Faculty Feature: John Jennings
We’re kicking off a series of interviews with the latest additions to the ever growing CCA MFA in Comics
faculty roster. First up, we welcome designer, curator, illustrator, cartoonist, and award-winning graphic novelist, John Jennings, to our ranks. John will be teaching our second year graduate comics seminar this summer in San Francisco!
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1) Let’s start with comics. What’s the first comic you read that really got you excited about the medium?
I was an early reader according to my mother. She was once an English-Lit major at Alcorn State University in Mississippi and she always had a lot of books around. So, I immediately dove into mythology as all good geeks do. I devoured Egyptian, Chinese, Greek, Roman and Norse mythology way before I picked up a comic. However, when my mom brought home a copy of The Mighty Thor she created a “monster.” I was hooked on comics and any kind of illustrated narrative. I still am! That passion has guided me through my life, schooling and now into my career. Thanks, Mom!
2) In terms of your own work, what’s keeping you busy these days?
I am busy on a lot of projects right now. However, a handful are at the top of the “pile”. The biggest project is the graphic novel I am doing with my long-time collaborator Damian Duffy via Abrams ComicArts. We have the incredible honor of adapting Octavia Butler’s classic novel KINDRED into a graphic novel. I am also adapting a short story entitled ON THE ROAD by Nnedi Okorafor into a graphic novel. The piece is a dark-fantasy story from her new short-story collection called KABU-KABU. I have also been developing a graphic novel on my own called BLUE HAND MOJO: A CASE OF YOU which is a supernatural thriller that takes place in the Historic Bronzeville district in 1930s Chicago. I am handling writing and illustration on MOJO. Stacey Robinson,the other half of Black Kirby, and myself are working on a Hip Hop time-travel adventure called KID CODE with a new publisher called Rosarium Press. I am handling story and colors on that project. Finally, on the scholarship side of my career, Dr. Frances Gateward (CSU Northridge) just signed a contract for our collection of scholarly essays called THE BLACKER THE INK: CONSTRUCTIONS OF BLACK IDENTITY IN COMICS AND SEQUENTIAL ART with Rutgers University Press. I am very excited about this because we have been working on editing the collection for almost five years! It should be coming out next year if all goes well with final editing and indexing. There’s a ton of other things going on in my crazy head but these are the most prevalent projects at the moment.
3) What can our second year graduate cartoonists expect when they walk into your classroom?
The students can expect a lot of information from various interdisciplinary sources, a robust space for engaging the subject matter, exciting guest speakers, and a very open-minded yet critically aware style of presentation that is designed to allow them to express themselves while simultaneously enriching their already amazing experiences within the program at CCA.
4) What are you looking forward to in terms of teaching in CCA’s MFA in Comics program out here in San Francisco this summer?
I am just overwhelmed with excitement at the thought of working with a burgeoning program of this type. There’s so much potential within the comics medium and I am looking forward to learning from the students, the wonderful faculty, and guest speakers involved. I really believe that “to teach is to learn twice”. You never stop learning and growing and I can’t wait to get out there and experience that from a purely sequential art perspective. I usually have to figure out clever ways to interject comics into my own graphic design courses at UB so, this will be a very different animal. Everyone speaks the same language. Everyone is dedicated to getting better at their craft. It’s kind of a dream come true. San Francisco is great comics town too and I am very interested in experiencing that as well. Also, after the totally brutal winter that Buffalo has endured it’d be nice to leave that horrid memory behind; at least for a few weeks.
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More info about John Jennings and his work: