Santa Monica once earned the nickname Dogtown but it will be a Border Town celebration this week when one of the country’s oldest comic book shops hosts a fiesta for a new cross-cultural story.

Writer Eric M. Esquivel will bring his well-received DC/Vertigo comic book ‘Border Town’ to Hi De Ho comic store Wednesday, September 5 for a signing and release party for the comic’s launch. The party will have complimentary Latinx themed food (an elote table, horchata, chips and salsa) and Aztec themed arts and crafts.

Esquivel says ‘Border Town’ is about a small, racially-tense town in Arizona that exists on the border between the United States, Mexico and Mictlan — Aztec Hell.

The comic is based on Esquivel’s real-life experience of moving to and living in Arizona and the “creepy Chicano legends” his cousins would tell him to scare him when he was younger. His story has a self-described Twin Peaks, Supernatural, Gremlins feel to it, focusing on a biracial Mexican/Irish protagonist.

The ‘Border Town’ protagonist and writer are both somewhat unique in the comic book industry; in an industry dominated by white men (but slowly elevating diverse voices) both in characters and creators, this comic has a near all-POC cast and a Latinx writer/artist team. Esquivel says his visibility in the industry is a responsibility that isn’t lost on him.

“I want Latinx audiences to walk away from the book feeling seen,” he said, “like the gates have been opened for them a little bit. When I was a kid, I felt like my Mexican ancestry was going to be a hindrance against me breaking in as a storyteller. My hope is that young writers and artists will see this book and understand that isn’t the case.”

Hi De Ho owners Kristen Parraz and husband Eddie deAngelini caught wind of the comic’s diversity and story and reached out to Esquivel at San Diego Comic Con. Parraz herself also runs a Latinx-themed podcast called Comadres y Comics which highlights minorities in the comic industry, making Parraz’s shop and ‘Border Town’ a natural fit for the signing/celebration.

As shop co-owner, Parraz has helped champion diverse work on many occasions, holding lavish events to help drum up support for traditionally marginalized voices. She mentions previous support for a comic called ‘Quince‘ and making her shop… well, basically a venue for the coming-of-age Mexican celebration. Tamales, DJs and customers adorned in dresses and chambelanes tuxedos were all part of the shop’s celebration festivities. 

Parraz says she wanted to do the same with Esquivel’s comic, providing a fun event meant to celebrate diverse creators and inclusivity.

“Personally, I hope with events like this, customers get an introduction to a comic that has Latinx creators and Latinx content. We want to create an experience and provide access to culture and content people may not always have the chance to engage with.”

Her husband echoed her sentiments.

“It very much so feels like a cultural event,” said deAngelini. “Although Santa Monica isn’t the most diverse city, we get a lot of diverse shoppers for titles like this, and those sell better than some major titles. Having a book out there like this is something really special. Having this voice in this industry is important.”

The store hosts regular signings by comic artists and writers from big brands like Marvel or D.C. and independent publishers. Events this year included a signing by Javier Hernandez for his cult classic El Muerto and Adam Glass/Bernard Chang with their work on Teen Titans.

With comics now rising to the top of the cultural food chain, the medium is inspiring new takes on all kinds of stories and Esquivel said he hopes his work, including the shape-shifting chupacabras and interdimensional portals, will find a wide audience.

Our story comic is a fun, insanely-well-drawn horror story,” he said. “It’s gonna click with audiences of all stripes. I have faith.”

Esquivel’s signing will take place at Hi De Ho Comics, 412 Broadway St. between 4th and 5th St., 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.
For questions or more information, call (310) 394-2820.

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