For over 30 years, Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez have been telling stories under the banner of Love and Rockets. From its modest beginning as one of the first independent comics to gain significant attention, the title has become a repository for experimentation, bold storytelling, eye-catching artwork, but most of all, memorable characters.
With the recent debut of Love and Rockets Volume IV, a comic-sized periodical that has already seen two issues released, I decided to catch up on what I’d missed the last dozen years or so. Fantagraphics has released a series of “definitive” trade paperback collections for Jaime and Gilbert’s older work, called The Collected Love and Rockets, which will continue with its thirteenth book in 2018.
Today, Jaime’s “Locas” stories continue to revolve around his much-loved characters Maggie and Hopey, while Gilbert has formed the multigenerational saga of Luba, from his fictional town of Palomar, and her descendants, including her daughter, Fritz. The new comic is equally divided between stories from Jaime and from Gilbert, while the collections package each brother’s work into a stand-alone format.
Talk of a Love and Rockets movie has died down in recent years, but such ideas only emphasize what’s so great about comics—the form in general, and Love and Rockets in particular. Where else do we see characters age realistically over the course of thirty years, with an occasional, telling glimpse into the past? The Star Wars films might seem to fit the parameters, but after seeing Carrie Fisher awkwardly youthanized in Rogue One, the simple elegance of a finely turned brush stroke stands out in comparison.
Gilbert Hernandez and Eric Reynolds, Fantagraphics editor, were nice enough to discuss the new series, reader responses to the ribald turn in Gilbert’s work (and one character specifically), succession plans, and Love and Rockets in general:
Peter Dabbene: Can you give any hints as to what upcoming story lines might include? In past interviews, it’s been mentioned that you know the arc of certain characters’ stories, up to their deaths. What kind of time frame (in real, comics publishing time) are you talking about? Do you see an end to L&R stories one day, either because of your own retirements, or because the character arcs have reached their end? Or do you find yourself continually coming up with new avenues you’d like to explore with these characters?
Gilbert Hernandez: I will continue the new adventures of Fritz’s daughters, quickly focusing on Rosario. She’s the daughter Fritz didn’t know about until recently. She was born from a surrogate that didn’t tell Fritz about the girl. Complicated, I know. I will also deal with untold stories of the old Palomar characters as well. Luba’s granddaughter Killer will also be featured in new stories.
The timeline is freeform mostly as I don’t stick to a defined timeline. It’s pretty flexible.
PD: In the event of Jaime or Gilbert’s death, is there any kind of plan to continue the series and give that person’s stories a sense of completion? Just wondering if that’s something that’s ever come up in conversation/planning.
GH: When Jaime and I stop making new Love and Rockets comics, it’s over, whether a storyline is finished or not. If I’m gone, my daughter Natalia will decide what will happen to an unfinished story.
PD: The New Stories series (Volume III) was published as annual 100-page graphic novels, but now you’re back to a comic book format. Can you talk about the factors that guided that decision-making, and say whether there will be collections of the New Stories series at some point, as well as the new Volume IV comic book issues?
Eric Reynolds: This was motivated mostly by a love for the periodical format and a desire to get the work out on a more regular basis. I think both brothers missed having three deadlines a year of sixteen pages each rather than one fifty-page-per-year deadline. And yes, the New Stories material will eventually be collected in the Love and Rockets trade paperback series, beginning with Jaime’s Vol. 13: Angels and Magpies, coming early next year, which will collect all of Jaime’s New Stories material (essentially The Love Bunglers and God and Science), as well as his New York Times Maggie serial from about ten years ago.
PD: Gilbert, a question came up as I was reading the current issue (Volume IV, #2). The issue opens with the first piece titled “Fritz Haters Will Just Have to Be Patient” and later, another segment called “More for the Haters.” In the comic, Fritz is fighting what you might call a PR battle through social and traditional media. Do those two titles, or that aspect of the storyline, reflect any of your own personal experiences with fans or critics?
GH: Yes, in my stories and in reality as well: Fritz is either disliked or flat out hated by a lot of my readers. I plan to showcase her less and less in Love and Rockets and move her stories into a new comic I’m doing called Psychodrama Illustrated. It will feature Fritz in life and sometimes her movies will be shown. Stories for a more adult minded reader, as L&R is more for a general audience.
PD: Can you give a quick rundown of the Love and Rockets publishing history?
ER: Volume I was the original magazine series #1-50, which went from 1982 to 1996 or so. Then came the 20 issue comic book sized Volume II, followed by the eight volume New Stories. The new magazine series is Volume IV. The Complete Love and Rockets library will eventually collect everything.
With so many different Love and Rockets publications over the years, Fantagraphics has decided to help out new and old readers with their web guide “How to Read Love and Rockets”
So what are you waiting for? Consult the list and get started! Whether you’re new to Love and Rockets or just need to catch up a bit, there are a lot of great stories out there waiting to be read!
Peter Dabbene wrote the graphic novels Ark and Robin Hood. He is a reviewer for Foreword Reviews, and his poetry and stories have been published in many literary journals, collected in the photo book Optimism, and in the story collection Glossolalia. His latest books are Spamming the Spammers and More Spamming the Spammers.