Robert Jeffery II is a comic book creator on his grind in the comic world. He’s a Glyph Comics Awards nominee and the Editor-In-Chief of BlackSci-Fi.com. Plus he’ll have a DC Comics story published this December in the New Talent Showcase that will focus on John Stewart/ Green Lantern so he’s a creator for The Culture to keep an eye on. Check out our interview with Robert and #GetFamiliar.
What got you into creating comics and graphic novels?
I’ve always loved to read, and by extension write. At a certain point I wanted to create the stories that I loved as a reader, so that’s sort of how I moved into writing fiction, followed up by comic book scripting. Once I graduated from college in 2005, I knew I wanted to freelance write for a living. Having experience as a journalist at Georgia State University, I linked up with the Atlanta Voice Newspaper and began my writing career. Throughout this time I was a regular attendee of a convention called Dragon Con, which fed my inner geek on an annual basis. ?
During one of these visits to the convention, I headed to the Artist Alley area, and met up with a comic book publisher called Terminus Media LLC. I asked if the were looking for writers, business cards were shared, and that was about it for a while. Tony Cade (co-founder/ EIC of Terminus Media LLC, and owner of Challenges Games and Comics) followed up with me, maybe a few months afterwards and asked if I’d be interested in sharing my portfolio of articles, and possibly writing an 8 page comic for the company. That’s how my career began in comics.
And how did you get into the business?
Well, we’ve got the beginning part of my career in the last question, so here I’ll just talk about how things rolled from there. After writing a short story titled “Daddy’s Little Girl” for Terminus Media, I was brought as a freelancer for other series such as the Glyph Comics Award nominated Radio Free Amerika, Terminus Team Up #1: Amber Fox vs. Terra Force, and I was a part of the script writing team for the Centers for Disease Control series award winning motion comic book series called “Kabi Chronicles: The Edge Motion Comic Series”.
During this period, I began writing my creator owned/ Glyph Comics Award winning series, Route 3.
With each project that I did for Terminus Media, and for other clients, this moved me further and further towards my goal of writing for a living. Still working to get there, but I’m closer than I’ve ever been.
How many titles do you have now? And can you briefly describe them?
Right now I’ve got four titles/series that I’ve worked on.
Route 3: Vol 1. (Terminus Media LLC)-Centuries old prophecies. Shadowy government conspiracies. Super heroic action. Just a typical day for teenager Sean Anderson. This is the story of a Stone Mountain, GA teen and the events that lead him to gain the absolute power to set a fractured world on the right course- assuming he survives.
Radio Free Amerika: Season 1(Terminus Media LLC)- Red Dawn Meets the Wire in this post apocalyptic thriller. Radio Free Amerika is a pirate radio station begun after World War 3. DJ Moses spins the best hip hop as he broadcasts hope into Russian occupied United States. Unbeknownst to the enemy, there is code interwoven in the beat. Will Moses be able to coordinate the disorganized resistance and inspire the next American Revolution?”
Mine To Avenge: The Book of Layla (Evoluzione Publishing)-The history books call it a house of horrors. A testament to the true depravity that inhabits the souls of man. The little girl who escaped the demonic forces which occupied the LaLaurie New Orleans mansion on a sunny day in 1834, though, called it something else: the site of a rebirth.
The little girl swore on that day that she would never be anyone else’s victim, and so began a centuries-long campaign of bloody revenge. The Retribution Cabal (RC) was born, protecting only those descendants of America’s “original sin”.
Now on a cyberpunk stage where technological wonders leave no place for creatures of legend, the LaLauries and their denizens reappear, continuing their blood-soaked quest for obtaining ultimate power. Time will tell if the remaining members of the fractured Cabal can stand as the bulwark between humanity and the rising hordes of darkness. Get ready for “Mine To Avenge: The Book of Layla”.
RET: CON (133 Art) -The future is fractured. In a time where artificial intelligence governs the remains of our world and time/space is being ravaged by violent ruptures, the RET:CON Agency is created to stop reality from falling into entropy.
Earth as we know it has become a hellish wasteland ruled by A.I., stuck in a state of gradual decay, where only a few survive, to SAVE the future, BREAK the past.
… Welcome to RET:CON.
Besides working on multiple comics you are also the Editor In Chief of BlackSci-Fi.com can you talk about the blog a little bit and also, how do you manage your time between so many projects?
BlackSci-Fi.com is an awesome web magazine/ website that I want EVERYONE to know about. From our About Us page, “ Black Sci-Fi.com is the premier digital destination for Sci-Fi news, events, culture, and entertainment, and the measure of their impact on Black culture. We seek to inform and inspire the imagination of individuals who aspire to live beyond the boundaries of everyday life.”
For too long we’ve found that the contributions of Black culture to speculative fiction (sci-fi, fantasy, horror, cyberpunk, etc), and the S.T.E.M related industries goes underreported, unacknowledged, and just outright ignored. With BlackSci-Fi.com I like to call us the Newsweek/ Entertainment Weekly of Black geek culture when it comes to reporting such topics.
As far as balancing everything, I pray a lot ?. Time management is something that I’ve had to learn as I’ve grown in my career, so yeah, still growing on that front. So far, so good.
How do you feel technology has assisted in helping you make and distribute your own work?
It’s been crucial. For instance, we did a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for a second print run of Route 3: Vol. 1. We were successful in large part because of the presence I and my team had built online, through various social media platforms like FB, Twitter, and Instagram. Instagram and FB have been CRUCIAL in keeping people updated on what’s going on with upcoming projects, ongoing work, and just for seeking out client work.
In addition to that, having instant access to my email, Dropbox, notepad’s on my phone, etc makes it easier for me to stay organized and on top of things when it comes to keeping in touch with my team.
Creating your own stories obviously helps you avoid being typecast as far as what you can write do you think that’s still a major issue for writers of color?
Personally speaking for me it hasn’t been a major issue. One of the perks of coming up through indie comics is that I’ve had a chance to play on a lot of different fronts when it comes to storytelling/ creating. If I want to write a story about a black kid from Stone Mountain, Georgia who has an awesome set of super abilities, I can do that. If I want to write a story about a white woman whose a dimension hopping relic hunter, I can do that. I can write whatever I want to write and will continue to do just that. As a creator/ writer, whatever, WHATEVER, you write, commit yourself to the material, and research the heck out of it.
I’m a black male who was born and raised in Chicago, whose spent part of his life in Pasadena, California, and now for half of my life, Atlanta, Georgia. I have a mom who grew up telling us about dealing with the BS racism of Chicago. I had a father who introduced my brother and I to Sade, Arrested Development (the group lol), Octavia Butler, and Milestone Media. I say all this to say my experience is never going to be exactly the same for any character that I write, or situation that I create. What I will do, for myself and for any readers who decided to check my work out, is do my homework and try to be as true to whatever experience that I’m focusing on.
You were a participant in last years DC Comics Writers Workshop and will have your first DC Comics story published this December in the New Talent Showcase 2018 #1, focusing on John Stewart/ Green Lantern can you talk a little bit more about this?
I’ve described the workshop as being like a college level course for writing comics that I didn’t have to pay for. Being able to learn from an industry icon like Scott Snyder, my editors, and my fellow workshop members was invaluable. I can’t give too many details about the John Stewart/ Green Lantern story but I can say that if this is the only thing that I ever write for DC Comics I’m satisfied with that. The idea for the story literally woke me up around 2 am one night a while back, and I’m just glad to have had a chance to get it out in front of people.
Now that you’ve gotten a taste of working with one of the big publishers would you ever be interested in going that route full-time or do you see yourself mainly doing your own thing and creating your own characters and worlds?
I’m going to cheat a little and say both. I would love to be able to creating original stories like Route 3 and Mine To Avenge, but I’d be lying if I said that I wouldn’t want a chance to play in the worlds of already established brands. I have a bucket list of titles/ characters that I’d love to have a shot at ::cough, cough:: Rocket/ Raquel Ervin, Talia Al Ghul, Nightwing, Boom Studios’ Power Rangers, IDW’s Star Trek :: cough, cough::. Also, Marvel Comics: bring Synch back. We need more black male teen heroes at the House of Marvel, and I hate that my favorite Generation X team member was killed off.
At the end of the day, I’d love to take a shot at whatever’s tossed my way.
Are there any certain character archetypes you find yourself attracted to when creating characters?
The “hard luck” hero is a personal favorite. Characters like Peter Parker always stood out to me because they always tend to be a bit more relatable to me. Parker was the first character that ALWAYS had a problem paying the rent. Something like this is pretty endearing as a fan, but as a writer it gives you an opportunity to build from. To watch this guy’s or gal’s journey from the “bottom to the top” is an extremely fulfilling one to experience when building the character.
Are there any stories or subject matter you have yet to write about that you would like to or plan on doing in the future?
That’s a good question. These topics couldn’t be any further apart but I’ll toss them out there: a slice of life book/ story focusing on being a black nerd and on the other end, a story focusing on human trafficking.
Told you they were pretty far removed form each other.
With the success of Black Panther with it’s cast, director, and writers all being black there has been a lot of talk about a potential cultural shift for black superheroes towards the mainstream. What does Black Panther’s success mean to you personally, if anything, as someone who is a creator in the comic book medium?
Personally what that movie did was pretty epic on a few fronts. As a black comic book creator, I’ve seen a “Black Panther” effect in a small way. In general, indie
Favorite superhero you didn’t create and why?
Rocket/ Raquel Ervin. When Rocket was introduced in Icon #1, I fell in love with the character. You have this character who was a no nonsense teenage girl, reminding a character of immense power why he’s essentially needing to get off his ass. She was the true voice/ heart of theIconseries, and spoke her mind on a variety of the BS that surrounded people of color in the Milestone Universe. Raquel was a BOSS, and in a time when black women overall weren’t being represented in large numbers in comics, I was grateful to find a character who kicked as much butt as she did.
When you look at the current landscape of the industry as a whole, are you optimistic or pessimistic?
I’m optimistic. The variety of stories being told by creators from all corners of this globe is extraordinary. We aren’t just limited to one type of story from one demographic of creators anymore. Everyone can use the medium of comic books to tell the stories that they want to see told.
I also feel though that we as creators and publishers have to continue to bridge the gap between potential readers and our material. Most people who know about comic book characters tend to know them from other media like video games, television shows, and film. If we could find a way to get those same folks to actually buy the comics, I’d be a happy dude.
Could you give us 5 artists that have influenced you and/or who you think are underrated?
Those that have influenced me: 1. Richard Wright, 2. Greg Rucka, 3. Octavia Butler, 4. Dwayne McDuffie, 5. Brian Michael Bendis
Underrated: 1. Dedren Snead, 2. Greg Anderson-Elysee, 3. Takeia Marie, 4. John Robert McGuire, 5. Sean Hill.
What is the most important piece of advice you would give to a future comic book creator of color?
F^&* all the noise that life throws at you. Just keep moving forward.
And finally, what does the term “The Culture” mean to you?
The things that influence me on the creative path that I’m traveling on.
And also check out some of our other interviews for The Culture:
- Hip-Hop Weekly Editor-in-Chief Kim SoMajor
- Comic Book Writer Bryan Edward Hill
- Comic Book Writer Kwaza Osajyefo
Interviewed by @TalentedMrFord