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.”
Digital comics | George Gene Gustines takes a quick trip through the landscape of digital comics, dropping in on Mark Waid, comiXology’s David Steinberger and Marvel’s Avengers vs. X-Men Infinite Comic. Much of this is familiar territory to regular readers of this blog, but hey, it’s The New York Times noticing digital comics! [The New York Times]
Digital comics | FreakAngels writer Warren Ellis looks at three recent digital comics, noting how they all limit themselves to “two-tier storytelling”: “Accepting and exploiting new limitations is always part of a new format. These three projects, though, can’t produce even a full-page spread without some serious scheming and dancing.” [Warren Ellis]
Mark Waid has really put his money where his mouth is: After preaching the gospel of the “culture of sharing” for a couple of years now, he’s making his comic Insufferable available for anyone to download and share.
Although the comic is available for free from his Thrillbent website, he found that within 24 hours the first chapter had been copied and uploaded to torrent and file-sharing sites. “The only thing that startled me was that it took 24 hours,” he said, and sure enough, the next two chapters were uploaded even faster. And he’s happy about it:
Creators’ rights | Gerry Giovinco points out that the mega-studio that is Walt Disney got its start because Walt signed a bad contract and lost the rights to his creation Oswald the Rabbit. Giovinco calls on Disney, as the parent company of Marvel, to acknowledge and perhaps actually compensate the creators of the products it is marketing: “I can’t believe that a company as wealthy Disney cannot find a way to see the value of the good will that would be generated by establishing some sort of compensation or, at the very least, acknowledgement to the efforts put forth by these creators.” [CO2 Comics Blog]
Digital comics | John Rogers discusses working with Mark Waid on his Thrillbent digital comics initiative. “There are people who are selling enough books to make a living on Amazon, whom you’ve never heard of. Because Amazon made digital delivery cheap and easy. That is what you must do with comics. It’s not hard. The music business already solved this problem. Amazon already solved this problem. It’s not like we’re trying to build a rocketship to the moon out of cardboard boxes. Webcomics guys — and this is kind of the great heresy — solved this problem like ten years ago, using digital distribution then doing print collections and also doing advertising and stuff.” [ComicBook.com]
If the first day of the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo was dominated by announcements from Dark Horse and DC Comics, then the second day belonged to Marvel, which followed through on its teaser for a new series, revealed an Icon relaunch, and shuffled some creators. Here are some of the highlights from Saturday (along with a couple of holdovers from Friday):
• As usual, the “Cup O’ Joe” panel was where Marvel rolled out its biggest publishing announcements, beginning with confirmation that the teaser released last week is indeed for a Hawkeye ongoing series reuniting The Immortal Iron Fist collaborators Matt Fraction and David Aja. In the title, which debuts in August, Clinton Barton will be accompanied by fan-favorite Young Avenger Kate Bishop as he fights organized crime in New York City. “It’s very Avengers, by which I mean John Steed and Emma Peel. There’s a whole healthy person between the two of them,” Fraction told Comic Book Resources. “There’s a line in Rocky where he says, ‘I got bumps. You got bumps. Together we fit,’ or something like that — the two of them fit together. Each one has what the other doesn’t, which means they work very well together. She’s young, incredibly gifted, incredibly cultured, and incredibly headstrong. She doesn’t suffer his crap and also wants to be someone worthwhile, but she’s trying to figure out how to make that possible. She follows him not because of his abilities, but his accomplishments. So they work together quite well. It’s an apprentice and master style relationship.”
Daredevil and Irredeemable writer Mark Waid has been gearing up for the launch of a new digital comics imprint, and this weekend we learned not only the name of this new imprint, Thrillbent, but also the first project–Insufferable, with artist Peter Krause and colorist Nolan Woodard.
“The project itself is going to be amazing but this entire endeavor goes beyond just the entertainment value. Mark and his fellow trailblazers are sharing everything we learn from successes to mistakes online. He’s re-purposed his website MarkWaid.com as an educational tool for the world to learn right alongside us. That is what I call giving back and then some!” Woodard said on his blog. “Since the beginning I’ve been excited to make this announcement to the world. Waid and Krause are wonderful collaborators and make me, a colorist, feel like I matter, really matter, in a world where colorists often don’t even get credit let alone recognition.”