DF Interview: Julio Anta wraps a boy’s gaining of superhuman powers within a saga ripped from today’s immigration headlines in ‘Home’
By Byron Brewer
When a young boy is torn away from his mother while seeking asylum at the U.S. border, something begins to change in him, and it isn't just the trauma, anxiety and guilt you'd expect. He doesn't know it yet, but it's the onset of superhuman abilities that will change his life forever.
From writer Julio Anta and artist Anna Wieszczyk comes a deeply grounded and heartfelt five-issue series, Home, that explores the real-world implications of a migrant with extraordinary powers. DF was eager to talk about this comic, so we sat down with scribe Julio Anta.
Dynamic Forces: Julio, Home has really struck a cord within me. This book merges superhero storytelling with events ripped from today’s headlines like few I have ever read before. Tell readers what inspired Home, what was the creative muse for artist Anna Wieszczyk and yourself?
Julio Anta: Home is a book that is wholly inspired by the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” family separation policy. When news of this policy initially came out, my heart just absolutely broke. As a father, and the child of immigrants, the idea that we were ripping children away from their parents as a cruel form of deterrence made me sick.
At the same time, I was doing a lot of thinking about the lack of Latinx heroes in American comics, and representation as a whole. Both of these parallel thoughts collided when I had the idea for Home and I knew I had to see the idea through.
DF: Before we get into the plot proper, I am always interested in the research that writers and artists do for these types of special books. Noted, there are big names in our industry – BIG names – that do not even bother to look at a continuing character’s previous adventures, and then there are those just starting out that immerse themselves in research and create imaginative worlds out if it. Was there some aspect of Home you or Anna researched especially deeply … even beyond watching the evening newscast.
Julio Anta: Most of my work deals with the Latinx experience in America in some form or another. I’m the son of a Cuban refugee and the grandson of Colombian immigrants. Although I grew up hearing stories of migration, Juan’s story (our lead character in Home), is very different from my own families’ experience.
Because of that, it did require a lot of research. Before I even knew I was going to tell a story around the family separation issue, I had already become invested with learning everything I could about it. I was reading local news reports, listening to interviews with families affected, and learning a lot about what brought us to this point in immigration enforcement.
When I did eventually decide to write this story, I started combing through photos on online databases to send Anna reference material. I wanted to make sure that everything from the characterization of the people in the book to the locations were not only authentic and true but empathetic as well.
A lot of the conversations, and moments you see in the first issue are ripped directly from my research into what is happening inside of these immigration detention facilities.
DF: So tell readers about the five-part limited series. Introduce us to the young boy, the POV character in this series, who has something unimaginable happen to him about which I have read much, something that becomes a catalyst to great changes in his life.
Julio Anta: Home is a story about survival. Juan is a boy who wants nothing more than to be a regular kid, at his mother’s side. But instead he’s forced to deal with superhuman powers he never asked for, and certainly doesn’t want. He has to make his way through a strange country and deal with the fallout of both his newfound abilities and life without his mother.
DF: On the fantasy side, can you clue us in at all about what superpowers your protagonist may develop? Normally, in superhero-dom, you would think that any such gifts would be a boon to a boy in his position. But then, in the back of your mind, there is Spider-Man, whose powers led to a life-change and decades of angst, teen and otherwise, now. And Peter Parker, even without his parents, did not face issues that our young man does, just because of who he is.
Julio Anta: Juan’s powers exasperate an already desperate situation. If you think immigrants are demonized just for being outsiders in search of a better life, imagine how this country would treat an immigrant with unimaginable powers. Without going into spoilers, I’ll just say that Juan’s powers do nothing to better his situation. As adults we can think of all the ways we’d use superhuman powers if given the opportunity, but for a young boy, alone in a foreign land, all it does is put a target on your back.
DF: Talk about some of the more real-world issues he and many other migrants face. Does his relationship with his mother, now separated, play a role in the story at all?
Julio Anta: With the exception of the superpowers, everything you read in this book is real. From immigration officials tricking parents into letting their children go off for a health screening and then never seeing them again, to a woman having her baby taken from her while nursing, to freezing temperatures inside of immigration facilities, etc. My intention with this book was to present as vivid a picture as possible into the realities migrants are facing.
Yes, his relationship with his mother and other family members which will be introduced later in the book will play a huge role. At the heart of this book is a family drama, a story about family members stepping up, like so many of us in the Latinx community are used to.
DF: Talk about your collaboration with Anna on Home.
Julio Anta: Anna is such a great artist, and really the perfect fit for the mix of stylized art and grounded themes I was looking for. Believe it or not, Anna and I found each other on a comic book creator subreddit. I feel so lucky to have found her every time she sends me a new page. They feel so lived in. Her character acting is fantastic as well. For a book with a lot of emotional moments, she’s been a perfect fit.
DF: Julio, what other projects aside from Home in which you are involved can you tell readers about?
Julio Anta: The only project I can speak on at the moment is Frontera, a YA graphic novel with my friend and longtime collaborator Jacoby Salcedo. It’s the story of Mateo, a teenage boy who was deported to Mexico. The story follows him as he makes the dangerous journey back home to Arizona through the Sonoran Desert with the help of a new friend, a ghost named Guillermo. I like to describe it as a supernatural border adventure. HarperAlley Books will be releasing it in 2023. Beyond that, you can read a handful of mini-comics I’ve released with various collaborators at julioanta.com.
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Julio Anta for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. Home #1 from Image Comics is slated to be on sale April 14th!
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