This past week, Robert Jeffrey II, creator of the Glyph Award-winning comic Route 3, answered some questions for the Comic Crusaders about his work, his influences and changing the game when it comes to what people should expect from independent comic book publishers.
Comic Crusaders: What was the inspiration for Route 3, in terms of story and character concepts?
Robert Jeffrey II: Route 3 came out of a desire to tell a story that I felt I wasn’t seeing in most of the comic book stories that I’d read growing up. A story about a kid who looked like me, saving the day, being the protagonist, center of the story, etc. In addition to this, I wanted a story that couldn’t necessarily be classified as your typical “superhero teen” story, because that’s already been done really well, and continues to be.
Route 3 comes from a love of the most grounded/ down to earth characters of the Marvel Universe, to the over the top action/ sci-fi storytelling of films like The Matrix. I wanted a cast of characters with which you could relate, being caught up in larger the life circumstances.
CC: You use a setting in the story, suburban metro Atlanta, that’s not usually seen in comics. Why’d you decide on that location?
RJ II: A lot of comic book stories that deal with super heroics take place in some variation of the Chicago/ New York City large metropolis staple. I wanted this story to kind of move away from that aesthetic, as awesome as it is, and try for something different. Most folks don’t know about Stone Mountain. Heck I didn’t know much about the Southeast before I moved here from Chicago. But I’ve come to love the ATL and its surrounding neighborhoods.
So I wanted to start the action off in Stone Mountain, and then turn it into sort of an action packed road trip across the Southeast.
CC: There’s quite a bit of colloquial dialogue in the book…is that something that was pre-planned in order to achieve another layer of realism, or was it something that happened more spontaneously as you began plotting out character conversations?
RJ II: The latter. I found that as I began to flesh out the characters, their motivations, who they were, etc. their voices just kind of took root.
CC: As I stated in my review of the second issue, Route 3 focuses on people of color and developing complex characters as such. My question is, is that a sort of response to the overwhelming amount of stereotypical characterizations that we see in media, or am I just reading far too much into things?
RJ II: Nope you’re definitely on the right track. When it comes to people of color being portrayed in popular media, or genre fiction, you might find in many instances that these individuals are written in broad strokes. Stereotypes.
I got sick of that, and I continue to be sick of it. Just like any other group of folks that are seen as being multifaceted/ multi-dimensional, black people, brown people, Asian people, etc., can be just as diverse.
The people who surround me come in a variety of shades, shapes, sizes, personalities, and I want my work to reflect that. I definitely feel that there has been a lot of improvement on that front, primarily within indie comics, but it’s something that I feel still needs to be addressed.
CC: How long have you been with Terminus?
RJ II: Wow, since maybe, 2006, 2007. My background was in freelance writing, mainly print/web journalism. I met the fine folks of Terminus Media at an awesome convention that we have here in Atlanta called Dragon Con, and explained that I was interested into moving into writing comics. My first story published with Terminus Media was “Daddy’s Little Girl”, in an anthology titled “Terminus Tales Presents: Platypus vs. Monkey”.
This led to client work with the company for organizations like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), co-writing duties on award nominated books like Radio Free Amerika, and now my creator owned series, Route 3.
So all in all, I’m glad I got over my shyness, and met these guys and gals at Dragon Con.
CC: What books are you currently reading?
RJ II: It’s a mix of older and newer books. I’m a big trade paperback guy. I’ve been digging through my definitive volumes of Queen and Country, The Many Adventures of Miranda Mercury, Lion Forge’s Knight Rider relaunch, Chronicles of Piye, Captain Marvel, Star Trek: Destiny, Stumptown, Matty’s Rocket, Serenity: Leaves on The Wind, Princeless, Prodigal: Egg of First Light, Skull Kickers, Not So Super, Quixote, One Nation, Storm, and Shaft.
CC: It’s been some time since issue #2 was released, any timetable on the third issue and the continuing storyline?
RJ II: We’re looking for a 2015 summer launch for the third issue, along with a release later this year of a graphic novel collecting the first three issues, with bonus content. The plan onward for this arc will be for three additional issues to be released over the end of this year, rolling into the next.
CC: What other projects are you working on ?
RJ II: I’m currently working with an artist by the name of Ernest McLendon on a space based action adventure called Vaquera; I’m co-writing Radio Free Amerika with creator/co-writer/ penciller B. Robert Bell, and continuing my scripting/editing duties with the CDC on an animated motion comic. I’m also working with John McGuire and Sean Hill on a parallel universe hopping tale called The Crossing.
CC: Do you have a favorite comic writer and/or artist? Why him/her/them?
Each of these writers have collectively taught me that with a combination of drive, knowledge of your craft, and fierce love for the content that you’re creating, you can find success in telling the stories that you want to tell. No matter what, as long as you keep grinding.
CC: Is there any other comics related info you’d liked to discuss with the Comic Crusaders?
RJ II: The biggest thing that I always suggest to folks is to please try something different outside of just Marvel and DC. Both companies have accomplished a lot, and are very successful publishing/ multimedia superpowers. I get that. I’m a fan myself.
But please realize, they aren’t the only one’s out there contributing quality content to the comics medium. Whether you love superheroes or not, great independent work is out there for the picking.
Do your homework. Find a publisher/ creator that speaks to your interests, and add ‘em to your Wednesday pull list (physical or digital).
Make a visit to the Artist Alley, or the Indie side of a convention. We won’t bite.
You’ll be happy that you did.