Locas

Jaime Hernandez, along with his brother Gilbert, is responsible for one of the key independent comic titles of the 1980s, Love and Rockets. Together, they brought a punk rock mentality to the medium and used it to express California Hispanic life. Locas collects Jaime’s Maggie and Hopey stories from that title in over 700 pages, resulting in a sprawling novel of two women’s lives over decades.

As you might expect from a series that ran over 15 years, off and on, there are noticeable changes from the beginning to the end, both in art style and subject matter. Watching the artist’s growth is part of the charm. Maggie began as a science fiction mechanic, working on rocket ships in exotic jungle locations populated by dinosaurs. Our first introduction to her is through her letters home to friend and sometime lover Hopey, a musician.

Soon enough, the focus changes to daily life, although the series never completely loses a sense of whimsy, with strange occurrences and characters appearing among the walking, talking, partying, fighting, and hanging out. The recurring cast includes Izzy, a spooky friend rumored to be a witch; an aunt who’s a professional wrestler trying to enlist Maggie in the game; and Penny Century, a topless adventuress and wannabe superhero. Conveniently, she’s friends with a billionaire, who provides an excuse for setting changes every so often.

Jaime combines unusual influences, most obviously expressive figures inspired by the work of Dan DeCarlo on Archie comics and the strong blacks of Alex Toth. Jaime’s compositions are shown to advantage on thick, glossy paper, and his characters are beautifully drawn.

It’s easy to get lost in the accomplishment of the panels, impressive combinations of line and shadow. Heartfelt emotion and complicated relationships are expressed through slick, powerful lines. While there are many comics that have followed the same characters over decades, this is one of the vanishingly few that allows those characters to change, grow, and age.

More information is available at the publisher’s website. Gilbert’s work can be found in the similar collection Palomar.

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11 Responses to “Locas”

  1. John Says:

    My regular experience with L and R cuts off when the magazine format ended and I’ve only picked up bits and pieces here and there. This is really good news because I always found the packaging of the Maggie and Hopey stuff to be very confusing – it was hard enough, I felt, for people very familiar with the work to know where to start, forget about curious laymen. This corrects a lot.

    I have long since lost track of Gilbert’s Palomar stories, but I can say about the Maggie and Hopey stories that I have always marveled at Jaime’s ability to tell this low-key epic in the format of short stories, of fits and starts. It’s really one of the best efforts in fiction in general in capturing the ebb and flow of life, it functions much more on the level of old Italian neo-realist works, which I believe both Hernandez Brothers are very familiar with, but in a format that I find very similar to early 20th Century, where you could find good authors telling episodic epics. It is also wonderful for its portrayal of females – I have found that the Maggie and Hopey stories are often little miracles to women I have known that have no interest in comic books, but are avid readers with open minds.

    You’re right, it cannot be stressed enough that this book should be bought not just by interested comic book fans, but by people who enjoy good literature.

  2. ~chris Says:

    An amazing book; one of the very few hardcover collections I own. But it’s very bulky and heavy–not for reading in bed!

  3. James Moar Says:

    There’s a series of digest-format paperbacks coming out for this and Palomar in March, ~280 pages for $14.95 — I’ve got the first Palomar one on order, and the first Locas will be joining it soon.

  4. Johanna Says:

    John: you wrote a great review just there!

    Chris: I had to read mine in bed, it was so heavy — lay it flat and then lie down beside it.

    James: That’s the one where the Fantagraphics blog guy announcing it was bashing manga, right? :)

    I’m a bit disappointed that they’re doing that now, because I would have preferred it to the monster volume, and supposedly the new line is going to include material not in the big books. Argh! Reading indy comics is becoming as confusing as Bendis’ Image reprints! (Just kidding.)

  5. James Moar Says:

    Johanna: Yep, those’re the ones. Both digest or hardcover, though, beat the old paperbacks.

  6. ~chris Says:

    That was one reading position I used– but it quickly became uncomfortable. And my cat wanted to lie on the book. (I have no interest in anyone who thinks cats should be kept out of the room when one is reading.) Reading Locas at a desk worked best for me.

  7. Johanna Says:

    That kind of thing makes me ponder how useful owning a lectern might be. :)

  8. The Dane Says:

    I’m currently lugging my copy of Locas around, reading it in restaurants on my lunch break – just like I did with the big ol’ Palomar beast a couple years ago. One thing to be said for these hardcovers over and against a paperback digest form: the printing is gorgeous. Crisp and clean with no caffeine.

  9. Monk Says:

    Hey everyone. Long time reader, first time . . . uh, commentor?

    The library system in which I work has a lot of Hernandez Bros. graphic novels but the sheer volume has me a li’l intimidated. Any recommended starting points?

  10. Johanna Says:

    I’m afraid I can’t help there. When I first tried to sample the series last decade, I ran into a similar problem as with Cerebus: the early volumes aren’t nearly as good as the later, but you need the information to follow the story. The only stand-alone one I remember is the Death of Speedy.

  11. Fantagraphics Defense Fund Announced » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] can help in several ways, whether buying one of their fine publications (I recommend Locas, Peanuts, or Popeye as a start), giving money directly, or watch for future auctions. They’re [...]

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