Raymond Leonard is one of the hardest working comic book creators/artists I know. In addition to working a full-time job, Ray comes home and works on his comic book pages and anything else that needs to get done for his self-publishing company, Diverse Comics. From time to time, Ray will have a live stream of him working on a comic book page, other times he’ll be working on a commission or doing warm-up sketches before he gets to the main project he’s working on. Raymond is on his drawing board whenever he has the chance, and he inspires people to work hard on their projects, and to never give up on your dreams.
I remember becoming friends with Raymond on social media back in 2011, but we didn’t communicate much. Throughout the years, not only have I seen him improve with his artwork, but he believes in the success of his characters, his universe, and he makes sure his projects see completion before offering them to the public. During the launch of his first Kickstarter for “Agent Solo,” that’s when Ray and I started to communicate more, specifically because I reviewed that book (you can read it HERE), and I did a “package reveal” also (read it HERE).
Raymond is set to offer his second Agent Solo mini-series in February of 2019. I was honored when he asked me if I’d like to interview him, as this is the first time I’ve interviewed anyone for Anything Geek Culture. Below are the questions (in green with “AGC” to represent Anything Geek Culture), and Raymond‘s answers are in gold with “RL,” his initials. But first, let me tell you how big this next project is going to be, Raymond went out of his way to have a theme song for Agent Solo! Listen to it by clicking on the graphic below (or click HERE to listen to it in a separate window/tab)! Enjoy the theme song and let’s get on with the interview…
AGC: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Other than reading comics, collecting them, and creating/illustrating/publishing your own independently owned characters, what else do you like to do in your free time (sports, movies, etc.)?
RL: I’m a huge sports fan. When I say fan, I love everything sports related…college sports, NFL, NHL, NBA and MLB. I’m a die hard Green Bay Packers fan, Chicago White Sox, Chicago BlackHawks, Chicago Bulls, Duke (basketball), and Notre Dame (football). And I can’t forget wrestling…I love me some wrestling! WWE, New Japan Wrestling, Ring of Honor…I can’t wait for the AEW /Impact wrestling, the new merge, that’s going to be interesting.
There’s so many good shows and movies to name them all, especially comic related films, but when i’m not busy, I try to fit them in my schedule. I’m loving the DC Titans web series on the DC Universe streaming service, Black Lightning, Daredevil, Luke Cage, The Punisher, and The Flash. What I do is binge watch one show at a time when I have the time, but over all it’s a great year that we are getting these shows and movies.
AGC: Was there anyone who got you into comic books, or did you get into them yourself?
RL: I got into comics because of my Uncle Erskin, who was a huge collector. What I used to do was wait ’til he would leave and sneak in his room and read his comics…but I ended up getting caught red handed reading “Incredible Hulk #314,” by John Byrne, LOL!
AGC: If you can remember, what was the first comic book you read?
AGC: As an artist, was there someone who influenced you to draw, or did you pick up a pencil and realize that you have an amazing artistic ability?
RL: I was born with the talent but the influence came from watching my Uncle Erskin draw all the Marvel and DC heroes. I was just amazed on what he was doing, I wanted to be like my uncle, and it was a great feeling drawing beside him and learning the things he taught me to be better. After that I discovered Rob Liefeld by buying the 1988, 5-issue “Hawk and Dove” run by DC Comics. That’s when the Rob Liefeld influence in my art style came into form.
AGC: Are there any monthly titles that you’re currently reading?
RL: You know it’s just so many books out…it’s hard keeping up. But what I’m currently reading is Weapon H (Marvel), Spawn (Image), Fantastic Four (Marvel), Bitter Root (Image), Daredevil (Marvel), Shadow Land series (Marvel), All∗Star Batman (DC Comics), and The Silencer (DC Comics).
AGC: Who are some of your favorite comic book artists?
RL: Rob Liefeld.
AGC: Tell us about your first published works (and how can readers purchase those books)?
RL: You can get my first creator owned comic called “Guytron: Homecoming.” It’s a Kindle/trade collecting issues 1-3 which was published by M-Studios Comics on Amazon. Here’s the link: M-Studios Comics “Guytron: Home Coming Vol.1“. I also did a comic for Kensai Productions called “Black Arrow issue 4.” Here’s the link: Black Arrow #4.
AGC: When you work on your comic pages, what types of music do you listen to (bands, genres, etc.)?
RL: I like to mix up my playlist…lit’ bit of alternative rock, lit’ bit of heavy metal, lit’ bit of jazz and hip -hop. But best believe Metallica, Megadeth, Sound Garden, Slayer, 2pac, and Master P stay on repeat!
AGC: Agent Solo is the current project you’re working on. Where did the creation, the idea, for Agent Solo come from?
RL: The influence creating him came from growing up watching “The Six Million Dollar Man” TV show, James Bond, “Mission Impossible,” and Captain America comics. In grade school I always had this imagination being a super strong agent man, so I took everything I loved, mashed them together, and Agent Solo was created.
AGC: At the end of 2016, the first published Agent Solo project was crowdfunded on Kickstarter. What was that like? How long did it take to be fully funded?
RL: Oh man, that year of September 2016 was a nail biter…it was my first time ever doing a Kickstarter…I was nervous, couldn’t sleep…taking bathroom breaks at my job to see if I was getting new backers! To keep it short, it was funded in 5 days. I was totally shocked…the feeling was the best feeling ever, knowing I created a cool superhero, and people helped make my dream come true.
AGC: This first Agent Solo one-shot story titled “If I Had a Hammer,” received a perfect 5 out of 5 “Geek-Heads” score, here on Anything Geek Culture (the very first Anything Geek Culture “Gem“), how do positive (or even negative) reviews impact you with your creations?
RL: First I want to thank you guys for that awesome score. Feedback like that motivates me to keep doing better. Also, feedback whether it’s positive or negative, I listen to them all because my audience is my number one priority, to make sure they are getting their money’s worth when buying my comics. If they’re happy, I’m happy. All feedback motivates me to keep producing great comics.
AGC: For those who missed out on this Kickstarter, how can new readers purchase the one-shot of Agent Solo?
RL: They can get the Agent Solo one-shot directly from me, signed. [You can follow and message Raymond on Twitter by clicking HERE.]
AGC: The upcoming Agent Solo mini-series is going to be crowdfunded on Indiegogo, why the switch from Kickstarter? When will this campaign be launched?
RL: Ok, here is the question “why the switch…?” the first Agent Solo was a success but the problem with Kickstarter was misunderstanding, with backers thinking the money was already coming off their debit cards, but it wasn’t debited until funding met its goal. It was a nightmare for me because even though it was funded, majority of those backers didn’t have the funds in their account. So with using Indiegogo, it’s easy for backers to use their debit cards. The transaction comes right off, and the cool thing is if I don’t reach the full goal, I’m still able to use the funding I gained. Those backers are still able to get the book, which I think is a great option. The new Agent Solo series, which will start with issue #1, will launch on February 28, 2019.
AGC: Tell us about the next story arc of Agent Solo (writer, colorist, letterer, how many issues, bonus items, stretch goals, etc.) Also, are the issues near completion, or are they all finished?
RL: I’m so excited to tell you about the new Agent Solo series titled “City Under Siege,” it’s going to be a 3-issue mini-series. It’s written by Art Bellfield (Tainted Love, Wars Chosen) and Ernest Jocson is doing the inks and colors. I also got ace legend Kurt Hathaway as the letterer. Kurt has been meeting comics deadlines for more than 22 years as a letterer, editor, and writer. His client list includes all major publishers and he was nicknamed “The Comics Commando” for meeting tight deadlines on time, and trust me, his nick name proves why. And yes, all 3 issues are completed!
“Agent Solo: City Under Seige,” is about an international terrorist organization known as “Hazard,” lead by their leader, “General Relic,” who has threatened the world with it’s latest biological nuclear meltdown. Agent Solo (a super bionic agent, aka Jackson Brice), and the government peacekeepers known as “Globe Unit,” are tasked with stopping them. Meanwhile, the villainous “Menace Squad” have been unleashed, and are destroying the city of Agent Solo’s hometown of Chicago. Agent Solo must fight a war of two fronts while figuring out how it’s all connected.
AGC: Will the entire series be offered in the Indiegogo campaign, or are they going to be offered in several different campaigns throughout the year?
RL: My plan is to do each series differently during this year, starting with issue #1, then the last 2 issues will come after. I feel that my audience deserve to have cool awards when buying my comics.
AGC: In this diverse country, what is the message you want to get across from your main character, Agent Solo?
RL: Jackson Brice isn’t great because he’s Agent Solo…Agent Solo is great because he’s Jackson Brice. He’s a leader with an unwavering and unfailing moral compass as well as a symbol for what’s good and fair. His loyalty and integrity are rivaled by none…and refuses to give up no matter what, and always puts others first before himself. This is the true strength of Agent Solo. His unbreakable character, “an analogy for his unbreakable bionic body,” and his strong will. He’s a man who lives by a code. This is why he’s my favorite…he’s what I strive to be as a man.
AGC: Are there any new projects you’re working on (or creating) other than Agent Solo?
RL: Oh yes!! I’m currently working on my next creation called “Violet-Bird,” which will be Diverse Comics‘ first graphic novel. I’m reuniting with writer Darrell Goza, who wrote the amazing “If I Had a Hammer,” for the Agent Solo one-shot.
AGC: Will you be appearing at any comic book conventions this year (as an attendee or in your own booth)?
RL: This year i got my eyes set on L.A. Comic Con, formerly Comikaze Expo, in October…my fingers are crossed, hoping I get a table.
AGC: What can we expect from Diverse Comics in the future?
RL: Excitement with amazing art and awesome stories. As someone who loves reading comics, I genuinely missed the excitement going into a comic book store, and getting that comic that’s been getting advertised for months. That’s what i’m going to bring with Diverse Comics. I have so many awesome projects lined up and my audience is going to love it!
AGC: Any words of advice for creators who want to get into the indie comic book industry? Would you say it’s easier to get into now than it was before web comics or digital comics?
RL: You know, it’s actually easier now in creating comics and building an audience by using all social media networks, vs. back in the day, when you didn’t have computers and today’s technology. You no longer have to wait in a long line to show your portfolio or mail your work off in an envelope. Now you have email to send your work to editors, etc; you can search for an artist and writer by just being friends with someone on your social media friends list. You can post on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to get everyone to see your work and land a job by who ever is interested in your work. As for web comics, it was always there to build your audience. Now you’ve got Webtoons to step it up a notch. These platforms are there for anyone who wants to create a comic book, but it’s up to that aspiring creator to do the work.
AGC: Any final words for young artists who want to get into the comic book industry, whether they want to work for the “Big Two,” or go independent?
RL: If none of the traditional comic book companies seem interested in your art, you can always go the route of self-publishing. While it’s a long, hard road, self-publishing can be very artistically rewarding, and even lead to bigger and better things. The work is hard but you have to be dedicated in putting in the time and effort! Also, don’t be afraid to share your work on all social media networks. This is how you build your audience and honest feed back. Finally, create from the heart, not on thinking what people will like.
I will write an excerpt for Raymond‘s upcoming Indiegogo campaign next month, stay tuned for that! Also, consider backing the next Agent Solo project during the campaign, what Raymond’s doing for his publishing company is amazing! Like he stated, the books are well written, have amazing artwork, and you can see the time and dedication that is given to these books. Also, it’s nice to support these independent comic book companies. I started this website to review all-things comics and anything else that geek-culture related. I’ve noticed that my main focus has been on independent comics, but they’re so much fun to read, and seeing new characters (and reading their stories), is definitely refreshing!
I give out my biggest thanks to Raymond Leonard, for his time to answer my interview questions, for giving us Agent Solo, and for being a friend. If you ever see him at a convention, don’t be shy, say hello to him! He’s one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet, and his levels of inspiration are astronomical! He never gives up on his dreams, even through the hardships in life, Raymond just keeps on going and doing his work! I can’t wait to support the next Agent Solo projects, and to see this new character/series he’s got in store for us after Agent Solo, this aforementioned graphic novel for “Violet-Bird!” Stay tuned on Anything Geek Culture for more from Diverse Comics…
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