Eric M. Esquivel is one of those guys that has "it," but you don't really know what "it" is until you read his comics.
Full disclosure: Esquivel and I have known each other for years. I knew this guy back when he used to be a manager at Hot Topic, barista at (the sorely missed) Safehouse and forced to cover his gnarly nerdy tattoos while he dealt comics at Heroes and Villains to make ends meet. I remember buying his first funny books and ashcans that were stained with his tears and blood at comic book signings and conventions. After every purchase, I have noticed that his writing and ideas were getting better over time. The more "Tucson famous" Esquivel got, the more artists wanted to work with him. We both started various (failed) podcasts where we over shared our personal lives to desperately relate to anyone from a distance. We always threaten to start one up again, but his new Hollywood lifestyle demands a lot of his time.
If you haven't already, please read his Smell Ya Later (a slice-of-life comic that is 100% true, btw) so you can truly appreciate how far Esquivel has come. I feel like proud brother whenever I read his latest accomplishments cluttering up news feeds. I couldn't help but reach out to him and catch up (and argue) so we can talk about his new comic book: Loki: Ragnarok and Roll.
Henry Barajas: You moved from the Old Pueblo to the City of Angels, and you look happier. Was this a good move for you?
Eric M. Esquivel: I've never been happier.
I was a novelty in Tucson. People treated me like a space alien...and there's power in that (I managed to leverage my weirdness into a handful of decent jobs, relationships, and life experiences)... but this is the first time I've ever felt like I fit in anywhere.
Tucson is a lot of fun, because if you've got a brain in your head you can shoot to the top pretty quickly in whatever field you're passionate about — but then you plateau. I like L.A. because there's no ceiling.
Barajas: Why do you think BOOM! Studios picked up your new book?
Esquivel: Loki: Ragnarok and Roll is actually something that Ross Richie (BOOM! Studios' founder and CEO) asked me to put together earlier this year, when we were hanging out at San Diego Comic Con.
BOOM! initially hired me because they enjoyed the two one-shots that I produced at Moonstone Blackest Terror (a book whose premise is essentially "what if Malcolm X were Batman?") and Thor: Unkillable Thunder Christ (which is a big, loud mediation on the nature of faith and violence).
What Ross asked me to do, post-Freelancers, was to combine the "scrappy underdog, railing against the system" feel of B.T. with the surreality and larger-than-life set pieces of Thunder Christ.
Barajas: Speaking of RAGNAROK AND ROLL, what can you tell me about this ambitious new series? I'll kill you if you copy and paste your answers from the Multiversity interview.
Esquivel: Loki: Ragnarok and Roll is about Loki, The Norse God of Language, being banished to Earth for embarrassing his father at a summit of The Allied Pantheons (A United-Nations-Like assemblage of the various deities of myth)—and discovering that he actually prefers it to Heaven.
Asgard, where Loki's from, is a place where physical strength is valued above all else. It's a culture of "Might Makes Right", and there's no better example of that than Thor, Loki's idiot half-brother, who is idolized for his ability to bludgeon people to death with a greasy hammer.
Earth (specifically: Los Angeles, California) is a much better fit for Loki, because it's a place where people are obsessed with communication. In a world wherein people feel uncomfortable driving two blocks without their radio turned on and their iPhone in their lap, a guy who's supernaturally proficient with words can really have an impact...
Barajas: What's the weirdest thing you seen in LA and you would have never otherwise find in Tucson? Would it have anything to do with you painting your nails black, again?
Esquivel: Comedians/pesudo-journalists who know that pointing out that someone dresses differently than them isn't a punchline.
I'm actually thrilled that you lumped those question in together, because that basically sums up the entire Tucson Vs. L.A. experience: Tucson is full of unimaginative, faux-liberal human debris who are so ashamed of themselves for settling down in a city both financially and spiritually incapable of supporting a life worth living that they'll pounce on any excuse they can get to tear down those around them who are actually TRYING, in order to make themselves feel a little better about their cowardly life choices.
You know that line from Hamlet II "No matter where you go in life after this, it will always be better than Tucson"? It's not wrong.
Tucson is basically a whole city full of Lex Luthors, screaming homophobic slurs at Superman about his cape because they envy his ability to fly.
Barajas: I'm glad you finally found a utopia that is free of dummies and bald Kryptonian haters. You're best known for your Moonstone titles like Thor the Unkillable Thunder Christ and Blackest Terror. You have taken these public domain characters and made them your own in a sick and twisted way.
What makes Loki stand out from the rest of your work and why should I care for another forsaken god?
Esquivel: I don't think that's true. Thunder Christ and Blackest Terror certainly got the comic book industry to take note of me — but I hardly sold any copies of the dang things.
Bravest Warriors #13 is my best selling work to date, and I think people like it because they enjoy my ability to tell big, high concept stories in a relatable way, with a diverse group of characters...which is exactly what I'm doin' with LOKI: RAGNAROK AND ROLL, only with a cast of Gods instead of space faring teenagers.
Barajas: I have known you since your days at Hot Topic. What musicians and bands influenced you while you wrote this four issue rock comic opera?
Esquivel: The Dixie Chicks.
Barajas: So this is a love letter to The Dixie Chicks and The Smiths?
Esquivel: I actually genuinely love "old school" metal ... stuff like Dio, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Three Inches of Blood. I think it's because the guys who listen to that stuff usually don't look like Conan The Barbarian...they're generally either drastically overweight or dangerously underweight young dudes with bacne and a deep mistrust of shampoo...and I love thinking about guys like that psyching themselves up for the horror that is their everyday lives with songs about smiting monsters and saving damsels in distress.
The idea of personal mythology — the stories we tell ourselves to make it through the day—is deadly important to me. Buddha once said "The mind is everything. What you think, you become", and if that's true then it has profound implications for those of us who make a living generating pop culture entertainment. If that's true, then it means that exposing kids to stories about dragon slayers, Gods, and superheroes helps transform them into those things.
That's a big responsibility — and one I don't take lightly.
Barajas: What comic book artists or writers should our readers pay attention to? What books are you digging at the moment?
Esquivel: Visual-art-wise: Ian McGinty (Adventure Time: Candy Capers), Jeff Stokely (Six-Gun Gorilla), Corey Lewis (Sharknife), Ulises Farinas (Gamma), Chris Hunt (Carver), Michael Macropoulos (Soul Puddin'), Hannah Partlow (Adventure time: Candy capers), Chris Petersen (Bee Vixens From Mars), David Cutler (Northern Guard),
Author-wise: Erick Freitas (Gamma), Fabian Rangel Jr. (Doc unknown), Jamie S. Rich (It Girl And The Atomics), Kelly Sue DeConnick (Captain Marvel), Michael Alan Nelson (Day Men), Patrick Shand (Robyn Hood), Jeff McClelland (The Tick)
Barajas: You have been making comics for over 10 years. I have seen you grow from handing out free ashcans of Superman killing God to publishing comics about Gods. What kind of goals do you have in 2014 and another decade from now?
Esquivel: I remember that ashcan! It was called REASONS WHY SUPERMAN IS BETTER THAN GOD, and it just juxtaposed panels of God doin' his thing, and Superman doin' his ("Superman once manually changed the orbit of Planet Earth to save the life of a single woman. God gave my mother diabetes"). I wonder if anybody still has a copy of that thing...?
As far as goals go: first and foremost, I want to come off as less of a jerk in interviews. That's a big one. As part of this whole Loki: Ragnarok and Roll experience I've been playing around with integrating aspects of the Trickster archetype into my identity (and you can read more about that here.) I'd hoped that it'd imbue me with the quiet grace of Tom Hiddleston and the boyish charm of Russel Brand ... but so far it's just made me kind of dickish, and terrible at planning.
Barajas: Why should readers take their hard earned money and pick your book?
Esquivel: I literally just said that it'd turn you into a dragon slaying super-God. If that doesn't sell you on it, then maybe you should stick to reading obituaries and the sides of milk cartons.Loki: Ragnarok & Roll is available at comic book shops all around the world or click here to buy it digitally on Comixology.