VariantComics became one of the first popular YouTube channels centered around comic books and superheroes and has helped spark the creation of the comic book vertical on YouTube. Its creator, Arris Quinones, tells us his origin story.
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Joined: April 17th, 2012
Arris Quinones, creator and host of VariantComics, recently sat down with YouTuber writer and host of NerdSync Scott Niswander to fills us in on how VariantComics got its start and why he continues to work hard to produce the best videos he can.
Scott Niswander: Who are you?
Arris Quinones: Who am I? I am Arris Quinones. I am the host, co-creator and producer of VariantComics, which is a YouTube channel where we talk about all things comic. We review comic book movies, comic books, top 10’s, history ofs, versus episodes. Basically anything in the comic world is not off limits.
SN: I even saw recently you made a Harry Potter video.
AQ: That’s true. Variant is always going to be being focused as comics but like I like other things like most nerds out there, like Harry Potter. I like Ghostbusters. I like Dragonball Z. Whenever I get a chance to talk about that stuff I definitely go for it.
SN: Take me back into the archives. How did VariantComics get started?
AQ: VariantComics got started, as you know, Scott, back in late 2010, early 2011, the creator of Film Riot, Ryan Connolly, who is also the owner of Triune Films, approached me. We’ve been lifelong friends for a long time and we were working out at the gym. He’s basically like, “Hey, man, I know you like comic books. I’m looking to do another show for my production company. Would you consider doing a comic book themed show?” I’m like, “No, I never really thought about being a host but I would love to be able to talk about comics.”
At the time on YouTube there weren’t very many comic YouTube channels like at all. I’m sure there were some but at least nothing like how what Variant came to be. This is a good time to jump in. Definitely be one of the first in.
Basically, just started spitballing ideas like, what do I want to do? He’s like, “What’s a good way to teach people about comics?” I’m like, “there’s nothing really like … a School of Comics,” which is why I like history-ofs. [It’s] probably the show’s biggest segment. That and alternate-versions-of, those are similar but it’s basically alternate versions is like telling you 50 different versions of a character and history-ofs is 50 years of a character in 10 to 12 minutes.
Anyway, we did a lot of pilots and then Film Riot was already on Rev 3 so we had it in there. We pitched it to Rev 3 and they’re like, yeah. Rev 3 is owned by Discovery Digital so it’s like an offshoot of Discovery. It’s their online market, I guess. They liked it, and then they accepted it, and it all snowballed from there. Just grew and evolved like anything. It changed, and it’s going to constantly be evolving and probably definitely be — five years later — it’s going to be a different show than what it is today.
The graphics were way different back then too. It was very After Effects heavy where a bunch of lens flares a lot more emotion to it. I guess, After Effects heavy. It looked really cool. I want to get back to that. It’s just as the show — we all got busier — it just got harder to do.
SN: Yeah, which leads me into the next question — what were some challenges growing and maintaining the channel? Obviously, keeping that original style was not really something that was possible with the number of videos that you were producing.
AQ: Yeah. [VariantComics] was basically in development for a year, maybe a little bit over before one ever went live to the public … because it was one of those things where I’m very much a person like I’m going to do something, it needs to be done right. Original goal was to be like, this should be able to look TV ready in the sense if someone was like, “Hey, we want to put you on TV,” it’d just go right over, right? That was the goal. I’m not saying that’s exactly what it is, I’m saying that’s the mindset before it.
As best and good-looking as possible, not just me talking and pictures over the whole time. Good graphics, good motion, good music, all that stuff. It’s difficult because currently I’m the only editor. I write the episodes, I host and I edit.
SN: You said that when you started, there weren’t a lot of other comic book channels on YouTube. There are some other ones out there now. I’m a big fan of NerdSync.
AQ: That guy, the show is pretty good. The host isn’t really a nice guy, though.
SN: I could do without him. But watching everyone else’s channels, it’s almost gotten to a point where everyone’s feeding off of each other’s styles in some capacity.
AQ: Yes. Well, it’s crazy. I feel like … because there’s so many comic book YouTube channels that are out there, which is only inevitable, you’re only going to be one of the firsts for so long. It’s going to happen with anything. I always use the example of any new trend on YouTube, like any new gimmick, reaction or something, there’s always a first. I always go, I guess iPhone would be the most prolific, and then all the other smartphones came after it. Right?
A bunch of competition. Some that are arguably just as good. With any good idea, there’s going to be a lot of stuff to follow. I think it’s cool in the sense that we’re all throwing to each other because YouTube’s algorithms are like, “Oh, if you like this you’re probably going to like this.” It’s cool to see that evolve, and now it’s like, literally, I guess there’s a bunch.
SN: Are there any stories or personal experiences that would help an up and coming creator?
AQ: The number one thing is be consistent, right? At least for me, like let’s say you started a show, I would say make a pattern or platform, like TV shows. You know every Tuesday at 7pm Central time “The Flash” is going to be on TV, right? You have to think of it like that.
If you’re starting a channel — I mean let’s say you want to talk about I don’t know, cars. Do you want to talk about how to make cars? Do you want to talk about the cars that are out there? What do you want to do? Pick your topic and then pick a day, a schedule, a routine, like you’re going to do two a week, and stick to it.
For me, quality is a really big thing. I know that’s clearly just a personal thing because there’s people with way more subscribers than me and their quality is, like, nothing. That’s not really a must, but I know for me, just a personal thing in everything I do, I like to do it the best that I can.
I took like a year and a half before Variant even went live. I would say do a lot of pilots. Do a lot of research before, and before you even put anything live, like, rework it out, see, watch it back. That didn’t work. Oh, no, I want the camera here. Maybe I want to do green screen maybe I want a set. Maybe I just want to do all voiceover and I’ll do graphics. Pick the format in general of how you want to do it.
Then once you do that, be consistent.
SN: I want to get back to something you were talking about a couple minutes ago, which is when you’re starting out you were talking about picking your format whether you want to be voiceover or on camera or that sort of thing.
As someone who was one of the first major comic book channels, how did you pick your format because I feel like a lot of people, if they’re going into cars, to use your example, might look at other YouTubers who are talking about cars and go, “Well, I want to do what they do because that’s what the car audience on YouTube is used to so I want to try to use that same format to get a lot of those same fans.”
How did you craft the Variant Comics format?
AQ: Well, I wanted to give the show I think because end of the day, everyone’s channel should be their brand. Variant isn’t just me, it’s a brand. I look at it like The Tonight Show, right? Eventually one day I’ll hand it off. I’ll do stuff behind the scenes. I may still host every now and then, but Variant is — that’s why we have two different social medias for everything. I have my personal and I have the Variant. My personal [account] is for everything because Variant is the brand, I’m just — even though I’m the co-creator and host, I’m the face of the brand, but it’s two different entities.
It’s like The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. It’s not like he’s The Tonight Show. It’s The Tonight Show, but he’s the face of it. I wanted to have a face and a personality to the brand because I think that’s more inviting. I wanted to do that instead of just being a voiceover. It also lends [itself to] a lot of different things because let’s say I’m always voiceover and one day I’m interviewing Scott Snyder, then obviously you’re going to see my face. You’re like oh, wait. Oh, so that’s what that guy looks like? It’s off-putting.
AQ: I think people like to see a person more than just hearing a voice — I think. That’s my personal opinion, again, especially in the comic book community, I feel like it’s split. Half the people are on camera, half the people are just voiceover. Clearly that doesn’t really matter as far as success. Me personally, though, I just wanted to put a face to the brand.
SN: What would you say is the most rewarding part about doing Variant?
AQ: The appreciation of the fans and viewers of the show. I get messages and tweets, some of the best messages and tweets I get, which are fairly often, at least several a month, are the ones where dads or moms text me — text me, message me or tweet to me — saying that they watch Variant with their son or daughter every morning while eating cereal.
I think that’s the most rewarding part because to me, I’m just stupid old Arris — I’m just a normal guy. I’m nothing special at all. I like comic books like you or any other guy at the comic book store. It’s really humbling and flattering that people invite me into their home every week whether they watch it on their TV, their iPad, their phone.
The people who say, “Thank you for doing this,” I’m always like, “No, thank you for watching because if you didn’t watch, I could not be doing this.” That’s a definitely the most rewarding part.
Then obviously, I just like to create things. It’s cool to create because it’s like I get to do whatever I want with the show because I do the show. It’s my show.
That just — that is cool, too, and the flexibility. People have the 9-to-5’s having to do this and that where I could literally I make my own schedule, I create my own content, whatever I want to do as long as I get it done when it needs to be done. Those two things, the appreciation from the fans and the creative freedom I get are my favorite things.
Keep up with Arris and VariantComics to learn everything you’d ever want to know about your favorite comics and characters — new episodes every Wednesday!
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