Robot 6

Six by 6 | Six of my favorite moments from Love and Rockets

Love and Rockets: New Stories, Number 5

As several people have already mentioned, 2012 marks the 30th anniversary of Love and Rockets, the seminal, groundbreaking comic series by Gilbert, Jaime and Mario Hernandez. It’s an impressive feat for any cartoonist to maintain a series for so long (even given the various format changes L&R has gone through) and it’s all the more impressive when you consider the number of masterpieces the Hernandez brothers have put under their collective belt during that time period. The Death of Speedy. Poison River. Human Diastrophism. Wig Wam Bam. Heartbreak Soup. The Love Bunglers. Most cartoonists would kill to produce just one of those books. And they’re still going strong with no drop in quality.

In honor of their anniversary I thought I’d take the time to list some of my own personal favorite sequences from the series. This is by no means to be a definitive list — there are so many outstanding moments from this series that trying to narrow it down a mere six is a bit of a mug’s game. These are merely six moments that immediately came to mind when I thought of the idea for this post. I could have come up with 100 more easily. All you Los Bros fans out there can feel free to list your own favorite moments in the comments section.

Oh, and lots of spoilers exist below, so if you haven’t read the series yet and want to jump into it fresh. I’d stop reading here …

From 'The Death of Speedy'

1) The death of Speedy Ortiz from “The Death of Speedy.”

The situation: Speedy Ortiz, at the end of his rope, finally confesses his feelings to Maggie. Maggie, however, is at the end of her own rope and tired of guys like Speedy jerking her around, and she tells him so in no uncertain terms. Suffice it to say Speedy doesn’t take the news well. And when next we see him … well, we don’t really ever see Speedy again …

Why I love this so: The way Jaime fills the panels with as much black as possible, Maggie’s body language, especially the way she collapses in the second panel. The way Jaime cuts from Speedy to the hospital to a police car on patrol several hours later, forcing the reader to make an association between the panels (we never find out how Speedy actually dies, though it’s not too hard to guess). Comics — at least American comics — didn’t force the reader to work like this before. The idea that you might have to put some effort in your reading, that something was expected of you, was fresh and invigorating and remains so decades later.

From 'Human Diastrophism'

2) Tonantzin kills herself in “Human Diastrophism.”

The situation: Palomar giant slug seller and all-around beauty Tonantzin becomes obsessed with issues of colonialism and western imperialism. Traveling to America with Khamo, she douses herself with gasoline and sets herself on fire in protest. Khamo attempts to save her, only to be horribly burned himself.

Why I love this sequence so: A lesser cartoonist would give a more straightforward, dramatic approach, putting Tonantzin front and center and showing us directly her decision to commit suicide, perhaps even giving us an interior monologue. Beto is too good for that nonsense, instead relaying her death via a TV news broadcast that’s being watched by a young woman (who in turn just happens to be with a photographer who visited Palomar years before). For readers who have followed Tonantzin’s adventures to see her relegated to a short, tragic segment on the evening news — her name is never even mentioned and her body is shown in silhouette. It’s up to the reader to determine who the person being immolated is — is painful dismissal of someone they’ve come to care about. It was a shocking, perhaps even audacious, move on Gilbert’s part and showed he was decidedly playing for keeps.

3) The demonic dog from “Ghost of Hoppers.”

The situation: In a flashback sequence, a young, drunk Maggie stumbles outside and sees a big, black dog lying on the grass. Then the dog proceeds to get up on it’s hind legs rather menacingly …

Why I love this so: Brrrrrr. This is one of the creepiest sequences that Jaime’s done yet, and that’s saying something. If nothing else, this bit proved that he was just as capable at horror as he was at humor, straight drama and just about every other genre under the sun.

4) Ofelia is attacked and raped in “Poison River.”

The situation: Having left her leftist friends behind to take care of an untoilet-trained Luba, Ofelia hears shots and attempts to investigate, while the young Luba hides in the bushes. She should have just kept walking in the opposite direction.

Why I love this so: Well, perhaps “love” is not the most accurate choice of words here. Still, while it’s a harrowing sequence, there’s no question it’s masterfully done, especially in the way Beto cuts from Luba hiding in the bushes to showing us just enough of the horrors that lie a few feet beyond. Beto has never been one to shy away from blood and sex, even in his earliest comics, but this was something altogether different — Poison River was a demarcation point that showed how willing Hernandez was to risk the reader’s disgust or confusion. Even today it remains a tough sequence to read and it haunts me like very few comics do.

5) “I’m sorry” from “The Love Bunglers.”

The situation: A prepubescent Maggie has caught her father in the arms of another woman. Naturally, she feels guilty about it — an attitude her mother does little to correct.

Why I love it so: Honestly, “The Love Bunglers” is such a major accomplishment I could point to just about any page and include it here. Many, no doubt will highlight the (honestly earned) tearjerker of an ending, but there’s something about this particular set of panels that sticks in my brain. Perhaps it’s the way it shows where Maggie’s constant feelings of guilt, insecurity and shame came from. Maybe it’s the way that “I’m sorry” is echoed once more in a pivotal part of the story a few pages later. Maybe it’s simply the way Xaime pulls back here, letting the black silhouette of Maggie’s mother turn into a void that threatens to swallow poor Magpie. Regardless, this is one of my favorite bits from one of my favorite Locas stories.

6) The end of “Love and Rockets X”

The situation: At the end of his saga of life in Los Angeles circa the early 1990s, Beto jump cuts from panel to panel, quickly giving us glimpses of the characters lives unfolding until he pulls back to the Earth and stars in all their glory.

Why I love it so: I had never seen anyone attempt a finale like this before, where the characters have no clear resolution to speak of (indeed in some cases it seems like only more misery lies ahead) and the ending consisted of moment to moment to moment with no opportunity to linger or dwell. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone do anything like this since either. It’s a daring sequence and it underscores perfectly Gilbert’s themes of life at times overwhelming its protagonists, of their failure to communicate and connect with each other and of the peace and grace that can sometimes be attained, however temporarily. Like most things Beto touches, it’s pure gold.

News From Our Partners

Comments

16 Comments

Andrew Collins

July 14, 2012 at 10:43 am

All wonderful examples. My favorite scene in the Death of Speedy story is the page where Izzy wakes up on the couch and thinks she sees Speedy (who at that point is already dead), only to turn on the light and see no one standing there. The panel layout and composition from Hernandez on that one page just sent chills up my spine the first time I read it…and it still does years later….

The moment between Luba and Opheila was so unexpected and poignant that it had me crying on a bus on the way to work. As with most things Los Bros, it also resonated across time as it’s also the origin of old Ophelia’s explanation of her back problems (“A church fell on me”).

The first Los Bros. book I read was the big baby seal clubber of the (then) complete Palomar released a while back. I always heard L&R was special, but I wasn’t prepared for THIS. The development, the rise and fall, of the town and it’s characters was immensely pleasurable to me in ways no other comic had been. The only other comics that have reached that level are Cathy Malkasian’s Percy Gloom and Temperance, and they’re just barely there themselves. I cannot pinpoint a part of the saga that I loved the most. The whole thing was perfect, and separating any one moment will leave me awesomely guilt-ridden.

So, yeah, Palomar by Gilbert Hernandez is my favorite comic book moment of all time.

It was Jaime’s work that first drew me in to Love & Rockets, but I’ll never forget how reading Poison River by Beto felt like being crushed by a ton of bricks.

Brilliant list. Jaime and Gilbert have so many great moments from their stories over the years, such great work with characterization, that it must have been difficult to narrow it down to just six.

Corey Creekmur

July 15, 2012 at 8:38 pm

Excellent choices, indeed … but if anyone is new to L&R, be assured that all the great moments aren’t grim! There are wonderful comic moments too! And there are the sexy scenes, and the wrestling …

Great choices.

Another point to add on Tonantzin’s death: if I’m not mistaken, before you hear about it on the news one of the children sees her under the tree.

It’s just a ton-of-bricks “Oh no” moment. And the sort of thing that’s really only possible in longform storytelling of this sort — because by this point, the reader knows EXACTLY what it means when somebody appears under that tree.

Chris Mautner

July 16, 2012 at 9:53 am

Thad — You’re right. I think it’s Guadalupe who sees her underneath the ghost tree. I’ll have to check that when I get home.

Corey — I was a bit worried that I was going the “grim and gritty” route with this list. I almost threw in one of the wrestling scenes from “Whoa Nelly” cause I love those bits so much but then swapped it out at the last minute.

Ryan Valentine

July 20, 2012 at 6:10 pm

Favorite Jaime Moment:

“Of course I waited for you. I love you.”

I know that scene is very recent, but it’s definitely my favorite moment in the series. Reading it made me cry, and a comic book had never done that to me before.

Favorite Gilbert Moment:

The very first Love and Rockets story I ever read was “For The Love of Carmen”. It was in a compilation of 80′s “alternative” comics that also included some Zippy strips, a Dan Clowes vignette, a polemic Carol Lay piece, and some pre-Hate Peter Bagge madness.

So, whenever I think of BETO, my mind usually goes to a man vainly thrashing his noggin against the railroad tracks.

What a wonderful series. I must admit that I am not much of a fan of the Beto stuff (maybe some day!), but Jaime proves again and again to be a fantastic artist and storyteller. You really feel for the characters. Plus, like Douglas Wolk says in “Reading Comics”, his artwork is so full of expression that you could cover up the text and still have a general idea of what is going on. Great stuff, thank you for the list.
My favorite moment from Jaime’s L&R? That one wonderful page with Ray and Maggie sleeping. Every time I see that page it leaves me speechless. Beautiful stuff. And of course I have to agree with Ryan above, what a great moment!

andillformthehead

July 21, 2012 at 9:48 am

I actually skipped the article to get down here to the experts, I’ve been meaning to get into Love & Rockets for some time now, I was curious what you all say is the best entry point/best collections to scoop up?

I would say start with the paperbacks that Fantagraphics is releasing. They’re cheap, and have A LOT of material. As I’ve only really delved into Jaime’s stuff I’d recommend beginning with the “Maggie the Mechanic” paperback. The first couple of stories are pretty throwaway (but still very good, mind you, for what they are), but once it gets to “100 Rooms” it really gets good. and doesn’t stop. After that, it’s smooth sailing (Keep getting the paperbacks), and you just let the bro take you. I swear that if you like good comics/art/literature, Love and Rockets will not disappoint. It’s one of those series that just builds up story by story, as insignificant as any change in the storyline might seem. Please tell us what you think!!

I guess I have always been more a Jaime fan than Beto,but thats the art talking to me.This is my all-time favorite comic,more than any mainstream book could be.The detailed art of the 1st issues to the sparse,but fully realized art later on,Jaime has always amazed my eyes.But,Beto has many indelible.I remember seeing L&R #1 in a glass case back in ’84 and knowing that this was something I had to read.Traded a big stack of hot b&w’s of the era for it.I still have it and I think 1-50 need a re-read.ALL-TIME GREAT COMIC!

Nice choices – although the whole run is loaded with so many great panels from which you could choose. Truly one of the best comics series produced in the last 30 years. Absolutely masterful. The best way to start reading Love and Rockets is to begin with the original 1982 series and read #1-50 in order. Those oversized magazines are a joy. The back issues are readily available at online comics shops if your LCS is not well-stocked. Only #1 is “expensive,” so just buy the first trade if you don’t want to spring for it – you’ll pick most of the rest up in the $3 – $10 range… and then you’ll want to go back and get #1 to complete the set anyway.

I’m going against the grain here, but I have always preferred Beto’s work to Xaime’s. I think I prefer his thicker lines, which while making the art more cartoony also allows for a wider range of expressions (including those that would look too extreme in more “realistic” artwork like Xaime’s). I have so many moments I love (in addition to those you included Chris) such as Rocky and Fumble being stuck on an asteroid, Fritzi’s first meeting with Mark Herrerra, Pipo and Doralis’ kids show, Maggie and Ray’s reunion. I reckon I can draw out a couple of all-time favourites though:

From Xaime: Izzy meeting the Devil in Mexico –as a multi-genital being (in a frightening silhouette) and a beautiful woman who leaves footprints which look like a chicken’s feet – and then vomiting lizards. Best of all it explains why Izzy rarely leaves the house and always carries a fly swatter. “Flies on the ceiling” indeed

From Beto: There are so, so many scenes from the Palomar stories, but for me the best is a simple scene at the end of Human Diastrophism in which Gaudalupe, bursting into tears, leaps into the arms of Heraclio, who she has just learnt is her father. It’s a scene which both breaks and warms the heart.

Thanks for the article, Chris ! May we please have more ?

30 years.

I went to San Diego ComicCon once. I had met Los Bros at a signing in Calgary and we had gone out for beers after ( I was in the comic biz bback then and was friends with the owner of the store that put on the signing).

I got an invite to the big L&R party.

It was for the 10th anniversary of the book.

I feel old now.

Leave a Comment

 



Browse the Robot 6 Archives