It's crazy looking back on it. For real, I just wanted to draw superheroes. I just wanted to draw fight scenes and folks that launched themselves into the air and jumped off roofs. I wanted to draw people that saved people...and strangely enough, they saved me. I'm Jason Reeves and 133art is my publishing company. It started out as a freelance illustration business and I'm proud to say we've had some distinguished clientele over the years: HASBRO | Esquire Magazine | USA Today | Upper Deck | Wizards of the Coast | Heavy Metal Magazine | Frontline Detroit Coalition | MV Media | Scholastic (...just some friendly flexin'). But I'm most proud of what it is now: 133art Publishing is A Black owned imprint enlisting and co-creating with comic folks who have a passion for storytelling and are dedicated to showcasing the depth and complexity of the Black comics experience. Fresh and unique storytelling, that's the real flex.
Myself and a growing community of Black creators have grown our own corner of the comics industry affectionately thought of as Black Comix. I get to watch as it becomes fruitful and see my peers come into their own as their own work blows up. We're having fun and I still feel like the grind has just started.
Jason has co-created, written, and illustrated the award winning OneNation, Kid Carvers, and RET:CON. His newest original graphic novel Pax Samson (co-created with Rashad Doucet) was released from publisher Oni Press/Lion Forge. 133art has also teamed up with MV Media to produce the Changa and the Jade Obelisk comic adaptation. 133art is also 1/3 of the partnership with Nerdsoul Podcast and Legends Press, who have come together to broadcast the pop culture virtual variety show The Rent Party.
I grew up in New Orleans, LA and I was always interested in being an artist. I’ve been drawing since I was three yrs. old and all through my childhood the kitchen table was my studio. My friend Mark, an older kid in the neighborhood introduced me to my first comics, I remember being knocked off my feet by X-Men Classic, the reprints of the Chris Claremont run. It’s not that I hadn’t been into superheroes my whole life, I loved Superman cartoons and Star Wars, but those were fleeting. Once Saturday morning was over or you left the theater back in the day, who knows when you’d be able to see those things again. With comics, you had all the stories and images forever, the idea of collecting them and reading them over and over really resonated with me. It still does.
Every spare second after I flipped through Mark’s old comics was spent trying to make my own comics. I’d trace pages from the comics I bought using poses and action scenes to write my own stories with DC and Marvel characters and soon I was designing my own original characters. All mostly white though. Through high school I was known as that ‘dude that always be drawing’ and in my junior and senior years, I attended the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA). I loved going to school for drawing, although I don’t really think my teachers appreciated the heroic comic style art I loved so much. In the beginning, I almost got kicked out but eventually, I did OK.
After graduation, it was hard to pursue a career in any art much less comics. The avenues weren’t really clear and there just wasn’t enough money for college, so for a long time, I just worked menial jobs. Still, I was always drawing, always creating. Something was bugging me as I grew into an adult, I was still collecting comics and starting to attend comic conventions, there we a ton of Black comic fans that I knew but very few Black characters in comics. And even fewer Black creators. As my anxiousness for characters that looked like me to star in my favorite medium grew, I made a decision not to wait on the industry to fill my need. I decided to create my own comics. Just like I did at my mom’s kitchen table.
The difference now is I would put my focus on stories of my own characters, Black heroes that related to the world in a way that wasn’t being portrayed in the comics I consumed. That’s how 133art was born. It took several years to create our first comic starring a Black lead: OneNation. Deacon Taylor, a young army recruit’s unit gets ambushed in the Middle East. Unknown to all but himself, Deacon has been hiding superhuman abilities, abilities that he has no choice but to reveal to save his fellow soldiers. As the world bears witness to its first superhero, Deacon’s life begins to spiral out of control and soon he finds out he isn’t the only person gifted with powers.
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina happened. I lost everything. Not that there was much keeping me in New Orleans anyway, I was in a rut job-wise and I didn’t really have any attachments, partners, kids, etc. Almost two weeks prior I attended my first San Diego Comic-Con. It was huge for me. It’s in a lot of ways the Mecca for comics, a concentrated immersion of comic culture for anyone who loves, collects and wants to work in comics. It was my first, and it was amazing. But that not what was special about that SDCC. Not for me. For me, I met one of my best friends and one of the folks that would help me change my life, my mentor Lee Moyer. Lee is an illustrator, one of the best, and when he had heard about Hurricane Katrina, he called me.
We barely knew one another at the time, at the con we had joked about us hanging out if I ever visited Portland (where he lived) and him teaching me some Photoshop tricks. At the time I was struggling trying to use this ‘new program’ that all the artists were talking about. Anyway, he hardly knew me and still, he wanted to help, he invited me to stay with him and his wife, Annaliese, in Portland. I went. They set up a room for me, he set up a workspace for me in his office, and it was like an illustrator boot camp. I watched him work every day, illustrating book covers, theater posters, card games, he negotiated contracts, met with clients, we went to live drawing classes, he introduced me to other illustrators (a lot of comics guys too), and yes, he kicked my butt until I learned Photoshop. Those seven months in Portland was like college for me.
I went home in 2006. I was determined to make this stop in New Orleans only a pit stop. I worked a job, started a vending machine business, and 133art all at the same time. In Portland, I had made a few connections and had done a few jobs as a freelance illustrator, and I was determined to continue my career. A year later I had saved up enough money to move to Los Angeles. And in California 133art grew. A few years later OneNation #1 was close to being finished and we (I was married by then) were trying to figure out how to get it printed for distribution.
My brilliant wife and business partner wasn’t too happy with the cost of printing, in order save any money you had to print copies in bulk (Either in the high hundreds or thousands and print-on-demand was still too expensive) and we were just learning to sell comics. We didn’t want to print a thousand comics that we couldn’t move, so she had an idea: Why don’t we buy a printer and do it ourselves. We invested about $1800 dollars bought a refurbished HP laser printer, a paper folder, and a saddle-stitch machine (stapler), and learned to print comics. That was 2012. By 2016 133art had created 3 comic titles: OneNation, F-00 Fighters, and Kid Carvers, spanning 11 comics. We had done several freelance projects from comics to fantasy concept design, to funeral planners. And we had opened up another wing of the company that focuses on affordable comic printing for other creators like me: 133art Printing. It’s been a learning process, juggling the creative aspects of the job, which I am more gifted in, with the business side, which I’ve gone through great pains to learn. Trial and error have become close companions but we make it work. – Jason
Meet The Team