When digital comics platform Thrillbent first launched online in 2012, the first title released was Mark Waid and Peter Krause's superhero dramedy "Insufferable." Now back for the third and final season, the series follows a former superhero-and-sidekick duo who had a very nasty, very public break-up. They can't stand each other -- which makes the fact that they are father and son even more of a problem.
When a new threat rises which has serious implications for both of them, they find that they are slowly forced to start working together once more. Can they solve the mystery, or will they kill each other first? With this final volume, the digital series moves off toward the last big adventure for the pairing - with an entire city out for their blood.
"Insufferable" returned for "Season 3" last week, and CBR News spoke with Waid about what readers can expect from the digital series this time around, his work with long-time collaborator Peter Krause, and the current state of digital comics within the industry as a whole.
CBR News: "Insufferable" focuses on father and son vigilante heroes, as they alternately break apart and then make vague attempts at reconciliation. For new readers, how would you describe the style and concept of the series thus far?
Mark Waid: The basic concept is, "What if you were a crimefighter and your kid sidekick grew up to be an unbearable, egomaniacal, ungrateful ass?" Nocturnus has enjoyed a long career as the street-level protector of the city of St. Barrington, but a couple of years ago, his sidekick Galahad -- AKA his son, Jarod -- finally got tired of playing second fiddle to the old man and went his own way, in a very ugly, very public manner.
Now, even though they're father and son, they can't stand one another -- and yet, something is brewing in the city that forces the two of them together for one last adventure.
You're working with frequent collaborator Peter Krause for this series. How important has his influence been on the series, as you developed the concept and then brought it to life?
Pete's influence and input is invaluable. He does action incredibly well, but he pulls off the more subtle, human character moments even more spectacularly -- and with a series like this, it needs heart.
One of the core parts of that initial concept for "Insufferable," as I read it, was that it focused on these two characters, and the reader's understanding of who was the 'insufferable' one kept shifting. How is their relationship currently holding together, and will you be continuing on with that idea of shifting the reader's empathy between the two as we enter a third season?
Absolutely we will. That's what keeps this series from being a cartoon -- the fact that there's real emotional depth to the rift that's the foundation of the series, and the idea that it takes more than one party to create a dysfunctional family.
Pete and I had a lot of fun early on making readers believe that Galahad was a jerk and that Nocturnus was the long-suffering perfect parent... and then turning that around so that there's blame enough to go around.
How do you think the tone of the series has changed across the sixty-or-so chapters published thus far? Was it difficult, within a superhero genre, to push out and develop beyond the initial status quo, or was it something you readily embraced?
It honestly wasn't difficult once Pete and I decided that this wasn't a comedy with dramatic moments, it was a drama with a heavy comedic tone. Before we came to that conclusion, to be blunt, Nocturnus and Galahad really were more one-dimensional to us. Realizing the potential for real drama and some real, honest conversations about fathers and sons is what drove us to develop both men as real characters, because cartoon men can't carry drama for long.
With the third arc, we're actually steering hard into the family drama. Fewer deathtraps, more emotional peril.
Was the idea always to have this become a digital series? When did you come to decide that the story would work best as a serialized webcomic, and how has that changed the way you've structured and told the overall narrative?
It's always been envisioned as a digital series first, playing with the storytelling tools specific to digital. That did redefine the overall structure; with a weekly digital comic, Pete and I work hard to make sure that each individual chapter has its own beginning, middle and end, and isn't just a random offering of "here's the next few pages."
If you pay close attention, by and large, every chapter of Insufferable is basically one scene. And how that changes the overall narrative is that this gives us a little more freedom to tell chapters and stories at whatever length and pace we feel is right, without being bound to specific page counts.
Webcomics can be daunting -- the idea that, if you're starting now, there are already two years of story to catch up to. Is that why Thrillbent uses the concept of chapters and seasons? Do you view each season as being a jump-on point?
I do, very much so -- but with Thrillbent, the buy-in is a mere $3.99 a month for a streaming subscription, so think about how much you're getting for that investment! Two years of story, all there and ready to be binged upon!
How much of the greater story do you and Peter have mapped out at this point?
Pete and I do have the rest of the arc mapped out, and we've decided that this is the final hurrah for Nocturnus and Galahad -- at least for now -- so expect some major changes in status quo.
As the first story you released, Peter had to essentially be the trial case for Thrillbent's storytelling style when the series debuted. How do you feel about the concept of Thrillbent as 'an artist's medium,' where the structure of the site really shifts an emphasis onto new ways of storytelling?
I think that defines it very well, thanks. And I hope the history books accurately reflect just how much Pete's helped define the language of digital comics in this format, because as you say he was the artist who took point in defining so much of what Thrillbent does and how it looks.
What do you think have been the overall successes of Thrillbent so far, as a platform for stories? Where do you want to push the format further?
I think the real successes as a platform for stories have been allowing artists and creators to really play with all those storytelling devices you mentioned, and more, to create a new medium that's still comics -- but comics-plus. There are a lot of ways to push that platform further -- toward shorter, single-panel-per-screen stories engineered for phones, toward a wider variety of kid-friendly content, toward a more fluid choose-your-own-adventure format... I'm eager to see what comes down the pike.
You've been an advocate for digital comics for years -- and Thrillbent saw you acting on your advocacy and actually making the sort of comics you wanted to see. But how do you view digital comics as a whole, right now? Are enough people experimenting and pushing the medium forward, in your opinion? Do we need more places like Thrillbent out there, to really create a flourishing digital comics community?
I do think a lot of people are experimenting and pushing, and I'm proud to be among their number. Scrollon is a fantastic take on long-form digital storytelling. Madefire and Tapastic are playing around with all sorts of techniques, as are others.
I think the next important step is for us to join forces on a promotional front and marshal our influence and our voices to remind people that digital comics are here and they're where the exciting experimentation is happening.
"Insufferable: Season 3" continues weekly on Thrillbent.com.