The Comics Fondle Podcast | Episode 50

We know you’ve been waiting… five months for this episode, which makes us even more embarrassed about the audio quality but the episode’s worth it. All three hours of the episode is worth it.

That’s right, it’s a three hour extra-sized episode… we cover the Best of 2018, a very deep dive into Love and Rockets Volume One, a discussion of media, and then some news about the new amazing.

(Again, very sorry about the audio. It’s been so long since we podcasted, we sort of forgot how. Technically speaking.

you can also subscribe on iTunes

Love and Rockets #50 (May 1996)

Love and Rockets #50

Love and Rockets #50 is a perfectly solid issue of Love and Rockets. Beto’s Palomar farewell is outstanding in its execution, with him employing a lot more comic strip-influenced narrative techniques than usual. He doesn’t have enough room, it’s clear, and some things are rushed. Mario’s back for the finale too, which is fitting since he was in the first issue. It’s a perfectly good Mario story, not great, but with some excellent art and a fine sense of humor. And even Jaime’s Locas finale is good. It’s definitely affecting, even when Jaime’s being manipulative and burning through pages for no reason except to mess with the reader. Beto doesn’t have enough room, Jaime’s got too much.

The issue starts and ends with Jaime’s last two parts of “Bob Richardson,” which have seemingly unrelated short text pages before them. Short but big letters. So when the third part of the story opens with “God Mother Son,” you’re paying some attention to Esther talking on the phone to her mom. Maggie’s off having a really weird scene with the masked wrestler where she tells him about their mistaken engagement (her family thinks they’re getting married, as does Danita who’s in love with said masked wrestler). It’s a wordy, lengthy scene and Jaime doesn’t really get anywhere with it. Maggie seems weird. And she goes on seeming weird the rest of the chapter. Jaime’s lost her perspective. Even though “Bob Richardson” always seemed like a series finale for the strip, chapter three doesn’t feel much like chapters one or two. Maggie’s positioned way different. So’s Danita. Esther gets more to do but it’s literally nothing for herself.

Then there’s a break and it’s time for Mario’s interlude. It’s a story about him (Mario) losing his comics creating muse and how he gets her back. There’s some great art and it’s always an amusing story. It’s just not particularly special, other than Mario coming in and doing a last contribution. It just…doesn’t make a lot of sense given how little Mario’s done in the book lately. It’d be a lot more effective if he’d been regularly contributing. Emotionally effective anyway.

And then it’s for the Palomar extro, where Beto runs through what seem like a dozen story ideas–some resolving outstanding issues, some creating new ones–in twenty-four wonderful pages. There’s a big overarching story–an earthquake has hit Palomar and residents are back from all over to help in the time of crisis, including Luba’s family from the States (save Maricela). Even the awful American photographer guy comes back for a bit. It’s not exactly like a Human Diastrophism-focused sequel, but it’s sort of like one.

Beto does an amazing job hopping and skipping through all the stories as they go. Sometimes a scene or a subplot will get its own page, usually not. Sometimes it’s just an extremely well-executed panel. It’s kind of a Chelo story, but also a Luba and family story–which now includes Pipo. It’s very interesting to see how all the characters interact thanks to their developed, much different relationships, something Beto mostly skipped over when he left Palomar for a while. It’s a far more upbeat Palomar story than usual, full of Beto’s love and enthusiasm for the characters.

And he finally makes the Guadalupe and Jesus stuff work, though I might just be worn down in the last issue.

The last page is a big reveal. Sort of. It’s a big reveal with no bearing on the series, not even in hindsight. It’s just a big smile to go out on.

Jaime’s also got a big reveal in the last seven pages of Locas, “Bob Richardson Part Four.” He intentionally wastes three of those pages so it’s more like four, story-wise. Of course, the big reveal comes as an aside on one of the wasted pages, not even given a hint of the time it deserves. One last revelation about Speedy.

But otherwise, it’s just a chipperer-than-ever-before Hopey finally tracking Maggie down. Maggie’s possibly sad out of jealousy, possibly not. Doesn’t actually matter as it turns out, because the grand finale hinges on coincidence and bad luck. It’s a really fast, flashy finale, with Jaime laying on the nostalgia. It’s a perfunctory finish. There’s no ambition to it, not like Beto did in his Palomar farewell. Jaime just lets it wrap up and avoids the rest. The big difference, as always, being Beto never avoids anything, he just paces it out. Jaime always implies he’s pacing it out, then just avoids it.

Some great art on the Jaime stories, of course.

The last pages of the comic advertise the future from Los Bros, so you’re not too broken up about the series’s conclusion (I mean, Beto practically has Chelo advertise a new Luba comic), but it’s an earnest occasion. Especially since both Bros had done some amazing work in just the last few issues, when they weren’t steaming to the end. Or, at least, you didn’t know they were. Love and Rockets goes out high.

Love and Rockets #49 (November 1995)

Love and Rockets #49

On the inside front cover, there’s an announcement Love and Rockets #49 is the penultimate issue. Both Bros embrace it, but very, very differently.

Beto has this exceedingly disturbing and self-loathing series of short strips, usually starring himself (or an obvious analog). There’s some great art and some rather good storytelling–like the one where he talks about meeting a girl–and some “funny” anecdotes. Like the kid superhero, unidentified by name, he just has a big G on his chest. There’s also a lot about racism and how it exists simultaneous with his art. Like, it’s a lot. Beto digs really, really deep. Or gives the impression of doing so. Given the bad situations the stories recount or imply, one hopes there’s some narrative liberty.

The least depressing story has a guy chopped in the head with a butcher knife who can’t get change to make a phone call. Because maybe all but two of the rest of them have a bunch to do with abuse. Usually with a child suffering. Like, it’s really heavy, all the way through.

Beto’s got some great visual pacing in the stories, great storytelling, especially with the longer pieces (standouts for visual storytelling are the superhero one and one with an alien kid getting in trouble for staying out after school). Oh. And then the adorable Disney one about the dead father.

Running through it all is this undercurrent Beto–the creator–is a failure for the series ending.

It’s almost unbearably heavy.

Jaime does the complete opposite. Sure Maggie’s got to tell everyone she’s not really getting married and she’s got to survive Rena and her cousin getting attacked by would-be kidnappers, but it’s all fun. Rena and her cousin kick ass. The cousin’s the masked wrestler who Danita works for and, we find out, secretly loves. Danita’s convinced Maggie is going to steal him away. Meanwhile Esther feels like Maggie is abandoning her after her telling her to come to Texas. And Hopey is in town on tour and trying to see Maggie.

There’s some wonderful art and great moments from Jaime and he’s really just getting ready to give everyone a nice ending. It’s all romantic confusion and delayed gratification (the Locas way). There’s a cameo from one of Luba’s sisters, which is funny, and then a visual callback to the Izzy story in the very first Love and Rockets. Jaime’s story seems content.

Beto’s stories do not.

It’s a great issue. The clashing styles does make it read a little funny–if Beto went second with all the downers it’d be a very different experience–but Jaime’s pacing makes it work. He seems to have some regret about wasting Esther and Danita’s time, which makes one wonder what the original plan was for the three girls living together.

But it’s an extremely well-executed wrap-up. Jaime’s storytelling is a lot tighter. Even if it does turn Hopey into a cameo in her own book.

Love and Rockets #48 (August 1995)

Love and Rockets #48

Two issues to go, but no countdown clock other than Beto promising a last visit to Palomar in #50. Now, he got me once before with that Farewell, My Palomar story so I’m not sure I’d have believed him back in 1995.

Because the Jaime story, despite dealing with Maggie trying to tie up the loose ends of her life, doesn’t seem like an end of the book story. It might be an end of the arc story, but there’s nothing ominous about the story. It’s Maggie going and telling people she’s getting married, presumably to a guy named Bob Richardson (the title of the story). She breaks wrestler Gina’s heart, has a pointless farewell with the migrant worker guy who she literally made out with once, tells Aunt Vicki, then gets herself held hostage with Rena.

Locas is so much more exciting with Rena around.

Meanwhile, Esther is having a secret birthday and Danita is thinking maybe her boss is sweet on her. Mild stuff. Then a big cliffhanger. It’s good. Jaime works at it composition-wise. Maybe it doesn’t feel like a second-to-penultimate story because it’s such a solid narrative. Jaime’s not doing a long-form Peanuts, he’s doing a Locas. It’s really cool.

But then Jaime does that promised “Last Maria and Gorgo Story,” which is about Fritzi and Petra going down to Palomar to meet Luba, Guadalupe revealing her son’s father, Gorgo and Luba getting used to being around each other, whatever’s going on with Jesus and Guadalupe stalking him (sort of). It’s all set against Doralis getting famous on TV. It’s a big, awesome story, in seventeen pages but two of them don’t relate so it’s fifteen amazing pages. It’s absurdly great work.

There a bunch of Palomar cameos–Ofelia gets an arc, sort of, but enough of one–and maybe even some visual references to previous issues. There’s one big one and I wish I could remember if Beto’d used the visual before. Luba also gets more to do than she’s had, in the present, since before Poison River. It’s established material with Beto’s always developing narrative skills looking at it with slightly different eyes. It’s very much a done-in-one.

And then Beto just one-ups the whole thing with the last page. It’s too good.

Right before he promises last Palomar story in two issues, which doesn’t exactly make the story any better but it does make reading experience sincerly precious. After forty-seven issues, Beto’s earned the right to be sincerly precious with Palomar. He’s more than earned it.

Great issue.

Love and Rockets #47 (April 1995)

Love and Rockets #47

It’s an outstanding issue. Los Bros each contribute a story and each story does very different things.

Beto’s first. He’s finally bringing Luba’s daughters into contact with their previously unknown grandmother, while also doing a Gorgo story. There are flashbacks for Gorgo and Maria–including Maria’s (previously unrevealed, I think) involvement in Eduardo’s death (which happened during Poison River). In the present it’s mostly a Doralis story, as she’s meeting her grandmother and Gorgo. She saw Gorgo get shot on the news, so Beto finally irons out that timeline of events. Maricela, Pipo, and Guadalupe all have parts too. As well as Fritzi and Petra. Beto juggles it all beautifully, taking the time to do two almost wordless pages of Maria flashback with a bunch of sci-fi slash good girl art while still making time to do character development on the entire cast. Even Gorgo, though not in the present. He barely speaks in the present.

It’s a fantastic story. Lots of seriousness but a lighter tone than usual. It’s sunnier than Palomar or, most definitely, Poison River.

The end has Luba being brought into it (only just), along with the promise of the “Last Maria/Gorgo Story” next issue. So while Poison River started as a Luba origin story, that phase of Beto’s Love and Rockets has really become the Maria/Gorgo Stories? He’s done amazingly well with it, given how much he’s been doing at once and in extended format. It’s not a single story, it’s threads in a series of stories, something Jaime (initially) did a lot better in the book.

Speaking of Jaime, his story’s excellent too. Though it’s all about the subtle formal exploration he’s doing with it. He’s basically doing a long form Peanuts strip, which he references at the end of the story.

It’s a Maggie (or Perla but really Maggie) story. Danita’s sick and Maggie needs to take her wrestling valet outfit to the evening’s match. Esther’s hanging around the house, around for conversation and to further Maggie’s character development but otherwise mostly inactive. She peaked early.

Simultaneously the prostitute Maggie had problems with at Chester Square gets run out of said strip mall and ends up at an Italian restaurant. After a frustrating adventure of dropping off the outfit at the wrestling match (and having to dodge Gina, who’s still in love with her but also wants to beat her up for the prostitute cutting her), Maggie heads over to the same restaurant. There she’s got to avoid Gina, survive an encounter with the prostitute, all while trying to find out if the masked wrestler Danita works for is handsome under his mask.

And then she runs into an old friend.

It’s light and mostly breezy–though with some real danger at times–and Jaime, of course, avoids the pay-off scene with the old friend. But he doesn’t avoid it too much. He lets it affect Maggie; the story, which is continuous, has some really solid character development for her.

Great art, fantastic visual pacing, all while sticking to that extended form Peanuts riff.

It’s a fantastic issue. Each story has very different ambitions–the enthusiasm is the closest similarity–and both Bros realize them successfully.

Love and Rockets #46 (December 1994)

Love and Rockets #46

Even with Beto doing the centerpiece, Love and Rockets #46 is (technically) a Jaime issue.

The issue opens with Maggie/Perla (it gets even more confusing because there’s a flashback to pre-Love and Rockets #1 days) and Esther hanging out at Vicki’s wrestling training camp. There are three Butt Sisters stories, but they’re really just one story with a brief interlude in the middle to catch up with Danita back in Hoppers. Jaime plays the wrestling “prologue” mostly for laughs. Esther has, unfortunately, become Hopey-lite in this story. Maybe even Hopey-lite-lite because she’s really just there to do comic emphasis for Maggie’s plight.

Maggie hasn’t worked out her issues with Gina, the wrestler who not only is mad crushing on her but also took a knife for her (sort of). Xo and Vicki are also at the wrestling camp (obviously) but they’re secondary supporting, which is kind of weird since–at least with Xo–Jaime had promoted her to a lead role. Not now with Esther around.

The interlude with Danita is Jaime’s second best work of the issue, if only because of its brevity. No dialogue, no text whatsoever. Danita misses Ray (which requires the usual massive suspension of disbelief because Ray), she’s lying to her mom about stripping, she gets a dangerous stalker, she’s in a bad place.

So the third “chapter” of Butt Sisters is Danita moving to Texas to live with Maggie and Esther. Along with her son. But mostly it’s a flashback about how Maggie got back into the mechanic business pre-Love and Rockets #1, starring Hopey, Izzy, and everyone else from those days. Even though Jaime’s doing it in his current art style, the flashback just reminds how much fun Locas used to be, which is a bit of a downer, because it’s like he knows–and Maggie definitely knows–how much more fun life was in those days.

The third part also reveals Esther is only Hopey-lite in certain circumstances. The rest of the time she’s a bit of a buzz kill.

But it’s a good story, with a really nice flashback, and a solid punchline at the end. So it’s a real surprise when Beto doesn’t just smoke it, he smokes it with his own riff on Locas.

Hernandez Satricon is Beto doing a Mechanics story. Maggie, Rena, Hopey, Penny, Izzy, Daffy, and Rand Race all appear. Maggie’s the lead, working with Rand and Rena to figure out what a gigantic bowling ball is doing. Changing reality is what it’s doing. Maggie gets the day off and spends it looking into the other scientific teams, leading to disaster, romance, and–finally–a new reality.

Beto boils it all down to the base elements and does a phenomenal job. Great art–his tightest lines in a while as he’s homaging–and a fantastic story. He brings the wonder back to Locas, whether it’s Penny as a superhero or just the pleasures of jigging. It’s awesome.

Jaime gets his own shot at Beto’s characters with the next story, which is Maricela and Riri as kids in Palomar. Riri steals her mom’s makeup so Marciela can get Luba looking like a movie star whether she likes it or not. It’s a really cute story, great art, but it’s just a cute story. Maybe cuter than Beto would ever do, sure, but it’s nowhere near as ambitious as Beto’s riff on Mechanics. Of course, Jaime only gets four pages while Beto got fifteen.

The issue starts good, with sprinkles of greatness, then gets singular with the Beto riff. The Jaime riff on Palomar is cool too. It’s just not jawdropping like the Beto.

Love and Rockets #45 (July 1994)

Love and Rockets #45

Beto’s only got one story this issue. Sure, it’s eleven or so pages–so almost twice as long as most of Jaime’s–but Jaime’s got four stories. There’s a lot from Hoppers. And a lot of Hoppers.

I guess I’m talking about Jaime’s stories first. So he’s got two stories with Maggie (Perla) and Esther. The first is Esther narrating a family get-together. Maggie there’s, Aunt Vicki and–not really introduced–family are there, Cousin Xochitl and family are there, Maggie and Esther’s dad, his new wife, their kids, are there. Lots of people. But the narration is all Esther. It’s more about her life until this point, so a short (but long) four page introduction. It’s fine. It’s a little talky and it’s weird Esther doesn’t seem to notice Maggie’s despondence, but it’s fine. It’d be nice if the accompanying party visuals worked better. But fine.

Esther narrates a lot about Hoppers and Dairytown, something Jaime’s been avoiding literalizing for… well, it’s issue #45 so forty-four issues of Love and Rockets. It gives some context for Esther’s situation, but it feels weird having this minor character doing such a big introduction.

Turns out later it doesn’t matter.

But first there’s Hopey’s interlude. She’s playing a gig in L.A. with her band and spends the day in Hoppers with her brother’s now ex-girlfriend. Hopey avoids seeing anyone she knows, dealing with any situations outstanding; it’s almost like she’s Jaime’s analogue for avoiding situations. Though Hopey does finally find out Maggie’s not back in Hoppers and gets some vague idea where she’s gone. It’s a really good Hopey story, even if it’s depressing as heck.

Then there’s the flashback story. More Hoppers history, with Ray narrating a time the KKK tried to come to town. It’s a “day with the boys” story; although the kids are in high school, Jaime draws them younger. Ish. Unlike the Esther revealing things about Hoppers, Ray’s a fairly standard Love and Rockets character. Arguably the third biggest character in Locas.

Still doesn’t make the history lesson work better. Jaime’s inorganically dumping information.

The last Jaime story is the second one with Maggie and Esther. They’re unpacking in their new apartment and trying to figure out what they’re going to do about another room. Maggie gets a little more heartbreak. Esther doesn’t really know how to help her with it. It works all right, with a funny finish.

Jaime’s best stories this issue–the Hopey one and the apartment one–aren’t the most ambitious ones. The KKK one is a true story adapted for Locas. The Esther party one… well, Love and Rockets has had some amazing parties (but they’ve all been Beto’s).

Meanwhile Beto is still peeling back the onion to reveal more of the Maria story. There are some flashbacks with some Poison River supporting players, there’s the introduction of Maria’s first… well, wait. There’s the introduction of Maria’s second husband and father of Fritz and Petra. There’s also some tying back into other Poison River events for Gorgo and maybe even some forward narrative development in the present day. Lots going on, some great art, awesome story.

Beto starts the issue too. So it’s downhill from page twelve. Yes, Jaime’s art is always great and the writing is always good–there’s nothing bad–it’s just not successful. It’s sort of ambitious? But in an obvious way. And then Jaime doesn’t even achieve the ambitions. Kind of a bummer.

Love and Rockets #44 (March 1994)

Love and Rockets #44

For the first time in either a very long time or ever, there are only two stories in the issue. One Beto, one Jaime.

First up is Jaime’s, which has Maggie’s sister Esther visiting her in Texas. Well, it starts with Esther visiting their dad, then going to see Maggie and pals but their dad is off-panel. Also Esther now calls Maggie Perla, even though I’m nearly positive Esther didn’t call Maggie Perla during the Speedy story arc.

Anyway.

It’s a simple enough story–Esther, Maggie, Xo and her husband, and Gina all go out drinking and dancing. They run into Penny and end up back at Chester Square. We learn Penny grew up near Chester Square and Jaime gives her this exceptionally affecting subplot while Gina–now in love with Maggie instead of Xo–confronts the prostitute who beat Maggie up a few issues ago.

It ends with Esther and Maggie finally having a talk about Speedy, making it the first time anyone’s actually had a talk about Speedy dying instead of just talking about possibly talking about Speedy dying. Jaime’s avoided dealing with it for dozens of issues at this point.

Jaime splits the story between Esther, Gina, Maggie, and Penny. Xo and the husband are just scenery or good for some exposition–i.e. some of what’s happened to Esther since her last appearance. Maggie’s still in a really bad place, which Jaime hints at more than explores. He’s delaying again, but it’s fine because the desolate Texas setting looks wonderful with all silhouettes and shadows and Jaime’s detailed buildings (and costumes).

And Esther’s a good supporting player. Far more than Gina, who isn’t any younger than most of the other Locas cast when the strip started but Jaime’s looking at her from Maggie’s older perspective than on Gina’s own age level. It seems like Esther’s coming into the book. We’ll see.

Then Beto introduces some mystical realism into his story, which starts in Palomar and ends in Los Angeles. His whole Farewell, Palomar story isn’t making much sense as a) he hasn’t stopped doing stories about Palomar and its denizens and b) Jesus is still in Palomar. That story was all about Jesus leaving Palomar. Wasn’t it?

Anyway. He splits the story between Luba’s daughters in the States, though it’s mostly through Pipo’s perspective–with Diana showing up for a bit too–and Luba’s daughters in Palomar. The mystical realism comes in when Casimira (I cannot remember who she’s got for a father) goes hunting this evil bird who pecks out the eye of one of her friends.

There’s a real soap element to the story and all the romantic troubles (or at least complications) in the lives of Luba’s daughters and it’s all very open-ended, which isn’t how Beto usually does a story. He usually at least implies a wrap-up. Not here. The biggest change from beginning to end is daughter Dolaris goes from Palomar to the States. And I guess Gato and Jesus are there now too, but they’re still background. They’re less background than some of the other cast members–Carmen and Heraclio for example–but Beto’s definitely made some changes in who he’s telling the stories about.

So I guess maybe he did say Farewell to Palomar a little, but Beto’s Palomar stories have always been a lot more fluid than, well, anything else in Love and Rockets. The soap aspect just makes it feel a little more Jaime than usual… but also not.

Beto’s art is also a little different. There’s a different sense of visual pacing and scope.

While Jaime’s story is good and affecting–the Penny stuff is phenomenal–Beto’s new normal is amazing.

Love and Rockets #43 (December 1993)

Love and Rockets #43

It’s a packed issue. Six stories, three from each brother. While Beto’s got one wordless one, he’s also got a sixteen panels a page one. Packed. And kind of entirely unexpected, as far as Beto’s stuff.

His first story catches up with Petra and Fritzi–the two half-sisters Luba doesn’t know she has in the states–as well as their mother, Maria. The story jumps all over, time-wise, and is mostly about Gorgo’s involvement with the family. It jumps around so much it’s hard to say whether it’s all reality or some of it might not be, but there are some definite events. It’s rather unsettling at times. Beto does eight panels a page, with some fantastic art.

While he maybe has said “Farewell” to Palomar, he’s building a lot off the Poison River story arc.

Jaime also expands with the next story, giving Maggie’s cousin Xochitl and her family their own story. Xo’s the wrestler who never wins. The story’s this gentle family thing with the three kids bickering about what TV to watch and Xo and her husband have a late dinner and a big fight. Lots of character stuff in a few pages, with some really nice art. It’s a cute and intense story. The realities of domestic bliss angle works.

Then Beto’s got this wordless three page boxing match. Just two fighters pummeling each other. Great art. It’s just the two fighters too. Around them is endless black. Real good. Beto’s getting a lot more experimental with the visual narrative lately.

Next is Jaime’s flashback to 1967 Hoppers and Ray and his fellow kids being excited about Christmas. It’s three pages and cute. Not much else to it. Lots of exagerated expression and the possible implication grade school Doyle is already a lush.

It’s certainly nowhere near as ambitious as Beto’s Pipo story, which is that sixteen panels a page one I mentioned earlier. Sixteen panels a page and maybe five hundred words a page. It’s intense. The story is in the text, which is Pipo’s first person recounting of her present situation and how she got there. Beto also brings up the whole “Pipo and Gato are back in Love and Rockets and Gato’s beating her” thing, which he’s always avoided until now. Not sure it was worth waiting thirty issues for the whole story, but it’s nice to see him finally address it. The art is Pipo leaving Palomar for Los Angeles and then her adventures in Hollywood. The story’s exceptionally dense and good.

Though, again, when Beto suggests he’s done with Palomar does he just mean the place?

Finally, there’s a Maggie story. Or a Perla story. Penny tries to get her to get a mechanic job. There’s some development–Maggie makes a date and discovers someone’s got a crush on her. Someone unexpected, not the guy she makes a date with. There’s a flashback, which informs some of Maggie’s situation when Jaime came back to her a few issues ago, and a lot of Rand Race mentions before he finally returns. Well, in a newspaper story. The story’s good, if a little less ambitious, narrative-wise, than even the kids at Christmas one.

The issue showcases a big constrast between Los Bros–Jaime’s still avoiding things (that Maggie flashback could’ve been its own story and, even though her first return story was excellent, maybe should’ve been revealed first) while Beto’s examining them. Even if the timeline occasionally gets fractured too much.

Also, while the last few issues certainly “felt” like they were wrapping up Rockets (which is now t-minus six issues to end), this one doesn’t. The Pipo story doesn’t feel like a conclusion but a beginning. And, hey, kid Ray is just as engaging as adult Ray.

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