Mark Waid spoke with CBR TV’s roving reporter Kiel Phegley during Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo, with the two discussing the writer’s big announcement for the show, the launch of Thrillbent.com. Waid dove into all aspects of his ambitious webcomics venture, from the origins of the site name to rebranding his personal site, MarkWaid.com, to reuniting with his original “Irredeemable” partner, artist Peter Krause.
Waid also discusses how his career, from as early as his time writing DC Comics’ “Impulse,” has helped inform his upcoming webcomics work, his reaction to the critical success “Daredevil” has seen and working with artist Khoi Pham on “Daredevil” #10.1.
Check out the interview and complete transcript below.
Kiel Phegley: Mark, let’s jump right in because it’s going to be a busy show for you. You’re announcing Thrillbent.com, your new digital comics initiative/digital imprint/website mega-giant thing. This is something you’ve been working a long time on. The thing I’d ask is, “Thrillbent” as a name — from whence did that name come and what do you want to get across with that really exciting name?
Mark Waid: Exactly that. Very exciting forward momentum. It has energy, it’s about thrills, but it’s not just about — I like “Hellbent,” which is a better name, but it seems a little too specific. I like “Thrillbent.” I wanted it to have that 21st Century pulp feel to it, that weird amalgam of — it’s that pulp adventure, but at the same time, it’s not images on paper; it’s a whole new medium we’re working in.
Also, obviously, there are not a lot of comic stores say, in Alabama. “Hellbent” might not go over so well in Alabama.
You’ve been running this process blog at MarkWaid.com, you’ve been inviting guests in, people have been kind of taking about their experience — you talk about your experience, but you’ve also opened it up to anybody who wants to come in and comment. I was wondering what the comment was that came out of the blue so far that you said, “Oh! There’s something I need to keep in mind.”
It was D.J. Coffman, actually, who is somebody I’ve known from webcomics who said, “Hey, this is how I set up my template for my page.” In other words, I know it’s a simple thing, I know we’re going to have to keep each page to a certain ratio in order to fit the website that we’re doing, but he basically said, “In Photoshop, boom boom boom boom boom — and now you’ve got the template that you need and now there’s no more fussing with it.” I love it. It’s a simple thing, but we hadn’t yet figured it out. It’s all of the suggestions and thoughts, the random suggestions coming out of nowhere. That’s where the creativity really comes from, because people are just making connections and throwing out ideas. I’m being very honest about the transparency of it, which is you get to watch me. If you like what we’re doing, you get to chime in and we’ll take your ideas and we’ll listen to you and we’ll give you ideas of our own. If you hate what I’m doing, you get to watch me screw up in public in a spectacular fashion, because there’s going to be mistakes made along the way. But I’m learning. I’m willing to lead with my face and learn.
Thrillbent launches on May 1st, and the first strip that you and Peter Krause — who worked on “Irredeemable” with you — are doing is called “Insufferable.” Tell folks who may not have read about this quite yet, what’s going on in the pages, the panels, the screens of “Insufferable.”
“Insufferable,” which is something I’ve been cooking up for a while with Pete and colorist Nolan Woodard who did some of the “Irredeemable”/”Incorruptible” stuff with us, is a dramedy about what happens when your kid sidekick, when you’re a superhero — a Batman-level guy — and your kid sidekick grows up to be a complete douche bag. When he grows up to just be an arrogant, completely ungrateful jerk with a mouth on him. He still wants to fight crime, but he spends half his time on the web telling everybody what a genius he is. It’s so much hype. He’s replaced a lot of the fisticuffs with the hype machine. What happens then when something happens to create a case that the two of them have to bond together on, one last case where they have to work together on, even though at this point they can’t stand each other. “Insufferable.”
It’s interesting because in the past you and I have talked about “Impulse,” which is one of my favorite books, and you said what a lot of people didn’t realize at the time was it was a comedy book. That’s how you approached it. Is that something that you feel you’d like to do more often and you haven’t had a chance to do in the mainstream?
Yeah, it’s because the comics mainstream, the comics store mainstream is not really built for that. It’s not really built for a lot of humor books, it’s not really built for a lot of off-genre books. Comic stores do what they do very, very well, but the majority of what they do is, they sell superhero comics. They sell darker superhero comics, so it’s rare you can get away with something that’s a lot lighter. So, let’s try that on the web. If we can’t make it work in the existing marketplace, let’s see if we can find a market for it outside the comic shops and see if there’s a market for it there.
While I’ve got you here, I’ve got to ask a little bit about “Daredevil” really quickly because it’s this book where it’s gotten so many accolades, it’s gotten so many Eisner nominations now, what does Mark Waid, the writer who hates himself, say when he gets nominated for a bunch of Eisners?
I have no idea. All I can say is, “Man, these other guys I work with make me look really good.” That’s all. That’s the only thing that makes any sense to me. I don’t think I’m writing any differently or better or worse than I have been for the last fifteen years. I’m a lucky man. I’m working with this murderer’s row of artists and colorists and with Steve Wacker and his editorial department and I just feel really lucky — and honored — to be nominated.
One of the things that I think is really interesting coming up in the book on that art side is that Khoi Pham is going to come in and do some work. Love Khoi Pham, love his work, but a lot of people have said, when you’ve had Marcos Martin and Paolo and all these other guys that have done — and I heard Steve [Wacker] say, I think it was on a panel, that Khoi is switching up a little of his style to fit the aesthetic of “Daredevil.” What has it been like working with him and seeing a different side of his art?
It’s really interesting. It’s still as energetic as I’m used to seeing from him, but it’s cleaner. It’s cleaner, it’s less hatchy, there’s a little more simplicity to it, it’s a little bolder and he really does fit the mix really nicely.
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