Q&A: Julio Anta and Jacoby Salcedo, Author and Illustrator of ‘Frontera’

We chat with Julio Anta and Jacoby Salcedo, the author and illustrator respectively for the new graphic novel Frontera, which follows Mateo who makes the dangerous journey back home to the United States through the Sonoran Desert with the help of a new friend, a ghost named Guillermo in a supernatural borderland odyssey.

Hi, Julio and Jacoby! Can you tell our readers a bit about yourselves?

I’m Julio Anta. I’m a Cuban and Colombian American author originally from Miami, Florida. I now live in New York City where I’m lucky to tell stories every day about the things I’m passionate about. FRONTERA is my YA graphic novel debut, but I’ve also written for Marvel and DC Comics, as well as my Image Comics mini-series titled HOME.

So I’m Jacoby Salcedo, I’m the artist for Frontera! I’m a Mexican-American comic artist from Portland, Oregon and I’m also the co-creator of the Dark Horse miniseries, It’s Only Teenage Wasteland. I’ve also done work for DC and was in the GLAAD award winning anthology, Young Men in Love.

Julio, when did you first discover your love for writing and stories?

Like a lot of people, I discovered my love for writing by being a reader first. Whether it was old Sonic the Hedgehog comics I picked up at the drug store, or Animorphs from the library, reading was one of my first loves. As I grew older, I discovered the power stories have to build empathy among readers whose experiences differ from that of our characters, and advocate for issues I’m passionate about. Once I made that realization, that was it. I knew I had to make my own books!

And for you Jacoby! When did you first discover your passion for art?

I’ve always been drawing, but I think what really ignited me was my Dad’s nose haha! From a profile view, it looked really easy to draw and so I did just that, but from that moment, I never stopped drawing. Once I got into comics in high school, I started to realize, “I could do this for a living!”

Frontera is out now! If you could only describe it in five words, what would they be?

Julio: A supernatural borderland adventure story.

Jacoby: Story about hope and resilience.

What can readers expect?

Julio: Readers should expect an adventure story first. FRONTERA is a story about Mateo, a teenager on a journey back home to the United States. But to get there, he’ll need to traverse the dangerous Sonoran Desert filled with all sorts of danger – both natural, like animals and the heat, and people as well. It’s certainly a story with a message about the dangers we subject immigrants to for their chance at the “American Dream,” but I hope readers walk away feeling like they read a great adventure book.

Jacoby: I think readers can expect to learn the harsh truth of what it takes to actually immigrate into this country. This book is not a light read if I’m being honest, but I think Julio carefully balanced out the harshness of immigrating with the hope that the migrants have for a better life perfectly, and when you read the book you’ll come out seeing the perseverance these characters have.

Where did the inspiration for both Frontera’s story and then its artwork come from?

Julio: The story is one that is 100% grounded in reality – with the exception of the ghost of course! But everything else from the dangerous journey Mateo made, to the long history of militarization in the Sonoran Desert, the Bracero Program, the KKK Border Patrol, El Jefe (who’s a real jaguar!), and of course the militias who kidnap migrants in the third act of our story.

Like most of my work, FRONTERA is a story that is based on a variety of real events and experiences, but is sprinkled with a little bit of magical realism.

Jacoby: The art was definitely inspired by Julio’s script and how grounded it was. I knew that the book was going to be set in a realistic setting, so I wanted the art to reflect that. I didn’t want to veer too much into a cartoony style, because I think it would’ve taken readers out of the story, and potentially lose the emotional connection we’re trying to have.

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Were there any moments or characters you really enjoyed writing or illustrating?

Julio: I personally loved the surreal nightmare sequence at the midpoint of our book. It gave us an opportunity to have fun and really experiment with the visual language, and dive into a lot of the surrealism that inspires much of my work, but remained in the background until that moment.

Jacoby: My favorite moment was definitely the splash page from when we have Mateo and Darcie sitting out on her porch at night. I remember doing the sketch for that page and being so excited to get to actually drawing and coloring it.

Can you tell us about the collaboration process when it comes to bringing the story to life through illustrations?

Julio and I have been working together for some time now so our collaboration process has been extremely refined. It usually starts with him giving me a small summary of an idea he has and then I get excited, and jump into sketching characters and scenes in my head. From there, we try to make some actual pages, so we can pitch the story to publishers and make the book. That’s kind of how Frontera happened and now we’re here!

Lastly, what’s next for you both?

Julio: So much! My next book is out this fall. It’s a non-fiction graphic novel titled Sí, Se Puede: The Latino Heroes That Changed The United States. It’s illustrated by my friend Yasmín Flores Montañez and it’s a journey across to time to meet Latino Heroes throughout U.S.  After that comes a bunch of other books with Jacoby!

Jacoby: My future projects all include Julio haha! Our next project to be released has not been announced yet, but we’re getting to play with some IP and I’m so excited to talk about that soon. We also have our first Middle grade book together called Paco and Tiny from FirstSecond and it’s coming out in early 2026. As well, we just had our 4th book together green lit, so probably gonna be a while until we can talk about that.

Will you be picking up Frontera? Tell us in the comments below!

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