January 1st marks the beginning of a new era for BJ KICKS. This is the story of how it came to be.
On November 7th, 2020; I started a new journey on YouTube. For 3 years prior, I had been building an online education business, teaching Musicians how to use the internet to build their fanbases from scratch. 2019 had been a great year, and 2020 was going to be even better. I had just crossed 10,000 subscribers, started courting sponsorships from major Music Industry brands, and I was preparing to launch an expanded hardcover edition of my first book. Then, the pandemic happened…
At first, my plan was just to put new product launches on hold. But then 15 days turned into 6 weeks, then months of lockdowns with no end in sight. The more time passed, the more sleazy it felt to talk about Music Marketing online, knowing the end goal was a sales funnel. To bide time, I figured I’d start a new personal channel. It wouldn’t be a business, but just a fun outlet. I had been really into comics since 2019, so I’d talk about those, and maybe even post some beatmaking videos. The channel would just have the same screen name I’d been using online for years — BJ KICKS. After all, it was a channel just about me.
What followed was growth I honestly didn’t plan for. I made a video documenting a comic book hunt at Ollie’s that got over 10,000 views. I was meeting comic fans from all over the place, and having a ton of fun nerding out on all the stories they were recommending. The channel went from 100 subscribers to 1,000 seemingly overnight. Then I thought “maybe this could be more than just a fun thing?” My wife had recently told me we were pregnant. If I could make up my comic budget in YouTube Ad revenue before the baby arrived, I wouldn’t have to lose the hobby to buy diapers. When baby girl arrived 4 months early, I threw myself into the channel as a distraction. I’d lose sleep if I didn’t post a video daily. It wasn’t healthy, but it kept my mind from wandering into any dark speculations. It didn’t hurt that it was successful.
My following grew each month. I attracted sponsorships, and covered all my comic expenses with income from the channel. The more money I made, the more comics I bought. And it was all documented for the world to see. Looking back at some of the thumbnails, it got completely ridiculous. I knew something would have to give eventually. But haul videos brought more views, and I needed the views to keep the operation going. After all, my sponsors were counting on those views to keep visibility on their products.
Things finally came to a head in June 2022. I had lost a major marketing client due to all this talk of an impending recession. My comic budget dwindled. At the same time, my day job became a lot more demanding. Even when I wanted to film the quality deep dives and reviews I had been promising my audience, I just didn’t have the time or energy. Trying to salvage the channel’s success felt like playing tug of war with an elephant. Eventually, I had to let go of the rope and just take some time to reflect. When I did, I didn’t like what I saw.
Every successful comic focused YouTube Channel has its own draw. There are the big brains who can break down every hero’s origin to help you understand the plot of the latest MCU film. There are over-the-top personalities who invite you to gawk over the insanely expensive purchases most reasonable people would never go after. There are the comic book Jim Cramers who analyze eBay sales history to predict which rare comics might make you thousands. There are the rage baiters who use any piece of data they can find to tell you the comic industry is imploding. Then there are the regular guys who love comics and sharing them with their communities. I think we’d all like to be the latter, but for every Omar at Near Mint Condition, there are tons of guys with 250 subscribers who are burnt out and don’t see the point of moving forward. I had managed to avoid that trap just by burying myself in videos while avoiding trauma. But before I realized it had happened, I had become the over-the-top personality. A caricature of myself. Maybe even a bad influence. If I was going to keep posting on YouTube, BJ KICKS had to die.
Rebranding is a funny word. On the surface, it sounds a lot like just changing a wallpaper or adopting new colors. But branding isn’t what you look like, or even what you call yourself. It’s what you consistently do. I knew that if I kept my name on the YouTube Channel, I’d be tempted to just keep doing what I’ve always done. Leaning back on my personality, showing off a few comics and watching the views come in. But since the soft launch of the Comics Are Dope blog in 2021, I’d been promising more thoughtful content. Changing the name of the channel would require me to put my money where my mouth was and actually follow through. It’s a scary transition, but it has to happen.
The content on the YouTube channel won’t be changing much at first. My day job is still pretty demanding, and we’re currently potty-training my 19-month-old. The two surviving mainstays will be my weekly Pull List video (formerly known as ‘What I’m Getting’), and our weekly livestream The Hangout. Eventually, I want to get more into highly produced character breakdowns like this one. I’ll still be showcasing new additions to the collection, just not in the exaggerated fashion you’ve seen in the past. And while YouTube is what got us to this point in the first place, I really want to experiment with podcasting and creator interviews this year. I have some fun ideas and really think we can create something timeless using pure audio as a medium. Because you stuck around this long, here’s a sneak peek.
All in all, rebranding means giving up any weird pipe dream of overnight YouTube success; and signing up for a lot of upfront work that may never result in any mythical reward. There’s a chance we become the next Variant Comics network. There’s a greater chance that we crash and burn like the many others who have gone before us.
I’ve seen glimpses of overnight success, and I’ve seen people jump over a cliff chasing it. No one starts anything without hopes of a successful future. But what I’m most excited about is whatever we create along the way. There’s a fine distinction between host and personality, and that distinction is important to me. There will always be a bit of my personality in everything I do. But if I’m going to stay on YouTube, I’d rather be a tour guide than a sideshow attraction. So I’m finally pulling the proverbial trigger.
Welcome to the next chapter. Comics Are Dope.
Brandon ‘BJ KICKS’ Jackson is the host of Comics Are Dope on YouTube. When he’s not writing his own biography in the third person, you can catch him unboxing and reviewing comics weekly. Views posted are his own. But this is his website, so we guess they’re automatically ours too?