I had the privilege of sitting down and chatting with Eric July, founder and owner of The Rippaverse.
Blabbering Collector: When did you pick up your first comic book? What was it?
Eric July: Oh man, I can’t remember the actual year, but it was a Flash book. I was introduced by my mother. I had to have been, like, six. It was clear that I could run fast, and being introduced to a character that that was his power, you know? It was awesome. As a kid, I was 6, 7, 8, and 9, and I was burning through everyone else, so it always resonated with me. It was so intriguing to me that that was all that he did. Ironically, it was Wally that was our Flash during that era. I don’t know why I’m losing sight of the issue number, but yeah, it was a Flash book.
BC: So is that why comics are such a huge part of your life? Because you were fast and could resonate with the character?
EJ: Yeah, absolutely. That was the number one thing. When you’re young, you think that’s cool, a world where all these people have these cool abilities. You want to be in that world, even though you know you’re never going to be able to do it. But that is why it was so important to me. It became a fabric of my life at that point. I happened to come up at a time in my life where we were also getting really solid animation that was based off of comic book characters, going back to the mid to late 90s with the X-Men animated series, the Batman animated series, and all of that was just happening at the time. It was an awesome time, and all of it stuck with me. And, even though I didn’t always understand a lot of it as a kid, as I got older, the stories made more sense. You experience things; you gain more knowledge on that stuff from some of those arcs. That’s why it was so cool. That’s what we are trying to replicate with Rippaverse. I don’t want to write down to people; if you are a teenager, I want you to be able to grow up with the characters as you become an adult, and so on.
BC: When did you start to realize that the comic book industry was in trouble?
EJ: I started to realize it around the 2014 and 2015 era, where you had some of these goofy versions of these Marvel characters, and I was like, “What is this? What are they putting out?” It got more and more difficult for me to justify the spending. Like, Marvel had been putting out good movies, but their actual books were starting to fail. And, you know, not even a few years before that started, DC had just rebooted their universe with the New 52 stuff, which, to me, is the absolute worst era, and they tried to correct that mistake going into the DC Universe, Rebirth Era as well, and to me, it was just not good.
That accelerated into the later 2010s, but you can certainly see it in the mid-2010s. Even if you couldn’t put a word to it, people could see something was fundamentally wrong with this industry. And maybe the content, or the lack thereof, and the quality, maybe the behind-the-scenes, was how it started to manifest. But for sure, that was when I noticed something was wrong and started to publicly talk about it.
BC: When did you first come up with The Rippaverse?
EJ: Well, believe it or not, I didn’t believe I could create my own company. I had aspirations to do it, but I didn’t think I could do it until I was in my 40s. I just couldn’t realistically do it because if I was going to do it, it would have to be my way, and my way is extremely expensive, as I wanted to make it as independent as possible. I was like, “Look, man, I got an entire decade.” I knew for sure I was going to do it when I was, what, 29? Going into my 30s, I was like, “Yeah, the industry is in shambles.” We’ve built such a base in the last five years that it has put me in a financial situation to do this, so there was no better time than now. I went for it. It was a risk; I had a lot of money saved up. It was a risk. But it’s obviously paying off now. Again, I wanted to do this. I just didn’t think I could accomplish this until way down the line. I just could because of the amount of success and growth with the other things I was doing.
BC: So because of YouTube, Blaze, and your music, you were able to do this.
EJ: Bingo, yes. I saved up. I’m not a splurger. I didn’t spend my money on cars and stuff like that. Nah, I pocketed everything. I wanted to be in a comfortable situation, but I was also like, “I want to do something.” So I pocketed a lot of money, and I wasn’t going to touch the money. I know money can be enticing, where you can make thousands of dollars in a month on one platform or something. That can make someone think, “Oh, I can be everything I ever wanted,” I was like, “Nah, I know I need to invest it.”
BC: You kept your head on; very level-headed.
EJ: *nodding* Exactly.
BC: Can I ask your age? 33?
BC: 32? That’s awesome. That’s amazing; you thought you were going to do it in your 40s! If you could say something to your younger self now, what would you say?
BC: Can you tell me about the process of creating your company? Do you have any advice for others who want to start their own company?
EJ: Yeah, so my process is going to be very different for some people to replicate unless they have the startup cost. I want to be clear there: If you have the startup cost, you can take care of that,without being irrational, like getting loans and stuff. If you have a pool of money that you can start with, you can do a lot of things! My story is a little bit more unique because of the last decade. So if you look between 2010 and 2020, that was my decade of growth. I was born in 1990, so each decade perfectly aligns with the decade. It works perfectly. I accomplished so much. I was a track and field athlete, doing the collegiate stuff, joining the band Fire From The Gods; then, in the mid-2015s, creating my own band BackWordz, then the relationship with Blaze TV started to cultivate. And during that entire period, I was working extremely hard on my craft, being a better presenter for a lot of different things, reinvesting into myself and my equipment. And I spent all of that time pursuing my dreams, whether it be with music or the commentary space and all that. That gave me the startup cost. It can be a gift and a curse to have as many interests as I have. I’m like, “Yeah, I want to do everything.”
Not everyone is going to be able to do that. But even if you’re working a 9-5, and you’re pocketing that money, and you have the startup cost, you can make it happen. The startup cost for this was ideas. It all started with “I’m going to start a comic book company.” That’s easier said than done. So we started it, we started worldbuilding. I spent a long time on it. I have a universe bible; each character has their own entry where I’m just thinking about this to the point where I have all these characters fleshed out before I even write a story. So, as I get ready to start to write the story, I have to think, “Okay, who do I want to involve? What will be the process?” So, I’m thinking about that; I’m pitching. People remember that post that I put out saying, “This is going to happen.” I was looking for people doing interiors, artists, etc., etc.
And as those months start to go by and things start to come together, I could form this business plan because I needed a foundation. What you don’t want to do is have a rocky foundation and try to build on top of that. A lot of people think that it took me a long time to do this, but I disagree. To be able to start a company within, like, two years is pretty big.
BC: Yeah, that’s pretty fast, I’d say.
EJ: Pretty fast. Again, some disagree with that, and that’s fine. Either way, I worked on that foundation. I got everybody involved, lawyers, all of that, to make this happen and to make sense. I was surrounded by a professional team that know about the industry. We made it come to life.
If I do have advice for people, it would be to not skip the tedious stuff. The stuff that you think is like, “I don’t really want to do that.” If you don’t know something, pay someone you trust to give you that knowledge, but don’t move forward without actually establishing that foundation because you are going to run into errors later.
BC: Yes, costly errors.
BC: How did you come up with the Rippaverse symbol?
BC: How did you come up with your characters? What goes into the character-creating process?
EJ: I didn’t want to come up with some generic stuff that had already been done. What hasn’t been done? I can’t wait for people to learn about Isom, the origin of his powers, and all of that. I thought so long and hard. What can I say that I literally cannot go to anyone else for influence? What can it be? It was very difficult to do that because, in this period of time, people feel like everything has been done. So I was like, “Let me try for my starting characters, and we will develop those in the upcoming months and years.” But I started with that, giving those characters a uniqueness. Now, not everyone has powers, but especially those that do are not replicated from something else. I fleshed every one of them out. Our entries are so detailed; it has everything about them, who they are, where they are from, their real names, their alias, what kind of character relationship they have with others in the universe, etc. I worked with my sketch artists and concept artist to make sure that we have a look and design that resonated with it as well. But I developed everything before I ever wrote the first story. That took a lot of time and a lot of thought, and I’ve been blessed with this creativity that I have from God, and I wanted to use that to the best of my ability to come up with something that people will enjoy.
BC: So, when did you start the character process?
EJ: So, that was right after I had announced that I was going to start my company. It was like a little over a year. I set myself up [purposely]. Because now that I was publicly telling people I was making my own comic book company, I actually have to do it. It was a way for me to hold myself to the standard; I couldn’t just write that stuff off. As soon as I got that stuff going and got the foundational stuff rolling, that was one of the first stages – to develop the characters. Even if it isn’t introduced in the first book, just develop it.
BC: What makes a good hero, villain, and supporting character?
BC: So, you said you have a whole bible for your characters. Do you know where your characters are going to end up?
EJ: I have an idea. I have a short and long-term idea of where I want it to go. But I learned very quickly that, and I knew this going forward… Look, I’ve been there as a musician. I’ve thought that a certain song, for example, was going to be big, and it only did okay. There were certain songs that I thought were okay, but it’s not going to be a hit – yet it was! You know what I mean? I am open to pivoting on certain things, depending on how the audience and customers respond. For example, we introduced Isom; he’s the main character. Yet the character I think I’ve been asked about the most is Yaira. That tells me that so many people are interested in her, we have to further develop her character. My job is to certainly deliver what the customer wants. Yeah, I want the artistic freedom, and I should have that, but in the same respect, if it can make sense, I will be polling my audience a lot. I want that level of transparency and communication. Because if there is something the audience wants more of, and my plan was to stick that character on the side, well, I can’t do that because they want the character. So I have to see if I can provide that realistically. Yeah, we have ideas of where they are going, but I leave it open to pivoting because a character may be in more or less demand, and I kind of have to represent that.
BC: So, would you say you have some alternate endings for certain characters?
EJ: Yeah, I have some developments on where I think a character is going to land, but I’ve also thought out [based on] where we go with this event, or the audience thinks we should take this, well, it could be pivoted on. Yeah, there is a character in this world, and its arc has to happen. Otherwise, it just doesn’t make sense. Of course, those stories are going to be told within it. But you never know where I am going to take it, but getting that audience feedback is so impactful to me. I can’t please everyone, and some people aren’t going to like every single story, but if there is something in high demand, and I do a poll where 90% of the people say “this,” it’s probably conducive for me to entertain that, you know what I mean? Even if it isn’t to the T of what they want, I can at least entertain that because ultimately, yeah, this is about creative freedom, but this is also about the customer and the business that we are trying to run, and it will never get to corporate. We can have the geek stuff and the fandom stuff surrounding it, which, to me, is the most exciting bit. People are already throwing out fan theories and all kinds of stuff! I’m like, “Hell yeah!” I love to see that. I want to keep people guessing and keep them on their toes, but if it’s something as simple as putting in a character with a couple of pages, and people like it and want to know more about that character, then maybe it is time to introduce them in a different way to really satisfy those customers.
BC: So… you’re basically the opposite of what Marvel and DC are doing, because they are basically saying, “Screw the customer,” and you’re like, “I’m for the customer!”
EJ: Exactly. 100%.
BC: What is the appeal of comics as a medium?
BC: What’s more important, writing or art? Can either one ever compensate for deficiencies in the other?
EJ: Absolutely, for the latter, yes. But I think one can elevate the other, as well as a lot of people who are willing to allow leeway with something that has a good story. However, don’t get me wrong; comics are a visual medium. But if I had to pick between the two, I’m always picking the story over the art. That doesn’t mean the art should be subpar. For me, I have industry veterans to work on this, and [they] are very talented and have been around forever. We made a book that looks incredible. I don’t think you have to sacrifice one for the other, either. I don’t think anyone should ever do that, especially if you have aspirations to be in this industry. If you can make it the best in the business and you can afford it, make it happen! But, to me, the story is just so important. It doesn’t mean anything if the panels look cool, but the story is dog crap. Nothing makes sense and is discombobulated. I think you can say the same for vice versa: terrible art, but the story is incredible. But they for sure can elevate each other.
BC: You shouldn’t choose.
EJ: You shouldn’t choose. Do both of them if you absolutely can.
BC: Changing gears a little bit, do you like to collect anything besides comic books? If so, do you have a focus? And you can’t say hats!
EJ: If I can’t say hats, that’s about it, then! Believe it or not, no. The books have been my one. I guess that is why it is so important to me, because it has been my one collector’s medium. I know everyone has their own thing and hobby; this has been mine. With Rippaverse, we embraced a lot of collector’s elements. We only print a limited run; if you missed out, you missed out! You know you got a piece of history with it. The collector’s element is a cool thing about this medium. You can embrace the art, the stories, the collector’s element. You don’t have to sacrifice any element. That is why I’m so passionate.
BC: So for me, my name is “Blabbering Collector” because I do collect Harry Potter. I’m a massive fan.
EJ: *Chuckles* Nice, nice.
BC: Do you like Harry Potter?
EJ: I’m not the biggest fan, not because I hate it or anything, but because I just never got into it!
BC: That’s fair. I’m not going to judge you for that, no worries.
EJ: *More chuckling*
BC: Do you think DC and Marvel can be saved? If so, how?
BC: How do you keep your private life private?
EJ: Ah, man, it is certainly important to have that. I know transparency has been big for me, and people have gotten a glimpse into my life because of my page, whether it be on social media, YouTube, or whatever. It has been just me living my life publicly, for the most part. But the private stuff is important. Thankfully, I am able to be in a position where people know my wife and who she is and stuff like that. And we certainly keep things close to the chest, but it makes it easier that my wife is a part of it. You see her on things like Geeks + Gamers MarioKart on Sunday nights.
BC: Yeah, she’s good. She whoops ass!
EJ: Yeah, she gets on with me, and I bring her on publicly with some projects. Like for the Friday Night Tights meetup in Texas, she came with me. And to have her be a part of this entire process makes it a lot easier for our private life to be private. There are no secrets; we are able to keep things that should be out of the public eye private. When it’s time to wind down and not let people know what we are up to, it’s way easier to do that because she already knows! Everyone in my private life already knows what’s going on with this space.
BC: Have you slept in the last few years?
EJ: Probably not. I’m running on fumes, but somehow we still get it going! I’m a workhorse, man. You don’t get to where I’m at without being one. Some people will be like, “You’re wasting away your young years,” but I don’t see that at all. The fact that I am able-bodied, that I am young, [means this] is the time to do that. I can coast when I’m older, but right now, whilst younger, I’m in my prime and have the energy. I’m a legitimate workhorse. People see that. I put out these videos, then people see me on The Blaze, then [I’m] touring with [my] band. I do all that because I’m nonstop. But, more importantly, it’s easier to do all that when you love what you’re doing. I’m in a blessed position, even with the comic books; yeah, even though there are some tedious processes and there are some things you would rather not do, for the most part, I love even the tedious stuff. I was at the warehouse the other day, and I’m already putting stuff on the shelves, and some people are like, “Man, I don’t want to do that.” But I’m excited for it. I’m going to be packing orders too! I want to be a part of that process. I love this. I love what I do. And oftentimes, my work doesn’t feel like work. There is the old saying, “Love what you do, and you’ll never work a day in your life.”
BC: So, would you say you have a very strict schedule? Put the phone down; time to work? Do you go to bed on a schedule, or is it all over the place?
EJ: It can be jacked up sometimes, for sure! But I do make sure to get my rest in that pocket of time that I know I need to get it. I don’t waste a lot of time. There is hardly any downtime. I don’t twiddle my thumbs. Even for entertainment, my entertainment is always played in the background whilst I’m working. Ironically enough, the people I watch for entertainment are in our space, like Az, Nerdrotic, etc. I got them on my third monitor. My wife will speak to this; there are some times when I’m meeting with family or something, and I’m like, “Oh, man, I’m missing out on work.” And that’s hard sometimes because I’m like, “Work, work, work.” I move from one thing to another, and I just keep going.
BC: So, because of that Twitter tweet I posted the other day, I witnessed some of the hatred that you receive. Do you find it a challenge to ignore the negativity from social media? How do you block it out?
BC: It’s Wednesday, the 13th. How do you feel about the Rippaverse after two days of sales?
EJ: It’s hard to put in words, man. I just didn’t anticipate it. I knew it was going to be special. I knew that there was going to be a lot that we accomplish and daydream about how much money we make. I remember thinking, “What if we made a million dollars? We have the chance to do something special.” Gary from Nerdrotic would tell me, “You got those 10,000 copies that you are going to put up for sale; that isn’t going to work.” And I would be like, “I think it is going to be okay.” And Gary said, “Dude, whatever you think this is going to do, it is going to do way more!”
I did not account for making a million dollars in a day. That is something that I never, ever anticipated would happen. So, right now, I’m in “Wow” work mode because I’ve got to get more people here. I have goal to fulfill; I have orders to get ready to ship; I’ve got equipment stuff I need to look into. We gotta get back to work! For me, it’s awesome, but I’m not doing a victory lap or anything. I’m so thankful for everyone and their support, but for them to get what it is that they want, I gotta work! So, that’s been my whole thing. I woke up early; I’m like, “It’s another day. I somehow made 1.3 million dollars or whatever crazy number it is, and it keeps going up! We gotta get back to work; we gotta get back to work!” That’s been my approach. It is just so hard to put into words because I did not expect it. Maybe it is more realistic over the course of 75 days, and I think people seem to forget that. 75 days.
BC: Yeah, it’s crazy! By the way, my mom is a big fan of yours. She loves you! She was like, “Wow!” when I told her you broke a million. She’s this little Italian lady. She is so impressed with you.
EJ: *Laughing* Thank you, thank you! That’s awesome.
BC: It’s just so mindblowing! Do you keep a calendar and a schedule going?
EJ: Yeah, like today, I have various things that I’m doing, and I have a calendar attached to my phone. I wasn’t good, at first, with using it. But I am getting better, and I have to use it because, inevitably, I am going to forget about certain things. I need to keep everything mapped out, what deadline is what deadline, etc. But it also helps to keep a team of people that are awesome. It makes it very easy.
BC: It’s amazing how level-headed you are right now. Like, 1.3! And you’re like, “I’m cool. It’s fine. Keep going.” I’d be bouncing off the roof!
EJ: *Laughing* Trust me, if I had time to be celebrating, I would be bouncing off the walls! I gotta stop myself because I gotta get to work.
BC: Do you have anything to say to your fans, audiences, and even haters?
BC: Favorite film?
EJ: Oh man, that is so tough. I gotta say Rush Hour. It’s so good.
BC: What is one exercise you absolutely hate?
EJ: Oh… burpees.
BC: Oh, they are the worst; I agree. Do you like chess?
EJ: No! I’m not a big chess guy.
EJ: I’ll play some checkers. *nodding* I’ll play some checkers.
BC: What is your favorite video game?
EJ: Oooooooo! That is a tough one… so many over the years that I’ve played. I would have to say SOCOM U.S. Navy SEALs. That was my introduction to multiplayer gaming, and that changed my life. This was PS2-era. I clocked in so many hours on that game.
BC: Pineapple on pizza?
EJ: No. Absolutely not.
BC: You just went higher up on my level. Awesome.
BC: Favorite singer and composer?
EJ: I would have to say rest in peace to Bill Withers. That’s a big one. But from my era, a guy that I thought was incredibly talented was Ginuwine. I know that that is R&B stuff, and I shouldn’t have been listening to it at that age, but he was a talented cat because he could dance, and everyone wanted to be him!
BC: Do you listen to film scores?
EJ: No, not really.
BC: Oh, interesting. Do you know how to ride a horse?
EJ: No. Well, yes. It’s been so freaking long; more than a decade. When I was in Arkansas, I used to ride a lot. Not anymore. I haven’t done it in a while, and to me, it isn’t like riding a bike.
BC: So, I know you said you weren’t the biggest Harry Potter fan, but do you know your Hogwarts house?
BC: Really? Interesting. Pre-Disney, what would be your lightsaber color?
EJ: Aw, man, that’s hard to say. Probably gold because you see that color on everything I do. And I just like how it pops.
BC: Do you like to cook?
EJ: I can throw down a little bit, but my wife is way better than I am.
BC: What is a random hobby that you enjoy that we wouldn’t have guessed?
EJ: Basketball. I think people underestimate me when I say it. I’m not some guy off the old block.
BC: I’ll be in Orlando in October, and I cannot wait for you and Jonny to go down.
EJ: *Laughing* Awesome, awesome! For real, let’s do it!
Twitter: Is there going to be a lot of worldbuilding in the galaxy you’ve created?
EJ: Absolutely! That is the biggest part of it. It’s ever-expanding, of course. The coolest thing about us not having a reboot or time travel or multiverse is that it forces us to be as creative as possible! If you think of what a universe is and what it entails, it is just massive! We can tell as many tales as we need to. If we need to move to another planet to make a story make sense, then that is what I will do! It’s neverending.
T: Will Blankman be joining The Rippaverse?
EJ: That’s Drunk3Po right there. No! It will not, Drunk.
T: Are we getting a statue of the heroes?
EJ: I tried to have one ready by the launch, but I couldn’t make it happen. There are logistics that I didn’t even consider. We are addressing those, but absolutely, I would love to do that. I’m more interested in that than strictly action figures. I want some people to get some cool sculptures that are nice to look at.
BC: Yeah, I myself collect a lot of busts and sculptures, so definitely, the demand is there. So many would want it.
T: Was the design of Isom inspired by someone you know? Yourself?
T: Are you building up characters for an Avengers-like ensemble down the road?
EJ: Maybe. I have to make it make sense. I’ve always been intrigued by the stories that lead to such impactful people teaming up. If I ever do that, I would have to make whatever reason make sense. I would have to really take my time with that. You will see a lot of team elements in the first book, but I know people are thinking about The Avengers and Justice League. That’s not necessarily something we are building, but it has to be organic.
T: Would you ever play Dungeons And Dragons?
EJ: If I could learn the ropes, I’d be down!
BC: Because I don’t know if you know this, but it’s me who has been tagging you on Twitter with my beast, but I named my beast after you!
— BlabberingCollector (@BlabberingC) May 16, 2022
EJ: Yeah, yeah! Right!
BC: Because he literally destroys everything in sight. I’m a druid, so I just go, “Activate Young Rippa!” And this beast is just summoned and slaughters everything.
EJ: *Laughing* I love that! I appreciate that! Hell yeah!
T: Which character did you have the most fun working on?
EJ: I would say Isom, and I know that is easy, but because I drew that entire suit out, believe it or not! I suck at drawing, but I can sketch. My art isn’t going in any comic book, but I was literally drawing on my iPad, and my concept artist brought it to life and made him look presentable so we could give that to Cliff Richards, who does the interiors. With Yaira, I verbally designed it. I was like, “Hey, I want her suit to look like this.” And because my concept artist is the best, he made it happen! But for Isom, I sketched and colored that suit, so it means a lot to me.
T: Would you ever be up for buying an original IP from someone?
EJ: I don’t see that happening, to be honest, only because it interferes with what we are doing. If I had a publishing company that was paying out anybody, and we would help you out and give a good rating. But for us, not necessarily. I want it to be in-house, and because it’s our universe and all of that.
BC: It needs to flow!
BC: Yes, exactly. Unless it was something insane like Batman, and I could get it out of the hands of some greasy weirdo, and could afford it.
BC: You could save it!
EJ: I could save it! But it would have to be at that level for me to even consider that.
BC: You wouldn’t want to save Squirrel Girl or something?
EJ: *Laughing* Nah, she can go down with the ship.
T: You and Lady Rippa have a really strong and healthy relationship. What is something you would say has been a key factor in that?
Thank you, Eric, for chatting with me! Congratulations, and good luck on the Rippaverse!
You can find Eric July on his main website, Twitter, Instagram, Twitch, YouTube, Rippaverse Twitter, Rippaverse website, and Facebook.