Look, I know his name is Eric July but did he have to wait until I was in the middle of my birthday break to drop THE BIGGEST NEWS IN INDIE COMICS SINCE TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES?
Yes, while I was taking time off to recharge, get some behind-the-scenes things done, and do some personal stuff Eric July, known online as “Youngrippa59“, was launching a project he had been teasing for a while now, his own comic publishing company and universe. I wanted to see what he would actually do, just in case this ended up another American Original project (anyone remember them, because they seemed to disappear after their title announcement?) where things were announced but fell through. Starting a new company isn’t easy or more people would do it.
Well, he did it. Rippaverse is the name he went with, inspired by his screen and musician name. Why not Rippa Comics? I don’t know. It’s not a bad name and the logo’s okay. What’s more important is he is delivering on what he promised. His first book is the graphic novel Isom, the introduction to this new universe. And it was not done through crowdfunding or getting investors or the mighty power of his amazing beard. Between this and his usual political commentary there are detractors (Reddit won’t even allow discussion of it despite being a black man starting his own company and with a black superhero as the core hero) but let’s look at what he’s done so far and what he has said he wants to do and judge things properly through a mostly unbiased lens. You know, like a good critic.
It should be noted again that this is not crowdfunded, not in the Indiegogo sense anyway. July, who has made a lot of money through his music career, appearances on news commentary channel The Blaze, and his own YouTube channels (I’ve seen some of his livestreams, For Canon Sake, and I’ve seen superchat battles between some of his fans…like $50 superchat battles), paid to start this company himself. It’s not crowdfunded when you buy the warehouse, pay the creators and lawyers, pay to have the website put together, pay for initial merchandise–all out of your own pocket. The campaign for Isom #1, which I’ll get to in a moment, did have a goal, which was mostly recouping what he spent, and ended up bursting past the $100,000 goal to $1 million dollars before 24 hours went by and as of this writing stands at over $3 million. There were covers and merchandise exclusive to the initial launch but now he just has the standard cover and various bits of merchandise available for purchase. These aren’t reward tiers, these are things to buy. That’s not crowdfunding, that’s buying stuff.
In addition July has set up a “Code Of Ethics” for his company, born out of complaints with the comic industry he has had on his show. Agree with him or not, I’m putting what he’s said up to what is in the Code mixed with my own issues. While he has complained about the sociopolitically-driven decisions in the past that isn’t his only stated problem. Not only can I relate but the reason I don’t harp on “SJWs” and such on this site is that the political pandering and preaching are a symptom of a larger problem in the industry that allowed ideologues to overtake storytellers.
RESPECT THE CUSTOMER
We want you invested in this brand and everything that comes from it. Rippaverse Comics is not entitled to your money and we must earn your support. It’s on us as the creators to produce something that you find of value and can remain invested in. It’s impossible to please everybody, but we hope there’s a book or character that you look forward to keeping up with. The success of this company will be largely dictated by our ability to keep the customers interested and satisfied. We are NOT oblivious to this. Respect goes both ways and we will honor our side of deal.
A name alone will not guarantee sales, especially given how DC and Marvel seem to almost hate the fact that they’re comics, the low rung on the media pecking order just above video games and YouTube in the minds of Hollywood. That means they have a lesser sense of self-worth than I do. That’s not healthy. Meanwhile the creators they bring in supposedly will draw in a new fanbase by pandering to this or that group who demand changes to a medium they have no interest in (media snobs that they are), or bring in novelists who don’t understand how comics tell a story versus prose stories like novels. These writers seem to hate any form of criticism, trying to write it off as bigotry of one sort of another while showing no interest in the characters they’re now part of. (Check Dannphan’s read-throughs of DC’s Young Adult graphic novels sometime.) They seem to be replacing the classic heroes whenever possible, either for pandering reasons, not having enough faith in their own characters to do what July is doing with Isom and the rest of the Rippaverse, or I’m still convinced they’re using certain groups to get out of paying the Siegel & Shuster estates on Superman by getting rid of Clark in favor of one they can control and not pay royalties on through his gay son. (They say “bisexual” but once they go bi you rarely see them date someone of the opposite gender.) LGBT community, DC is using you to screw over the estates of Superman’s creators, and their history with the creators themselves was already problematic. Stop being played!
These are not people who will read comics, continuing to buy into the stigma that they’re for kids or not as “important” as novels or live-action movies. They’ll cheer on the Black Panther movie as the first all-black cast superhero movie (Robert Townsend has a theatrical and Disney Channel TV movie that both say hello) but won’t pick up the comics, known nothing of his origin in the Fantastic Four comics, thus everything about the character was created by two Jewish men, and wouldn’t know about all his cartoon appearances prior to the movie. They also don’t want to replace T’Challa after Chadwick Boseman’s passing because they don’t care about the character’s long history and only see Boseman, despite his family even noting how dumb that is. However, people who have never read comics before have posted in various spots that Isom #1 is the first comic they’ve bought ever if not in years. While some of this can be attributed to his existing fanbase between YouTube and The Blaze, or even his work in the band BackWordz, which is totally not my kind of music, the fact is he is bringing in people who even if coming just for him may see the potential in comics as a storytelling media format that is lost on anyone else. So far DC and Marvel, by abandoning canon and not living up to what comics do best, has done the opposite by chasing off longtime readers and not really replacing them by winning over the media snobs. They tossed away favorite characters or turn them evil so we’ll love the “new version” more so THEY’LL get the movies for nothing.
Canon And Continuity
Our aspirations extend far beyond having a couple of characters or series. A vast universe that is ever-expanding is what we hope to accomplish. This is something that has long been intriguing about modern American comic books, but it has become a lost art. The Rippaverse will fill this void. This means that every single book you buy will always matter. If Retcons are to exist, they will only be used in the classic sense of introducing new information. We want every book that you buy to always matter. Those stories HAPPENED. There will be no lazy time travel to change histories or events. There will be no cheap multiverses that have altered versions of the same character. If you own a book, you own a part of the history and it’s our mission to keep it this way.
This concept will remain true regardless of the medium. Should the characters appear in officialized animation or live action, the depictions need to be as accurate to the characters as realistically possible. Your favorite characters will always be recognizable.
No “Omniverse” here, no Thanos clones or Doombots to cover up mistakes. One of July’s complaints have been characters not acting the same way they have in the past either because the writer is getting preachy or because the new creator has a “better idea”, whether its directors like Todd Philips or the ever-retconning Geoff Johns. Neither of those are even political, it’s just changing the tone and personalities to suit what they want to tell rather than save those ideas for characters those ideas work for or doing an original story. If Mike Norton can do a webcomic on the side, why not some of these guys? What July here seems to be saying, and correct me if I’m wrong, is that the retcon bomb won’t be dropped for “better ideas”, shock value, or pulling a Nick Fury and making you hate the classic version in favor of the new version to match the movies, who based their Fury on Samuel L. Jackson because for some reason Marvel movies love to borrow from the Ultimate Universe and Jackson is a name that gets butts in seats.
July seems to be advocating what I call “multiversal continuity” when it comes to later adaptations. While things change between mediums for both good and bad reason, there are certain core concepts that mark something as being that character, not only in the design but in the personalities and settings that drew fans in to begin with. Obviously we don’t know what Isom’s personality is yet but it should be consistent as should his costume. There is leeway for change. None of the Superman movies adapted actual stories outside of some of the animated direct to video movies, but I know Superman when I see him, or don’t see him in some cases.
A Comprehensive Timeline
Because we value canon and continuity, it’s important that you’re able to follow the timeline as these characters grow. This will especially be helpful for those of you that become customers years after our founding. With that being said, we promise to try to keep reboots to a minimum. If this means that a series is on its 100th issue or volume, so be it. But this isn’t a reason to feel overwhelmed. Not only will there be plenty of opportunities to purchase anthologies that combine key stories, there will also be an available OFFICIAL chronological timeline that is constantly updated by our company. Not every story will be told in chronological order, so we’ll always make it as easy as possible to keep up as the universe grows.
When what’s become the DC and Marvel universe began there was no real continuity. That didn’t begin until arguably the Bronze Age of comics. July has the advantage of starting from scratch, and currently he’s the only author, the Stan Lee of Rippaverse if you will. That means he’s forming the history and current events of this continuity and thus can make a definitive timeline that later writers he hires will have to stick to. Of course that means avoiding the “better idea” writers that have ruined Donna Troy or Hawkman ever having a true history and if a character was destined to turn against the heroes at some point (or even the villains) hopefully that will be better set up than “let’s pick a random minor character and have that one turn evil”. Creating your history from the ground up means avoiding the mistakes that lead to minor and major multiversal reboots at DC and confusion at Marvel because nobody keeps track of a character’s history (and apparently nobody can read a fan wiki).
Do I have concerns going into this? Of course I do. It’s his first comic, but he has shown a willingness to push through these learning moments. When the site was overtaxed and glitches occurred he and his team, during one of his livestreams, took complaints and worked to solve the problem, even adding more copies of the two incentive covers as an apology. The book isn’t out yet so of course we don’t know what he needs to do to improve his writing, but hopefully he’ll listen (unlike a lot of the bigger name writers) and find a way to tell his story while still placating as many of the fans as he can. (We’ve talked about that balance before.) His first interest is to the fans but will that include the fanshipping community? Given some of the “relationships” they endorse I kind of hope not.
One early question on at least one podcast I listen to was the origin of the name Isom, the former superhero identity of Avery Silverman. (Check the trailer above or campaign page for the full story.) After digging through a series of acronyms unrelated to his powers or location I did find this on Ancestry.Com: “English (Essex): Habitational Name From Isham In Northamptonshire. The Placename Is Derived From The River Name Ise (Of Celtic Origin) + Old English Hām ‘Homestead’”. A few other sites would translate it as “Homestead on the Ise”. Silverman is located in Texas, July’s home state (my big series idea would be set in Connecticut…write where you know) and he gave up the superhero life to be a rancher so that’s the best connection I have. Otherwise it’s not a superhero name that really ties into the power set or personality/fighting style.
The same can be said for Yaira. Like Isom as a surname, Yaira is an actual first name, meaning “to illuminate” or “one who enlightens”, which I guess means she either has light-based powers or is on a mission to expose “the truth” on whatever, possibly whatever Avery’s friend is up to. They’re unusual names, at least in the US, but they’re still names, not necessarily superhero titles. Oddly she’s been the early breakout, possibly because she’s drawn like a muscular woman instead of more masculine features because artist Cliff Richards may have actually looked up what muscular women look like. (Also shout out to colorist Gabe Eltaeb. Together they make pretty pictures. :D) Or the fact that she’s a hot blond. At Anime Matsura last weekend July came across two cosplayers as Yaira and we haven’t even seen her in action. People just really like the costume, so don’t forget the importance of a good costume. It’s the only reason Boba Fett has fans. Fan art of both characters are also rampant. People are more excited for this than any new property I’ve seen, my guess being not only his large fan base but he’s starting his own proper company instead of just crowdfunding a single issue and he’s doing it by going against the established way of doing things.
The big concern is sadly one that Rippaverse and other indie comics working through the internet can’t solve, and I want to talk about that more before the week is out. That would be getting the casual readers who haven’t heard of the comic to learn about it. Comics started off as a cheap read you picked up on the newsstand to go along with the daily paper, an extension of the comics page, or as a way to kill time. In the years that followed, especially in the Bronze Age, a form of semi-serialized storytelling came about. You had the main story for maybe an issue or two, and then a sub-plot through the series as these events affected characters’ lives (or deaths) and vice versa. Isom #1 is a graphic novel, not a short read and not an impulse buy at $35.00 current price. You already have to be a comic fan or a fan of Rippa and wanting to see him succeed to get this book.
On the other hand, given that these aren’t going to be on store shelves and spinner racks, seeing as comics only get sold at comic stores and the occasional book store now, there’s not much he can do about that even if he wanted to do a monthly or bi-monthly series. Take two examples from my favorite webcomics, the completed Star Power and the ongoing Runners, both comics I’ve talked about here. In both cases the creators started with single issue periodicals, though with story arcs, and found that it was hard to sell in that form, and so switched to graphic novels for the print version. It was born from necessity, though in Star Power‘s case they sold the single issues as digital downloads, which is a good way to scratch that itch I guess. I’m considering it if I ever get a long-running series. In other words it’s more economical and easier for July to sell a graphic novel, but at least it will be an original graphic novel instead of a padded-out trade.
If my current financial situation (or lack thereof) allowed I would be among the people getting one of these books. I am looking forward to the reviews, to see how he did and what he needs to improve both in terms of story and delivery of the products. Nobody starts out the best but July and his people seem dedicated to bring good apolitical superhero stories that are just fun. I wish him much success and will be looking to see how he does.