Palos Hills teen is quick on the draw — as cartoonist
BY CHERYL DANGEL BARTOLINI Correspondent November 9, 2012 3:54PM
Brandon Santiago, from Stagg High School, poses with his art work at the school in Palos Hills. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 13, 2012 6:01AM
Brandon Santiago is living proof that opportunities can arise when one isn’t even looking.
In his case, he was too young to be looking.
Santiago became interested in art at the age of 4. He drew stick figures, and his mother helped him draw the heads and flesh out the legs.
“Through the years, I developed. I got into comics. When I was reading a Spider-Man comic, I just fell in love with it,” said Santiago, now 17 and a senior at Stagg High School in Palos Hills.
He started drawing comics of superheroes he saw in movies and on television. By the time he was in junior high school, he was creating his own comics.
“That’s when I started taking it more seriously,” he said. “I took what I liked about other comics — the hero and the funny parts — and I just put myself into the characters that I create.”
He created a superhero comic strip titled “My Life” — and best of all, got it published. Then he created a website, bjsincorporated.com, to showcase his artwork, and he posted a comedy series there.
While attending a comic book convention a couple of years ago, he found someone who admired his work. That meeting led to Santiago being hired to work on “NOD: The Animated Series” at nodcomics.com.
“Every week, I draw out the scenes based on a script I’m provided. I email it in, and if it is OK’d, I color the rest of it in,” he said.
For Santiago, lightning basically struck in the same place twice. He recently attended another comic book convention in Orland Park and encountered someone from Rotten Apple, an Aurora-based company that was looking for an artist to develop concept art for a new video game. Santiago got the job and is now making connections with others in the comic book industry while developing the concept art.
Santiago said his parents, Julia and George Santiago, of Palos Hills, are his role models.
“They’ve been very helpful to me, and a lot of the characters are kind of based off of them,” he said. “That is how amazing they are to me. My friends, too.”
In the comic book industry, Santiago’s role models are Jeff Smith, creator of “Bone,” and Todd McFarlane, creator of “Spawn.”
“They inspired me to make my own comics,” he said.
While he seemingly works on comics around the clock, he found time in his early high school years to play football and work on the school newspaper. That’s all changed with the uptick in his career.
“Now I’m just drawing away. Every day, I just keep drawing,” said Santiago, who works on his paid projects whenever he doesn’t have homework. “I just really love drawing and doing drawings for other people.”
Next year, he plans to attend Chicago’s American Academy of Art.
“My goal is to have my own company and do comics,” he said. “I have so many ideas for things I can do with my comics and things I can add to what people have in mind when they ask me if I want to do a scene or a character in general. I am always thinking of what I can add to the picture. I try to exceed expectations.”
So far, he’s done just that.
“He has already been approached by leaders in the industry who feel his talents far exceed the expected level for his age,” Stagg associate Principal Deb Baker said.
Santiago says the best is yet to come.
“A lot of people ask me how old I am when they see my stuff,” he said. “If you think my artwork is good right now, just think what it will look like when I’m older. I’ll just get better.”