It is difficult to determine the exact moment when I met Miguel Angel Sanjurjo, ‘Guelo’ to his friends. It’s hard because he was so ingrained in Puerto Rico’s indie comic scene, so present, that he feels like he’s always been there. Like I always knew he was there. That’s perhaps the best way to describe Sanjurjo’s place in our comic community: a constant supporting presence that’s impossible to separate from the very idea of comics on the island.
Simply put, Sanjurjo was a loud creative force, in your face, and he wanted you to make comics.
News of Sanjurjo’s passing reached his fans and friends on February 15.and2022. His domestic partner Carmen A. Gagot Velez posted the announcement on social media, briefly commenting on Sanjurjo’s recent health issues.
Sanjurjo cemented his comic book legacy with the hugely popular Jibaro Samuraia series he released under his own imprint titled Algaro Comics. The comic’s first issue came out in 2007 and ran for over 10 years in a sort of interconnected anthology format that featured stand-alone stories about Goyo Gotay, a Puerto Rican samurai who fought evil in feudal Japan. The character wore classic samurai robes, but he wielded a machete as a katana, and his headgear was uniquely Puerto Rican: a wide straw hat known as a “pava” (which can also be described as an inverted Chinese coolie or a bamboo hat). ).
Sanjurjo liked to inject Puerto Rican phrases and words into his story, which made his version of feudal Japan very Creole (Puerto Rican only). Every time Goyo unleashed one of his signature attacks, for example, he shouted “Yuca Slash!”, referencing a type of food readers would immediately recognize as their own.
Goyo was accompanied by a martial arts-trained goat called Mofinga (a play on the word “mofongo”, another staple of Puerto Rican cuisine made from green plantains). Together they would fight characters like Dracula or aid in the misadventures of Don Quixote and other pop culture figures. Sanjurjo often turned to literature to find characters that would test Goyo’s skills while enriching the world he was sworn to protect.
Each Jibaro Samurai The story attempted to top the previous one, with alien invasions and literary icons coming to Goyo from all sides. Being a particularly self-aware type of story, not a single page was without a comedic element adding to the flavor. In fact, it’s what kept the action fast, kinetic and explosive. It was obvious that Sanjurjo’s artistic style in Jibaro Samurai was inspired by the classic cartoon samurai jack and it captured the spirit of this show in terms of action. The story, its humor and its heart, however, were all Sanjurjo’s.
In addition to this comic, Sanjurjo has also worked on individual artworks featuring experimental geometric form similar to that seen in stained glass art. Well-known fictional characters and popular Puerto Rican figures and symbols were among his most impressive, though his abstract sci-fi/fantasy pieces had a sense of eerie wonder that made them a delight to dissect.
I had the opportunity to interview Sanjurjo as part of my Puerto Rico Comic Con ’19 cover for cartoon beat, an event he has never missed (having one of the most eclectic stands on the floor each year). He offered one of the smartest and most practical advice I’ve heard for new comic book creators: publish your work but never forget to socialize and make sure you produce as many one-shots as possible. in the beginning.
Sanjurjo was adamant about the importance of showing up to conventions, the necessary task of talking to people and offering help in the community building process. On top of that, in terms of self-publishing, he’s always said it’s better to come up with stand-alone stories that showcase your ability to tell a story from start to finish rather than starting a series that you don’t may not be able to continue later, for whatever reason.
It’s advice I’ve given repeatedly whenever I’ve spoken to creators at indie conventions, always quoting the man who invented it. This desire to create comics and build a community of creators has always been at the forefront of Sanjurjo, and he has conducted himself in accordance with this vision.
Sanjurjo was a towering figure who embodied the kind of knowledge and authority we should all aspire to project, the welcoming and collaborative kind who is as invested in creating culture as it is in building strong, lasting bonds. The Puerto Rican comic community is losing one of its strongest and most supportive voices for Sanjurjo, and that loss will be felt, but the work he did and the advice he gave will remain. . That’s the thing with giants, they leave quite a footprint behind.
Descansa en paz, Guelo.