Talk Nerdy With Us met JSalvador at Denver Comic Con where fans were flocked around his SuperEmoFriends table. We were so enamored with his tragic/comic take on pop culture characters that we asked to follow up with him later. Happily, he agreed and we’re pleased to share this unique and inspiring artist’s story about how he turned a bout of depression into something beautiful and productive, which he considers the best medicine of all.
When did you first start dabbling in art? And what is your preferred medium?
Hi thanks for asking me to talk nerdy with you guys! This is awesome.
Well, I’ve been drawing since I can remember. I have drawings of zombies and grim reapers from when I was five years old! I was ‘the artist’ at every school I attended and was drawing and writing stories about my friends from 1st grade until graduating high school. It’s crazy to look back on the work I produced in class compared to what I’ve done professionally. Sadly I’m not even half as prolific. 🙁
Yours is a novel concept: pop culture characters acting emo. I love it! And there’s such great humor in your pieces. How’d you arrive at the idea?
Thanks, the idea started simply with an existential crisis. I was feeling really sad and depressed about the way of the world is so I was inspired to paint sad things to cope. I began with really dark portraits of commercial mascots like Ronald McDonald and Tony the Tiger. They had this look of exhaustion and pessimism for their career and existence in general. I called the series Commercial Fatigue and while they did do well in the gallery scene, they scared everyone else. One of my favorite styles is chibi, the Japanese cute big headed look and it’s much easier for me to paint so I switched over to that aesthetic while keeping the same tone of depression. My first character was based on batman and the fact that his parents are dead. From there I realized just how much sadness comic characters had and painted up a total of 12 different heroes over the weekend. I called them the SuperEmoFriends and all my friends wanted them. It was like high school all over again. I made prints of them available online and they instantly went viral. Now, nearly 8 years later I’m up 200 SuperEmoFriends with more to come. It’s weird right? I was just sad!
What other artists inspire you or are you a fan of?
The Sunday funnies were probably the most inspiring place for me. As a kid I would redraw Garfield comics with my own characters and eventually created my own jokes and situational comedies. In high school I was all about manga and kawaii culture. The SuperEmoFriends are directly inspired by Nendoroid anime toys and of course Hello Kitty. I also have heroes like Ron English, Josh Keyes and Hieronymus Bosch that have more to say about the state of the world with amazing visuals.
How long have you been doing comic/pop culture conventions? And how many do you typically do a year?
I had been into comic conventions and toy collecting throughout high school but once I entered my 20’s I decided it was time to grow up and stop buying action figures. Once my art went viral I started getting invites to share tables at comic conventions with my nerdy artist friends. I brought SuperEmoFriends along and surprisingly, they sold out every time. I figured it would be wise to put more energy into them and picked up my first solo table for Wondercon 2013. I sold out on day 1 and realized I should probably sign up for more cons. Now I try to do two a month but I need to be careful not to over saturate the scene. It’s just funny to me how I tried to walk away from the nerdy life, only to be pulled back in and rewarded.
What’s the best, worst or weirdest experience you’ve had at a con?
Well, the worst/weirdest happened in Phoenix this year when some guy went mental and brought real weapons to the con. This created much drama but the best experience I have is when people see the emo friends for the first time and love them so much they bring all their friends back to see them and this ‘going viral’ happens right before my eyes. I’m usually at my table the entirety of the show so I don’t have much chance to experience anything else.
Have you ever met any of the celebrities whose characters you’ve drawn? If so, will you tell us about that and what your favorite encounter was?
I have! Well, in most cases, the celebrity meets their emo friend because collectors ask them to sign them. Stranger Things’ Eleven, Barb, Breakfast Club’s Anthony Michael Hall, Games of Thrones’ Joffery, Peggy Carter herself, Chris Evans, Kevin Smith, Stan Lee, Lou Ferrigno even Freddy Kruger have all signed a SuperEmoFriend of their selves. I think my favorite run in is with Lionel Ritchie, I have a SuperEmo version of him from his Hello video. He retweeted and instagramed it. I still cannot believe that happened.
Where can fans find your work and how can they purchase it? Also, do you take commission work?
My work is available at most of the bigger cons and in my Etsy store.
I’ve also been a resident artist at the Hive Gallery in downtown LA for 7 years.
I do take commission work but it’s hard to manage because requests come from all over the internet!
How do you keep fans apprised of your upcoming events so they may meet you in person?
Is there a medium or project that you’ve yet to tackle, but are dying to do so?
Oh yes, I definitely need to complete my book with a collection of all the SuperEmoFriends!
Lastly, we at Talk Nerdy With Us celebrate all things geek, as a con-goer you’ve certainly witnessed fandom up close and personal. What do you nerd out about?
Well, honestly, the nerd culture has exploded so much since I’ve started. I came into it with my love of Star Wars and comic books but I can’t even keep up with them anymore. Currently I’m all about Rick & Morty, crude but genius! Cosplay is also one of my favorite things although I don’t have room in my life to participate, I respect all that do. Thanks again for having me! See you at the next show!
Thank you, J. Not only are you an inspiration to others who struggle with depression, but we are SO glad the nerd culture yanked you back in. Cant’ wait for that book!