Not that this is news to anyone, but I am a Love & Rockets fan. (Not the band.) Encouraged by my friend Lyra, I picked up a copy of Music For Mechanics in the early ’90’s, and over the years would pick up an issue or collection here and there, totally impressed and in love with almost every aspect of the book.
Within L&R there are two main narratives that have been running through the series since the beginning: Locas, written by Jamie Hernandez, which focuses on a group of Latina punk-rock girls from a neighborhood called Hoppers 13 in Southern California, and Palomar, written by Gilbert Hernandez, which focuses on the residents of the eponymously named, magical-realist village somewhere “south of the US border.” While a number of other, unrelated stories and characters crop up regularly, including stories by their brother Mario, these are the primary works in the series.
In the monthly comics, the stories within were presented in a piecemeal fashion: there would be a little from Locas, and little from Palomar, a little of this, and little of that, and in the really early issues, a Mario story. Recently, a series of excellent reprints were put together that collected the stories in a way that separated the flotsam and jetsam from each other. Now, you can get a four volume series that covers the entire Locas storyline up to the present (in order), and a three volume series that covers the entire Palomar series. (There’s yet another collection that contains all the Mario stories, and everything else that isn’t part of the two other storylines… though in many cases, there are crossovers.)
Having (finally) read through nearly everything by all three of these artists, I have become quite torn in terms of how to divide my fan worship. Critically, the Palomar stories are highly respected, and there is something very astute and literary about the Gilbert stories. And while I really do like his work quite a bit, there is a part of me that is drawn to Jamie’s work more often. (To be perfectly honest, I really love the Mario stories best, but in terms of output vs. enjoyment, Jamie wins.) I can’t exactly stress this enough without using an equally geeky analogy: admitting this is the Comics equivalent of saying you are a Beach Boys fan, but you just aren’t that into Pet Sounds.
Even worse than this, I find myself drawn mostly to the Sci-Fi / Latina Wrestling stories, more than the soap opera that is the majority of the Locas stories. When Maggie is flying around the world, repairing robots and spaceships and meeting dinosaurs, I just find myself enjoying the stories more than when Maggie and Hopey are fighting over their “relationships problems.” When Hopey’s band goes on tour, I’m much more excited than when they show Maggie struggling with her new job as Apartment Manager. When Vicki is in mourning because her old wrestling enemy, Rena, might be dead, and thus Vicki declares that she will only wrestle fair and square for the rest of her career, it feels like a more momentous occasion than when Penny attempts to squeeze more money out of her rich sugar Daddy. To make this point abundantly clear, this is the Comics equivalent of saying, “After Brian Wilson left the group, the Beach Boys REALLY started to cook!”
It is often said of me that I like to take nerdiness to hitherto unknown heights (as recently as yesterday afternoon, by one of my co-workers after I complimented his daughters Avengers t-shirt), and when I started to think about it, this schism in the things I enjoy about L&R seemed to cut right to the heart of that comment. Rather than the artistic and acclaimed work of one person, I like the cheesy soap opera of his brother. Rather than the sharp and sophisticated relationship analysis that happens in later stories, I like the corny Sci-Fi / Wrestling stories. Rather than the (yawn) boring observations on sexual relationships that are bubbling beneath the surface of all the later stories, I seem to get much more excited about spaceships, robots, and dinosaurs.
I’m not exactly sure what that says about me, but if taking nerdiness to the extreme means that I am in love with Latina-Wrestler, Punk-Rock, Sci-Fi comics, then I will make no apologies for my nerdiness. But, to win back at least some of the cred I’ve lost, I’m starting on reading two imported volumes of Corto Malteseto make up for it.