Raymond Francis, Timothy D. Craggette, and Robert Spencer have decades of comics experience between them. In addition to creating their own titles, they are speakers, mentors, and consultants in the field. Together, they host the Ray, Tim, and Rob Present Podcast.
This month, these three gentlemen take time out of their busy schedule to chat with Indyfest about their work.
IM: Who are Ray, Tim, and Rob? Where do you each hail from and what are your backgrounds?
RF: Ray Tim and Rob are three comic book guys who met in high school. We are all from the DC area. We all have a background in the arts and have a common love for comics and comic book culture. We’re very big proponents to the medium and have given back as speakers and mentors at schools and libraries.
RS: We have a wide range of things in our backgrounds, such as fine arts, painting, photography, mixed media, web design, internet marketing, and the list goes on.
IM: How did you all get together?
TDC: We all met during our high school years at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts as visual art students. It was a fun time learning the arts and growing with each other over the years.
IM: Ray, you’ve been described as a ‘comic book consultant’. Can you elaborate on what that means in practice?
RF: Well, it means that I have used my extensive knowledge of the different aspects of the comic book process from the creative, to the business, to networking, to marketing, to self-publishing and everything in between, to help up-and-coming creators along in their own projects. I help guide writers and artists and up-and-coming comic book studios to perfect their craft through edits and art direction. I help to promote them and their work; I represent them and their interests with regard to negotiating page rates or pitches to companies and studios. I help guide them with questions they have from how to format a script to portfolio reviews. Kind of a jack of all trades.
IM: Tell us about your work with the Hero Initiative. What is the Hope Anthology?
RF: Yes, that was such a HUGE honor for me, and it was my first official published work. I was so stoked to have my work be a part of The Heroes Initiative. The Hope Anthology was a collection of stories from some great creators, and I have to thank Marc Fletcher for the opportunity. It was amazing that my first body of work was with such a great comic book non-profit like The Heroes Initiative.
IM: Can you tell us about some of your other comics?
RF: We have a few titles in early development. My project is called Crew. It’s a story of a group of young people who just so happen to be some of the most powerful people on the planet—which gets them constantly hounded and hunted when they really want to just be left alone. They’re always being pulled into the superhero game and saving the world. There are twists and turns and action… tons of action… and humor and love and traitors and all things crazy in a crazy world. These young people are considered legendary with a reputation of being superheroic bullies.
RS: Another one of them is Fret. Fret is different from our other titles. It is a hybrid story mixing manga and traditional American comic style. It is a story of betrayal, love, forgiveness, and following your path in life, as we follow the story of Fret, a rock-n-roll/heavy metal infused clown who turned from his evil family to spend the rest of his life correcting the wrong of his family with his ability to alter reality and corporealize sound through playing the guitar. There is a lot of death and destruction in this series, but there is a message of hope and a wild ride.
IM: Describe your creative process for us. How you go from inspiration to publication?
RF: I like to get into a creative zone. When I sit in front of my workstation or my carry board, I like to immerse myself with comic book paraphernalia to keep me comic-centric and focused. I have read tons and tons of comics and have seen just about every comic book movie or cartoon, and so, to get in the zone, I will play different comic book cartoons or movies. I also have a big affinity for 80s cartoons, so that might be playing as well. I will binge-watch these shows and movies while drawing. I may reach out to Rob or Tim as a sound board on things from time to time, just to get another perspective and to keep ideas fresh. Once all of that is going on, I create some really cool stuff, while making a complete mess of my office area.
RS: The process is different for different people. We get ideas a lot from talking to each other and bouncing ideas off of each other. We might give an idea for a story arc or an issue, and then we help pick out what works and what needs to be fixed. We then sit and start to work out the visual through story thumbnails. Ray likes to watch old-school cartoons like Voltron, Bionic Six, X-Men, SilverHawks, and many others while he is drawing. Tim can create without any outside stimulant, and I like to listen to music when I am drawing. It helps during the creative process to get the ideas and juices going. Also, having my wife Kia as a sounding board is a tremendous help. Bouncing ideas around with her provides such great inspiration. Once we get a good flow going, we are ready to bring it to the world. Ray draws and produces his comics traditionally using a wide variety of mix media, Tim switched to digital colors and digital 3D work, and I use a hybrid method, but am currently producing work exclusively in Manga Studio—a comic software. After we go through our edits and corrections, we send it to Ka-Blam and have it ready for cons.
As far as the podcast, we come together and think of a cool topic or a hot button and then, we create a show. Once we decide on what show we are doing, we record it. Once recorded, the show goes through its long process of edits to ensure we have a good show. Then, we add the show notes and put the final touches of the show together. Lastly, we push it up to the RTR site for the world to hear.
IM: What is the Ray, Tim, and Rob Presents Podcast?
RF: It’s a really cool show about comics and comic culture. It started out as secondary content for to beef up our website, where we sell our comics or prints or what have you. We initially were just goofing around, talking shop, and then people caught onto it and started really digging it. In our first year, we cultivated such great connections that we started getting invited to major venues to record and interview. The show literally took off with a life of its own! We went from just recording in-studio to, like, 18 events, to being interviewed for internet TV, to being reviewed on YouTube. All within our first year. EPIC!
TDC: The Ray, Tim, and Rob Presents: PODCAST! is about three comic book guys talking shop about comics and a comic book culture/interview show. We discuss the fun, artistic, or technical aspects of comics and cover a lot of DC Metro comic-related events. It’s a labor of love, which comes through on the show.
IM: What kind of work goes into each podcast? How do you plan and produce?
RF: A LOT goes into the overall product. I’m a co-host and I provide the content. I am considered the comic book historian and expert on the show. As Tim says, I secure the talent for the interviews on the show and am usually the initial contact for shows and events. On the show, I’m the funny one. Tim is the main host and executive producer of the show. He records and does the initial edits. He provides the tech work. He puts the end product together for final approval. Robert does final approval on edits and does the distribution of the show. He is a co-host, and on the show, he is our straight man. He also is considered the overall general manager and brings the show together. We get together and enjoy the culture. We have a lot of fun and create podcast magic!
TDC: Well, it all started from an idea to sell books, but grew into its own thing. The biggest task we have to do is be in the same place to record. Ray handles talent acquisition… meaning he finds and books our guests. When we don’t have interview shows, everything else stays the same. We come together in my studio, get everyone leveled on their mics, and I run the mixing board. After a recording session, I do the edits to the show, trying to make us sound super sweet. Then, once the shows sounds right with the intros, edits, outros, and all that, Rob handles the upload and distribution. Some shows are topical, so we don’t have to plan much. Other shows, like interview shows, might have us do some light research for questions… but most shows are just us shooting the breeze.
IM: How do you land your guests? Any interesting stories on that front?
RF: I hound them. Ha ha. No, really I kinda hound them, but this is such a great medium with such great people who are like-minded in comics. They love what they do as much as we do, and I think that should always be shared with the world. Alvin Lee, for example, was such a great guest. I asked the guys who they wanted on the show, and the first name was Alvin Lee. I have a pretty awesome network of pros in the industry, so I reached out and connected with him. I was very persistent in getting him on the show. He was very cool and open to it. Jonboy Meyers also, just such a great guest. And they both liked our show, which is so very cool.
RF: Avid comic book, gaming and pop culture fans. Like-minded people who love the culture and have a great sense of humor. People just like us that enjoy the medium.
TDC: Our target audience is just like your magazine’s. Comic book fans. [Editor’s Note: While Indyfest Magazine features many comic creators, our target audience are indy creators and fans in all media.] Our goal is to just represent the fans in a show, because we’re the same people. We love hearing from other pros, just like regular fans. We like to fight about Batman versus Superman, just like regular fans. We just want to entertain fans of what we’re fans of and have fun doing it.
IM: How do you promote your activities?
TDC: A good bit of our promotion comes from five things: social media, our network, guest mentions, paid traffic, and live events. Everything that’s not live is a more hands-on approach, where we’re using inbound attention to increase our reach. Whether it’s a post, an ad, or a shout-out, it all helps to increase the fan base. As for the live events, that has helped us a lot. Doing panels at conventions, workshops, and live shows, has taken our voices and added faces, so people are starting to know who we are first, then become listening fans.
IM: Has this been the case from the start, or were there other methods that you’ve tried and since moved away from?
RF: It initially started as word of mouth. We then started expanding the brand through social media, and I would network to my colleagues, who were great to take time out to be a part of the show. The entire process was a true trial and error, and has evolved into such a great product. MUST HEAR RADIO!
TDC: Everything we’ve done has been a progression. One thing has led to another, and we just try to find our sweet spots as we experiment. I don’t think we’ve done something yet that hasn’t worked in some way. We have the good fortune of marketing as a strong suit for what we do as a team.
IM: What advice would you give to someone just starting out, either in comics, in podcasting, or both?
RF: Be patient. Let success come to you. Rome was not built in a day. In comics, as in podcasting, dedication to your art form is key. You have to live what you do as much as you love what you do. No quitting. As a great guest said, “Comics as an industry is not a sprint, but a marathon.” And let it be about the journey, not the destination. Work hard. Perfect your craft. Network. Don’t be fearful of criticism, it’s there to make you better. Have a voice and have fun!
TDC: Do something fun, so when you hit the hard points on your journey, you can use the fun bank and withdraw some good vibes to get you through. Also, do what you can handle. Find people willing to help you along the way. People love being a part of cool things.
RS: Do what you love and keep a clear vision of what you want to do and how you want to do it. Do not be afraid to ask for help along the way. Times are different from when we were growing up. There are a lot more resources now to help you in whatever you are trying to do. Fill your life and surround yourself with positivity, even during rough moments. Keep the big picture in sight and remember that it is worth it.
IM: What does the rest of 2016 (and beyond) have in store for you?
RF: More shows, more guests, more events, more cons, more fun, more CREW and Fret, more craziness. More! More! More!
TDC: More shows, definitely. lol. Also, more training from us on creating and getting into comics, podcasting, and stuff like that. More fun stuff.
RS: More shows and a lot more guests. We have been blessed with the amazing guest list we’ve had on the show, and there are more guests to come and more great content. We will also be releasing more issues and a graphic novel this year. We have a few things coming down the pike.
IM: Finally, how can folks keep up with you online?
TDC: The best is www.whoisraytimandrob.com, for our Ultimate RTR Bundle with Sketchbook, Artwork, and Preview Comic Book + Podcast Updates. That leads to everything we do, which is all about fun.
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