was so impressed by Jaime’s obvious mastery of the “cute girls hanging out in a science-fiction setting” set-up in his Locas strips that he abandoned his similar material to create Palomar; then Jaime was so impressed with the extensive, realistic character work Gilbert was doing in Palomar that he beefed up that aspect of the Locas stories. It wasn’t so much “I’ll see you and raise” (although surely that’s a part of it, as it is whenever any talented people work in proximity) as it was each brother seeing what areas in their shared ideaspace gave them the room to bust loose.

In collecting all the (mostly) non-Locas, non-Palomar odds’n’ends from the initial run of Love and Rockets from both Gilbert and Jaime–and Mario too, the “sometimes Y” to Beto and Xaime’s AEIOU–Amor y Cohetes reinforces that conception of the brothers’ working relationship. It’s not one-upsmanship, it’s not trading eights, it’s more a matter of pulling from a collective pool of ideas about comics. For example, it’s striking how similar the two brothers’ science-fiction work looks. In “BEM,” the SF adventure that I believe was Beto’s very first L&R material, he hatches and spots blacks and draws romance-comic female faces in the way you expect from Jaime’s genre work. I mean, it’s still recognizably Gilbert, but it’s quite clear that both brothers conceived of these kinds of stories as ones that are by default painted with the same visual palette. As time passes, Gilbert’s sci-fi stuff dwindles down to the single storyline of Errata Stigmata, the asymmetrically coiffed character whose omnipresence in L&R promo material over the years always left me wondering who the hell she was since I’d seen neither hide nor hair of her in Palomar or Locas; even then, his layouts are wide open, using far fewer panels per page, and are driven by vast fields of stylishly designed black–Jaime-esque, in other words. Meanwhile, a pair of punk-based Beto stories–one the fictional history of a shoulda-woulda-coulda been the next big thing bad as told by one of their fans, the other an autobio vignette about the night his 17-year-old future wife puked her way through his would-be panty-dropping tour of punk hotspots–show the same easy familiarity and casual mastery of that milieu that Jaime’s does. How’d he do it without all the practice Jaime had? My conclusion is that, like how sci-fi should look a certain way, knowing how to write punk comics is just part of their shared gestalt. Hell, Beto even contributes an awesome little wrestling story, about the real-life night he saw (pre-Adorable) Adrian Adonis basically go nuts, that further proves the point.

The road goes both ways, of course. Jaime’s light-hearted sci-fi-comedy romps with pretty teenager Rocky Rhodes and her absolutely adorable robot sidekick Fumble eventually veer off into the sort of sad, you-can-never-go-back cul de sac of regret that’s normally Beto’s territory. There’s also a barely-veiled autobio story about the day a KKK event in his neighborhood provoked a riot that feels more Love and Rockets X than Locas. When the Bros swap characters for a special issue, Jaime hews much closer to the spirit of Palomar in his Luba/Maricela/Riri story than Beto does in his proto-Birdland gender-bending sci-fi sex romp with the Locas (whom he eventually transmogrifies into Locos!). To put even more of a point on it, Jaime takes a zany old Looney Tunes-style comic Beto did as a kid and redraws it with Maggie and Hopey in the lead roles, and damn if it doesn’t feel like the kind of kinetic, wordless romps Beto throws in as short stories from time to time as an adult.

Thrown into this mix for the first time in the L&R books I’ve read is Mario. Dude’s an accomplished cartoonist too, and in a style that I think anticipated a lot more comics I’ve seen than Jaime’s or Gilbert’s, believe it or not–his blobby, dynamically dashed-down inks feel alt-Euro to me, poised halfway between expressionism and naturalism. His main storyline, about the fallout from a coup d’état in a slightly sci-fi-tinged Latin American country, unfolded over the course of short stories spaced out over years, and offers more proof that the Bros were all building off the same foundation–it’s quite easy to place his “Somewhere in California”/”Somewhere in the Tropics” political thriller somewhere between Maggie and Rena’s Mechanix-era revolutionary misadventures and Gilbert’s serious-as-a-heart-attack Cold War/Drug War shocker Poison River. Which makes sense, I suppose, given that he and Beto collaborated on several of the strips.

Ultimately it’s Gilbert who emerges as the star of Amor y Cohetes. While Mario’s stuff feels like a cameo and Jaime’s like a detour, Gilbert’s non-Palomar work comes across like a second main throughline for his career. Whether incorporating Frida Kahlo’s style and a dizzying array of cultural and political eyeball kicks into his biographical strip about her, placing autobiographical stories and dialogue in the caption boxes and word balloons of totally incongruous superhero and sci-fi artwork, crafting harsh and mostly wordless short stories about violence, or developing Errata Stigmata into a damage case every bit the equal of a Palomar resident, he comes across as restless and relentless in his desire to do whatever he can think of doing with comics. All three Bros shine on this shared stage, but Beto’s the one pushing through the audience and taking it out to the street. It’s exciting to watch that shared ideaspace expand.