LOVE AND ROCKETSOriginal Medium: Comic Books
Published by: Fantagraphics Books
First Appeared: 1982
Creator: Jaime, Gilbert and Mario Hernandez
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The late 1970s and early '80s, with the Direct Market stirring up established patterns in the American comic book industry, were a time of new creative voices being heard in comics. As creators such as Dave Sim, Colleen Doran and Wendy Pini entered the field, new publishers arose, bringing their work before the public. While some attempted to mimic DC and Marvel, with products like Captain Victory and American Flagg, others tried to bring true innovation
to American comic books. It was a time when a bunch of teenage kids growing up in a barrio near Los Angeles could aspire to have their visions appear in published form, just like the big-city cartoonists back East.
The Hernandez brothers, Gilbert, Mario and Jaime, achieved their artistic maturity in an Hispanic environment full of punk rock music, mainstream comic books from superheroes to Archie, and an occasional Robert Crumb or Gilbert Shelton offering. When they put their creations into print form, response to the copies they showed at comic book conventions tended to come in the form of suggestions they make their work more mainstream. But they dared to send a review copy to The Comics Journal, which had established a reputation for unrelenting insistence on creative excellence in comics, figuring. as Gilbert put it later, "If we could take their abuse, we could take anything." To their surprise, editor/publisher Gary Groth, instead of panning the inexperienced artists' work, offered to re-publish it, bringing it to the attention of a wider audience.
That was the beginning of Fantagraphics Books, with which Groth's publishing company put its money where its mouth was, as the saying goes, showing by example what sort of work The Journal was talking about when it loudly proclaimed that comics should be better. During the years to come, Fantagraphics both reprinted classic comics work like Prince Valiant and Terr'ble Thompson, and published new comics like Cap'n Jack and Usagi Yojimbo. Even as Fantagraphics was establishing "Los Bros Hernandez" in the cartooning world, their work, Love & Rockets, was helping to establish Fantagraphics.
The brothers self-published their comic in black and white, in June, 1982. The Fantagraphics edition, the same except the addition of a full-color cover, was out by September of the same year. Neither love nor rockets was what the comic was "about", whatever that means, but most phrases would have failed to describe at least some of the contents. The title was catchy enough to have been swiped in 1985 as the name of a British rock band.
Major components of the work that became known as Love & Rockets included Jaime's "Locas", stories about an environment similar to the brothers' own, in which a couple of young women named Maggie (Margarita Chascarrillo) and Hopey (Esperanza Glass) had adventures in a lower middle-class Hispanic Southern California suburb; and Gilbert's "Heartbreak Soup", stories about people in and about Palomar, a Spanish-speaking village in Central America. Those are separate story tracks, having nothing do do with each other, nor are they the only storylines present. Mario's work became a less-prominent part of the mix after the third issue.
Fantasy was a factor in Love & Rockets from the beginning, with Maggie's adventures in mechanics sometimes taking on sci-fi overtones, billionaire H.R Costigan having a pair of horns and similar low-key elements. At first, the brothers responded to early suggestions that their work become more mainstream, and elements of the standard genres of American comic books were seen. Later, that criticism became less noticeable in the public's response, and those elements faded.
The comic was published regularly in a 52-page, magazine-sized format, for several years. Also, its stories were collected in graphic novel form, as a mainstay of the Fantagraphic Books line. In addition, omnibus volumes have been issued, collecting the whole series, including parts that don't fit easily into volumes concentrating on single stories, into book form.
After 50 issues, the regular comic book was discontinued, leaving the book versions the only way Love & Rockets was available. The last issue was dated May, 1996. The brothers pursued separate visions, some containing the characters they'd established, while Fantagraphics continued to offer their work as book volumes.
In 2001, the series was revived. Love & Rockets vol. 2 #1, with all three brothers present, was dated Spring, 2001. Twenty issues were published, generating the same reprintable material as before.
Attempts have been made to produce movie versions of the Love & Rockets material, but thus far, none have succeeded. Rights to the property were tied up in litigation for several years.