CBR and Comics Should Be Good contributor Sonia Harris’s report from the Love and Rockets spotlight panel — in which all three of Los Bros Hernandez, Gilbert, Jaime, and Mario, analyzed one another’s work with moderator Kristy Valenti of The Comics Journal — is pure L&R-nerd heaven for a whole bunch of reasons. But not least among them is the revelation that Gilbert will be returning to the streets of Palomar, the tiny fictional Latin American village in which the bulk of his acclaimed stories for the series were set for years, with next year’s Love and Rockets: New Stories #5 from Fantagraphics. It’s a welcome surprise — emphasis on surprise, given how Beto has talked about his Palomar-based material lately.
Gilbert left the village behind years ago, with the end of the first volume of Love and Rockets in 1996. Subsequent stories were set in the same world, but shifted to Los Angeles and largely centered on the American sisters of Palomar matriach Luba, who moved to the States along with several other Palomar characters. Since L&R Vol. 2 wrapped up in 2007, the bulk of Beto’s work has come in the form of “adaptations” of the Z-grade movies that Luba’s psychologist-turned-actress sister Fritz has starred in within the Palomar world. The resulting material has been much more genre-based than the naturalistic/magic-realist Palomar comics, and absolutely suffused with graphic sex and violence. The move has left critics divided, but Hernandez told our own Chris Mautner that he wouldn’t have it any other way: “The Fritz series frees me of any obligation to be a do-gooder cartoonist, something most regular L&R readers probably don’t want to hear. I felt straight jacketed with ‘Palomar’ and the like after a while, really. I have a lot more going on in my imagination than I’m expected to utilize.”
On the panel where he announced his return to the town, he was appropriately enough a bit more conciliatory about his older work. “People always compare my [current] stuff to the ‘Palomar’ stuff, but lately, my stories have been just a little colder edged because I’m more interested in that,” he said, later adding that creating the “Fritz-verse” of movie-based comics enabled him to go wild without stuffing too much weirdness into “Palomar” for it to work properly as a setting.
As for what, specifically, is in store for Palomar’s residents, Hernandez hinted that the story will involve the legacy mothers leave their daughters — which, if you know your Beto, is enough to make you very excited and very nervous.