Penny Century (1997) #1

Penny Century v1 01

I had to go back and check old Love and Rockets to see if I’d somehow forgotten Ray (Maggie’s most serious boyfriend) had a subplot about mad-crushing on Penny Century. Nope, doesn’t look like it. First, I wasn’t expecting Penny Century to open with a story about someone knowing Penny Century, not Penny herself. Second, I wasn’t expecting creator Jaime Hernandez to do a retcon.

I’m pretty sure it’s a retcon.

Pretty sure.

Also, wasn’t expecting Penny Century to be an anthology. It’s basically a Locas comic, checking in not just on Maggie and Hopey but also featuring a Daffy cameo and an Izzy mention. Ray, of course, at his peak, was in a Locos strip.

The first story has Ray living a lonely life in Los Angeles (or, at least, Hollywood). The first three pages are single-panel sketches of his life there, things he’s overheard, things he’s doing, things he’s not doing. Then, on page four, he mentions Penny, and his story’s now all about her.

It turns out Ray went to junior high with Penny. She never noticed him, but years later (in Love and Rockets #30), Maggie and Ray went to stay at Penny’s mansion, and Ray told Maggie about it. Penny started teasing him—I checked the back issue; she’s mainly parading around naked trying to seduce him but to get Maggie and Hopey back together, not because of a backstory. Like, the retcon’s fine (it makes Ray into an oblivious dickhead in a lot of ways, but I think it’s in character); I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing context.

So then it’s a recounting of their relationship, which has Penny booty-calling Ray occasionally and having earth-shattering sex. The only way for him to guarantee a visit is to meet a new girl; Penny magically arrives whenever he starts getting over her. He moved to L.A. (or, again, at least, Hollywood) for her, but after she’d dumped him, seemingly for good.

It’s a good story. Quick and effective, with Jaime starting slow with Ray’s observations, then speeding up once he begins recounting the relationship.

The following story is a two-page strip about a couple cowboys and the devil. It’s cute. Jaime’s not trying very hard, and it provides a nice break between the opener and the rest of the comic, which is Locos.

Maggie and Hopey are still in L.A., still not living together (as seen in the Color Special). Maggie’s started working for Norma Costigan, which includes helping out with her teenage daughter, Negra.

There are three stories: Maggie’s, Negra’s, then a postscript with Hopey talking to Maggie on the phone. It’s three different perspectives on the same afternoon’s events, and they’re good ones. The Negra story introduces her friends back home (mom Norma just got the mansion and payday from her divorce from Negra’s dad, H.R. Costigan, who was also at one point married to Penny). Negra first appeared in Color Special too.

She’s a teen with complex issues, while Maggie and Hopey are twenty-somethings with complex issues. Maggie’s feeling inert as Norma’s assistant; Hopey’s just suffering through her latest job, a toy store. Jaime focuses on Maggie’s inertia more than Hopey. It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out going forward.

I didn’t know what to expect from Penny Century….

Well, more like, Penny Century is nothing like what I expected. I mean, I expected it to be great, and it’s great, but everything else is a surprise.

Including Jaime using the back cover for another strip (in color). Li’l Ray makes an amazing discovery. It’s a charming finish for the book. Or start, depending on whether you notice the back before you start reading.

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