As a child in Tucson in the 1990s, Henry Barajas picked up the Arizona Daily Star, read the front page, and moved on to the comics section.
“I was obsessed, I couldn’t do anything better than watch comics,” said Barajas, who eventually worked for the Arizona Daily Star as a clerk and occasional writer.
Barajas grew up in South Tucson and graduated in 2006 from Canyon Rose Academic.
He left Tucson in 2015 to pursue a career in the comics industry. His big breakthrough came in 2021 when he penned “Helm Greycastle,” a Latinx fantasy series and comic set in a fictional world of Mesoamerica.
He has since worked in Los Angeles as a graphic novelist.
Starting Monday, Barajas is writing a new chapter as longtime comic book writer Gil Thorp. He is the fourth author of the classic comic, which has been around for 64 years. It starts running today in the Star’s Sports section.
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“It’s definitely a dream come true,” Barajas said.
Comics are generally made for children, they contain fewer words and more images, he said.
“Every picture is a giant word,” Barajas said. “When someone is running, you can see them running so your mind automatically reads them.”
Gil Thorp is the story of a high school coach and academic director at Milford High School. Thorp has inspired generations of kids to do the right thing to win with dignity and respect in a competitive environment. The comic tackles real-life situations including racial issues, teenage pregnancy, girls’ athleticism, dating issues, substance abuse, and parent-teacher conflict.
From Barajas’s pen, he plans to go back to the beginning of the comics and bring back characters who hadn’t been in the comics for a while. It plans to introduce characters of color and with different sexual orientations and gun violence.
“I hope (readers) will see this character, Gil, trying to do the right thing despite what others might say is wrong or indecent or un-American or not religious,” Barajas said.
In Gil Thorp, the characters grapple with real issues, he said. The Los Angeles-based Latinx author is thrilled to take the characters through the worst time of their lives and see them deal with it.
Barajas will also use his personal experiences of tough talks, bad days and stress with friends and family. Additionally, he wants to meet high school coaches and attend high school games to emerge in the world of athletics and the challenges that come with it.
Barajas started making comics when he was 18. He is best known for his graphic novels published by Top Cow & Image Comics: “La Voz De MAYO Tata Rambo” which tells the story of Barajas’ great-grandfather, Ramon Jaurigue, aka Tata Rambo, a native of Tucson and veteran of World War II. who co-founded the Mexican, American, Yaqui and Others Organization (MAYO) which successfully lobbied for federal tribal recognition of the Pascua Yaqui. This is Barajas’ love letter to Tucson.
Barajas also wrote Marvel Comics & SOMOS Healthcare’s “Avengers #1” and a short story for DC Comics’ “Batman: Urban Legends.”
Barajas is proud to represent Tucson in the comics and he always wears a Tucson hat or shirt, he said.
“All my life experience is combined in this moment,” Barajas said.