Talking Comics with Tim | Peter Krause on return of '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.

The break between projects allowed me to shift my work process from traditional paper and ink to a fully digital setup. All of Insufferable is drawn on a Wacom Cintiq using Adobe Photoshop. I don’t touch a piece of paper when doing the strip. It’s much more efficient, and really liberating.

How gratifying is it to co-own Insufferable?

Very gratifying. It’s great to be part of this wave of creator-owned comics. Thrillbent, Monkeybrain and Image all have these exciting stories spinning out from these great creators. And you have direct downloadable, pay-what-you-want content, like The Private Eye by Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin. That’s not even including all the cool webcomics out there. It’s a real golden age of comics, in my opinion.

If you have any knowledge at all of the history of comics, you know that the creators haven’t really shared in the bounty of their work. We may not be talking riches when it comes to many of these creator-owned works, but at least the artists and writers get to determine the fates of their creations.

How nervous were you before the series launched in May 2012? How quickly did that nervousness dissipate?

I don’t think there was any real nervousness on my part, other than the daily task of trying to reach a bit higher and do a bit better that goes with the creative process. Yes, I was working digitally, so there was a newness there, but that was also exciting. Probably the real nervousness was felt by Mark, John Rogers and the tech people (led by Lori Matsumoto) doing the work of getting the site off the ground.

Mark said there would be hiccups as we felt our way along. There were a few hacker attempts--one knocked the site offline for a bit. But I think everyone involved should be proud of the work. As I talk to fans at cons and online, Thrillbent is more and more well-known.

Now as the new arc begins, have you and the Insufferable team changed how you approach the collaborative and production process (versus the first arc)?

It’s a matter of fine-tuning. Nolan Woodard -- our excellent color artist -- came up with a new standard template for the drawings that should make things easier for our lettering guru Troy Peteri and for Lori when she formats the strip. Nolan teaches at SCAD [the Savannah College of Art and Design], and is great at figuring out the technical side of things.

As for me, I’m drawing at a slightly higher resolution, and experimenting with some different brushes. My next goal is to become comfortable with other drawing programs like Manga Studio and Painter and see what that can bring to the work.

I love the kinetic nature of the art (I vaguely recall one installment where a table came flying at a character). How do you go about developing visual elements like that?

Mark is great at visualizing those things, and will call for them in the script. I think those kind of things can be cool if they’re not overdone. We don’t want any gimmicks to overwhelm the story -- only enhance it.

Working in layers digitally made that table sequence fairly easy. Photoshop allowed me to draw the background -- which is static, of course -- on one layer, and then the three positions of the table in three separate layers. As you clicked through the finished online comic, it gave the appearance of motion. It’s a limited animation that we got a lot of comments on. We’ll continue to do a bit more of that in our new arc.

What do you most enjoy about exploring the digital medium?

All of it? The fun is doing this in a new playground, and that means everything from working in a horizontal landscape format (as opposed to printed comics, which is vertical) to experimenting with different effects and digital drawing tools. I’m more enthusiastic about drawing now than I’ve ever been.

Please share the dynamics of your art being colored by Nolan Woodard?

Oh, man, I can’t say enough about Nolan. We are so fortunate to have him on the Insufferable team. Nolan really thinks about what goes on, and he’ll break out from a literal interpretation of color to use it in an emotional sense. We have a scene in an upcoming episode that takes place at night, and it’s all cool and blue. Then, the tension peaks and Nolan put these rough orange stripes in the background. Just wonderful! And his enthusiasm is so appreciated. Nolan’s a star.

Will we see the supporting cast grow in the second arc, or does the team want to keep the cast about the same as it was in the first arc?

There are some new characters, but the main focus remains on Nocturnus, Galahad and Meg.

I think Meg is the soul of the book. I get comments from fans saying that she’s their favorite. Clearly, Meg’s the most likable.

There’s a slight element of comedy to Insufferable. Was that something you and Waid decided to pursue?

If you ask Mark, I think he’ll say he originally wanted Insufferable to be funnier. As it is, the humor has a dark edge. I still get a grin when I think about a sequence of Galahad driving his motorcycle and Nocturnus squished into the sidecar. Mark scripted that so well -- it’s a twisted little turn on the '60s Batman TV series.

I did not realize until recently that in college you majored in journalism. How did you switch from writing to art?

I have a BA in both studio arts and in journalism from the University of Minnesota. Current journalism students and grads will shake their heads when they read this, but I wanted something practical to fall back on in case the art didn’t work out. I wasn’t sure I could make a living drawing. But I kept pursuing it -- with the support of my lovely wife, Lisa -- and so far I’ve been able make it viable.

Speaking of writing, any chance you would ever write a series for Thrillbent?

A chance? Yes, I guess there’s a chance. Every artist thinks he can write, so there’s that conceit. I wouldn’t rule it out--I’ve floated a couple of series ideas to publishers along the way. We’ll see--right now I have my hands full trying to improve the drawing.

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