Once Was Science Fiction

Esperanza — Jaime Hernandez
Locas, book 5

Esperanza

Once upon a time Margarita Luisa “Maggie” Chascarrillo dreamed of being a “pro-solar mechanic”; her pulp-SF adventures took her around the world. In 2011’s Esperanza, the fifth volume of the Locas stories of graphic novels, Maggie is a middle-aged apartment complex manager. Her best friend and occasional lover Esperanza “Hopey” Glass is studying to be a teacher’s assistant, while doing her best to ignore the slow erosion of her relationship with her current lover, Rosie.

Maggie’s teen years come back to haunt her in the form of Julie Wree, once a frenemy and now a talk show host. Julie needs Maggie’s help convincing the witchy Izzy Ortiz to appear on Wree’s show. Events leave Maggie’ stuck with Izzy, an increasingly peculiar house guest who just won’t go home. And then there’s Frogmouth.

Vivian “Frogmouth” Solis works for Wree as a bikini-clad Ring Card Girl on the talk show, where she is a relic of a long vanished producer. Vivian is also a regular at the bar where Hopey works and Maggie hangs out. As long as she’s not talking, Vivian is entrancing. Even her bandsaw on sheet metal voice isn’t enough to put off her many admirers; producers, gangsters, losers, Maggie’s ex Ray, and of course Maggie herself.

~oOo~

Vivian is less a character and more an engine of entropy. It’s not that clear to me that she’s all that interested in any of her lovers beyond their momentary entertainment value. She’s certainly not interested in the consequences of her actions (and there is at least one murder in her social circle). The focus of this collection of interwoven snippets is Maggie and to a lesser extent Hopey, but Vivian keeps reappearing to sow chaos.

Side note re plot: I couldn’t help but notice that, once again, other people’s romantic problems are trivially easy to solve; Maggie should be with Hopey, and it’s really inconsiderate of them both not to realize this. Although it sure does generate drama.

The Maggie stories started out as wacky SF capers and segued into mundane stories set in a California town. I don’t know if the jump between the earlier SF setting and the later mundane one was ever explicitly addressed. It could be that the early stuff was just Maggie’s fantasies. However, one of the residents of Maggie’s apartment complex is a woman named Alarma who at night is a costumed adventurer [1]. It’s possible that the spaceships, the superheroes, and the dinosaurs are still out there, doing their SF thing; they just don’t have anything to do with Maggie’s current life.

Of course, there’s still a lot of Weird Crap, particularly when Izzy is around. Maybe there aren’t any rockets visible in the later series, but there are definitely things in the shadows.

Hernandez’s artistic style may evoke the Archie comics, but his characters do age and mature. The images aren’t exactly photorealistic but at the same time, the figures they depict are not caught in the usual amber; Maggie was always chubby [2] but now she has lines on her face and an extra chin. When events are going against her, you can see the years. Which by the way is something that happens to everyone who doesn’t die young (like Izzy’s brother Speedy).

I managed to miss about fifteen years of the comics; needless to say, there have been a lot of interesting developments (like Maggie and Ray). Revisiting the series after so long was an unexpected treat; I will be tracking down the other volumes I have not yet read..

But I miss the rockets and dinosaurs.

Esperanza was published by Fantagraphics.

1: The original setting had superheroes in the way our world has rock stars; they were around, but the odds were that mundanes never got to meet them. One of Maggie’s friends, Penny Century, was a genuine adventurer who kept hoping she’d have an origin. Rena Titañon was a wrestler/revolutionary who probably qualified as a low-end mask.

2: As I recall, back in the 1980s the artist got bitter fan letters from people who took Maggie’s fluctuating weight as a personal affront. Thank goodness people no longer think like that.

What annoyed me, back in the day, is that Maggie’s steady drift away from being a mechanic. Although I suppose her job running the complex does draw on those skills.


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