Whether WonderCon stays in Anaheim is still up in the air, but no doubt it’s already becoming a favorite event for Southern California. Year Two already appears exponentially more successful than last year, when WonderCon first took up residence in Disney Town.
Three-day badges and badges for Friday and Saturday sold out early, when last year you could easily do a walk-up on any day. The fast acceptance of WonderCon is at least in part due to those burned out on Comic-Con International or frustrated at the five-second sellout looking for a local alternative. It’s not just a good substitute, it’s a great convention. It also had the first big comics announcements of the year to kick off convention season. Looking through coverage here at Comic Book Resources and beyond, there were plenty of things that ranged from boring to intriguing to exciting, but three stood head and shoulders above the rest because of their potential to appeal to larger audiences.
With comics sales on the rise, these publishing moves not only do their part in boosting momentum but in helping the gradual shift of social perception of the comics form. Comics like these always excite me because it’s a reminder of the unique reach comics can have in grabbing people’s attention when the right pieces are in place. More and more these days, there are comics for anyone and when innovative thinking is applied as it is here, they stand a better chance in reaching people that don’t make it a habit of seeking out comics. Of course, comics have long had a problem getting these kinds of things right, so as we’ll see there are challenges, but the potential is exciting.
Hard to believe, but this month marks four years since I first interviewed artist Peter Krause about his return to comics. More immediately, today marks the return of Mark Waid and Peter Krause’s Insufferable at Thrillbent 2.0 with a new arc, “On the Road.” Through Thrillbent 2.0, Insuffereable: On The Road is free to view and download or embed — there are plenty of ways to enjoy the somewhat reconciled father-son team of Nocturnus and Galahad (seemingly led by the smarter than both of them, Meg). In addition, there are bundled editions of the first Insufferable arc (with extras) for sale at comiXology.com.
Tim O’Shea: How did Mark Waid convince you to try working in a then-relatively new medium like digital comics on Insufferable?
Peter Krause: The main attraction was that I’d get to keep working with Mark. I really valued the time we’d spent on Irredeemable for BOOM! I stepped away from that book because of time constraints — I was doing non-comics work that was making it harder to bring an “A” game to Irredeemable.
Thirty-six questions. Six answers. One random number generator. Welcome to Robot Roulette, where creators roll the virtual dice and answer our questions about their lives, careers, interests and more.
Trying his luck today is comic writer, guest lecturer and sometimes keynote speaker Mark Waid. He’s the man behind Thrillbent.com and the writer of such comics as Indestructible Hulk, Daredevil, Insufferable, Steed and Mrs. Peel, Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom, Kingdom Come, The Flash, Captain America, Legion of Superheroes, Amazing Spider-Man, Irredeemable, Fantastic Four and many more.
Now let’s get to it …
Comics| Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, expressed dismay about the backlash to DC Comics hiring sci-fi author, and outspoken gay-rights opponent, Orson Scott Card to write Adventures of Superman. Card is a board member of the organization, which works against the legalization of same-sex marriage. “This is completely un-American and it needs to be stopped,” Brown said. “Simply because we stand up for traditional marriage, some people feel like it’s OK to target us for intimidation and punishment.” NOM last year launched boycotts of Starbucks and General Mills because of their support of same-sex marriage initiatives. [The Huffington Post]
Retailing | Gabi Shepherd, owner of Olympic Cards and Comics in Lacey, Washington, talks about the importance of courting teenagers, who are often not welcome in other retail stores: “I have found that if I am going to make this the community center that I want to make it then the kids are a big part of that. It makes them feel good when they come in and someone knows who they are. It’s important. It’s respect.” [ThurstonTalk]
Creators | Gene Luen Yang, creator of American Born Chinese, has revealed his latest project Boxers and Saints, a set of two graphic novels about the Boxer Rebellion in China; one story is about a peasant who joins the Boxers, while the other is about a woman who converts to Catholicism. First Second will publish them as a slipcased set. There’s a 10-page preview as well as an interview at the link. [Wired]
Comics | Jim Rugg notices that his print copy of Hellboy in Hell doesn’t look as good as his friend’s digital copy, and where most of us would have just shrugged and moved on, he takes the time to think about why that is and how careful publishers can ensure that print comics look their best. [Jim Rugg]
Created by Waid and his Irredeemable collaborators Peter Krause and Nolan Woodward, Insufferable debuted in May 2012 on Thrillbent, where it continues to be serialized for free. The series centers on an estranged crime-fighting duo, the dedicated hero Nocturnus and his egotistical former sidekick Galahad, who are forced to reunite for a new case.
A veteran writer for DC Comic and Marvel, Waid is the creator of the alt-superhero series Incorruptible and Irredeemable, former editor-in-chief and chief creative officer of BOOM! Studios, and the winner of three Eisner Awards this year for his work on Daredevil. In other words, he knows his comics. But with Thrillbent, Waid struck out into the unknown, creating a digital-comics site and using it to host his newest comic Insufferable.
The end of the year seemed like a good time to touch base and see what Waid has learned so far and what he plans to do next with Thrillbent.
Robot 6: What has been the hardest part of all this so far?
Mark Waid: Besides working for free on my own end of it, the hardest part by far has been making the jump from print to digital in terms of story construction. When I started out with this idea over a year ago, I still had in the back of my head that we would be doing print comics out of digital comics fairly easily. I wanted to do comics in a 4/3 ratio so we could stack one on another and make a comics page. Trying not to do in digital what I can’t do in print was such a bad mistake. If you’re going to do it, do it right, go all in, is what I learned. That was a hard leap to make, but once I made it, it was very liberating. It made me a lot less cautious, and it narrowed my focus so I no longer had to feel that I was serving both masters, print and digital. Then being able to use different techniques like rack focus, repeating panels, pop-up dialogue, that you can’t do in print becomes a reality, and it made us all the more adventuresome—I don’t mean just me, I mean my collaborators. I made the mandate fairly early on: Don’t worry about print; we’ll figure it out later.
As we finish off Year Five of digital comics (depending on how you count things), the distribution method is positioned to bring in a continually growing sector of new readers.
comiXology, the market leader, is ending 2012 as the third highest-grossing app of the year for the iPad. That’s up from the 10th spot last year, which is even more remarkable when you consider virtually no other app made an appearance on both lists. I can’t imagine that could be accomplished strictly with purchases from direct-market customers crossing over to digital. And when you take into account that direct-market sales have also been improving, that couldn’t happen even if every reader in comics got a big raise this year and was buying both digital and print copies. Worst-case scenario, we’re winning back lapsed readers. But mixed within those two groups (current and lapsed/returning readers) has to be a third, even if only a small percentage at this time. It seems too good to be true but it’s becoming more and more likely that the elusive new reader is being reached.
As digital sales continue to grow (“getting close to 25 to 30% of print sales,” for Robert Kirkman), several elements are in place, or just about in place, that could be creating a perfect storm to increase that new readers section of the pie.
Continuing its busy week, comiXology has announced a deal with Andrews McMeel Publishing to bring Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury, Lincoln Peirce’s Big Nate and Scott Adams’ Dilbert and other comic strips to the growing digital platform beginning today. Additional AMP releases will be available in later months.
“We are thrilled to bring our cutting-edge, world-renowned comics and best-selling humor books to comiXology’s global audience,” Kirsty Melville, publisher and president of Andrews McMeel’s books division, said in a statement. “Andrews McMeel prides itself on publishing exceptional and innovative content, and making it available to consumers wherever and however they choose to read. This digital engagement with comiXology, through their innovative buying and reading experience, provides a perfect way for new audiences to discover our titles.”
ComiXology kicked off the week with news that Comics by comiXology was the third-highest grossing iPad app in 2012, up from No. 10 the previous year. That was followed Wednesday by the debut of Continue, a continuous-bookmarking feature that permits users to pick up reading on one device where they left off on another, and the announcement this morning that Mark Waid’s Thrillbent imprint has signed a distribution deal that begins with the digital debut of Insufferable by Waid and Peter Krause.
To see what Ales and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
Back in July when Mark Waid announced that Thrillbent — his digital comics portal — would be ramping up to phase two (as detailed in CBR News Editor Kiel Phegley’s recent Waid interview), I hoped writer Tom Peyer would be part of the mix. Soon enough, I discovered that indeed Peyer was writing Clown Tales, a horror story set to launch this fall. The story should be interesting on many levels, given that this marks Peyer’s first foray into writing horror — and that clowns bored him as a child (as I learned in this interview). While I had Peyer’s attention I also asked him about getting to recently write for TV (on DC Nation/Cartoon Network’s Doom Patrol interstitials) and working for Stephen Colbert back in 2007. Added bonus, at one point Peyer taunts clowns in our discussion.
Tim O’Shea: Was Clown Tales already in the work before you signed onto Thrillbent, or was it developed just for the site?
Tom Peyer: A few years ago I wrote some short horror stories, mainly to see if I would enjoy it. A publisher was planning a clown horror anthology that didn’t end up happening, but I put clowns in some of them just in case. I’d written humor and superheroes, but I’d never gone near horror before. I had a great time and I liked how they came out. It felt like taking a new route to the humor and pathos I always try to write toward anyway. But it felt more direct, maybe because I hadn’t taken that route before.
Creators | Alan Moore will make a rare convention appearance in September — his first in 25 years, according to this article — at the inaugural Northants International Comics Expo in Northamptonshire, England. To attend Moore’s hour-long talk on writing comics or the hour-long question-and-answer session, convention-goers are required to donate graphic novels to the Northamptonshire Libraries, which will have a table at the event. [Stumptown Trade Review]
Creators | Mark Waid gets the NPR treatment, as Noah J. Nelson interviews him about his digital comics initiatives. “I got news for you: I’ve been doing this for 25 years, and this is the hardest writing I’ve ever had to do,” Waid says of creating digital comics. [NPR]
Publishing | Abrams ComicArts editorial director Charles Kochman discusses the publisher’s spring lineup, which will include William Stout’s Legends of the Blues, Darryl Cunningham’s What the Frack, a history of Bazooka Joe comics, and a Will Eisner artbook written by Paul Levitz. [ICv2]
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? Today our guest is Mark Sable, the writer and co-creator of Image’s Graveyard of Empires with Paul Azaceta and the upcoming Duplicate from Kickstart Comics with Andy MacDonald. You can find his work and thoughts at marksable.com and contact him @marksable on the Twitter.
To see what Mark and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below …
Longtime readers of this column know that I relish the chance to interview beyond the typical creative interview dynamic of writers and artists periodically. So soon after I found out SCAD Atlanta Adjunct Professor and Professional Colorist Nolan Woodard was part of the Thrillbent’s Insufferable creative team (along with writer Mark Waid, artist Peter Krause and Letterer Troy Peteri), I reached out to him for an interview. We also delve into his BOOM! Studios work (including Incorruptible, Irredeemable, Planet of the Apes) and other aspects of his creative pursuits
Tim O’Shea: How early in life did you realize you wanted to be a colorist?
Nolan Woodard: I never really sought to specifically be a colorist but it’s been no surprise to anyone who knows me. When I was twelve or so I’d use Windows 3.1 Paintbrush to make digital drawings, lots of Aliens and Terminators. Then in college where I was introduced to Photoshop 3, I ate up the digital courses. By the time I graduated and landed a job in advertising at Wieden+Kennedy, I was learning Photoshop on a scale I previously didn’t know existed, doing retouching and color correction on their Nike, EA and Starbucks accounts. When the time came for me to follow my heart and get back into comics, coloring was a no-brainer.
At Thrillbent, artist Yves “Balak” Bigerel offers a fascinating digital-comics tutorial in which he adapts one of Mark Waid’s old short-story scripts as a “simple” comic. “By ‘simple,’” Bigerel explains in the annotated version of Cthulhu Calls, “we mean no animation and no transition fx such as cross fades, panels sliding, stuff like that.” As he notes, it’s a rough storyboard — it was originally intended to be handed off to another artist — but it conveys all the necessary details, with Bigerel’s commentary providing invaluable insight.
“THIS is what gets me charged. THIS is why Thrillbent exists,” Waid writes in his introduction. “To show what digital comics can do and to pass along to others what we learn as we go.”