INTERVIEW: Gail Simone Guides 'Blockbuster Update' of Red Sonja, Vampirella and Dejah Thoris
This cover is pretty much my favorite thing ever.
I’m starting with some background.Â Feel free to skip down to below Maggie if you’re not new to L ‘n R.
Love and Rockets is the long-running brainchild of brothers Jaime, Gilbert, and (occasionally) Mario Hernandez.Â I’ve heard it called a pseudo-anthology, and I thought it was a good description. as each issue contains a couple different stories, many of ‘em chapters in Jaime and Gilbert’s long running “Maggie/Hoppers” or “Palomar/Luba” narratives, respectively.Â Jaime and Gilbert do work seperately for the most-part, and their work has a different tone, but both of ‘em switch back and forth between slice of life (Love) and sci-fi/surrealism (Rockets) -type material often within the space of a single story.Â Hence the name.
Jaime’s Hoppers stories work in real time and tends to be more focused -Â IE, there are only, like, 20 main characters compared to Gilbert’s 314. It’s really tough to pigeonhole, which is why it’s taken me a week and a half to write a simple damn review.Â I will say it pulls about equally from comedy, drama, quest narrative and even soap opera, with a big ‘ol “Will they or Won’t They” hanging over main characters Maggie and Hopey at all times.
Gilbert’s stuff is generally more epic in scope, and even harder to describe in terms of simple genre.Â It’s about equal parts “lively and humanistic” and “dark and nasty.” Â Â There are, as I said, LOTS of Palomar characters to keep track of, and when Luba does get to America we’re introduced to three generations of her brood.Â On the one hand this kind of cohesive-universe building has got to be applauded.Â On the other… Well, I’m a huge fan, I’ve been reading this stuff for YEARS, and I gotta check my notes to figure out who’s doing what to who on the regular.Â It IS great, mind, but it takes some work to get into.
Which Gilbert and brother are aware of.Â Hence the New # 1 reboot, with a buncha easily accessable tales don’t require prior knowledge.
Everybody with me?
This is actually Love and Rockets second re-numbering.
With the First renumbering (volume 1 to volume 2) the book shrunk down from magazine sized to standard- comic size. This here second renumbering (from volume 2 to volume 3) again brings a format switch – Love and Rockets is now a 100 page large-ish digest size thing.Â It’s shorter but wider than a standard comic.
The most important thing to note about the new format is that it’s terrible, horrible, and pretty much all-round sucks badgers.
1) It’s Annual. 100 pages of Love and Rockets = (more or less) the page count of the thrice yearly comic p, but it also makes it far, far easier for collectors to forget about the book.
But, c’mon… D’you think any but a teeny majority of us hardcore fans are going to welcome the long, slow, painful, ponderous twelve month wait between issues?Â I’ve read most of the reviews of this ish linked on the Fanta blog and elsewhere, and I haven’t seen one person express happiness with the year-long-wait.Â (‘Though many were neutral.)
2) The New Format is Going to Make Future Collections Redundant.
One of the coolest things about Love and Rockets, ‘side from generally bein’ really good, is the number of formats the books are available in.
Most of Love and Rockets Volume 1 is available in singe issues:
Larger Size Trades:
MASSIVE hardcovers that double as blunt objects:
And, relatively teeny but cheap digest size collections
The NEW Love and Rockets comes in 100 page graphic novels, which will, according to this announcement from Fantagraphics
eventually be collected into logical graphic novels/collections, most likely in the same format as the “smaller, thicker” series of collections that debuted earlier this year.
To sum up.
The REGULAR issues of Love and Rockets will be released in largish digest size collections.
The COLLECTED editions of Love and Rockets will be released in largish digest sized collections.
If this isn’t exactly the same thing twice, it’s darn close.
Unless the collection plans are changed between now and the, what, 5(!) Years (!) it’ll take for Los. Bros. to fill 250 pages worth of material for two separate digest size collections, we not only have an obnoxious repetition of format… But Los. Bros. and Fanta have chosen the least awesome of all alternatives!
Sure, the digests are cheap, but the art is scaled down and bland not big and glorious.Â I’m all for Essential/Showcase style economy, but there’s absolutely no reason this shoud be the only option.
Alright.Â I’m done with “anti” new format.Â Let’s look at the validity of summa the “pro” arguments.
Here’s Gilbert Hernandez, from the link above.
……I don’t have to worry about editing 24 page stories to 14 or 12 pages any more. I’ve got 50 pages to go wild with in Vol. III, #1. Later I might do a whole 50 page story in one issue, and return some of the Palomar characters in long single pieces. I planned to stop with the Palomar characters but only because of the serializing problem; now it’s a different game. I am very, very inspired here!
Well, I’m glad Gilbert’s inspired, and I can’t challenge personal inspiration….
Gilbert, in the past, has done plenty of great stuff that genesised in serial format.
‘Fact, much of the work that Gilbert’s done in 10-20 page chunks is BETTER than the work he did in “unrestrained” graphic novel format. Poison River, ferinstance, was a heck of a lot better than Sloth. (Sloth was actually pretty great, mind.) And we in the Official Love and Rockets fan community (Members: Me and the cat) still consider the originally-serialized Human Diastrophism the single greatest work by ANY Hernandez Brother… and one of the top five works of fiction in comics form, Ever, Full Stop.
Which brings me to my second criticism.Â Over the last few years Gilbert, who’s way-the-hell faster than his brother, has been producing FAR more material than he CAN serialize in Love and Rockets if the two are to keep their contributions more-or-less equal. Â And it seems that, given Gilbert’s prodigious output through a multitude of publishers, that he has the cache to publish his “excess” work in whatever format he damnwell feels like. In just the last few years:Â There’s been the Sloth Graphic Novel through Vertigo, the Chance in Hell GN through Fantagraphics, Speak of the Devil , a six-issue mini-series through Dark Horse, and the end of not one but TWO Luba-centric comics.Â And he made a movie.
Note that none of this was serialized in Love and Rockets.
So, if he’s feeling cramped, what’s to stop him from doin’ what he’s been doin’?
And, thirdly.Â If the above argument is true:Â Why are NONE of his contributions to this current issue of Love and Rockets longer than twelve pages?
(HA!Â HAHA!Â I WIN!)
B) The Bookstore Market. And since I’m rejecting arguments, lemme take aim at this one too ‘n try for a kewpie dol.
Fact:Â Fantagraphics noted that the recent digest size collections of previously serialized material sold very well in bookstores.
Speculation:Â Therefore, theoretically, Los. Bros. and Fantagraphics want to focus their efforts on reaching the bookstore market with the new comic series.Â Presumably this new series is an attempt to get more Love and Rockets product, in similar format, into bookstores before the new digest fans forget the series existed.
*HERE* I understand the logic.
ALL of Love and Rockets volume 1 is collected in digests.Â The one digest I own (Amore Y Cohetes) is not numbered, though others in the series may be.Â These digests offer more-or-less complete stories.
NONE.Â I repeat.Â Not one panel of Love and Rockets volume 2 is collected in digests.Â None of the material published seperately between volume 1 and volume 2Â is collected in digests.
So, correct me if I’m wrong here…
Wouldn’t it make more sense to finish collecting the extant Love and Rockets material in digest form before dumping a bunch of NEW material on an unsuspecting audience?Â This volume 2 material should satiate the potential New Love and Rockets fan, right?Â (Especially since the lead story in Volume 3 is a direct sequel to that interim material.)
Collect everything. THEN reboot.
Again, I’m mystified by the logic here.
So, in conclusion, the format changes suck, as previously stated, badgers and should die. Thank y..
The actual comic?
It was OK.
Alright. Little more.
Jaime rules, Gilbert is confusing.
Crappy new format. 100 Pages. Jaime does half, a large-scale superhero tale – The first blatantly capes ‘n tights story I remember seein’ in Love and Rockets, since, like issue 4(-ish?) of the first series, way back in the early eighties.Â Gilbert, as mentioned above, dishes out a melange of short pieces, some sort of interconnected, some not interconnected… And some barely anything.
Let’s start with the superheroes. This ain’t absolute top of the line Xaime – It’s not as deft in it’s emotional texturing as Death of Speedy or Ghost of Hoppers…
But it is consistently engaging and enjoyable and well-thought out for what you’d assume to be a throw-away gag.
Here’s something I haven’t seen mentioned in any of the other reviews:Â I’m wondering if J.H. has been reading his Alan Moore. This ain’t just a superhero story, it’s a generation spanning superhero EPIC, with invented legacy heroes ala Watchmen or Top Ten, and I get a bit of a Kid Miracleman vibe from the grief-mad Penny Century.Â There seems to be a very Alan-esque approach to the material, at least:Â It’s not so much a simple superhero morality play as one piece of invented history.Â There’s the same sense of Bigness I always get from Afable Al’s superhero stuff.
On the other hand. despite the cosmic scope of the book -Â Which contrasts with the recent, more slice-of-lifey stuff that ended volume two – Â this book still couldn’t be written by anyone else.Â Let’s look for Xaime trademarks:Â ALL the superhereos are women. Characters are given precedence over plot. And there’s a Tex Avery/John Stanley whacky ‘an absurdist streak to the proceedings that manifests in physical comedy and some very welcome sight gags.
Which (and here I gush) are carried off perfectly, ’cause Jaime is one of the best sequential artists and best *artist* artists working in comics. He’s equally adept at both naturalistic and cartoony styles, and it’s not just that he draws great lookin’ women (although, shit, he draws some G-R-E-A-T lookin’ women) but he’s got a damn near unrivaled eye for body language and panel composition.
It’s not just the use of negative space that flattens me here.Â It’s how much of the characters personality Jaime communicates through Hopey’s stance, dress, and actions here.Â And we can’t even see her face!
Speaking o Hopey, she doesn’t show up in this story, and other-main-character Maggie only gets a couple pages to show off her comic book knowledge before gettin’ hustled off-screen to make room for the superheroics.Â But I didn’t miss ‘em as much as I thought I would, and I have a hunch Maggie’ll be back to save the day later.
This story is … Well, it’s FUN is what it is.
And now, if Mark Waid is correct, none of you are gonna buy it.
So, in Jaime’s defense I’ll point out that there is some genuine pathos in Penny Century’s rage against the destruction of her family. Â And, by simply being set in the Locas-verse, where physical and emotional harm are real and are permanent serves to up the stakes beyond your typical DC or Marvel “The World Will Never Be the Same (for three weeks)” style crossover epic.Â Good stuff.Â I wish I didn’t have to wait a fucking year for part two.
But, y’know, as much as I admire Jaime’s work, I’m more pro-‘Gilbert of the two brothers. Â Jaime’s the better artist and has delivered a more cohesive body of work, but Gilbert’s stuff can get stranger, darker, and more blatantly experimental.Â It feels less cuddly.Â Less safe.Â More emotional range.Â I like that.
The DOWNSIDE of this propensity for whacky-arsed experimentation is that sometimes… his stuff comes off like this here. Abandoning Luba and the rest of his Palomar-native characters, he gives us six short stories and one page of short strips.
Not much of any of ‘em worked for me.
Is it bad? I dunno.
Hypothetically: I get some piecea crap comic by, say, Brad Metzler and Greg Land and I’ll be comfortable judging it bad. Or, (since this is hypothetical) good. In either case I can be fairly sure there ain’t gonna be any subtleties to their work that I’m missing.
Gilbert, however, is a damnsite smarter than I am. If HE thinks we need super-powered Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis analogues massacaring vaguely Blue Meanie-esque aliens with spears… Shit. Maybe he’s right, and I’m just not evolved enough to get it.Â But I didn’t get it.Â I was more puzzled than anything.Â And this was a running theme throughout.
What else we got:
1)A Palomar-esque story about a dude wandering through… Mexico (maybe?) and gettin’ sick with worms,
2) a sad little 6 pager where a nude dancer leaves his lover to go wandering, again, through… Mexico (maybe?) leaving everything he knows behind because… we never know. Â (And, OK, it was quiet and subtle and I had to read it a few times, but I did like this one.)
3) 5 pages of semi-connected non-narrative surrealism. Â Including shots of a giant, floaty balloon thing with eyes and some ducks,
4) A surprisingly ballsy comedy(!) about Indian Land rights,
5) And, on a *much* lighter note…
Maybe I’m being too harsh.Â None of Gilbert’s work here is unreadable or godawful or anything.
I’m thinking that ‘Beto’s simply better in writing longer stories, whether serialized or not. He doesn’t quite have Jaime’s talent for creating instantly understanable characters ala Hopey above, so he needs a couple dozen pages to really give us a sense of who his people are.Â Similarly, his very best stuff tends to rely on constantly escalating tension throughout the story.Â Which, again, is tough to pull off in seven pages.
Despite all my bitchin’ this is still good comics.Â I don’t understand or see the need for the new format, but at the end of the day I was happy to drop my 15 bones to get a big-ass superhero story from Jaime and Kangaroo in Vegas!
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