Greg: Hello, Jeff. Great to be interviewing you today. Can you tell us about yourself?
Jeff: Hello, Greg. Thank you for having this interview with me. As for a little bit about myself, I have been into comics ever since I was a kid. I'm currently a college student attempting to attain a degree in visual arts. I manage a website and forum dedicated towards uncovering aspiring artists and writers, as well as focus on diversity within the comic book industry. I am also working on a comic book project called Evolved, hopefully to be debuting this winter. *Crosses Fingers*
Greg: Nice. What's this project about?
Jeff: Evolved is kind of like Heroes meets Teen Titans with a very diverse cast and an very detail look at sibling bonds. The three main characters are two sisters and one little brother, and unlike most comic book and media depiction of sibling relationships, they are very close. Perhaps the closest pair of siblings you'll meet in comics. My goal was to set up the ideal sibling bond and examine the core aspects of being a sibling, and what that really meant. This is also an examine on a different level in that the little brother, Angel, is adopted. He's bi-racial and came from a horrible home. So essentially he's very scarred emotionally. But not scarred in the usually showed way where they are wild, act up, and go crazy. No, Angel is very innocent, quiet, soft spoken, and needy. So as you can tell, the comic is very character driven. As for the plot, essentially what happens is that a corporation called Diatech discovers a formula to force humans to evolve. Unfortunately, humans are not ready to evolve yet so more than the majority of those exposed to the radiation are killed. The main villain, Arthur Williams, is tired of humans being weak and decided to take the next step of evolution into his own hands. His corporation launches a missile at San Diego filled with this radiation. San Diego is literally wiped from the planet with 75% of the population being killed. The remaining 25% are gifted with abilities, with many being coerced or captured by Diatech to be used for their personal service. So the radiation is making it's way north to LA. The government is going crazy and our cast is trying to escape the hands of both the government and Diatech.
Greg: Wow, sounds darn intense! What made you come up with such a story? What inspired this?
Jeff: To be honest, a lot of things made me develop this plot. For one, in my eyes interracial adoption is rarely seen in the media. Even with Angelina Jolie. Now with her having birth children, you rarely see her adopted ones in people magazine or lifestyle. But IR adoption is rather common in America. In comics, it's literally non-existent. So I wanted to be one of the first to explore it. In regards to the focus on sibling bond, it goes back to another aspect that comics rarely cover: family. Of course you have the Fantastic Four, and Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, but who else? Our society, both comics and media, place it's entire focus on romantic relationships to where other bonds such as familial or friendship bonds are cast aside. Especially so with family. Whenever siblings are depicted, it's the type where the older brother has an annoying little sister or the little brother grabs the older sister's Barbie's and use her as a hostage for his action figures. In essence, my comic combats a lot of views and placement in comic. It will very likely be viewed as controversial and renegade like, which is fine by me. I also wanted to create a diverse cast because frankly it's the 21st century, we should be having diverse cast by now, and yet especially in the comic book industry, we do not see that much. So I wanted to fill those shoes, fill those gaps. I'm not the type to create an all black team or all anything team. What I want and what I enjoy is diversity, so within my main cast, my villains, my supporting cast, you will find a very diverse group of individuals, and I believe that perhaps will interest a lot of people. Now them handling the controversial part is a different story.
Greg: So will the subject to race play a big part in your story?
Jeff: Not entirely. The main aspect was to establish a racially diverse cast and story plot, but not to constantly dive into the topic of race. Now we don't shy away from the topic. One aspect you get to see is from one of the characters, Marcus, as he struggles with the ideal of "acting black" or "acting like himself." His previous group of friends who were all black ridiculed him for getting straight A's in school, saying he was acting "white." so he lower his grades to fit in with the crowd. It was only after he left his group of friends and became friends with our cast when he really started to act like himself. So we do have moments where race is discussed, but it's not an key aspect of the story. What was most important for me was to have a racially diverse cast and highlight a topic that's rarely been talked about, IR adoptions.
Greg: Gives us a feed of the villain.
Jeff: Arthur, he's the persona of today's world of a "man's man." He's calm, cool, collective, but have a huge distaste for the way things are heading in our society. He's looking at society and quite frankly is disgusted at what he sees. The overweight and obesity rate climbing at a drastic pace. How the government "appears" to be heading down the path of socialism. Quite frankly, he's sicken by "how weak" humans have become. So he decides to do something about it. His corporation, Diatech, dives into studying how to forcefully evolve a human through manipulating DNA samples. Diatech is one of the biggest corporations in the world, so they have the resources to allocate a lot of funds into their science department. After a specific period of time, they figure out the way to make humans evolved, and exposed it willing test subjects. I don't want to go too deep into it because I want to do a mini-series from my universe regarding what happened. But you will see from the beginning that Arthur is a man of morals and principles. He believes VERY strongly in his morals, and that mix with power can create a devastating combination.
Greg: So what inspires you as a writer/artist?
Jeff: Well that's a good question. As a writer, what primarily inspires me is my environment, what goes on around me. Because our environment essentially shapes us, mold us into what we are today. I analyze almost everything, constantly asking the question why. I think through this I gain inspiration and ideas to writer. As for fellow writers, to be honest there isn't really a writer out that inspires me per say. Now I'm not saying I don't like any writers. On the contrary, I enjoy Geoff Johns, Bendis, McDuffie, and a couple other writers out there. But primarily, I enjoy their writing yet they don't inspire me. Primarily because I review through their writing and think of what I would do things differently. I think that and primarily my environment help shape me into having a unique perspective and a unique writing style which will show through my comic.
On the other hand, there are plenty of artists that inspire me. Terry Dodson, Jeff Scott Campbell, Adam Hughes just to name a few. These three individuals help shape my art to the way it looks today. Even though I have a LONG way to go before I can ever be consider in the same league as these guy
Well, as you've mentioned, you're an advocate of diversity. How do you
feel about the current state right now of diversity in comics?
Jeff: I believe we have came a little ways from the 60's, that's for sure. But in comparison to other media outlets, I believe the comic book industry is far behind when it comes to diversity. I do believe that Marvel, and a lesser extent DC, attempt to try and diversify their heroes. But both have easily noticeable flaws that can be pointed out. With Marvel, they contain only three, but three large problems in their house.
1) Minorities are rarely if ever in the spotlight. Luke Cage had a small showing in Dark Reign but it did not last long unfortunately. Especially regarding events, which are known as the big thing, they almost seem to disappear. If Marvel wants to make these characters seem important, than they'll need to place minorities in the forefront of the action and perhaps even saving the day. I made a comment about how Blue Marvel would have been perfect for Dark Reign, especially with Sentry being on the Dark Avengers. Blue Marvel could have evened the playing fields and since this is a war about wits and not power, Blue Marvel can't save the day by himself. He would've been perfect for New Avengers but they let the chance slip.
2) House of M literally ruined black mutants. Almost all minority mutants seem to have vanish from off the map, especially black male mutants. In this case I have no idea how they can fix it because I believe the mutant gene is gone so it's not possible to have mutants anymore. But technically, according to what I've seen regarding what Joe stated, there is still over 1 million mutants. So they still can show new characters who are black and mutants. It's a more difficult cause here, but it can be fixed.
Have Marvel fixing these two problems and continue creating more new minority characters and the company itself would be all fixed.
3) DC, well they have a much larger problem on their hand. Without including Milestone, DC to this day does not have a minority powerhouse along the lines of Superman, Captain Marvel, Wonder Woman, etc. In the current time-span, they still don't have a minority speedster, etc. etc. DC has a lot of making up to do in order for them to catch up with Marvel in my opinion. But both companies can be better.
To be honest, Image is by far the best company when it comes to diversity. Not only is their biggest star black (Spawn), they constantly create new and diverse comics like one of my favorite comics ever, Dynamo 5.
But I hope with my comic, I can help pave the way for a diversity revolution of sort.
Greg: And you just started a site attempting to showcase and bring attention to this, yes?...
Jeff: Indeed, we created a website dedicated towards diversity within comics as well as uncovering upcoming artists and writers that the big sites seem to forget. We attempt to bring the latest topics that revolve around comics and examine how that effects diversity within the comic book industry. We also are planning on having a few interviews with professional writers and artists in the business as they share their experience as well as dive into the topic of diversity. Our other, but equally as important, goal is to bring upcoming artists to the light. The web is filled with web comics and aspiring artists trying to make a name for themselves. Our goal is to reveal these diamonds to the world and show not all of the greatest comics come from the Big 2.
The site is here http://comicdiversity.atspace.com/
Greg: Very nice. Great luck with everything, my man. Any final words before you leave?
Jeff: Well for one I would like to say thanks again for having the interview with me. I believe my comic fills many niches that exist within the comic book world. For those that want to see super powers without capes, this is the comic for you. For those that are tired of families who want to fight and bicker every panel, this is the comic for you. For those that want to see a diverse cast, this is the comic for you. Just give it a shot and I'll be sure you'll like what you'll find. Evolve coming out this winter! Stay Tuned!
(Interview can also be found here http://comicdiversity.atspace.com/Evolved%20Comic%20Interview.html