I was told when I first opened the store that part of your success will be on how you treat the local creators. So we did just that. We gave a open door to any creator who needed a place to hang and do work. When we did our first M.A.D (Member Appreciation Day) Christian Vilaire was the first to sign up. He was also one of the first creators to come to the store to welcome us to the community. Throughout the 1st year, I would hear many names in the community. However, one stuck out and he was about 100+ miles away. Then the opportunity arose to attend the Tucson Comic Con and sure enough the first person to great me was Henry Barajas. Over the years we have had the chance to work on some cool things together and did a interview for his radio show last year. Both these creators are HUGE assets to the community and always first to say “how can they help?”
Henry Barajas: I’m a Tucson native. It’s an honor to call the ‘520’ my home. It’s a big college town and full of like minded individuals. We have a great comic book scene and it’s full of enthusiastic folks that like funny books.
Christian Vilaire: I was originally from Queens, New York but my family decided to move to Arizona about 17 years ago.
How did writing/art come about for you? Did you even know you were doing it through your doodle moments?
HB: Reading and writing were always my favorite subjects in school. I failed every math quiz, blew up the science lab, and was always picked last at kickball but I enjoyed writing. When I was in journalism, yearbook and creative writing classes I realized the trend. I grew up on the southside of Tucson. Where there is heavy gang violence and my parents were sorry role models. Reading novels and comic books were my main form of escape. I always wrote my own comics but never could illustrate them, but thankfully my friends were all artists. I remember I wrote a lot of Dragon Ball Z fan fiction as a lad. I hope those are never found.
CV: When drawing, I see it as a film playing through my head. The way I usually work is I plot out the whole story then go back and play around with the dialogue. My characters are actors so I let them speak from the page and come to life, pretty much if anybody heard me working from outside a door they would hear a bunch of voices. In this case with Captain Unikorn we worked on the dialogue together and acted out scenes like in drama club.
CV: I self published on my own: Astrophobia the adventures of Space Ramirez and Sew What I was a teenage Frankenstien. I also did some other random comics throughout the years but there are so many and no one will ever find them. Recently, Henry and I were published in the “Unite and Take Over: Stories Inspired by The Smiths.” It’s our most controversial story, where Morrissey kills meat eaters in a butcher/restaurant.
HB: My first comic book I created was El Loco. The first five pages are available here. He is a hispanic superhero that fights the Chupacabra and racial profiling. I’m retelling hispanic myths and legends and bringing them to a more modern setting. It’s my way of exposing the Mexican culture and the scary bedtime stories my parents told me as a kid.
How do self published creators stay on point? Is there really a way to keep yourself on deadline without any hard release dates from a distributor?
CV: I always make my own deadlines, but it is very hard to stay on track especially working as a Financial Analyst, going back to school, graphic Illustrator and the hardest job of all is being a father. I tend to get on Henry’s case a lot if he doesn’t letter a whole 40 page comic book in an hour. But when he starts crying I feel bad…somewhat.
HB: Conventions have been our deadlines. Our books have to be finished and ordered in advance to have any chance to debut at the convention. We don’t do any shows unless we have something new to offer the public. Vilaire and I have worked on books that require deadlines and turn in our work well before that. I give Christian a hard time when he wastes his time watching re-runs of the Jersey Shore and not pumping out more pages.
HB: El Loco was spawned from the SB1070 controversy and the fact there is very little diversity in the superhero genre. The world I live in is much different from the predominantly “white” characters in today’s books. Captain Unikorn is a product of our evolving, forward thinking generation, where it doesn’t matter who you sleep with or what you’re into. The story involves a gay protagonist and a female antagonist. It’s very different than anything I’ve previously published.
CV: The story deals with multiple hot button issues and shows gay superheroes kicking ass; also, having the reader really want to invest in these characters and see how their lives change due to all the chaos we throw at them.
How did you two meet?
HB: Christian and I met at the Phoenix Comicon about four years ago. I went to his booth because his wife, Rianna, was wearing a revealing black top. Our bromance is attributed to our affection for the 80’s, David Bowie, stand up comedy and Paul Verhoeven flicks. We’re like Green Arrow and Green Lantern but without the heroin addicted sidekick.
Who came up with the original concept?
HB: A video online that I seen of Anderson Cooper in Haiti in the wake of the horrible earthquake in 2010 stuck with me. In the video he was reporting the chaos and looting going on, and all of a sudden a man throws a brick and hits a kid in the head. Cooper picks the boy and carries him to safety, it was most amazing example of humanity I have seen in real time. I screamed, “Anderson Cooper is Captain fucking America!”
While I was watching that video, I thought to myself, why isn’t here any real or relevant gay superheroes? I don’t know a lot of local creators are comfortable with having political undertones, gay characters, and violence in their comics. Thankfully those themes make up most of Christian’s resume. This book is a true example of collaboration at its finest.
CV: Henry wanted the heroes riding motorcycles, but I thought… wouldn’t it be better if Billy was riding Captain Unikorn? We use a lot of our friends in comics, so we cast Bleeding Cool’s Eric M Esquivel to resemble Billy, but Captain Unikorn is a cross between Freddy Mercury and Tom Sellick.
CV: Billy is integral because not only is he his side kick but his best friend. Throughout the comic we have the reader invested in character so when we “Jason Todd” him, it’s a massive tragedy. As the story arc continues, Captain Unikorn is an emotional wreck and is a lot more protective over the new Billy. The new Billy does not really want a part in this but is forced into saving the world by the mystical horn.
HB: It’s a reflection of any work relationship where you spend so much time with someone and in the nature of the business, their work brings them closer together. They save the world and can’t share those moments with anyone else.
From start to the finish product how long did it take you to have a complete product?
CV: I would say it took us seven months to have it completed and about 3 months planning all the issues. The next three months of me drawing inking coloring and formatting the first 44 pages of the comic.
HB: It was like giving birth to a gay-man-horse-baby.
HB: Our first and logical choice was to debut the book at one of the best conventions in the south west. Christian and I will have exclusive Phoenix Comicon Captain Unikorn stickers, shirts, and buttons.
CV: We are also going to promote our future projects such as Break the Walls (stories inspired by the songs of the Pixies), El Loco #2, REALLY VIOLENT, Sew What I was a Teenage Frankenstein and Astrophobia: Adventures of Space Ramirez #2.
There are so many creators just sitting around thinking the Big Boys are going to just knock them down. Any words to them on how they can bring a vision to reality?
HB: My advice to is to stop thinking about what other people are saying or going to do for you. Just work on your books and put your best foot forward. There is someone working harder than you, publishing more books and living your dream.
CV: Don’t wait on them; our minds are constantly creating new things everyday so the problem is what to work on next. Creativity is your greatest mutant power. Also, you are creating an Indy book, so write whatever the hell you want and don’t be scared to publish what you want.
HB: Image Comics is the best example on how important “Indy” comics are to the industry. People are starving for new ideas and “Indy” comics are giving them just that. Self funding and publishing your own comic has never been easier and we aren’t at the mercy of publishers any more. The internet is littered with amazing digital comics, but the direct market is the only one that’s really interested. ”Indy” creators have two fields and group of fans to please, one can’t exist without the other.
Where can they find you at?