Welcome to the irregular column in which I answer your comic book questions. This aims to be a place where there’s no stupid questions and answers readers’ burning questions. In this edition, I answer questions about the alternative classic Love and Rockets and comic book subscriptions.
The first question comes from Artemiy, who asks…
Q: Could you please explain Love & Rockets and its reading order? I hear a lot of talks about it, but there are so many volumes, and the concept of the series and its numbering are kind of confusing.
A: Great Question, Artemiy!
Love and Rockets is a long-running alternative comic series by brothers Gilbert and Jamie Hernandez and is the flagship comic for Fantagraphics Books. It started all the way back in 1982 as one of the early comics to come out of the black and white comics boom, which brought us comics such as the wonderful Usagi Yojimbo and even Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Unlike the aforementioned series, Love and Rockets is actually two different stories with the brothers working independently of each other. This means that half of Love and Rockets is Gilbert’s stories and the other half Jamie’s. Neither of the brother’s stories has anything to do with the other and have their own cast of characters and explore their own themes.
Gilbert’s comic, Palomar, is about Luba and her extended family in a fictional South American country. It explored how the family deals with poverty in the country and was mixes in some magical realism with the kind of gritty drama which you would expect from the situation they’re in. Eventually, the family moved to Southern California and became involved in organised crime, B-movies and other dramas. At times it can be rather heavy.
On the other hand, Jamie’s comic – Locas – is a much lighter affair. This series focuses on a group of punk rockers as they try to transition into adult life. In the early days there were a lot of superhero and science-fiction elements but over time became more grounded. Locas is interesting in that characters age in real time (unlike Marvel and DC, in which time moves slowly) and we see the characters progress throughout that time.
It’s not required reading to read both series as they’re narratively and thematically independent of each other. The only thing they have in common is that they’re released together in the title Love and Rockets.
As for the numbering, the original series ran sporadically from 1982 up until 1996 – with a total of 50 issues. Love and Rockets then returned for another series which spanned 20 issues from 2001 to 2007.
These two series have been collected in sizeable, but affordable, collections:
- Heartbreak Soup
- Human Diastrophism
- Beyond Palomar
- Luba and Her Family
- Maggie the Mechanic
- The Girl from H.O.P.P.E.R.S.
- Perla La Loca
- Penny Century
After these comics there’s a third series which is known as Love and Rockets: New Stories. Unlike the previous series, these are presented as trade paperbacks with original content instead of single issues. There’s 8 in total:
- Love and Rockets: New Stories Volume 1
- Love and Rockets: New Stories Volume 2
- Love and Rockets: New Stories Volume 3
- Love and Rockets: New Stories Volume 4
- Love and Rockets: New Stories Volume 5
- Love and Rockets: New Stories Volume 6
- Love and Rockets: New Stories Volume 7
- Love and Rockets: New Stories Volume 8
Finally, Fantagraphics Books has mentioned that Love and Rockets is returning as an ongoing series sometime later in the year. There’s not a lot of information on this yet, but expect more Palomar and Locas stories.
The other question comes from Jim who asks…
Q: I’ve never subscribed to a paper edition of a comic book before and I’d like to get in on starting with a #1. I would prefer to have them delivered to my home instead of having to take the time to go to my local shop every other Wednesday. Any tips you can provide for those of us who want to start a physical subscription to a comic?
A: I’ve never had to use a mail subscription for comics, Jim, but I’ve done some research and found a bunch of services that you could use. I’ve broken these up into different groups as each one offers something slightly different.
DC Comics Mail Subscription (Not updated for Rebirth)
Run by Comic Book Stores
Forbidden Planet (Based in the UK)
All New Comics (Based in Canada)
As I’ve never used one of these before I can’t tell which one is the best. It will depend on your location as well as how much you want to spend. Each subscription service offers something a little different. Some of them offer better discounts, others might have less issues in regards to how well they ship yours comics and others might have better customer service.
My recommendation is to research some of the ones listed above looking at how good they are with their shipping practices. The last thing you want is to have your comics arrive ruined as they haven’t been shipped properly.
It might also be worth looking into the customer service of each. If the subscription service has bad customer service this might make it difficult to remove comics or cancel the service, which might cost you money in the long run.
Like most services there will be reviews and discussion threads which will help you make an informed decision which suits your needs.