Comicbook heroes give Jason Reeves courage. They lend him a voice and the confidence needed to break into a business that has not always been receptive to African-American creators. He founded 133art to foster an inclusive comic industry where creators of color can follow their own paths. His influences, such as Mshindo Kuumba and Dwayne Mcduffie, have taught him that diversity should be positive for the art form. The original ideas that come with new perspectives can breathe life into the calculated storytelling that occasionally weighs down mainstream publishers.
Take, for instance, Reeves’s newest project. The time-travel thriller Ret:Con is an original take on a challenging genre. It also reminds us of the collaborative nature of the Reeves enterprise. It takes an in-house team of freelance writers and creators, up-and-coming new voices, and the most experienced artists in the indie space to produce Ret:Con, as well as other comics from 133art such as Kid Carvers and One Nation. The result is a collection of entertaining comics that strive to make us all feel as if we have a place to belong.
Jason kindly wrote down answers to nine questions. Here are his thoughts on the creative process, the best and worst of self-publishing comic books, and what makes 133art unique in the indie space.
Rogues Portal (RP): Tell us the story of your most recent project. How did it come about?
Jason Reeves (JR): Ret:Con is our most recent project. It is a sci-fi tale in a time when artificial intelligence governs the remains of a world ravaged by violent temporal ruptures. The RET:CON Agency is formed to stop reality from falling into entropy. Agent ‘4 am’ is part of RET:CON’s elite unit, the Slingshotters. Their mission is to breach the time stream to repair the future.
We at 133art were looking to expand our catalog and test out the waters of Kickstarter as an alternative source of funding projects. The concept of a time travel story that didn’t play by the rules laid down by the stories that came before it appealed to me a lot. So, I got to work on an outline with my writing partner John.
When we were done, I knew just the writer I wanted to work with on the scripts: Robert Jeffrey II. I had been following his amazing work since Route 3, and he had just finished the DC Comics writers program. We were lucky enough to get him on board, and once I read his first script, I knew it was time to move forward and find an artist & a colorist. Again, luck shined on us and we had the pleasure to work with two of the most talented indie artists around, Jordi Perez and Paris Alleyne.
RP: What mark does 133art hope to make on the comic book industry?
JR: We want to be known for being a part of a more inclusive comic industry. We want to be one of the pioneers of some of the more diverse content in comics, indie or otherwise.
RP: Which comic book writers or artists have been the biggest influences on your career?
JR: Jim Lee, Mshindo Kuumba, Dwayne Mcduffie, and also Stuart Immonen and Bryan Hitch, to name a few.
RP: Describe your creative process.
JR: I use a lot of photo reference in my art. I have a ton of art books and picture books on different subjects. Google Images is also my best friend when I’m looking for references. I draw small, using blue Col-erase pencils on 8.5 x 11 sheets of paper and I scale up in Photoshop when necessary. I also use Photoshop (and a wacom tablet) for cleanup and coloring.
When writing, I create outlines first. I brainstorm ideas and research along the way. I jot down every part of the story on post-its and stick them to my drawing board. I sit with the ideas for a while and rearrange the notes as needed. Once I’m good with the arrangement of the story beats, I type them up into a working outline and send off for scripting.
RP: What have comic books taught you?
JR: Comics have been my escape and an outlet for a long time. My favorite heroes have taught me not just to be self sufficient, but also to not be afraid to break into an industry that sometimes isn’t ready to be as inclusive as we’d all like it to be. Comics have taught me to find my tribe, my voice, and my audience. It is still one of the most rewarding things in my life.
RP: What are the blessings and curses of self-publishing comics?
JR: One of the best blessings is creative freedom. Being able to steer a project from creation to print and then sales is an amazing process. It feels good to know that, when all is said and done, there’s a tangible item that someone enjoyed enough to purchase that has come completely from you and your team. Whatever you put in, the themes and issues you wanted to address, the things you wanted to say are all there, and hopefully they are resonating with folks.
The curse for us at the moment is not having the budget to market the way we’d like. To be able to reach as many people as possible with our comics and merchandise is what we’re building toward.
RP: What can corporate comics (Marvel, DC) do better?
JR: I think if they hired more diverse voices and really gave the ideas they would bring to those companies a chance to flourish, it would enrich the corporate product line. Maybe it would help to combat some of the staleness people are feeling from all the rehashing of overdone ideas.
RP: What tools/advice would you offer someone interested in breaking into comics?
JR: Be open to all the avenues into comics and media. All paths, whether illustration, concept design, or video games, lead into and out of comics (and some pay way more), so be flexible. Don’t get discouraged by rejection. Take in the good critiques and throw the negative ones away. Be honest with yourself, but trust your gut, too. You’ll know when somebody’s trying to edify you or just being a jerk. And most importantly: ALWAYS CREATE FOR YOURSELF! Make time to explore the thing that moves you – that thing will push you to create your best work.
RP: The floor is yours – tell us anything else you want us to know about yourself, 133art, or your comics.
JR: A little known fact about 133art is that, aside from being a comic publisher, we’re also a comic printer. The second wing of our imprint 133art Printing specializes in small print runs for comic creators and publishers. 133art Printing is your affordable comic book printing service!
Nine Questions is an occasional feature at Rogues Portal that spotlights a self-published comic creator. If you are an indie writer and/or artist who would like to be interviewed for this column, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.