Shoot The Breeze Comics is happy to begin a new way of interviewing people involved in this amazing comic industry. Our new series called “Creator Signal” is a place for anyone in comics from Writers, Artists, Inkers, Colorists, Editors, as well Youtubers and Podcasters, to talk about the industry. These people who help us keep comics alive deserve a platform to tell who they are and be known more to the fans who love them. Our mission at Shoot The Breeze is to bring fans and creators closer together and with that, “Creator Signal” is going to be one of our tools to do that.
Our first guest here on Creator Signal is Mr. Sal Crivelli, founder and co-host of the Youtube channel ComicPOP. Originally starting off as TV Little House, ComicPOP has been around for about 6.5 years now. Cut to today and the channel is still growing strong with over 63,000 subscribers and a multitude of weekly comic-book related shows such as: Off the Rack, The Good The Bad and the Ugly, The Elseworld’s Exchange, Letter’s Page and their flagship show Back Issues (which just recently celebrated its 4-year Anniversary). On Back Issues, Sal or his wife Tiffany sit down and explain a book to their two less comic-savvy friends Ben and Ethan, with the occasional special guest thrown in. Together the ComicPOP crew continues to create fun and informative content that anyone can enjoy. Without further delay please enjoy this peek behind the curtain with the main man himself.
STBC: Let’s start off way back for people who don’t know a lot about you. What was the first comic you ever read?
SC: This is a story I’ve told a number of times on our subscriber milestone celebration videos over the years, but it’s true so I’m happy to share. One of the first comics I ever read was Batman #1 and a few other assorted classic Batman comics from his first appearance. I used to sleep over at my mom’s friend’s place a few times in the summer, and every morning I would have a big bowl of cereal and a copy of one of these original Batman comics spread open on the table.
I knew next to nothing about comics back then, particularly the fact that Golden Age comics were slightly larger than the standard size of modern comics over the last 30 years. So from my perspective, I’m just enjoying some pulpy, noir-fueled Batman adventures. In reality, I was thumbing through priceless artifacts. Eventually, one of her daughters dated a comic book fanatic and they mysteriously disappeared from their usual place in the china hutch.
STBC: How did you get your start on YouTube?
SC: I got my start on YouTube by watching it. I was hooked on sketch comedy stuff like Barats and Bereta, and had aspirations of doing things like that myself. The issue was, I was limited by what was at my disposal. Sure, everybody had access to a camera, but not everybody could connect that camera to a computer, get some kind of editing software, cut it together and upload it someplace.
I often joke about how my friends and I made YouTube videos years before the format existed because we were shooting sketch videos, documentaries, and even review/criticism series. That was the one that most resembled what I’d ultimately get into.
So YouTube was always something I aspired to utilize, but couldn’t quite reach. My equipment back then was a mini-VHS camera, which is about as useful in the digital age as a screen door on a submarine. I shot a few interviews for other YouTube channels using equipment I “borrowed” from my job at a school, but they never wound up using the videos. Eventually, my friends got me a Sony HD Handycam, along with an SD card. That same day, we filmed one of our first Youtube videos; a home movie of us hanging out on my birthday. I picked up a copy of Adobe Premiere and was immediately sucked down the rabbit hole.
STBC: When you began, what things did you cover? Was it always comics?
SC: Back then, I thought my friends and I were funny and interesting enough to warrant a kind of half-assed reality series, fly-on-the-wall documentary series type of show. A true “show about nothing”. It did about as well as you’d expect.
But no, the idea of doing stuff about comics came at least three years after we started shooting shows exclusively for YouTube. I would eventually start a series called “Sal Says What”, where I reviewed movies and comics; the two things I’ve always had a baseline knowledge and interest in. Eventually that became “Sal’s Comic Round-Up”, when it became apparent people were more interested in my comics reviews than my movie reviews. And to be honest, it felt like everyone was doing movie reviews. It was hard to establish my own voice in that arena.
STBC: How did ComicPOP’s flagship show Back Issues come about?
SC: I’ve been doing Back Issues for at least two decades without a camera. None of my friends, from grade school to grad, read comics. But people were often interested in hearing me recount what happened in a particular story, or how convoluted comics could get. I was re-reading Venom Returns (by David Michelinie and Erik Larsen) and had it on my kitchen table, when Ethan started asking questions about why the cover was so grotesque.
That lead into the intricate history of Venom, and symbiotes, and Spider-Man, and Tiffany said, “Stop. Stop what you’re doing and hang on.” She came back with the Sony Handycam and our tripod and said, “This is the show.” While she set it up, I turned to Ethan and Ben and asked if they were interested in doing this. Ethan said yes, Ben said no. So we stood in frame, waited for Tiff to give us the cue, and just as we were about to start, Ben sidled into the frame.
What you see in the first moments of the first episode of Back Issues is about ten seconds after that exchange. Ben suggested the show be called “Encyclopedia Nerdtannica”, which he thought would be a fun play on the old “Masterpiece Theatre” type show. You can see which version we went with. I had a good rapport with a comic book retailer at the time, and I asked if he would let us film in his shop after hours. I was already starting to shoot “Sal’s Comic Round-Up” there, so it was a seamless transition.
STBC: What goes into choosing a trade or storyline to cover on Back Issues?
SC: Originally, book selection was just, “What’s on my shelf?” That’s how I’ve operated for a lot longer then I probably should have, honestly. Now we have the next six months mapped out, coordinating episodes with movie and comic event releases.
STBC: How did the creation of the award-winning podcast The Weekly Pull come about?
SC: The Weekly Pull started when Rob (Comics Explained) and Benny (Comicstorian) decided to start a show together. Rob reached out to me via YouTube messages and invited me on as a guest, and everything pretty much fell into place. I think our first New York Comic Con was the moment we knew this was going to be special.
STBC: The podcast has had several hosts besides Comicstorian, Comics Explained, and Caped Joel. What goes into the selection of guest hosts as well as choosing a new member of the Weekly Pull?
SC: I defer to the big guys about who guest hosts an episode. But we’ve had a fantastic array of special guests including Mr. Sunday Movies, Jason Inman from DC All Access, and Arris Quinones from Variant Edition. And we’re so lucky to continue to have hard working people like Tiffany, Danielle, Joel and Mopee help make the show possible.
STBC: There’s also your other podcast The Elseworlds Exchange with fellow YouTuber Caped Joel. How did that come about?
SC: Elseworlds came from my desire to have a live show, force myself to learn broadcasting software, and continue the fun of being live in front of an audience. Joel and I would often continue our conversations after The Weekly Pull would wrap, and at some point I was like, “This is good stuff. We should keep doing this.”
STBC: Now with you and your team recently crossing 60,000 subscribers, what plans do you have for the future?
SC: The future of ComicPOP is always so exciting to me. I have a few huge ideas that are either just around the corner or are deep in development. New shows, new genres (while still keeping with the comics theme), more cameras, even crossing over into publication. We’re working on something very special that’s been in the works over a year now. And let me tell you: when it hits, I think it’ll hit big.
STBC: Do you see yourselves expanding to a more pop culture focused channel instead of just comics like the Elseworlds Exchange does? Even launching a secondary channel?
SC: We went from pop culture to comics, and I haven’t looked back. We’ll cover movies and other elements from time to time, which is covered under the name of our channel: ComicPOP stands for Comics and Pop Culture, which allows us to side-step into anything related that we might find interesting. We’ve already done video game Let’s Plays, tabletop RPG’s, Anime conventions and movie reviews. I don’t believe there’s any need to establish an additional channel. That being said, we would like to increase streaming on our Twitch channel in the future. But that’s another question….