Love and Rockets Reading Order: How to Read Love and Rockets in 2022

So, you’ve read The Love Bunglers, Hypnotwist/Scarlet By Starlight, or another book by Gilbert or Jaime Hernandez and are Love and Rockets-curious but don’t know where the Love and Rockets reading order begins. Or maybe you’ve heard of Love and Rockets and its long history, but aren’t sure what to make of the myriad omnibuses, collected editions, and comic books out there. What’s a new Love and Rockets reader to do?

The answer is pretty simple: Start with the Love and Rockets Library series. This affordable series of trade paperbacks starts at the very beginning of Love and Rockets Vol. 1 from 1982 and collects all of Jaime and Gilbert’s Love and Rockets work more or less chronologically. Start with Jaime’s Maggie the Mechanic and Gilbert’s Heartbreak Soup, and you’re on your way to enjoying two of the great bodies of work in comics history. If you want to jump right into today’s newest stories, start with Love and Rockets Vol. IV, our ongoing comic book series.

But maybe you want to get a little more granular. If you’re interested in the complete history of the Love and Rockets series and its reading order, something to take you through the series highlights from its beginnings as a self-published series in the 1980s to today, when it’s considered to be one of the finest series in comics history, we’re here to help.

An image from Maggie the Mechanic showing a rowdy punk show with audience members crowdsurfing and reaching toward the singer on stage.

Love and Rockets History

Love and Rockets began in 1981 with a self-published issue by Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez, edited by their brother Mario. They sold the issue at conventions for a dollar apiece, and it eventually caught the eye of Fantagraphics publisher Gary Groth. Within a year, it became Fantagraphics’ flagship title. The series rose up alongside other titles in the independent comics scene, representing the character-driven, mature, and influential potential of the medium. 

With 2021 marking the 40th year since the series’ creation, there’s a wealth of beautiful storytelling to be found in the series’ iterations. The first 50-issue series—known as Vol. 1— ran from 1982 to 1996, followed by a five-year hiatus before continuing in comic book format—known as Vol. 2—from 2001 to 2007. Vol. III, aka Love and Rockets: New Stories, was a book format annual that ran eight issues from 2008 to 2016. In late 2016, the brothers returned to the original magazine format with Vol. IV.

The series has been collected into trade paperbacks, called The Love and Rockets Library, beginning with Jaime’s Maggie the Mechanic. These editions are available from Fantagraphics and cover the majority of the Love and Rockets series, with more volumes forthcoming as the brothers continue the series.

To stay on top of the new stuff, be sure to buy the current Love and Rockets series Love and Rockets Vol: IV. This is where all of Gilbert and Jaime’s new Love and Rockets work first appears before eventually being collected into the aforementioned Library collections. Each issue is available in two covers: the regular edition and the FANTA variant, each one drawn by either Jaime or Gilbert. 

Fantagraphics also publishes a number of other books in the Love and Rockets universe as well as a great deal of the Hernandez Bro’s other work. A full list of these books can be found at the bottom of this page if you find yourself in love with their work but unsure where to begin outside of Love and Rockets.

The World of Love and Rockets

Though Love and Rockets is one continuous series, Jaime and Gilbert each explore their unique approaches to storytelling in their own stories. The series follows a large cast of characters throughout their lives in stories tinged with science fiction or magical-realist elements. Characters grow, mature, and change throughout the stages of their lives covered in the series. 

Gilbert and Jaime’s unique interests and abilities shine in their respective contributions to the series. While we recommend reading the entire series for the complete Love and Rockets experience—watching each creator grow as an artist and storyteller, especially in such a long-running series, is an inimitable experience—we also get that 40 years of comics can be a little intimidating to jump into. If you’re looking for an easy way in, starting with either Jaime or Gilbert’s work, depending on your personal tastes, may be a great way to get your first taste of the iconic series.

Jaime’s side of the series, often referred to as the “Locas” stories, began as a sci-fi infused story about Maggie Chascarrillo and Hopey Glass, two young, queer women living in a fictional California town called Hoppers. It has evolved into a sprawling series of stories that include superheroes and spies alongside human, character-driven narratives. Maggie and her friends and family have aged in real-time, making this series a beautiful look into each character’s growth throughout their life. Told through Jaime’s excellent ear for dialog and his incredible artwork, “Locas” is a wonderful introduction to Love and Rockets, but also the emerging and growing alt-comics scene. 

“Palomar,” Gilbert’s side of the story, initially takes place in the fictional Central American town of the same name, populated by characters like the hammer-wielding matriarch Luba, the midwife-turned-sheriff Chelo, Fritz the (sometimes X-rated) actress, and many more. As in “Locas,” Gilbert’s characters age in real-time, and the story follows them as they navigate both relatable everyday struggles and those infused with magical realism, resulting in stories that are equal parts Jorge Luis Borges and punk rock. Gilbert seamlessly blends realism and magic with stories of violence, family, politics, sex, and even the pulpy fun of B-movies, all told through bold artwork in rich black and white. 

Because both Gilbert and Jaime’s work can be read independently, you can start reading whichever side of the story appeals to you more. Once you’ve fallen in love with one brother’s work, explore the full fabric of the Love and Rockets world by diving into the other brother’s work, or start from the beginning to see how the story evolves over time.

Where to Start if You Want to Read Love and Rockets from the Beginning

Even if you’re a completionist, the Love and Rockets reading order can be intimidating. The Love and Rockets Library, our omnibus editions, cover the series essentials from beginning to present in convenient collections. These collections are separated into the “Locas” and “Palomar” stories and ordered sequentially, so each begins with a different volume one. You can start with either “Locas” or “Palomar,” whichever interests you more. 

In addition to The Love and Rockets Library, Fantagraphics also publishes ongoing comic book series that continue the story. Past editions have included Vol. 1, which included issues #1 – 50 and ran from 1982 to 1986, Vol. 2, which included issues numbered #1-20 and ran from 2000 to 2007, and Vol. 3, titled New Stories, which ran from 2008 to 2016. Vol. IV, the current series, began in 2016 and is ongoing. 

For the hardcore completionists out there, The Complete Love and Rockets Trades also collect Jaime and Gilbert’s work in chronological order, beginning with the series’ initial 1982 run. Unlike The Love and Rockets Library, the trade collections are chronological in publishing order, meaning they are not sorted into “Locas” and “Palomar” stories. All of this material is also present in The Love and Rockets Library, so unless you’re dedicated to owning every piece of Love and Rockets media out there (and who could blame you?), there’s no need to invest in these on top of the omnibus editions. A guide to supplementing any trades you own with the Library editions (or vice-versa) can be found in our complete publication history of the Love and Rockets series

There are also abridged hardcover editions that collect the main stories in each of the “Locas” and “Palomar” storylines. These hardcover editions are not currently available. 

From there, there are other tributaries to explore, including Gilbert’s original “B-Movie” graphic novels which star his actress character, Fritz, as well as Julio’s Day and his spinoff series Psychodrama Illustrated and Blubber. There are also several books about Love and Rockets, such as Love and Rockets: The Covers, The Love and Rockets Companion: 30 Years (and Counting), and the Jaime Hernandez Fantagraphics Studio Edition, which collects over 200 pieces of original Jaime Hernandez art in a beautiful studio edition book.

Coming in Fall 2022, we have Love and Rockets: The First Fifty: The Classic 40th Anniversary Collection, which includes the first 50 issues reproduced in a facsimile of their original appearance. If you missed the original L&R run, this collector’s set reproduces these issues in their original format and order, accompanied by an eighth volume which densely collates selected essays, reviews, and profiles that appeared in the popular (and unpopular) press between 1981 and 1996, along with over 100 pages of additional, rarely-seen comics from the period by all three Brothers.

This is not a comprehensive list of the careers of Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez, of course. For a more comprehensive list of their publication history with Fantagraphics, visit our complete Love and Rockets bibliography, which covers each series in detail.

The first panel from Maggie the Mechanic, showing Maggie just waking up from sleeping on a fold-out couch. The room is disheveled. A title card reads, "Mechan-X starring Maggice Race Hopey, by Izzy Ruebens." Dialog bubbles show that someone is snoring.

Where to Start With Love and Rockets: “Locas”

If Jaime’s sci-fi-influenced series interests you, the best place to begin is with The Love and Rockets Library, which collects both the “Locas” and “Palomar” series in numbered volumes. If you’re starting from the beginning with no other Love and Rockets books on your shelf, the reading order is as follows:

  1. Maggie the Mechanic
  2. The Girl from H.O.P.P.E.R.S.
  3. Perla La Loca
  4. Penny Century
  5. Esperanza
  6. Angels & Magpies

If you already own some of the trade paperbacks, you can use our Love and Rockets publication history to figure out what omnibus you need to finish out your collection.

This will bring you all the way up to the trade paperbacks, at which point you can continue with Is This How You See Me? and Tonta. From there, simply jump on to Love and Rockets Vol. IV, our ongoing series, and you’re all caught up!

An image from Heartbreak Soup showing Zomba punching someone and knocking them over. Only their shoes are showing, and the panel is full of stars.

Where to Start With Love and Rockets: “Palomar”

If Gilbert’s magical realism and B-movie charm are more your speed, you can begin with The Love and Rockets Library series following the “Palomar” storyline. If you’ve never read Love and Rockets, start with the numbered volumes as follows:

  1. Heartbreak Soup
  2. Human Diastrophism
  3. Beyond Palomar
  4. Luba and Her Family
  5. Ofelia
  6. Three Sisters

The Library series also includes Gilbert’s Comics Dementia, a collection of short stories unrelated to the ”Palomar” continuity, including many that haven’t been reprinted since they were first available in the 1990s. Though not part of the main story, they’re a worthwhile part of any Love and Rockets reader’s collection.

From there, you can continue on with The Children of Palomar, and then you’re caught up! The story continues in the ongoing Love and Rockets Vol. IV

A panel from Scarlet by Starlight showing Fritz as Scarlet, a catlike person, looking concerned while two small catlike people play in the background.

More Love and Rockets Books 

While the above covers most of the Love and Rockets series proper, there are still other books to read if you’re a completionist. 

Amor Y Cohetes, by Gilbert, Mario, and Jaime Hernandez, is part of our Library series and collects a number of short stories. Amor Y Cohetes includes “BEM,” from the first issue of Love and Rockets in 1981, as well as a number of non-continuity stories starring Maggie and Hopey, Bang and Inez, and genre thrillers from Mario. 

Fritz, one of the characters from Gilbert’s “Palomar” series, also has her own series of standalone graphic novels featuring the many roles she plays in the series’ B-movies. This series includes:

Gilbert has also written Julio’s Day, a standalone graphic novel set in the Love and Rockets universe. Following the life of a man from birth to death, Julio’s Day is a beautiful addition to the Love and Rockets series.

Now that you’ve built up an appreciation for Gilbert, Jaime, and Mario’s work, there are collector’s books to consider. Love and Rockets: The Covers collects all of the series’ covers—some of which have never been seen in this format—without the title or logo, in a beautiful, full-color hardcover. In The Love and Rockets Companion: 30 Years (and Counting), you’ll find interviews with all three Hernandez brothers, family trees for both storylines, snippets of the long-running letter column, and more. Finally, the Fantagraphics Studio Edition: Jaime Hernandez, contains almost 200 pieces of original art from the iconic cartoonist, as well as 14 complete stories from the series’ early days, interviews, and photos of Jaime’s studio. And, coming in Fall 2022, there’s Love and Rockets: The First Fifty: The Classic 40th Anniversary Collection—a painstaking reproduction of the first fifty issues in their original format and order, accompanied by criticism from longstanding series scholar Marc Sobel.

Praise for Love and Rockets

Love and Rockets didn’t become one of the best-known alternative comics series by accident—Los Bros Hernandez are some of the most talented creators in comics history, and they’ve attracted the praise to prove it. Here’s what some of the biggest names in comics are saying about Love and Rockets:

“I don’t really understand why the material of Love and Rockets isn’t widely regarded as one of the finest pieces of fiction of the last 35 years. Because it is.” — Neil Gaiman 

“These beautifully drawn stories feature some of the most believable, diverse, and indelible characters in the history of comics. ‘The Return of Ray D.’ and ‘Spring 1982’ changed my life, and are still among my favorite short stories in any medium.” — Adrian Tomine

“I liked seeing the progression and development of the series (it was started in the 80s). The art is fantastic and H.O.P.P.E.R.S. stands as a complete world unto itself.” — Jillian Tamaki

Not to mention praise from the press:

“Jaime Hernandez keeps hitting home runs. It’s almost like he doesn’t know how to stop. … You don’t have to have ever read a Hernandez Bros. story before to appreciate the achievement, but for those who have, it’s impossible to reach the end without shedding serious tears. It’s that good, heartbreaking, and breathtaking in even measure. It’s just about perfect, and you can put that on the book flap.” — Tim O’Neil – The A.V. Club

“Hernandez is one of the great craftsmen of modern comics.” — New York Times Book Review

“[The Girl from HOPPERS is a] great, sprawling American novel… makes Gotham and Metropolis seem as bland as Scranton.” — GQ

Ready to begin your journey into one of the most celebrated comics series of all time? Visit our Love and Rockets comics page to get started!