Cartoonist Juan José Fernández Visits Obama

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Juan José Fernández speaks to students | Photo Credit: Daevan Mangalmurti

Daevan Mangalmurti, Editor

Last Tuesday, January 7th, comics artist and activist Juan José Fernández visited Obama as the Obama Speaker Series’ January speaker. 

Mr. Fernández, who is of Venezuelan origin, studied linguistics at Carnegie Mellon University before studying cartooning and comics art. He is an organizer of the Pittsburgh Comics Salon and Pittsburgh Zine Fair and has recently been honored by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Café con Leche. 

About 40 students attended Mr. Fernández’s talk, where he discussed ideas revolving around the question of “What are comics?” His presentation first explained the many ways linguistics and art intersect within comics, and how the medium of comics is governed by what are essentially grammatical rules. He then discussed the idea of comics as a “commodity form” versus a “community form,” stressing the difference between comics as an exercise in capitalism as opposed to comics as an exercise in generating work with value to a community. 

After discussing the theoretical aspects of comics, Mr. Fernández displayed some of his own work, which touches on everything from religion to cyberspace and video games. Much of the work he presented deals with themes revolving around isolation and the future; he also makes frequent use of imagery related to the Pokémon video games. One of his works can be seen below. 

Photo Credit: Juan José Fernández
Photo Credit: Juan José Fernández

If you are interested in learning more about Mr. Fernández’s ideas and work, check out his blog here

Next month’s speaker will be Dr. Joylette Portlock, a climate scientist and activist.