Updated January 10, 2022 at 7:55 PM ET
Henry Barajas laughs when he describes how he pitched his current Latinx fantasy book, Helm Greycastle.
“What if Mordor had a southside?” Barajas states. “What if the world of The Lord of the Rings had a southside?”
The 32-year-old graphic novelist pictured a world where the Aztec Empire still stands and a group of misfit comrades concern the rescue of the last dragon prince.
In Helm Greycastle, Barajas wished to illustrate characters he never truly saw in the The Lord of the Rings or the video game Dungeons and Dragons, a few of his favorites growing up.
“I wanted to develop something that challenged the Eurocentric dream category while making it organic– and likewise including Mesoamerican history,”he
states. Maturing near the border in between the United States and Mexico, Barajas states he “had no idea about Mesoamerican history and was not taught that.”
Now, he’s trying to bring that history to his books.
Barajas resides in Los Angeles now, however his roots run deep in Tucson, Arizona. That’s where he fell for comics.
His household would view Antiques Roadshow on PBS and see comics cost countless dollars. That led them to purchase boxes of comics, believing they would discover something worth selling. Most of the time, they weren’t worth much. But he did get something else.
“That’s how I got a great deal of my morals,” he states. He checked out racism and crowded prisons in Spider-Man, mental health in Batman and feminism in Marvel Lady. “Things that weren’t in my routine research studies as a kid,” he keeps in mind.
By the time Barajas was 17, he was working as an expense collector to help his family. Throughout and after work, he spent his time finding out whatever he could about comics.
By 23, he was working as a journalist at Arizona Daily Star. A few years later, he understood for his very first huge book.
“Growing up, my household would always tell me my great-grandfather did something incredible. However they actually didn’t explain [about] what that was,” he states.
Barajas dug into his family history and discovered that his great-grandfather, Ramon Jaurigue, co-founded the company Mexican American Yaqui and Others(M.A.Y.O.)in Tuscon, Arizona. Throughout the 1970s, the group pressed the Tucson City board to enhance conditions for members of the local Pascua Yaqui people– a group that’s resided in the area for centuries. Barajas says in 1978, his great-grandfather assisted the tribe gain federal acknowledgment.
“It’s not a daily thing where you can inform individuals that your great-grandfather assisted one of the last Native American people acquire federal acknowledgment,” he states.
All of this is chronicled in Barajas’ 2019 graphic novel La Voz De M.A.Y.O.: Tata Rambo— which is all about the efforts of his terrific grandfather, who was nicknamed Tata Rambo.
Barajas says he feels proud to share his family history.
“It was actually essential for me to tell a story that was favorable about the indigenous and migrant communities here in Tucson [and] in this country– and to shine a light on not only a civil liberties activist, however a World War II veteran,” he says.
The graphic novel is now checked out by college students, beings in libraries and the Smithsonian gift store and has made Barajas spots to speak at comic conventions around the country. Now, he’s offering advice to more youthful
authors.” It’s all about just being an excellent individual and telling your story, “Barajas told guests at the San Diego Comic-Con in late November. “People want to hear your story.”
J. Gonzo, the illustrator of the book, still can’t believe the success of it. “It seems surreal,”he says.”
I can’t get my head around it yet. “After years of looking for his method as a writer, Barajas says he
finally discovered his voice.”I’m extremely fortunate that individuals are focusing and I get to use my comics to inform stories that I feel are necessary,” Barajas states
. He just recently dealt with an Avengers comic for the city of New York, which motivated young kids to get immunized. Now, he’s working on a short task for DC Comics– revealing others like him they can be superheroes too.Copyright 2022
NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST: Envision a world where the Aztec empire still stands, there’s a plot to overthrow the ruler and a young dragon prince has actually been taken hostage. That’s the premise of the graphic novel “Helm Greycastle,” which came out in 2015. Its author, Henry Barajas, grew up near the U.S.-Mexico border however states he never ever discovered Mesoamerican history in school. And he didn’t discover his own family’s past until much later on. Now Barajas is finding success by including that history into his own work. NPR’s Mia Estrada reports.
MIA ESTRADA, BYLINE: This is how Henry Barajas pitched his current Latinx fantasy book.
HENRY BARAJAS: (Laughter) What if Mordor had a south side? What if the world of “Lord Of The Rings” had a south side?
ESTRADA: The 32-year-old writer resides in Los Angeles now, but his roots run deep in Tucson, Ariz. That’s where he fell in love with comics. His household would view “Antiques Roadshow” on PBS and see comics cost countless dollars. That led them to purchase boxes of comics, believing they would find something worth selling. The majority of the time, they weren’t worth much, but he did get something else.
BARAJAS: That’s how I got a lot of my morals, then discovered the, you know, racism and crowded prison system through “Spider-Man” and learning about psychological health through “Batman” and feminism through “Wonder Female,” you know, simply some of the important things that weren’t in my regular studies as a kid.
ESTRADA: In “Helm Greycastle,” Barajas wished to continue to inform stories about characters he never truly saw in “Lord Of The Rings” or “Dungeons And Dragons,” some of his favorites growing up.
BARAJAS: I wanted to create something that challenged the Eurocentric fantasy genre while making it natural and likewise including Mesoamerican history. I grew up an hour and a half away from the Mexican border and had no concept about Mesoamerican history and was not taught that.
ESTRADA: By the time Barajas was 17, he was working as an expense collector to help his family. Throughout and after work, he spent his time learning whatever he could about comics. By 23, he was working as a reporter at Arizona Daily Star. A couple of years later on, he got the idea for his first huge book.
BARAJAS: Growing up my family would constantly inform me my great-grandfather did something incredible, but they actually didn’t explain what that was.
ESTRADA: Barajas went into his family history and discovered that his great-grandfather, Ramon Jaurigue, co-founded the organization Mexican, American, Yaqui, and Others, or M.A.Y.O., in Tucson, Ariz. In the 1970s, the group promoted the Tucson City board to improve conditions for members of the regional Pascua Yaqui Tribe, a group that’s resided in the region for hundreds of years. In 1978, Barajas’s great-grandfather assisted the people gain federal acknowledgment, and Barajas says he feels happy to share his family history.
BARAJAS: It was actually important for me to – you know, to narrate that was positive about the Native and migrant communities here in Tucson, a minimum of in this nation, and to shine a light on not just a civil rights activists but a World War II veteran.
ESTRADA: All of this is narrated in Barajas’ 2019 graphic novel “La Voz De M.A.Y.O: Tata Rambo,” which is everything about his great-grandfather’s efforts, whose label was Tata Rambo. The graphic novel is now checked out by college students, beings in libraries and the Smithsonian present store and earned Barajas areas to speak at comic conventions around the nation.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
BARAJAS: Is there any young Latinx creators here? There we go. That’s one.
ESTRADA: Now he’s providing advice to more youthful writers.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
BARAJAS: It’s all about simply being a great person and telling your story. People want to hear your story.
ESTRADA: J. Gonzo, the illustrator of the book, still can’t think the success of it.
J GONZO: The Smithsonian thing, truly, that’s still type of, like – it simply appears surreal. The fact that you can buy a book I drew at the Smithsonian is – I can’t get my head around it yet.
ESTRADA: After years of searching for his method as an author, Barajas states he finally discovered his voice.
BARAJAS: I’m very lucky that people were taking note and I get to utilize comics to inform stories that I feel that are important.
ESTRADA: He recently dealt with an “Avengers” comic for the city of New york city, which encouraged young kids to get vaccinated. And now he’s dealing with a brief task for DC Comics, revealing others like him they can be superheroes, too.
Mia Estrada, NPR News.
(SOUNDBITE OF LOUPO’S “I’M ALL SET”) Transcript supplied by NPR, Copyright NPR.