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OneNation For All, Interview with Jason Reeves and Alverne Ball

Written by Greg Anderson-Elysee on Monday, March 07 2016 and posted in Features

OneNation For All, Interview with Jason Reeves and Alverne Ball

OneNation creators, Jason Reeves and Alverne Ball, stop by the Griotvine to talk about OneNation, their recent spinoff Black Lotus, and how it is to work together as co-writers.

Jason Reeves and Alverne Ball are a dynamic duo within the Black Indie comic scene. Jason Reeves is a freelance illustrator, having worked for Hasbro, USAToday, and Esquire Magazine and self publishes his comics through his imprint 133art while Alverne Ball, with an MFA in creative writing from Columbia College Chicago, is a crime novelist who has written feature screen plays and TV pilots. He is also the writer and creator of the historical horror adventure series, Virgin Wolf, published by Arion Digital Media Group

Both are the writers for their franchise, OneNation, which they both have won multiple Glyph awards, Ball with 2 Glyph awards and Reeves with 3 Glyph Awards.

The duo stopped by the Griotvine to briefly talk about OneNation and how it is working together.


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Greg: What is One Nation?

Jason Reeves: OneNation is a take on the traditional "Hero's Journey" told through the eyes of a young African-American: Deacon Taylor a.k.a. Paragon. Gifted with special abilities and raised in the rural South, Deacon goes out into society to find, not only his powers tested, but his values as well. As he journeys away from his upbringings, he meets a diverse set of characters that challenge his preconceptions of the world. The roles of identity, friendship, family, and the politics of being a Black man in our time, begin to clash with his new superhero lifestyle. He learns that the aesthetics of the classic superhero are ill-fitting when it comes to the larger role of saving the world, especially from itself.

Now, OneNation: Black Lotus is divergent from the main story, sort of a manga-styled side quest. It's basically the origin of Norio Yamata a.k.a. Pollux (one of the aforementioned diverse characters that Paragon eventually meets). There's been a murder at his high school that Norio's father Detective Satoshi Yamada, has been called in to investigate. Against his father's wishes Pollux, puts himself in harm's way on the trail of the killer. Soon, the Yamada's must confront a secret from their past better left buried.

Greg: Can you tell us about the lead protagonist, Norio?

Black Lotus Front CoverJason: Norio is the kid who grew up loving Manga wishing he was a superhero. A little geeky, idealistic, and willful. His relationship with his father is a little strained because Satoshi is very strict and protective of his son. With good reason, Norio's no angel, and this time he's been making all the right enemies.

Greg: How did you two come together to create the concept for this book?

Alverne Ball: To some degree that was Jason's doing. After we had worked on OneNation and OneNation: Old Druids. Jason approached me and said I got this idea for doing a manga story about this character Pollux and he wanted it to play out like a mystery. Hearing mystery I instantly jumped at the chance because I thought this would be a cool challenge to see if I could stretch my writing muscles since there were some elements in the story that Jason had specifics about showcasing.

So I grabbed a pad and pen went to jotting down ideas as they came and presented Jason with a story about a kid named Norio, which involved bringing in elements from some previous stories that would eventually connect this side story into the full One Nation series and thus Black Lotus was born. At least that's somewhat how I remember it, but Jason may have a different tale.

Jason: I always knew Pollux's origins would lie in Japan, and I'm a big Manga/Anime fan. I always try to have the side quests (Old Druids [noir], Safehouse [found footage], and now Black Lotus [manga]) mimic favorite genres of mine. So it was just a matter of figuring out how to create something that could fold into the main OneNation tale. Alverne is my ace-in-the-hole when it comes to cooking up my half baked ideas into a souffle of awesomeness.

ONBL 15Greg: What have you guys found to be some of the challenges writing a more "manga-inspired" book compared to a traditional American style?

Alverne: For me it wasn't much of a challenge because at the end of the day they're both graphic stories told in panel form. I think the thing that was a challenge was making sure that the research of what I was reading would match with what I wanted to make the story out to be.

Jason: We like to be respectful of the different cultures/places we endeavor to write about. It takes time to carefully craft stories about people and place you may not have experience on your own. So that's the hardest thing in my opinion. I'll say that since our artists Gisela Martins and Sara Ferreira are well versed in manga and are lovers of the culture, their input was a huge help.


Greg: The Black Lotus is revealed to be a secret cult, their leader, Hiji, being a rival of Norio. Can you tell us about the Black Lotus and their connection to our hero? What inspired their creation?

Alverne: The Black Lotus was something that kinda of sprang to life out of the research I was doing. I mean the characters, or at least the idea of them was there in Jason's pitch, but if I recall, the symbol just hit me as I was trying to figure out what the crime would be and how it would all tie into Norio's world and his life. That's when the Black Lotus formed and from there the character's started to come to life as I had better understanding of how they all fit into the grand scheme of the story and how this Black Lotus Symbol ties into the Old Druid story.

Jason: They're kids trying to attain the power people their age are locked out of. Specifically, Hiji's thing is trying to impress his father, get his attention even if it's negative attention. So if you're a sociopath what better way to say, "Hey, dad. I exist!" Than to start your own murder cult? At least that's what I would do...

Greg: Ha! Now a mysterious character named Sundiata joins the fray. It appears he also appears in other OneNation tales? Who is this character and why is he important?

Black Lives

Jason: He's the glue, showing up in pretty much every OneNation story. He's the guy that's so charismatic he can get anybody to follow him. He's on a mission to make his mark on the world and he thinks the Keramats (the super humans) are his ticket to that end. And we know from Old Druids he has a thing about cults.

Greg: As both of you are writers of these series, how do you both break down the writing? How do you guys determine who will write what? What exactly is your process and is there ever some intense head butting?

Alverne: Jason will generally give me a plot or a whole bunch of plot points of what he thinks needs to be involved in the story. After that I go away and play around with these points seeing how they might best be used in the story and then I write the story based on Jason's recommendations. The first draft of Black Lotus was like 10 or 15 pages because that's originally what Jason wanted, but after reading the draft he was like, "Was there more?" and I was like, "Sure, there could be more, but I was staying within your specific page range" and he was like, "Naw, son. Blow it open." I love when he tells me to blow it open because it allows me to just go into the story and really run the gamut of possibilities on who it might end.

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Alverne Ball, 2 Time Glyph Award Winner

Greg: That is pretty cool.

Alverne: I don't think we've ever butted heads... wait, I take that back. On the second issue of OneNation I had Paragon do this really cool fly by through a crowd and snatch up all the weapons and Jason was like, "Nah, we need for him to reach the people and have them put down their weapons on their own." He was right because that speech was probably one of the best I've ever written in terms of a comic character looking to reach the hearts and minds of not only fictional characters but also that of the reader.

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Jason Reeves, 3 Time Glyph Award Winner

Jason: Pretty much like Al says, we very rarely butt heads. He's a pretty laid back dude about the whole process.

olddruids cover1Greg: What can readers expect to see with this book and other OneNation titles?

Jason: Action and adventure for sure. I'm not satisfied with a comic unless it has a great story, clever dialogue, and at least one good fight scene, so we try to pack all that in every issue. Expect to see more genre bending, more crazy (and hopefully) unique characters, and status quo shake ups. Our goal is to make OneNation a must read book for our readers.

Greg: Where can readers find this book and how long is this story line?

Jason: This first run will shake down to six issues. With a lot more side quest stories and another art book in the works. Readers can find OneNation (and all 133art products) at our website: 133art.com or on Comixology (comixology.com/onenation) and Peepgame Comix (peepgamecomix.com/133-art).


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About the Author - Greg Anderson-Elysee

Gregory Anderson-Elysee is a Brooklyn born and based filmmaker (director and editor), playwright, comic book writer, model, and part time actor. He was one of the first writers and interviewers of The Outhouse. He is the writer and creator of the upcoming book Is'nana the Were-Spider. He can be found on Twitter and Facebook.

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