It's tough to pin down exactly when the path to Mark Waid's latest venture began – even though its been on reader radars since he started publicly advocating for digital comics or at least since he relaunched his own website as a digital process blog – but after C2E2, it's easy to know what the next step is: Thrillbent.
On May 1, the writer will launch his own digital comics label and a slew of brand new free comics content through the website Thrillbent.com. The first project will be "Insufferable" – a new series created with his "Irredeemable" collaborator Peter Krause. But while readers watching the news of Waid's recent announcement panel may know those basics, there's more to the writer's plan in store.
Below, Waid tells CBR News how the baby steps he's taken toward the May launch involve his belief in serial comics as a wider storytelling medium than an outlet for pure superheroing, how the concept and practice of the Thrillbent site will change over its first month on the job, what exactly the story of "Insufferable" is and more.
CBR News: Mark, with your new Thrillbent platform, the tagline is "Comics For The Rest of US." We've spoken a lot about your approach to digital in terms of how you're telling stories differently, but who is the ideal audience you hope to reach by putting this site together?
Mark Waid: The ideal audience are the guys and girls who don't have access to a comic store and the guys and girls who are interested in comics as a medium but don't necessarily want just superheroes. And the audience is really anyone who has access to digital. Whether you've got an iPad or a tablet, an iPhone or a smart phone or even just the web. Those are the people we want to play to. I respect the fact that comic stores have a very specific audience and that they do a very good job of marketing specifically to that audience. But it tends to be a very superhero genre-driven thing. But I also think the market resistance in comic shops to non-superhero material is very high. So let's see what we can do to find an audience outside the traditional superhero reader.
You've got a lot of platforms you're presenting this material on simultaneously. What was the process like of finding a format for stories that could be ported out to the web and tablets and phones and everything?
That was honestly the biggest challenge. We knew we wanted to go with a horizontal screen. We wanted to go with the landscape format because that's how most people read their computer screens at home. That's how they look at their tablets when web browsing, and it lets the page open up a little bit. And also, if you take two horizontal screens and stack them on top of one another, you've got the same ratio as a standard comic book page. So if we want to go to print later, that's easy. That said, finding the right resolution that looked good but also didn't take forever to load, finding the type size that looked good on an iPhone but not overblown on a tablet – those are the things we had to learn. And we're still learning. Thrillbent is a publishing imprint on the web, but we make no bones about it, it's also a new media experiment. We're going to try a lot of stuff, and some of that's not going to work. But we'll learn as we go, and you'll watch us learn.
On the logistics end, is this going to be a pay service in any way for the readers, and how often can they expect new content to load up to the site?
There will always be free material on the web. We're going to rollout on May 1 with a new weekly series that Peter Krause and myself are doing. We of course did "Irredeemable" for BOOM! and now we've got a new series called "Insufferable" which we can talk about in a minute. But the way it'll roll out is with weekly installments starting May 1 and then every week thereafter there's a new ten to 12-page chapter. Also each week I'll have a new story with a different artist like "Luther" – the proof of concept web comic I did that's currently available for download. There's more of that stuff with a bit more of an emphasis on "Does this work on the web? Does it not work on the web? Would it work better in print?" We're just trying some new ways to play with digital. Once I've done that for about a month and kind of shake down the system – which I want to do and not let my friends have to deal with it – we'll have a good idea of where things are, and I'll know where the water's leaking in or where it's creaky. Then in month two, John Rogers comes aboard with his own weekly web comic, and we'll have some others on board who's name you know, but I can't talk about them yet. The idea is that through the fall, there will be something new every day.
With "Irredeemable," you made t-shirts that said "Mark Waid Is Evil." With this new series "Insufferable" will there be a similar personal catch phrase?
[Laughs] I have no doubt that there are many retailers who think that Mark Waid is insufferable, but this is actually a concept I've been hanging onto for a while. "Insufferable" is a superhero dramedy that's about what happens when your teenage sidekick turns out to be a douche bag. He grows up to be a Kanye West, self-aggrandizing guy who's all about the fame and all about the money and all about putting down the old man. There's a lot of ingratitude for the guy who taught him all his tricks. And then we see what happens when there's the one case that could actually force them together, and they have to reinstate their partnership even though they can't stand each other.
At this point in the game, what's the most important takeaway for you on Thrillbent?
Really it's just that people can follow along with my process blog on MarkWaid.com until the May 1 launch. That's still got the daily update on how we're building these kinds of comics and how we're building the site. Now that we've announced the details on Thrillbent, we can go into some more detail on MarkWaid.com on how the names came about and how the characters developed. But in May, Thrillbent.com opens its doors, and that's the most important thing to remember as you'll get new original material not just from me but from some of your other favorite creators in weeks to come.
Stay tuned for more on Waid's Thrillbent and all the news from C2E2 on CBR.