Mark Waid Goes Viral With Thrillbent Relaunch

From its very beginning, Mark Waid has called his digital comics platform Thrillbent an experiment. This week, the experiment started yielding some new results.

On Monday, Thrillbent.com relaunched with a new look, new comics and some brand-new functionality that the writer hopes will be a game changer for his style of tap-to-read comic storytelling. "What we were looking at is the end of Thrillbent 1.0 -- the subtle months-long shakedown cruise where we saw what works and what doesn't. This is essentially Thrillbent 2.0. It's a whole new look, a new design and a lot of cool additions. The big takeaway is that we'll have three new series on Monday, Wednesday and Friday."

Keeping with his previous moves at postalizing for the creators and ideas he believes in, the new Thrillbent serials will feature both established and unknown creators with a wide variety of genres to their credit. "On Monday's we have 'Arcanum' from John Rogers and Todd Harris which is a supernatural '24' as John likes to pout it. It is a spy/espionage story told in a world where magic is as much a factor as guns and bullets," Waid said. "Wednesday will still be 'Insufferable' day, so this week we'll be launching the second arc with myself and the regular team of Peter Krause, Nolan Woodard and Troy Peteri. And then on Friday, we start 'The Damnation of Charlie Wormwood.' That one is by Christy Blanch, Chris Carr and Chee, who is an artist I worked with at BOOM! He's done stuff at IDW and Dark Horse, and I just think he's amazing. That's our hard-boiled prison story. It's the story of a college professor who teaches part time at a local prison, and he finds out that he can solve a lot of his financial problem by doing things for the prisoners on the outside that they can't do for themselves anymore. It's great. It's dark. It's funny, but it's filled with real life. Christy taught at a prison for a while, so she has a ton of true stories from prisoners about the things they do in there and the reasons they got caught. There's some amazing things she's learned from prisoners that'd turn your hair white, and she's peppered the series with those.

"That's stage one of the rollout. It's all weekly. It's all free to read, as we have been. And in the ensuing weeks, we'll be rolling out material on Tuesdays and Thursdays as well. By the end of the month, we'll be up to the point where we've got new content up every day of the week."

But for the tech geek in Waid, even more exciting about the relaunch are the redesign specifics which he says add a new level of functionality and viral potential to the comics. "The entire platform is built on adaptive technology," he explained of how Thrillbent comics now go out. "The site itself knows what kind of format you're reading it on -- iPhone, iPad, your home computer or any kind of tablet - and it adapts to that format automatically. It's interesting. For an iPhone, it'll shrink down a little bit and menu items will become drop down items. Everything works to maximize the size of the content. I love this adaptive technology -- no matter how you're holding your device, the site sense it and feeds content to you in the way that makes the most sense."

With the basics of his screen storytelling skills in place, the writer has been able to focus his more recent efforts on breaking ground on the delivery systems for the site, copying the most common models for web sharing around. "The thing about 2.0 is that it's less about changing up the storytelling techniques and more about refining them," Waid said. "But more than that, 2.0 is about broadening the platform so that readers of all genres can find us. And how do we do it in a way that readers can share what they like with other people and other potential readers? What I think is the game-changer for the whole site is the embedable viewer. Just like a YouTube video that you can drop into your web page or Facebook with a few clicks, Thrillbent will have the same functionality. If you see a comic you like on Thrillbent, it's click click to drop it wherever you want it to go. It's the ultimate sharing tool for what we do."

Overall, Waid is trying to find the best ways to achieve some outreach both within and without the traditional comics-reading community. And part of that is finding a way for fans to become patrons of the Thrillbent content while also getting a little extra out of their comics. "One thing we've done to give readers a chance to support us is that we've been bundling four or five installments of 'Insufferable' at a time on a monthly basis and releasing them to comiXology. It's one of our best kept secrets, but it shouldn't be. There's bonus content there like some tech pages and new art. It's a sort of thank you for people who are willing to drop $0.99 or $1.99 for material they've already read. And we're working with comiXology to bundle more as well. There will always be free material on the site, but if you want to show your support and also carry around the content in a more regular format, it's up there on the cheap."

And turning Thrillbent into a profitable venture overall is something closer to becoming real, though Waid promises that he's not going to abandon the open model that's kept the site going for a year. "So far, our focus has been able to get this up and running. Getting things up to five days-a-week for content is really exciting," Waid said. "It also gives us a chance to play around with monetization a bit with the different material on the site. For one of these, could we do a 'pay as you will' model like Vaughan and Martin did on 'Private Eye' so well? Do we do a subscription model on some of them? Can we build the site in a way where the strips come to you rather than having to have you chase them down? I don't know what the answers are, but what's exciting to me is that we can get in there together and figure out what happens. And as always, we'll be blogging about this and sharing our info with our readers because I'm a big fan of transparency. That's what the Thrillbent experiment is - letting people know what we're doing and how we're doing it. There's no point in being proprietary about it because all we want to do is make great comics."

New stories are live now on Thrillbent.com

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