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What should we call ‘Infinite Canvas’-style comics?

mcclouddigital

From Scott McCloud’s ‘Reinventing Comics’

ROBOT 6′s Corey Blake wrote a great piece last month on the evolution of digital comics and the innovations that make them more than just electronic copies of print comics. Without repeating what he said, those innovations raise a couple of questions that are also worth talking about: What are we going to call this new format and does it even need a separate name?

Gabriel Hardman (Star Wars: LegacyKinski) recently asked on Twitter, “Is there an accepted name for the Thrillbent/Infinite style of digital comics?” Even filtering out all the joke responses (my favorite is Dennis Culver’s ”Labor Intensive”), the answer seems to be no.

A couple of folks note that Scott McCloud’s Infinite Canvas (or, alternatively, Expanded Canvas) is a common term, but Hardman observes that it could be seen as pretentious, which might keep it from catching on. I like the idea of letting McCloud name it — he more or less came up with the idea — but it does remind me of how it sounded when comics fans all started referring to the medium as “sequential art.” It’s a great term for talking about comics academically, but not so good for popular use.

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Mark Waid on work for hire, contracts and more

Impulse #1

Impulse #1

Last week Mark Waid was asked on Twitter about whether or not he received any sort of credit in Warner Bros./DC Entertainment’s big mega-blockbuster film Man of Steel, currently breaking records and setting the box office on fire in a theater near you. Waid of course wrote Superman: Birthright, parts of which inspired the film. He said he didn’t, that the practice of DC crediting creators whose work influenced a film in some way stopped when Paul Levitz, former president and publisher at DC Comics, stepped down from his position.

As he noted on Twitter (and in the comments section of my post about it last week), Waid wasn’t looking to pick a fight, he was simply answering a question; but it did cause a lot of discussion. So he’s taken to his blog on his Thrillbent site to explain the history of work for hire in the comics industry, the addition of royalties in the 1980s and the “extra-media compensation” that came during Levitz’s tenure at DC, where creators received a bonus if an element from a comic they wrote found its way onto the big or small screen. He notes that these bonuses were a courtesy, not a legal obligation, and now DC “pays bonuses only on material that’s a straight and highly faithful adaptation of existing work,” like the recent The Dark Knight Returns animated films. He also notes that he still sees payments based on the fact that he co-created the character Impulse with Mike Wieringo, so he gets something for every Impulse trade paperback or action figure that’s sold.

But he doesn’t get anything for his contributions to the Superman mythos that made it into Man of Steel, and he’s more than ok with that. “Hell, for me, honestly, the smile I got on my face the first time I heard lines from Birthright in the MoS trailer — the confirmation that I really did give something lasting back to the character who’s given me so much — is worth more to me than any dollar amount. (Your mileage may vary.)”

If you’re interested in these sorts of matters, I recommend you read the entire piece over on the Thrillbent site, and if you’re not, then hey, that’s cool too — you can head over there and read some comics instead.

The digital evolution: from infinite canvas to infinite comics

Batman 66 #1_cover

Batman ’66 – looking back to look forward

How quickly we’re evolving: From Yvyes Bigerel’s rough demo in February 2009 to the near-simultaneous launch of Mark Waid’s Thrillbent and Marvel’s Infinite Comics in March 2012 to the Marvel ReEvolution suite of digital initiatives announced earlier this year (and still coming). And now we have DC Comics’ entry, DC2 (“DC Squared”), which looks to be the company’s take on Bigerel’s concepts. Also announced is DC2 Multiverse, a choose-your-own-adventure style digital comic that will inform DC on readers’ story choices.

While the latter seems a little creepy, it’s becoming clear that after years of digital and webcomics primarily mimicking print comic books and comic strips, a new kind of comic is emerging, one that is changing how they’re made and read.

These current platforms were far from the first to experiment with digital. Artists like Cayetano Garza Jr. began experimenting with limited effects and layout as early as 1998. Scott McCloud’s infinite canvas theory, in which digital could break free of the confines of the limited dimensions of a page, was proposed in 2000, ironically in the pages of his print book Reinventing Comics. Experiments with using an infinite canvas followed, but it never grabbed hold as a standard format. Mostly, webcomics have echoed the structure and dimensions of daily newspaper strips with the occasional experimentation.

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Comics reach for the masses at WonderCon

dark horse-star wars

The Star Wars: OMG that’s Luke Skywalker but it’s not but it is!

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.

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Talking Comics with Tim | Peter Krause on return of ‘Insufferable’

Insufferable

Insufferable

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.

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From Birmingham to Gotham City: Six questions with Mark Waid

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 …

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Comics A.M. | National Organization for Marriage responds to Card backlash

Adventures of Superman #1

Adventures of Superman #1

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]

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Comics A.M. | Gene Luen Yang announces two-volume graphic novel

From "Boxers and Saints"

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]

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Thrillbent and iVerse bring Insufferable to ComicsPlus

Mark Waid’s imprint Thrillbent, which just last month announced a digital-distribution deal with comiXology, has now teamed with iVerse Media to bring Insufferable to ComicsPlus.

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.

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Mark Waid reflects on the first eight months of Thrillbent

Almost eight months ago, at Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo, Mark Waid unveiled his grand experiment in digital comics, Thrillbent.

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.

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Digital primed for greater influx of new readers in 2013

Digital Comic - fortified with Kirby crackle!

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.

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ComiXology and Andrews McMeel announce digital-distribution deal

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.

What Are You Reading? with Ales Kot

Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? Our special guest this week is Ales Kot, writer of Wild Children, Change and the just-announced Zero and The Surface.

To see what Ales and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.

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Talking Comics with Tim: Clown Tales’ Tom Peyer

Thrillbent

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.

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Comics A.M. | Alan Moore to make rare convention appearance

Alan Moore

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]

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