SECRET IDENTITY: Eric M. Esquivel, marketing specialist for Heroes and Villains by day; internationally published comics author by night
SECRET POWER: Can traverse infinite universes at the drop of a pen
SECRET ORIGIN: Startled by a thunderclap during a sudden monsoon, Eric M. Esquivel cut his finger on the edge of a piece of original Frank Quitely art. Precious traces of the pseudonymous illustrator's ink mixed with Esquivel's blood, triggering a cosmic awakening like that of Siddhartha—or maybe just George Harrison.
THE REAL STORY: Eric M. Esquivel moved to Tucson at the start of his sophomore year of high school from a small suburb outside of Chicago. Shell-shocked by the change in culture and climate, Esquivel says he retreated into the world of comics. He figures that since he grew up without a father figure, he was drawn to heroes with "man" in their names: Aquaman, Superman and Spider-Man. As a result, Eric is vegan ("Aquaman deputized shrimp in the war against crime; he didn't eat them"), straight-edged ("Superman never drank, because he knew he had to always be alert in case someone needed help") and neurotic ("You don't read that much Spider-Man and not develop a stress ulcer. It just doesn't happen").
Esquivel's latest creation is Blackest Terror (Moonstone Books), which he describes as "a recontextualization of superheroes as racial and social minorities who feel underserved by the mainstream legal system and have decided to take matters into their own costumed hands."
SUPER BESTS: "There's a great, massively active comic-book community in Tucson, and not just a collection of sassy, anti-social nerds like you find in some cities. Heroes and Villains engages the whole community by sponsoring events at the Tucson Festival of Books, and holding annual events for charitable organizations like Tucson's Open Inn and the Diamond Children's Medical Center. They take the ideals that are championed by the heroes they idolize and apply them in the real world, and they take the books themselves and get them in the hands of folks who probably wouldn't come across them otherwise. It's exactly what Superman would do. It's exactly what Prometheus would do. It's awesome, and I'm proud to be a part of it.
"Holy crap, do I love the Tucson Festival of Books. It's amazing to see so many people show up to celebrate their love of reading. Tucson winds up as the butt of a lot of jokes on a national scale because of our border-militia crazies, our tolerance of guns in bars, the whole 'We were the last state in the union to recognize Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday' thing, and the fact that our public school system scores poorly. But we still let kids off for a week to celebrate the arrival of the rodeo ... y'know? So it's life-affirming to have Tucson associated with literacy for a couple of days out of the year. Plus, they've invited me to speak for the past three years in a row, so that's pretty amazing. I love everyone involved with that thing.
"I love Bookmans Entertainment Exchange, too. Who doesn't love Bookmans? I love that there's this alternative commerce system in Tucson that makes it possible for me to trade family heirlooms for back issues of Swamp Thing. How great is that?
"And, of course, the Tucson Comic Con. I've been invited as a guest again this year, and I couldn't be happier about it. Tucson Comic Con is a real comic fan's con. There are no movie stars or fancy gimmicks, just fans and creators—and large, middle-age men dressed as the Green Lantern. That's almost mandatory."