'I don't take this for granted': Tucson-raised writer Henry Barajas on Batman, Ninja Turtles

Henry Barajas, a comic writer and Tucson native, gained popularity with his book “La Voz de M.A.Y.O.: Tata Rambo,” a memoir about his great-grandfather Ramon Jaurigue. His career led him to publishing his first “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” story in May 2023 – “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Splintered Fate.” He’s penned a Batman book and is working on a comic about farmworkers’ leader Dolores Huerta.

For Barajas, writing was something he “thought was good at” early on.

“It was something I felt confident in, ever since I was a child,” Barajas said. “I wasn’t very good at math or science. I just didn’t have the discipline for it. But writing came a lot easier and reading came a lot easier as well. I started writing comics at 18 and wrote about comics at 19, which was how I studied the industry.”

As Barajas navigated the business side of the comic-book industry, he was able to educate himself about publishers and artists, which he said he felt it wasn’t an opportunity most people are afforded.

“I didn’t go to college, so I didn’t really think I’d ever amount to much,” Barajas said. “So I was very lucky that I get to write comics for a living. And I just had a Ninja Turtles comic come out recently, which is something I never thought I’d ever get to write on.”

Barajas said he came from a family of blue-collar workers with lower- to middle income. He found himself handling the cards life dealt for him.

“I was promised college but once it came time to cash in, there was nothing left in the bank,” Barajas said. “I felt like a lot of harsh realities came at a young age – my parents were divorced, there was a lot of drug abuse, anger, domestic violence and you know, it feels like you’re never going to rise above that. But my parents are very loving and they – and my sister – are very supportive of what I do.”

Through the chaos, Barajas wrote an oral history in comic format about his great-grandfather, which was published in 2019.

“‘La Voz de M.A.Y.O.’ opened by eyes to my family accomplishing something great,” Barajas said. “My great-grandfather helped the Pascua Yaqui tribe gain federal recognition in the 1970s, which allowed the tribe to be the multi-million dollar industry that they are now, and to cement their legacy and to continue their traditions. For whatever reason, the tribe did not document it or the history books didn’t really recognize Ramon. So, that opened my eyes to see my family stood on the right side of history.”

“La Voz de M.A.Y.O.: Tata Rambo” has been added to the New York public education curriculum for Grade 11 in American history.

“Millions of children for the next decade are going to learn about a very important piece of Tucson history,” Barajas said. “But it kind of stinks that the Tucson Unified School District — there are some teachers that are friends of mine that do incorporate the book into their history into their classrooms, which I’m grateful for, but it’s not a city-wide curriculum thing.”

In August 2022, his book “Batman: Urban Legends #18” was released by DC Comics.

“That to me is my personal Jesus, so having a chance to have a thumbprint on such an iconic character,” Barajas said. “Now I write a syndicated comic strip called ‘Gil Thorp’. I also just released ‘Beyondtopia Legends’ with my co-producer Bryan Valenza.”

Barajas said the main element of his creative process is remaining curious and continuing to learn about the world around him.

“I just visited the juvenile detention center here in Tucson and got to stare in the eyes of 12-year-old, 13-year-old, teens that are currently incarcerated and to be in that environment, and try toi inspire using comics as a way to inspire positivity, those experiences I’m very lucky to have,” Barajas said. “I think there’s a lot to learn and to glean from what has happened and try to report that through your art.”

Barajas wrote a comic about co-founder of the United Farm Workers Association, Dolores Huerta, for the New York Public Education Department, “which will be coming out soon.”

Barajas will be at booth AA097 at Tucson Comic-Con.