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Jefferson man pens full-length graphic novel

Business Gazette, USA
by Connor Adams Sheets | Staff Writer
Rafer Roberts celebrated the realization of a longtime dream Saturday at Beyond Comics in Frederick.
The release the Jefferson comic book artist�s first full-length graphic novel, ��Plastic Farm: Sowing Seeds on Fertile Soil,� found Roberts sipping soda and waxing philosophical behind a folding table with fans, close industry friends and collaborators, and his supportive wife, Nan.

The fully illustrated, 300-page book, which he calls a ��corruption of the natural world,� tells the tale of Chester Carter�s descent to madness.

The book, which he calls a ��love story,� is replete with hillbilly cannibals, zombie cops and dinosaur horses. It explores themes such as ��what it means to be a real person � to be completely self-aware without the pressures of a society telling you what you should be � making your own reality.�

The heady book, whose release party fell on Roberts� 32nd birthday, comes from the mind of a man whose wife describes as ��a twisted genius.�

Growing up in New Jersey, Roberts read Fantastic Four and other Marvel titles. He created his first comic in fourth grade. He earned a degree from Clemson University and now works as a pre-press operator at Phoenix Color Corp. in Hagerstown.

He moved to Frederick County in 1999, and has led a life that allows him to spend hours at a time working in what he and Nan call ��the office� � a cluttered, comic-packed room in their home with an antique drawing table.

��Frederick�s diverse culture enriches Rafer�s abilities, while the rural setting enables him to focus on his craft,� said Takoma Park illustrator Jake Warrenfeltz, a longtime friend of Roberts� who did the artwork for some ��Plastic Farm� issues that Roberts chose not to draw.

And Roberts� craft is honed, though it manifests itself in a form that readers tend to either love or hate. He has a host of loyal readers and fans, but critic Johanna Draper Carlson, of industry blog Comics Worth Reading, had the following to say about the twisted comic: ��I still don�t get it ... and what I do get disgusts me.�

Roberts shrugs off such criticisms, saying that ��Plastic Farm� refuses to be limited by standard comic book expectations, and instead explores today�s world in unconventional ways.

��What if Jesus came back as an 18-year-old drug addict?� Roberts asked as a thought exercise. ��Nothing is off-limits in �Plastic Farm�.�

His work has also garnered rave reviews from heavy hitters in the comic world, including one of his main influences, fabled comic writer Dave Sim, of ��Cerebus� fame, who reads every issue and called ��Plastic Farm,� ��a really strange, really engrossing good comic book.�

The book is a compilation of his individually released comics, accompanied by about 40 pages of new and un-released material. Roberts publishes his work independently, and is not employed by any comic company or label.

��I do it myself. I�m 100 percent self-published,� he said. ��That�s the beauty and the curse of comics. It�s very open and anyone can make them. If you have an idea for a comic, there�s no reason you can�t make a comic.�

Nan, who met Roberts online, said she sees little of him when he�s getting ink under his nails in ��the office.�

��Art is his life, and I�m kind of like a baseball widow or a football widow. I�m just a comic book widow. I have to have interests for when he�s doing comics, which I do,� she said. Nan writes poetry and has published a book called ��12 Angry Love Poems.�

Roberts, who wore a shirt promoting Ween, one of his favorite bands and obsessions, and a colorful, cone-shaped party hat to the release party, said he will no longer print single-issue ��Plastic Farm� comics, as printing costs are prohibitive.

Instead, he plans to release the series� second feature-length installment as another graphic novel.

�Plastic Farm�

��Plastic Farm: Sowing Seeds on Fertile Soil� is available at Beyond Comics in Frederick and at

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