Jorge Santiago Jr.
“I am big on making stories, and I’m that person at the cafe rocking out and drawing people when I think no one is paying attention to me. But they probably are because of my hair.”
Jorge Santiago Jr. is a professional comic artist aiming to become your new favorite storyteller. He created and drew Curse of the Eel, Requiem Sonata, Rare Drops, and is the co-creator and artist on Spencer and Locke with David Pepose as the writer.
After earning his BFA in Graphic Design, he relocated to Atlanta. He obtained an MFA in Sequential Art from SCAD and became a freelance artist. Today, he prolifically produces memorable stories and teaches others how make comics.
Where are your from? Where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in El Paso, Texas. I lived there until maybe I was 25 or 26. We moved around a little, but the house we moved into when I was in second grade is still my parents home.
How did your experiences affect your art?
My parents were always big on empathy; putting yourself in other peoples shoes which is important for any storyteller. I think when you can put yourself into someone else's place and see life from their eyes, you can write anything.
My parents raised me to be humble and put others before myself, which I think is why I can write comics that make people feel something. I drew a lot in my youth, but I think that is the most important aspect of my childhood that has affected my work today.
Why did you pursue an MFA?
I didn’t know at 17 that the first comic I fell into would change my life, so I went for a BFA in graphic design and did comics as a hobby. It wasn’t until I was about to graduate that I realized that comics were going to be my everything.
When I wasn’t making the work I wanted or going to the places I wanted to go I decided that I wasn’t good enough to be published or garner anything but a passing glance from most people.
I moved away from my home and family to Georgia to get my MFA in comics, now that I knew exactly what I wanted to do.
What type of stories do you like to make comics about?
I like to write comics that will move my readers. I don’t think action or drama by itself makes for interesting or provocative reads. There are many writers and artists who write for shock value but those works aren’t moving.
Shock and emotion are very different, so what I try to write is a story that people can relate to, or characters they care about, or situations that move their hearts. I think the difference between a story that sticks with you and a story that doesn’t is empathy.
What's your process?
My process begins with emotions. I decide to write a story based on emotion I’m feeling or one that gets me thinking about “who would go through this that people could relate to?” My best comics are the ones where I begin with a seed of an emotion and then expand it to be a forest.
Curse of the Eel began with wanting to write a comic about bullying, which is terrible. So I wanted to make a story where bullying is seen from multiple angles, from multiple people, and how, in a horror setting, those feelings and emotions could swell to something dangerous. With a cute weird Eel monster.
You’ve always been willing to share your knowledge and have taught several workshops. What's your approach to teaching comics?
I enjoy teaching, it just proves that I know enough about what I’m talking about to convey it to someone else. I’ve been able to break down my thought process into a method that makes it fun for me to teach other people how to make comics.
My approach is give them guides, not rules. Comics and art are not win or lose endeavors, they’re methods of story expression, so when i teach, I show how they can express themselves the way they want to. I leave their art to them, I just try to guide them once I see the direction they plan to take.
What do you recommend to aspiring artists that you wish you knew much earlier?
Life drawing is kind of important. I didn’t get it in undergrad, but knowing how to draw the body does help when it comes time to drawing a cartoony version. At the very least, learn how to convey volume more than shape. Even the most cartoony art styles should have a sense of volume to the drawing. It’s the difference between drawing a ball and a circle.
What do you love best about making comics?
Making comics is the ultimate thrill where i can express my feelings and captivate my readers. It’s a visual symphony that I can perform all by myself, and I love that freedom.
What do you wish was different about the comics industry?
I wish comic companies and publishers would pay their creators better. There are so many geniuses who leave comics every year or never even try because the publishers aren’t willing to pay fairly. Money ruins everything, and in the comics industry it definitely puts a damper on a lot of potential awesome work.
Which books do you recommend artists should have in their reference library?
Hmmm, I don’t know, I have different references for different projects. I think everyone should read though. Not just comics, but books, movies, animation, songs, etc. Everything is potential fodder for new stories, so consume everything you can.
Top 5 favorite artists?
My personal favorite storytellers are Natsume Ono, Yusuke Murata, Stuart Immonen, Greg Tocchini, and Yutaka Nakamura. Netsuke Ono is the artist who has most informed my storytelling voice and paneling style, while the others have influenced my drawing style
Top 5 Favorite comic characters?
Hmmm…I don’t know, I don’t really think about characters separate from their stories. I’m also not super big on superheroes so my answers would be more shows or characters from things less mainstream. Jean Valjean from Les Miserables, Mob from Mob Psycho, Rio from The Gods Lie, Nausicaa from Nausicaa and the Valley of the Wind, and Saya from Deadly Class.
Top Favorite comics & graphic novels?
Low by Rick Remender and Greg Tocchini, The Gods Lie by Kaori Ozaki, Not Simple by Natsume Ono,Donten Prism Solar Car by Yasuo Otagaki and Yusuke Murata, and Princess Jellyfish by Akiko Higashimura
What type of work are you interested in doing?
I want to make comics that will make people cry, or feel excited, or moved somehow. I want to create stories that will stick with people and create a lasting impression like my favorite works did for me.
How can others find your work?
My blog is at jorgesantiagojr.com
@jorgesantiagojr on all social media: Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter
You can purchase my comics from: