Comic-Con Heroes: The Heroine

It’s Saturday, and that means another excerpt from my ebook Comic-Con Heroes: The Fans Who Make The Greatest Show On Earth, which profiles one-dozen attendees from SDCC 2013. One week ago, the Con held Open Registration, where participating for the first time I was fortunate enough to obtain passes for all four days and the Preview Night. From 2009-2014, accredited press status assured access.

Without press accreditation, I expect San Diego Comic-Con 2015 to be my last, as obtaining passes one year is no guarantee of getting them the next. Judging from social network responses to last week’s 59-minute ticket sales, many people who attended last year couldn’t purchase passes for the next one. Attendance is capped at 130,000. 

In treating SDCC 2015 as my last Con, I am rethinking my participation. How is the question, for which I have no answer yet.

As for this series, previously posted in order of appearance: The Dark Knight, The Fighter, The Collectors, The AcademicThe Nerd Culturist, The Writer, and The Bicyclists. Five installments remain, after which, on July 8, 2015, when my current commitment with Amazon KDP Select ends, the book releases into the public domain. Today’s profile is among my favorites, for in so many ways the heroine that Ericka Quesada plays is who she is: Courageous.

With that introduction, let’s meet The Heroine

Perhaps influenced by the Batman Three and their giant-wheeled bicycle, I turn stalker. Hours earlier, a woman dressed as Harley Quinn, who is the Joker’s girl, caught my attention. She’s back. I see her sitting at a table eating, while texting on a smartphone. I skulk around, trying not to be too obvious, waiting for her to finish. There’s something appropriate about going from Mr. Persky to his character’s love interest.

We sit down at another table. I sense apprehension, caution. She gauges how much to open up to a stranger, something I can understand.

Ericka Quesada is from Costa Rica, but she lives outside Los Angeles. I ask why she comes to Comic-Con. “It’s a lot of fun. It’s one of the places that I can go and when I make nerdy references, when I will make an obscure joke, people won’t look at me like: ‘What is the weird girl talking about?’ They get it. In general the people are really nice—it’s kind of like an adventure”.

She doesn’t strike me as being the least bit nerdy. Granted, I haven’t seen her out of the Batman series costume. Her comment accentuates a common theme, in these interviews and others conducted during past Cons: A place to fit in, to be understood and accepted for who you are.

But Quesada’s reasons for coming to Comic-Con are more multi-faceted. She is a makeup artist, “which is why I like the costumes a lot”, and why she dresses up. She has three different Harley Quinns for the four days.

“You must be pretty dedicated to have three costumes”, I observe. “Yes, I love dressing up”, she responds. The natural next question: Does she dress up other times, too? “Yes, at other conventions. Pretty much any chance I have to wear my Harley Quinn costumes, I’m all over it”.

I ask if she had trouble getting tickets. No. As a previous attendee she is eligible for pre-sale tickets, which for many Conners I speak with is the Holy Grail. “We’re almost guaranteed a spot for next year, hopefully, if they keep it up”.

I ask the Comic-Con relocation question, since she lives LA way. “It would be great for me. It’s less of a drive”. But the trip to San Diego is no big bother. “The people, whoever they are, will go wherever the Con is. I’ve always known Comic-Con as San Diego Comic-Con”.

She ultimately is pragmatic. “It all comes down to numbers. If the space can be bigger, and more people can enjoy an event, without being shut out of it, I’m all for it. I feel that anybody who wants to experience Comic-Con should be able to experience Comic-Con”. Her current boyfriend tried for a year to get a pass and couldn’t. “It really bummed me out. He would really enjoy it, enjoy the people, the atmosphere”.

My recurring theme surfaces. “What I love about Comic-Con, people get to dress up and be who they want to be—is that true?” I ask. “Yes”, she answers. I continue: “The role that you play is the role that you wish you could be”. She nods agreement.

“Actually, my character, the Harley Quinn, has deep-seated meaning for me,” Quesada says. “I’ve always read comic books and played video games and always been the nerd girl kind of thing. When I was little and saw a female character on a show and she was loud and she was fun and she was quirky and she was the weird girl…I was really drawn to her as a character”.

She pauses. “As you get older, and go through your teenage years, you kind of lose touch with your kid side because you want to be an adult so bad”. She stopped watching some TV shows that mattered before.

Quesada “got into an abusive relationship, and I was in that for five years. Finally one day, I was sitting with my best friend on the couch and an old episode of ‘Batman: The Animated Series’ came on”. Quesada watched for the first time in years.

“It was the episode where Harley Quinn has had enough and finally leaves the Joker. But she’s still so dedicated to him, even though he’s so awful to her. She loves him so much that she just can’t get away. She’s scared and everything”.

Quesada turned to her friend and asked: “‘Is that what I look like?’” Yes. “‘But wait, watch this’”, the friend said. She pulled out a “Batman: The Animated Series” DVD and played an episode a few later, “where Harley is free and she’s happy”, Quesada explains. “She does what she wants and she doesn’t have anything holding her back. It was a better version of herself. She finally had the strength to leave, and that gave me the strength to get myself together and get out”.

Quesada started dressing as Harley Quinn soon after.

“You’re the first person I’ve talked to who has a personal connection to your character”, I tell her.

She smiles and responds: “I come with my best friend, and it’s just a week of wackiness”. Her friend sometimes dresses as Batman nemesis Poison Ivy. “I consider her my Poison Ivy, because she pulled me from the ashes. We’ve been super close since we were little. She’s like my sister. But for everything else we’re opposites. I’m a DC girl. She’s Marvel all the way. She’s Loki today, but she’s very hero-oriented and dresses as a female Captain America”.

The women’s comic character choices are appropriately representative. Competition between DC Comics and Marvel is epic. Superheroic.

Both publishers formed from others in the 1930s. National Allied Publications became Detective Comics, later shortened to DC. Timely Comics published the first Marvel in 1939. Two name changes followed, first to Atlas Comics and finally Marvel in 1961. The Walt Disney Company acquired Marvel Entertainment in 2009. The same year, in response, Time Warner folded DC Comics into its Studio operations.

DC’s most-enduring characters came early—Superman (1938) and Batman (1939). Marvel scored with Captain America in 1941. But its most iconic characters, many co-created by Stan Lee, came in the 1960s: Fantastic Four (1961); Thor (1962); Spider-Man (1962); Iron Man (1963); and X-Men (1963), among many. Other DC superheroes include Green Arrow, Justice League, The Flash, and Wonder Woman.

According to data that Diamond Comic Distributors compiles, DC and Marvel were nearly tied for retail market share in July 2013. By September 2013, DC widened the lead—40 percent to 28 percent. Combined, they command 69 percent share. Among the top-20 selling comics, DC published six and Marvel twelve.

Coincidentally, or not, around the time Hollywood’s influence over Comic-Con increased, DC and Marvel characters, and those from some other comic-book publishers, started appearing in more movies and TV shows. I hear lots of talk around the Con about comic books’ shrinking presence but disagree! The old superheroes are as popular, if not more so, than ever. They’re even larger and more influential—as storytellers bring them to the screen, which certainly isn’t bad for print or even digital comic sales.

ComiChron reports sales data for the ninth month: “DC’s ‘Villains Month’ prompted North American comics retailers to order in record volume in September…$48 million month for the trade overall. That figure is the largest non-inflation adjusted dollar amount for orders seen in the 2000s, beating both last month and last September by more than $9 million. Despite the high month-to-month volatility recently, the quarter overall was up 7.64 percent. That looks a lot more like the rest of 2013”.

Hollywood helps drive comic sales and expands the universe of superheroes to more people.