October 13, 2012 – March 10, 2013
In the fall of 1982, Fantagraphics published its first issue of Love and Rockets, a black-and-white magazine featuring stories and art by the brothers Jaime, Gilbert and Mario Hernandez, a.k.a. Los Bros. Hernandez. These early comics, informed by the brothers’ love of Archie comics, science fiction, punk rock and their own SoCal Latino heritage, laid the foundation for one of the most ambitious, influential and acclaimed indie comic series of all time.
“We didn’t think it would last more than a few years,” said Mario. ”They thought they’d do this for a while, then head off to Marvel or DC.” Instead, while Mario scaled back his involvement with the series after the early issues, Jaime and Gilbert went on to produce thousands of pages of comics, earning more than 20 major comic industry awards along the way, including the Harvey, Kirby and Ignatz Awards.
It’s hard to overstate the impact that Love and Rockets has had on independent comics over the past three decades. Small-press comics began with the underground comix boom of the 1960s and gained traction in comic book specialty shops in the 1970s with the success of Dave Sim’s Cerebus and Wendy and Richard Pini’s Elfquest. In the 1980s, Love and Rockets kicked off an entirely new alternative comics scene. Los Bros. blended high comedy with high drama, juxtaposed magical realism with stark reality, and explored interpersonal relationships with rare sensitivity and insight.
Love and Rockets also highlighted people who’d rarely been seen in comics before. Up to that point, Latino characters had rarely appeared in comic books, but Los Bros.’ comics were populated by a largely, and sometimes exclusively, Latino cast of characters. In the 1980s, Love and Rockets was also unusual for its strong female lead characters, extensive female supporting cast, and positive portrayal of LGBT relationships. Over the years, Love and Rockets has been widely praised by Latino cultural associations, and Jaime Hernandez has been praised by GLAAD for tackling gay and lesbian issues.
Over the years, Love and Rockets has covered many storylines, with each brother developing his own densely-populated fictional universe. Gilbert’s stories, set in a small Latin American village called Palomar, form a sprawling multi-generational epic evocative of the magical realism of Gabriel García Márquez. Jaime’s Locas stories follow a group of friends in the southern California punk scene, focusing on best friends and sometime lovers Margarita Luisa “Maggie” Chascarrillo and Esperanza “Hopey” Leticia Glass.
The Cartoon Art Museum’s exhibition follows Love and Rockets from 1982 until 1996, when Los Bros. concluded the magazine-formatted series with its 50th issue through its revival in 2001 for a 20-issue comic book series and its current incarnation as an ongoing series of annual publications from Fantagraphics called Love and Rockets: The New Stories.