Writers of Color 50 Book Challenge

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19. Locas in Love (Love & Rockets Vol. 18), by Jaime Hernandez
whereweather wrote in 50books_poc
#19.  Locas in Love, Jaime Hernandez (The Collected Love & Rockets, Vol. 18)
2000, Fantagraphics Books (material originally published in Penny Century, Measles, and Maggie & Hopey Color Fun, 1996-2000)

As I think I mentioned in an earlier post, I have loved Love & Rockets since I was about thirteen.  It's one of the great joys of my life that this series (that's what it is, a black-and-white comics series written and drawn by California-based Mexican-American brothers Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez) is, despite all odds, still going; that it has no obvious end in sight, and that I can imagine (though I realize it's unlikely) that it may be with me all my life.

My ability to follow the series closely has varied with my own circumstances, and with the circumstances of its publication.  Since about 2000, for various reasons -- the brothers were publishing several different series, the schedule was irregular, I was out of the country -- I have only been able to read issues every now and then, when I came across them in a shop; or, occasionally, spend several hours in a bookstore reading whatever recent compilations they had on hand.  With the double inspiration of this 50books project, though, combined with the realization last month that the university library to which I have access (through my job) is willing and able to get even graphic novels for me -- quickly and easily! -- through interlibrary loan, I've begun a binge of catching up.  This is freaking awesome, people.

So, even though I have already read Vol. 22 (Ghost of Hoppers, which I own), and the last post I made was on Vol. 20 (Dicks And Deedees), this post is about backtracking all the way to Vol. 18, Locas In Love, which I figured I should read anyway because I thought there might be some material in there I'd missed.  (I'm only talking about even-numbered ones here because those are the ones collecting Jaime's work and storylines; the odd-numbered ones are Gilbert's collections.  Um, I realize this is incredibly involuted.  That's because I'm a comics dork, OK???  And I own all the volumes up to #15, Hernandez Satyricon, so...  OK YES I AM A DORK!)

So anyway.  Below are some spoilers.

- Hopey Glass (one of the series' two protagonists; there's no point in going into background detail, she defines herself as you read) is currently living in, apparently, LA, and apparently alone.  She is welcoming -- or at least tolerating -- a visit from her brother Joey and his girlfriend, Janet Polo.  They want to drive to Las Vegas, presumably to elope, but their car has stalled.  Nothing's open on Sunday, so Hopey is reluctantly prevailed upon to call Maggie, her auto-mechanic friend.  (Maggie is the other series protagonist, and is currently living in "the Valley" and managing an apartment complex.)

When Maggie gets there, she pronounces the car unfit to move -- "not today, anyway" -- so they all go to a pool party being held at the house of nouveau-riche Norma Costigan, ex-wife of rich industrialist H.R. Costigan, and her fourteen-year-old daughter Negra, who has inherited Costigan's horns.  (Hopey doesn't actually know how to swim, but begged Maggie to take them all so that she could see Janet in a bikini.)  At the party, while Norma shows off a super-high-powered telescope she bought for the incurious Negra, the others meet up with some people from their long-past punk days, including a bouncer who once picked on Joey.  Joey is now a musclehead, so he beats the guy up, after which all four are forced to leave.  Janet is pissed off at Joey, but gets over it when their car suddenly starts up again, so they drive off to Vegas.  Maggie and Hopey are left to chat about the past and the present.  They have a quickie in the back seat of Maggie's car, and Maggie heads for home.

In the interstices of the story, we get a Mini Rivero 1960s "Cocktail Hour" party; learn about Hopey's childhood, and her first realization that she was attracted to girls ("big ones"); check in on Cheetah Torpeda, super-powered female robot (also the name of a strip bar); and see a story about Li'l Ray, playing with his friends in the old neighborhood.

- The (now adult) Ray Dominguez, currently living in L.A. too, feels alienated in the big city.  He thinks back on his two-year relationship with Maggie (stable and rewarding) and his years-long, obsessional, on-and-off affair with Penny Century (frustrating and rewarding).

- Two tiny cowboys fight the Devil.

- Maggie is doing some accounting work for Norma Costigan.  This gets her inadvertently involved in the drama of fourteen-year-old Negra, who can't adjust to her new life as a rich heir apparent and is constantly trying to escape back to her grandma's house in the more urban neighborhood where she was raised.

- Some guy at Hopey's work keeps trying to ask her out.  WTF?

- Little Ray sees something amazing.

- Grown-up Ray's apartment has been broken into.  This provokes reflection on his own days as a (mostly harmless) adolescent break-in artist.

- Little Ray makes another amazing discovery.

- Penny gives Hopey a new hairstyle and look.  Maggie has a harrowing experience trying to take the 696 back home.

- Snowman + Groundhog = Existential Conclusion.

- Norma and Negra try to have some serious mother-daughter conversation by the pool.  This is interrupted when Norma's deeply unlikeable, vaguely European boyfriend Bolani drops by.

- Izzy (i.e. Isabel Ortiz, another cast member of long standing) is late for her book reading in the old neighborhood.  Penny and Hopey go to her house and find that her nerves have caused her to grow to a size too large to fit through the door.  A scary Kewpie elf, or demon, enters and explain the psychological underpinnings of the situation.  Penny and Hopey figure out a work-around, and the reading goes on as planned.

- Space Queen, A.K.A. Space Girl, has a cocktail, and demonstrates once again why she is a raging bitch.

- Penny is staying with Izzy for a while.  She is naked.  Why?  Unknown.  Also, what's with the bottle of wine?

- Hopey is bartending for another pool party at Norma's, but it turns out that Hopey doesn't actually know how to mix drinks.  (She bartends at a dive bar a couple of nights a week, but apparently in dive bars people only ever order beer.)  Everyone is gets drunk, Bolani acts out, and the party ends badly.  Negra escapes with her friend Peaches, and Hopey is forced to resort to calling her infatuated male coworker, Guy Goforth, for a pickup.

- Penny is naked again, but that's OK, because so is Izzy.  They talk about the old days, and about Mrs. Galindo, who used to live in Izzy's now-haunted house.  The ghost has drunk the wine Penny left out for it.  We learn that industrialist H.R. Costigan is dying.  (This is relevant, because Penny is currently his wife.)  Penny bakes cookies.

- Li'l Ray has another ordinary afternoon in Hoppers.  (Here comes the devils with their ice creams!)

- Now-grown-up Ray goes to a titty bar with his pal Joe from work, who thinks that Ray seems depressed.  There Ray sees, and is immediately infatuated with, a stripper called "Velvet."  But -- alas! -- he doesn't have anough for a lap dance.  Frustrated, he goes for a long drive.  He picks up a pair of very young hitchhikers (the reader recognizes them as Negra and her friend, Peaches) and gives them a lift home.  Hanging out in a diner, he sees Hopey with Guy Goforth.  This sends him back to his days living with Maggie, and from there to all the women he has desired, loved, and/or lost in his life.  Well, Ray's like that.

- H.R. Costigan is dead.  Penny takes off for a long road trip in her convertible, wearing space-'40s fashion and a domino mask.  "As our dear Mrs. Galindo used to say, Isabel: Some people like to shop, others like to watch roller derby on Channel Five.  Still, it's all prayer."

- Grown-up Ray still has bad dreams.

- A folk tale/ ghost story from "the town of Ysleta, Texas."

- Mini Rivero's Cocktail Hour again!  Space Girl is the guest.  You can guess how that'll go.

- A long, excellent flashback story in Jaime's Charlie Brown/Dennis the Menace childhood-story style, featuring young Isabel and baby Maggie in Hoppers, and all their family and childhood constellations.

I LOVE LOVE & ROCKETS, PEOPLE.  And I still hold out hope that someday, someday, those stupid MacArthur people will get their heads out of their butts and do something for the Hernandez Brothers.

[Note: Tags I would like to add, when it becomes possible: superheroes; magic realism.]

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I have heard so much about L & R for pretty much forever, and the canon seems so huge I get intimidated. Could I jump in with this book?

I can't believe I never answered this question. When you're a huge, rabid fan of a series, you like nothing better than for people to ask you for suggestions on getting into it!

And yet for _Love & Rockets_ it's kind of hard, partly because, as you say, it's been running for so many years, and partly because Fantagraphics has changed around the way the stories are published, so the volumes in which I first read them aren't the same ones you'll find on the shelf today.

(Originally, the comic was published as, well, comics: each issue contained part of an ongoing storyline from both Gilbert and Jaime. Then every year or so, Fantagraphics would release a slim collected trade-paperback that contained the complete story arcs of both brothers from the past several issues. So, I can say that the volume I started with was Vol. 2, _Chelo's Burden_, which contained both some Maggie and Hopey stories (notably, "100 Rooms"), and Gilbert's first complete Palomar story, "Heartbreak Soup."

But that volume, in that form, is no longer in print. Now the Palomar stories and the Maggie and Hopey (or "Locas") stories are collected into bigger trade editions, each containing about five to eight years' worth of storylines from just one of the brothers. I'm not saying the change doesn't make sense, because it does -- it had gotten up to like 20 volumes of the collected back works, and that's way too much to expect any new reader to keep track of, much less to buy. But it does mean I'm not that familiar with the way the current TPBs present the work, because I first read them in a different format.)

There is actually a "How to Read Love & Rockets" page on the Fantagraphics website. Looking at it, I think my personal advice might be this: For Jaime's "Locas" stories, start with Vol. 2, _The Girl From HOPPERS_. If you like it, and you find yourself getting into the characters, and want to know what happened earlier, then you can always go back and read Vol. 1 (_Maggie the Mechanic_). But I honestly think the quality of the very early stories is lower than that of the later ones; as is often the case, in those early issues, the creator was finding his feet. (I will say that there is some very engaging graphical stuff in those early stories, though, for those who are fans of Jaime Hernandez's art style.)

For Gilbert Hernandez's stories, you can and pretty much should start with his Vol. 1, which includes "Heartbreak Soup." That was his first Palomar story, and it's pretty darn good.

Or... you know what? You can also ignore all my advice and just do what you asked about, which is open up _Locas in Love_ and see if you like it. Sure! Why not? It might be a good starting point, after all. I mean, it'll be obvious that there's a lot of history behind what you're seeing, but that's how life always is, especially when we meet new people. Right? :)

Hee! This is very helpful, actually, thank you.

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