Selective Focus: Maelo Cruz’s Comics and Paintings

Photo by Jess Morgan

A few years after moving to Minnesota, Maelo Cruz self-published a 64-page comic called “Part Timer,” about a character who “dreams of being a full time artist while working a regular job that sucks the life right out of them.” His artwork is primarily autobiographical and self-reflective, giving viewers a glimpse of his experience living and growing up in Puerto Rico and fatherhood. View and learn more about his comics, below.

What are your primary artistic mediums?

My primary medium is comics. I use several other mediums to produce said comics. Usually it depends on the story but drawing and inking are a big part of every project.

What draws you to the format or style of comics?

I’ve read several cartoonist interviews where they are asked this same question and I’ve noticed most of them give a similar answer: they were hooked on the stories or the characters or fascinated by the worlds they inhabited. I was of course fascinated by all of these, but the one thing that blew my mind the most was the fact that it was made by a human hand. In my young eyes the artists producing these works were no different than the amazing characters they created. As I grew older, I discovered so much more that drew me further deeper into the medium. Just the ability to portray several moments in time occupying the same space alone gives you so many narrative possibilities. Endless possibilities, really.

It sounds like you’ve moved to Minnesota from Puerto Rico, and later to Duluth within the past few years. What drew you to this area? How has your time in Puerto Rico (or other places you’ve lived) influenced your art or practice?

I moved to Tofte, MN in 2019 after hurricane Maria destroyed much of the island and left me and thousands of others unemployed. I got a job working in the restaurant of a cool lakeside resort and there I lived and worked for almost four years before moving to Duluth. I’m grateful for my time there. Besides meeting some people that I now love and will forever be a part of me, it also gave me the time and space to work on my craft. My time in Puerto Rico influences almost every part of my work. Currently most of the work is autobiographical and the stories are based in Puerto Rico and are in Spanish. In my time living in Minnesota, I have accumulated several experiences that I believe worthy of immortalizing, but they will have to wait until I’m done with all my Puerto Rico stories.

What are some of the central themes that your comics revolve around? Are there many common subjects or threads interwoven in your existing work as a whole?

For the past few years most of my work has been asking the same questions: 1) Am I a good father and person? And 2) am I a true artist? It’s been a rough process because the deeper I dive into these questions the more inadequate I feel as a father, person, artist, etc.

Do you have a favorite comic panel or project you’ve completed so far? What made it significant to you?

At the beginning of 2023 I self-published a 64 page comic titled The Part Timer. There’s a few pages in there that were really fun to create. It took me a little over a year to complete so I’m proud of the fact that I can start a project and see it through no matter what.

To check out more of Maelo’s work, visit their instagram account, @vienemaelo.

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