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On Campus: Space Invaders

202 Center for the Arts, North Campus

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John Jennings discusses the social implications of representation and underrepresentation in comic art.

John Jennings, associate professor of art

John Jennings

The office of graphic novelist, designer, illustrator and scholar John Jennings is a comic/sci-fi nerd’s fantasy. Jennings, whose work focuses on issues of representation in comic book culture, surrounds himself with images of his favorite characters, work by friends and students, and other ephemera from his career in the world of comics. After a brief visit to his studio space, you may find yourself itching to blow your allowance on a polyurethane-sealed copy of “All-New Captain America #1.”

The office of Michael Forster, assistant director of utility operations

The office of John Jennings, associate professor of art. Photo: Douglas Levere

A - Black Kirby

Black Kirby is an Afro-futurist, hip-hop-inspired remix studio, and it deals with [early Marvel Comics artist] Jack Kirby. We didn’t like the way his family was being treated by Disney, as far as remuneration for his many accomplishments. So we started doing research on how the comics industry treated people of Jewish descent, African descent and others.

B - Black Lightning

Somebody gave me that after a talk. Black Lightning is DC Comics’ first African-American superhero. Tony Isabella created him. He didn’t feel that the other African-American characters in comics were up to snuff, because they were all criminal in one way or another. Black Lightning is an upright guy from the get-go.

C - ‘X-Files’ postcards

These were made when they were putting out “The X-Files” VHS tapes. They had one of these for every episode.

D - Resistance is critical

That’s a portrait I made of Angela Davis, one of the most powerful and influential Civil Rights activists in the 1960s. These days, she’s busy with an organization she helped found called Critical Resistance, a really powerful anti-prison-industrial-complex movement.

E - Genius

“Genius” is a new, really interesting comic because the main character is a tactical genius; she takes over all the gangs in Los Angeles, and they have a war with the police department. It’s gotten a lot of attention because of the stuff that’s been jumping off in Ferguson.

F - ‘Dr. Who’

They were rerunning “Dr. Who” episodes when I was in fifth grade, after school. I just loved the show immediately. I actually created a character who is a hip-hop time traveler, inspired by Dr. Who.