Interview with the voice of 1-800-The General and Thundermace co-creator RICK SELLERS
Yesterday, we interviewed RAK Graphics, Robert Kraus. Today we will meet Rick Sellers and then tomorrow, Aaron Archer, as we look at the unexpected turns creativity can take! Both Rick and Aaron have worked with RAK Graphics and their stories come together in interesting ways!
Much like Robert Kraus whose creative activities are seen in comics, pulps, card art, video games, and other fun, Rick Sellers isn’t someone who will be contained by one activity. I am fascinated at how comics can be an important part of someone’s job, even if it’s not directly in the comic industry. Rick comics adventures started co-creating a comic called Thundermace with Robert Kraus. They quickly expanded out as we will soon read!
I own a copy of Thundermace #1. It happens to feature your art and my copy even is signed by you. I’m curious about what led up to your co-creation and working on Thundermace with Robert Kraus.
Bob Kraus and I met around 1979 at a local Comic book convention. We each had entered the convention ART CONTEST. Bob won in his category and me in mine. We became fast friends as we shared mutual interests in comics, art, and storytelling. We began working together on various projects artistically.
Bob formed RAK GRAPHICS, and when the independent black and white comics emerged onto the comics scene, we began developing our first real comic collaboration, Thundermace #1. And thank you, Joeseph, for supporting us. I understand you have a signed copy of the first issue of Thumdermace.
You’re welcome. Thundermace is an interesting fantasy comic with a different look and story!
RAK Graphics is part of the early history of indie comics in NorthEast Ohio. Within a scant few years, the Black and White Explosion would happen and other creators from North East Ohio would start to create. Ryan Brown would publish Rion 2099, Dan Berger would publish Pumpkinhead, Tom Zbaba with Dan Berger and other artists like Phil Fried would publish Colt the Armadillo. A decade prior Harvey Pekar and his guests including Clevelander Gary Dumm would bring attention to the area (who continues to bring innovation to the comic industry!). There are many more, of course, people from this area who contributed to the early part of indie comics but involving people who I personally know and immediately come to mind.
Usually, when “In the moment”, people don’t realize the impact of their creative work. In reflection, what are your thoughts given you were part of the early history of indie comics in NorthEast Ohio?
The black and white comics explosion of the late 1980s was a creative storm! So many incredibly talented comic book creators were in the Cleveland area, both writers and artists. This was a time of wild speculation as collectors were buying up every title, they could get their hands on. The market was just going crazy. But within just a very few years it had reached a saturation point. The glut of titles and proliferation of books caused in part at least, the death of independent books on a national level. Publishers and comic shops weren’t interested in the titles at that point. Speculators were dumping books and comics in general just languished on the shelves.
Creatively all the talent you mentioned were producing some extraordinary content. Northeast Ohio is a hot spot for artists. Today it’s a thriving community. I shared studio space with 5 very creative artists from 1992 till 2003. These cats are friends as well as being both successful artists and creators.
Artists such as James Groman (Who sculpted Bob Kraus’s Chakan the Forever Man action figure, and DC collectibles Beware the Batbeast figures, to name a few. James is the total package, writer, sculptor, artist, teacher. The other studio mates were as follows James Elliott, Jim Wampler, and Jim Mravec all super talented artists.)
While Robert kept RAK going, you branched off from art into voice acting. What led you to voice acting?
During the early 1990’s I was itching to get into voice acting. A difficult field to break into, especially in the Cleveland market. I recorded my first character demo in 1989, my dad paid for it. I sent that cassette tape demo out to local advertising agencies and began getting calls for local voiceover work.
I started voicing ads for Car dealerships, Pizza places, Pawnshops, sports teams. In 1997 I had just finished my first commercial voice demo. I’d sent it to Saifman & Richards Associates in Beachwood Ohio.
They immediately called me in to audition for a new campaign for A1 General. That evolved into The General Insurance Company. I got the gig!
For nearly 20 years I’ve been the voice of The General. I began working with an audio engineer, musician and producer Wes McCraw in 1999 under contract with American Greetings to produce a web-based, a weekly audio show called “Celebrity Science Fiction Theater “ I would write, direct, voice and produce the show with Wes as my engineer.
Together we learned to create sound effects, music, add foley and record and edit audio. We followed that with a series of children’s read-a-long audiobooks “Know it all’s for Learning Horizons. We recorded and produced some 50 audiobook titles.
Today we produce audio for national television and radio commercials, character voices, music, and sound effects for toys, video, games, novelty items and more. I also represent voice actors. My website is RichardSellers.com
The story of RAK, an indie company from Akron making video game licensing deals to still publishing decades later is inspiring. Your story is similar to voice acting. Your voice is on TV, radio, audiobooks, toys, audio cards and more. You have expanded to include representing other voice actors. And you’re doing this from Cleveland, Ohio!
What is the story behind this accomplishment? Instead of a business hub like New York or L.A.?
It was a challenge pre-internet to produce work from the Cleveland area rather than NY or California. Today it no longer matters. The internet has changed the business model. With today’s technology, we can work from anywhere.
(For readers, I met Rick many years ago. My day job is as a graphic designer at A to Z Audio Services, Inc. (a music manufacturer). We manufactured 3 audiobooks for Rick. I also am an author who recently released an audiobook of short stories.)
In addition to the surge in audiobook these days, I’ve seen a number of voice actors getting demos at A to Z Audio. I’m curious what advice you might have for voice talent trying to get into the industry and authors looking for them.
For those of you interested in getting into the world of voice over, contact me. I can provide a heads up on how I did it, and you can too. We produce voice over demos for talent all over the globe. Our website for demos is www.premodemos.com There you’ll find demos we’ve produced for other voice actors, information on prices, how we work and additional contact info. Reach out, we’re happy to help.
American Greetings? That is a name that keeps coming up! My Aunt Lois worked and retired from there. Pat Sandy, who does design for Austin Walkin’ Kane, a well known Blues performer and a client at my day job, works at AG. An ex-girlfriend of mine was a merchandiser for AG, and Valerie Totire, who used to work there, did the art for one of my first published projects. She also did an animated sequence for Robert C Bank’s documentary Can’t Get A Piece of Mind, a film I appear in. Aaron Archer, who I am also interviewing, also worked for American Greetings. Wes McCraw also worked for AG. Were you an official employee, or working in conjunction with AG?
American Greetings world headquarters are in Westlake Oh. AG is an American, privately owned company. They create multimedia content as well as traditional printed greeting cards. They employ more creatives, artists, writers, composers, and musicians than any other Ohio corporations. Literally, thousands of talents are under their roof.
I’ve freelanced first them since 1988. I was not an employee but often worked in-house for them. Wes McCraw and I have both done extensive work for the American Greetings, interactive division. I still voice tons of audio greeting cards and online interactive animated e-cards for them, as well as cast other voice actors and singers for various AG audio products.
James, James, Jim, and Jim…You were the odd name out! An interesting collection of roommates!
James Groman did the Buce and Gar comic for RAK. He also worked on the development of Care Bears, Madballs and other American Greetings properties and sculpting/prototyping products based on Star Wars, Harry Potter, Godzilla, Universal Monsters, and Marvel, DC characters for Kenner, Hasbro and a lot of other companies.
Jim Wampler is behind Mudpuppy Games, as well as the creator of Mutant Crawl Classics RPG for Goodman Games and managing partner for Frog God Games.
James Mravec worked at AG, Catalyst Game Labs, Game Designs Workshop, RAK (artist for Dragon of the Valkyr), Shadis Magazine as a small selection of credits.
It’s true, I was the odd man in the name department when the five Jim’s and I shared studio space. I began my career as a commercial artist. I worked with all those super talented guys for 12 years. As to succeeding and working from Northeast Ohio. You bloom where you’re planted. These guys were all friends. We either went to high school together or gravitated to one another in our 20s. I believe Jim Mravec and Jim Groman are both teaching at Universities. In addition to being working creators and freelancers.
This is one of the cool things about this series of interviews I’m doing. Through RAK Graphics and American Greetings, a lot of creative careers were launched, all from midwestern towns. Aside from being from the area in question, I find this fascinating.
I find it inspiring that a group of creators like yourself, Robert, and others we both have mentioned and others unmentioned were able to succeed in the way they did coming from North East Ohio. What about North East Ohio made it easier for you to create or get noticed? Is there a creative company like AG that cool stuff is happening in North East Ohio that might be the next proving ground of talent?
It’s not the geographical location that breeds success, it’s simply drive, talent and some luck. I’m sure there are all manner of start-up companies in the NEO area where the young artist and others are honing their skills. The Internet and technology have opened up the world for like-minded creatives. Many talented guys came through both American Greetings, Kenner, formerly a southern Ohio company, and of course RAK Graphics. The gentlemen you mentioned above were all friends of mine, to this day. Jim Groman and I have lunch together on a weekly basis to stay in touch and cheer each other on. Creatives inspiring creatives is a win-win formula.
Thank you, Rick! It is fascinating to see the great talent that exists within our area. As an aside to the readers, support your local creative talents. In comics, music, art and other media! There is amazing talent in every town and trust me, it makes it harder for everyone involved if the people who live in their home town ignore what makes their area great!
And don’t forget to check out RichardSellers.com
Remember tomorrow is the third part of our three-part interview with Hasbro legend, action figure designer and artist, Aaron Archer! Take a look at the first part of our interview with Robert Kraus.
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