Waid's Webcomics Initiative (Thrillbent / Insufferable) Launches

By Todd Allen

Mark Waid’s been threatening to go digital for quite some time.  He’s also had a history of exploring options outside of DC and Marvel.  Waid spent some time at Crossgen, launched his creator-owned Empire with Barry Kitson over at Image under the tragically short-lived Gorilla imprint, did Hunter/Killer with Marc Silvestri for Top Cow and spent some time as E-I-C at BOOM!, where he launched a few books with Irredeemable as his flagship title.  Now he’s finally combining those longstanding threats and his independent work with “Thrillbent.

Thrillbent is Waid’s digital comics site/platform, co-masterminded with John Rogers (comics-wise: Blue Beetle, Dungeons & Dragons; film-wise: Transformers; TV-wise: Leverage).  There will be multiple strips on the site, one is teased for a May 9 debut, but right now the site is launching with “Insufferable.

Insufferable is a deadpan deconstruction of the sidekick role.  Where Empire was “what if the bad guy really took over the world?” and Irredeemable was “what if Superman went insane?” Insufferable is “what if Robin grew up to be a douchebag?”  Judging by the first installment, which is less of a farce than it sounds like, this is a *slightly* less dark twist on superhero tropes, while still being in the general spirit of Waid’s better known independent efforts.

Appropriately, he’s joined on the art by Peter Krause, the original and primary artist on Irredeemable.  So, pretty clearly, if you liked Irredeemable, Insufferable is probably something you should give a look.

The revenue model for Thrillbent isn’t clear yet.  I’m not seeing ads or merchandising on the site, but it is common for that to get filled in a little later with webcomics.  (You have to generate content before you can make merchandise from it.)  That aside, this is causing more than a little commotion because Waid is arguably the highest profile print comics creator to make a big move over to the webcomics side of the fence.

He is not the first creator to move to web.  Phil Foglio has been the gold standard for that, taking Girl Genius online several years ago.  Girl Genius was not a big seller in the Direct Market.  It’s been a wild success online.  Waid is currently writing Daredevil and has a list of popular titles the length of an East-West block in Manhattan.  He’s pulled with him an artist for a title that was one of the highest selling creator-owned indies when it launched.  Nobody’s really sure what kind of traffic or traction to expect on this.

Scott Kurtz, he of PVP webcomic fame, is the first one to blink at the mere mention of this news:

Here’s what excites and scares me about Mark Waid. He’s not afraid to experiment. He’s not afraid to fail, or look foolish. He doesn’t care if he pisses off retailers or publishers or other professionals. He’s going for it. Fortune favors the bold and Mark Waid is looking to be bold. He’s going to throw things up against the wall and see what sticks. And once something sticks…well…woe betide the webcomicer who hasn’t established a corner of the web for themselves. Because if Mark can make Thrillbent stick then everything changes. Everyone up to this point has been too scared to follow us. They have too much to lose. Mark Waid doesn’t give a shit. He’s going for it.

I think it’s official. We have our first legit compeitor for our readers attention and dollars outside our own community. Mark my words (pun intended).

I don’t know how much the game is changing until I see how the commerce is implemented.  I’d expected to see $0.99 downloads, but Waid states in the blog that a chapter of Insufferable will be up each Wednesday for free.  If that’s the case and he goes for the usual advertising/merchandise revenue mix, it’s not business model competition, it’s competition from a higher profile creator.  It also may not be quite as much competition as the majority of top webcomics are comic strip-based and more gag than story.  Thrillbent looks similar to Avatar’s webcomics efforts, like Freak Angels.  Freak Angels is odd, in that it was successful, but seemed to exist outside the normal webcomics conversation.  It’s entirely possible we’re seeing the build out of a slightly different format.  One closer to the comic book experience than the comic strip experience.  And that might mean a slightly different audience.  Waid seems to bridging the gap between mainstream print and web a bit more dramatically with the announcement.

But that’s the beauty of Thrillbent.  It’s just launched and we really don’t know where it’s going yet.  It will be interesting to see what these other strips are and who else Waid is bringing along for the ride.  It will also be interesting to see how print and web popular compare in the long run.  These aren’t necessarily the same audiences.

Comments

  1. Carlton Donaghe says:

    I just like the fact that Mark Waid is being so bold with this.

    Most areas of the country are not serviced by comic shops. If he could get people out in the middle of the country to his site, places with many Wal-Marts and few comic shops, I think he’d do pretty well.

  2. Johnathan Black says:

    I read the first installment and thought it was well done.

    I just couldn’t help but think, “Do we really need more superheroes?” I [apparently incorrectly] thought that comics companies kept putting out more new superheroes because that’s what the Direct Market demands.

    I grew up reading superhero comics in the 1980s and have a soft spot for them still. But I really wonder if there is some kind of mental block on many comic book creators limiting them to this genre.

    The story had the feel of a potentially interesting thriller and then a character in ridiculous clothing shows up to beat down the bad guy. Are comics creators so wedded to the superhero genre that they have a limited capacity to see other possibilities?

    If this is the case, the success that superheroes are having at the box office will do little to change things.

    To be clear, this is not meant as a slight to Mark Waid. The piece is well written and there is no shame in writing superheroes. I’m just wondering if I’ll see that talent and ability applied to something else.

  3. Jason says:

    If things go well maybe non-super hero based comics will take off on the site. I have yet to go check out the site but when I have time later in the month I plan to. Good luck Mark.

  4. Mark has stated that the first series would be costume based–hey,because that is what we do. And Mark does it particularly well.

    He has had the idea of “Insufferable” percolating inside his head for a couple of years. Mark told me about the concept not long after we started working on “Irredeemable”.

    I do know he has something “non-caped” up his sleeve for the future.

  5. Johnathan Black says:

    Thanks Peter. Good to know.

Speak Your Mind

*