Mar 28, 2017 0 comments

By Noel Bartocci

Photography By Alexa Nahas Photography

Johnny Destructo (a.k.a. JD Korejko), local artist and owner of the comic book boutique, Johnny Destructo’s Hero Complex, is soft-spoken and sharp with the cadence of an individual who listens before he speaks. He’s a contemplative man with a quick and sometimes appropriately caustic wit. Essentially, having a conversation with him is a pleasure, which must be one of the reasons why the customers that file into his shop linger and feel comfortable launching into any discussion.

On any other night, this would be wholly welcome, but JD keeps trying to step away for five minutes to take a quick trip up the street to give his wife Su-Shan, stylist and owner of Starshine Salon on Grape Street, the cupcake and card he bought her for Valentine’s Day. You wouldn’t be able to tell on his face, though, because every person receives his full attention. But we’re not here to just talk about his comics and collectibles shop or the Manayunk power couple status of he and his wife—we’re here to talk about his art.

“It all started when I would make terrible drawings and my mom would say, ‘These aren’t crap, kid,’ and put them on the fridge—feeding my love of art,” JD explained.

JD sprinkled sincerity with irreverence, adding, “My brother would mimic art from comics and stuff, which really made me want to [keep going]. So, I went to the Tyler School of Art for illustration.”

Things weren’t that simple for the burgeoning artist, though.

“You couldn’t just major in illustration! You had to major in graphic design with a minor in illustration, and thank God for that. It paid the bills for many years,” he said.

The skill set allowed him to work as a graphic artist for 15 years. However, his passion was always in illustrating original art. After being nearly burnt out by the homogeneity of corporate culture, he turned his part-time job selling comics into a full-time one—managing a shop and spending time surrounded by pop culture-loving people and natural storytellers.”

During this career transition, he started leaning on his illustrative talents and reached out to other artists he met on forums or at conventions. He eventually brought many together to collaborate on an anthology comic series titled “RagTag,” distributed through his own label, PunchThroat Productions. As a stark comparison to his corporate days, JD was now an independent comic book creator.

As he built upon the Johnny Destructo name, with projects such as designing and illustrating alternative movie posters as well as a steady stream of commissions and t-shirt designs, JD was presented with another opportunity. Su-Shan was expanding her salon into a larger space, so she suggested he take over her storefront and convert it into the shop it is today.

Of the lightbulb moment, JD simply implored, “I love my wife so much! She’s the best-est.”

Since opening JD’s Hero Complex, he has been able to cultivate the perfect combination of his art, his passions, and his fandom with groups he helped shed light on in Manayunk.

“I’ve built a really nice little community here with people I never would’ve met otherwise,” JD said. “They inspire not only my store, but my art too.”

In reference to inspiration, JD makes note of the monthly Drink n’ Draw at Lucky’s Last Chance where artists enjoy food and drink specials while they sketch. He also hosts the Graphic Novel Book Club in his shop. These collaborations with his neighbors and colleagues informs his art thematically and emotionally, as well as literally. For instance, he learned that he can do pet portraits after doing a commission request from local Kat Cares, a dog walking and pet sitting operation.

As he flipped through his portfolio of prints (all for sale), he mentioned what he loves about making art—it’s when someone notices the flourishes and creative touches that he applies to his work.

“Even if people don’t buy my stuff, it’s making people smile. Having someone come back to my table or store to show their friend something I did, that’s what it’s all about,” he explained.

Like any good person with intuition and empathy, JD thrives on the connections he makes through his work. He shared a story about a picture he received from a customer depicting their child reading a comic with JD’s art displayed on their bedroom wall. The scene conjures an indescribable emotion that can only come from sharing one’s passion. It’s a fulfilling and encouraging circle of which to be a part, because maybe—just maybe—that kid is mimicking JD’s work in his notebook. One day, that kid’s mom may say, “Hey kid, this doesn’t stink,” and puts it on the family fridge. And, well, you know the rest. Art isn’t just aesthetic—it can be an investment, and JD understands as much.

You can check out more of Johnny Destructo’s work in a weekly web comic titled PBTHH! (which is the phonetic spelling of that sound your mouth makes during a “raspberry”), the four podcasts on his CultPop! network he produces, as well as the occasional Foe Show episode online that he co-hosts with Manayunk’s Terry Leahy of TERRYLEAHYFILMS. The man keeps busy...but when you love your job, you don’t work a day in your life.

Learn more here.

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