Something supernaturally wicked is sneaking across the border. Border Town is the first of seven new titles that will launch under the 25th anniversary of Vertigo Comics and is about a high schooler named Frank Dominguez, who is forced to move to an Arizona border town where racial tensions are sky-high on a supernatural level. See, there's a tear in our reality as monsters are appearing in Devil's Fork, Arizona, and attacking anything in their way.
Border Town is co-created by writer Eric Esquivel and artist Ramon Villalobos. Tamra Bonvillain provides the colors, and the variant cover is by Jorge Jimenez. It's no accident that the first of this new class of Vertigo titles is timed to come out in time for National Hispanic Heritage Month and the roots of the title being anchored in Mexican folklore. The timing was right in many ways to come out, as Vertigo is trying to re-establish its identity in the comics landscape as the home for cutting-edge stories.
"That punk rock edginess ethic is definitely part of what drew me to Vertigo when I was a teenager. But I would argue that the '90s incarnation of Vertigo was a lot of British nerds in trench coats, telling you how badass they were -- whereas the current crop is a diverse mix of actually culturally dangerous people, telling stories that are so powerful, we're actually seeing them escape the boundary of the printed page and having an effect on the real world," Esquivel exclusively told SYFY WIRE with tongue placed in cheek.
"I'm honored to be in the mix with titles like American Carnage, Goddess Mode, Hex Wives, and Second Coming. These books, and their creators, are gonna do some serious damage."
Concerning Border Town, Esquivel is tapping his own experiences of being forced to move from Illinois to an Arizona border town before his sophomore year of high school. "It was the biggest culture shock I've ever experienced," he shared. "I remember walking onto campus for the first time and seeing a kid wearing a T-shirt with the U.S. Capitol building on it -- only it was flying a Confederate flag -- and the words 'I have a dream too...' were written above it. That is a scene that is so corny, I would get crucified if I tried to include it in a comic book."
The heart of the comic beats through Devil's Fork High School, where we are introduced to our four main characters, each dealing with their own individual heritage as well as the common worries of a teenager. In SYFY's exclusive pages (in the gallery below) we are introduced to the four main characters. Esquivel breaks down each of them and what their arcs will be as the story progresses.
Francisco “Frank” Dominguez, our hero, is a reluctant recent transplant to Devil's Fork: a moody high school sophomore who has never met his Mexican father and was raised (up until now) in an aggressively Caucasian Wisconsin suburb by his white, co-dependent, single mother. As a result, Frank is anxious around all things even remotely Mexican: He consults Siri for help when ordering at Taco Bell, lives in constant fear of using the word “Hispanic” when he should have said “Latino,” etc. He sees himself as a tourist in his own skin.
Quinteh Ortega is a half Native American, half Mexican, 8-foot-tall, 250-pound “special needs” student who has a permission slip from his doctor that allows him to wear a luchador mask at all times (to help keep his anxiety attacks in check). A gentle giant, unless you threaten his friends — then he will straight kill you.
Julietta Quevado is half Spanish (which isn't “Latino”), half Brazilian (which isn't “Hispanic”), and black-skinned. Julietta is constantly misidentified by both her teachers and peers. Her name sounds like “who-lee-etta,” but nobody has ever attempted to pronounce it correctly. An honor roll student and a natural-born leader. If she has one flaw, it's that she suffers from a case of Oppositional Defiant Disorder.
Aimi Ramirez is half Mexican and half Japanese. She's a gifted muralist and “exotically attractive,” which makes her a constant target for creepy and racist sexual harassment from older men. It's getting so bad, Aimi is considering doing something physically drastic to herself to discourage the unwelcome attention and force people to focus on her art.
Border Town is sure to conjure up bad memories of high school for some readers, and for Esquivel his formative years and the muddied, overlapping stories he heard that shaped his moral compass serve as the deep roots of the story as Frank comes of age. They blend well with the weight of the bigger themes of Border Town.
"When I was a kid, the same people who taught me about God and the Devil taught me about El Cucuy, La Llorona, and Los Duendes, so the borders between 'religion,' 'mythology,' and 'total f---ing bull----' were all super blurry."
"Frank still sees his own Mexican heritage as something unknown, and therefore kind of scary; that's how he sees the creatures who are 'invading' the town. As he becomes more comfortable with himself, and less afraid of dealing with the Unknown in general, his relationship to those monsters will evolve. And, I promise you, you do not where we're going with that. It's gonna be INSANE."
Vertigo has always been on the pulse of American culture, and while Border Town feels timely as conversation and debate over immigration in this country has heightened over the last two years, it is a story that Esquivel has been burning to tell.
"I've been trying to tell Border Town for years, but it wasn't until I connected with DC Vertigo that I found a team with the courage to put it out."
SYFY WIRE has an exclusive opportunity to share pages 6-8 of Border Town #1, by Eric Esquivel, Ramon Villalobos, and Tamra Bonvillain. Read the entire comic when it hits comic shops in print and digital Wednesday, September 5.