Derrick Ferguson: Who is Ronald Johnson?
Ronald Johnson: Ronald Johnson can be thought of as an equilateral rhombus living in a circular world. His angles are too sharp to fit in easily. However on those rare times when his second derivative smooth’s him out, he along with his brother-in-law, Dennis Cruz, are the co-creators of Maddjeeper, an awesome 3-D web-comic. Dennis is the Graphic Artist and I put the words on the page, or more precisely, the characters demand that I speak for them.
DF: Where do you live and what do you do to keep the bill collectors away?
RJ: I live out in the wilds of Queens Village, NYC in a rambling Victorian house with my family. To keep me in writing parchment and quilled pens I find I must trade my time and juggle numbers for the finance division of a major NYC University.
DF: MADDJEEPER is a webcomic that combines so many genres and elements from different forms of entertainment that it defies my limited ability to describe it. So tell us: what is MADDJEEPER?
RJ: Maddjeeper, from the future, originally contacted me in my sleep and made me tell the tale of a post-apocalyptic Lesser Earth, circa 2170, in which he seeks vengeance on whoever bombed MaddFatt City. As the Maddjeeper runs roughshod in his pursuit, other forces on Lesser Earth, in order to keep their secrets, are determined to put him in the ground.
In the future there is less earth, so there is no time for fronting. You have to defend, strongly, what is yours or it will be taken away. The things of old Earth are relics and in certain circles of MaddFatt City the ancient music of Hip-Hop has been elevated to a high societal construct. In MaddFatt City the vitality of Hip-Hop is so strong, according to the Rapper Mos Def … “it speaks for itself."
So therefore in order to tell a story that big … it has to a rich bouillabaisse.
Smack … smack, yeah … that’s tasty.
DF: Where did the concept begin and where is it going?
RJ: Paraphrasing from the movie 'Inception': the most dangerous parasite on Earth is an idea.
Maddjeeper, the character, began in the teenaged mind of Dennis Cruz as a sketched superhero. Advance the clock some 315 million seconds and the Maddjeeper is being resurrected to help M.C. Globe (of Planet Rock & Soul Sonic Force fame) get background material for a superhero based rap demo. As the story was told and the lyrics written the Maddjeeper began to grow and take on an undeniable life of its own. One of the memorable lines written by M.C. Globe from the title track Maddjeeper was …”Straight out your speaker, here comes the Maddjeeper, putting on a show like tonight’s main feature. Now I’m a Jeeper, he’s a Jeeper, she’s a Jeeper, if you’re not a Jeeper let’s see what we can do.” We had a blast laying down seven tracks for the demo.
Unfortunately the demo didn’t lead to a record deal for M.C. Globe but the Maddjeeper stood tall in our minds for years until we were able to translate him and the other citizens of Lesser Earth into to the two dimensions of comics.
As to where the concept is going, in a systemic development mode, we now have 257 characters in the Lesser Earth world and some of the factions like: QuadroForce, Doggmen and Uni-Rebels are clamoring to make their breakout debuts. So far the 21 completed chapters only cover three days in the life of the Maddjeeper so the sky’s the limit.
DF: Why do it as a webcomic?
RJ: There certainly are challenges in producing Maddjeeper as a web-comic however we found that this method allowed more “creative” control of the process. While we studied and tested 3-D software we used the format of digital photography of action figures for the first 16 chapters of Maddjeeper. Then when we switched over to 3-D software we had to re-create all of our action figure characters as their 3-D equivalents. That was work but it gave us expanded options. Before our characters were limited by what we could find. In the 3-D realm options were increased exponentially. As with working with all software there will be the obligatory upgrades and patches that have the potential to wreak havoc on your character library. We have tagged a line that goes “Maddjeeper is the future of web-comics”… so I guess it’s true.
DF: Why not as a traditional comic book?
RJ: When we first started developing the storyline neither of us had the artistic talent to draw, pencil, ink and color all the characters in all of positions. Also, there was grave concern about the prospect of turning over the concept to a DC, Marvel or Image Comics.
DF: There’s a lot of cinematic elements in the presentation of MADDJEEPER. Do you see this as someday being an animated series or live action/CGI movie?
RJ: Each genre has its strengths and as I prepare to write out the scenes, panels, and narration and camera angles for the Maddjeeper I definitely say, to myself, “Roll tape ... ACTION!” Dennis puts so much artistry into his finished images that you can see the potential the movement of animated series or live action CGI movie.
The tip of the hat to Hip-Hop music in Maddjeeper can be seen in the inclusion of song lyrics as dialogue throughout the chapters. For example in Chapter 16 there are 9 different lyrics as dialogue included. Everyone from BB King to the Wu Tang Clan echoes back to us from the future. Can’t you just feel the bass line?
DF: One element I love about MADDJEEPER is the multi-cultural aspect. Was that a deliberate choice right from the start or did that evolve as the story itself evolved?
RJ: The multi-cultural aspect of Maddjeeper was most definitely present right from the beginning. It is said that you should write what you know so that it comes out real. We are both New York City born and raised. Dennis came up in housing projects in upper Manhattan and I was raised in housing in Bed Stuy, both of us love music (Dennis was a DJ for years) and both of us were avid comic book readers. We just wanted this future fantasy story to have a hero who was a person of color, like us and for him to dig Hip-Hop, like us. After we did five chapters we did some Career Day events at Schools in Queens & Brooklyn and the children’s eyes really lit up when they saw characters that they could identify with. That gave us the encouragement to continue on.
DF: Are there any other projects you’re working on now?
RJ: Sure. As I type we have a few things spinning ‘round the wheels of real. An outside group has expressed interest in developing a demo game for the iPad. Let me tell you; playing them is one thing …. Attempting to design them …. INTENSE.
Also we are about to revamp the MADDJEEPER.COM website to coincide with the reboot of the storyline. We are about to go back, way back, to Chapter 1 and re-present the story, the way we originally intended to, in a graphic novel style. These images are going to be so rich they will have to ask Mitt Romney for tax advice. We are planning to launch the new look before Thanksgiving 2012.
DF: What is a typical Day in the life of Ronald Johnson like?
RJ: I guess it’s rather ordinary for a person who sleeps about five hours a night and multi-tasks his remaining time to work, spend time with the family, do seasonal gardening, write & plot out future sequencing for the Maddjeeper.
Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we need to know about Ronald Johnson?
Ronald Johnson: I’m married almost 30 years, to my lovely wife, Kim, and we live with five of our seven children plus two grandsons. I have received my BS & MBA degrees in Finance from New York University.