Love And Rockets
The legend goes something like this: Fantagraphics publisher Gary Groth was tired of the constant barrage of junk he saw coming from
the mainstream comic companies, and he was looking for something different to publish. While he was considering publishing his own
book, he came across a homemade version of Love and Rockets by Jaime, Gilbert, and Mario Hernandez. Groth gave the
brothers a national audience for their stories, and the rest is history.
Originally, the brothers set their sights on the pop-culture trappings of their youth, focusing on pro wrestling, rock bands, and the
like. But the juvenile subject matter soon gave way to stories that would play a big part in erasing the invisible line that
separated 'mainstream' comics from their 'underground' cousins.
Although the Hernandez brothers experimented with different stories from time to time, two main storylines hold the series together:
Jaime's 'Mechanics' universe and Gilbert's tales of life in a small Mexican town called Palomar (Mario would eventually ease himself
out of the book's production). The Mechanics tale follows the adventures of Maggie, a svelte mechanic, and her friend, Hopey, in a
world where the most mundane things (crushes on the boss, road trips) are intermingled with fantastic elements. The Palomar stories,
on the other hand, focuses more on the setting of a Mexican town, although there is one main character - the large-breasted Luba -
in place to tie everything together. The stories take place over many years, there's a huge supporting cast forever entering and
exiting the scene, and symbolism freely mixes with depictions of everyday acts. In short, no mere description of the stories in
Love and Rockets can possibly hope to convey their depth as literary stories, let alone comic-book ones.
Nothing was out of bounds in Love and Rockets. Sex and drugs played their parts in this adult-oriented book, but the creators weren't
out to mimic the anything-goes mentality of the 1960s underground scene. Instead, their stories were mature examinations of both
fantasy and the everyday lives of the main characters, dealing with a wide range of topics that are rarely handled eloquently in
prose fiction, let alone the comic-book medium.
Love and Rockets deserves a place on this list for several reasons. First, its writing is among the most innovative and
imaginative to be found in any comic book. Second, the mix of fantasy and everyday dramas influenced a generation of both independent
and mainstream comic creators, who saw in Love and Rockets the kind of experimentation they wanted to try in their own titles.
Third, the diversity of the cast - rooted, no doubt, in the creators' heritage as a part of the Los Angeles Hispanic community -
went a long way in steering comics away from a monotonous whitewash of similar-looking faces. Finally, Love and Rockets did its part
to let the world know that 'adult' comics did not automatically equal T&A -- to be sure, there was plenty of both, but it was never
gratuitously placed or against the spirit of the writing, which always took precedence.
Above all else, the Hernandez brothers shared the ability to make readers care about the characters and to handle big issues with a
personalized touch. Their commercial and artistic success would encourage other comic creators and critics to see the medium in
new ways, especially ways in which adults could be entertained in a mature fashion.