A couple of weeks ago, Mark Waid announced that he will be launching his new webcomic imprint, Thrillbent, on May 1 with his first webcomic series, Insufferable. Frequently, announcements of new webcomics are understated affairs and don’t generate much buzz. Occasionally, a known webcomic creator will launch a new series that his/her existing fans get excited about, but hardly rarely does that garner much attention outside that select group. Waid’s announcement, though, was different. It was made at a significant convention, and roused much of the mainstream comic media press to do a double-take at webcomics.
Waid has been in the comics industry for about a quarter century now, starting writing articles for Fantagraphics’ Amazing Heroes fanzine. He’s worked at both Marvel and DC, having well-respected and fondly remembered runs on several titles including: Flash, Legion of Super-Heroes, Captain America and Fantastic Four. His Kingdom Come has been a stalwart seller in the graphic novel sections or book stores and comic shops since it came out in 1996.
But Waid is also no stranger to the independent market either. He was one of the founders of Gorilla Comics in 2000 and worked for CrossGen Comics for several years after that. More recently, he had a multi-year tenure as Boom! Studio’s chief creative officer.
Waid is an interesting figure in comics in that he’s generally very well-respected as a writer. He regularly turns out excellent work and, though he’s received some criticism for his editing from time to time, his writing is frequently regarded as top-notch. But where Waid tends to receive the most criticism is with his comments and actions out of the pages of his comics.
Scott Kurtz, of PvP, recently relayed an incident immediately following Waid’s keynote speech at the Harvey Awards a couple years ago in which he was accosted, before he could make it back to his seat, by a very angry listener who took issue with what Waid had to say. The Beat’s report of the incident at the time called it a “heated exchange.” He’s infuriated others over the years with other things he’s said but, to his credit, he’s owned the image that he’s created and even took to wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with “Mark Waid is Evil” when he was promoting his Irredeemable book.
All of which is to say that Waid’s name is well-known in “traditional” comic circles. And in case it wasn’t obvious what this meant when Waid announced that he was jumping into webcomics, Kurtz expressly told everyone last week:
This is something I’ve been warning my friends in webcomics about for a while now. That eventually, someone famous from the comic book industry would figure out that they should try what we’ve been doing for the last fifteen years or so, and would follow suit... if Mark can make Thrillbent stick then everything changes. Everyone up to this point has been too scared to follow us... And if Mark Waid makes Thrillbent work, they’re coming very soon.
What’s especially interesting here is that Waid is doing things very openly. Because he’s been in pamphlet comics, he doesn’t have quite the familiarity with or connections in webcomics that others might. So he’s essentially re-learning what, as Kurtz says, other people figured out years ago. And Waid’s re-learning those things in a very public way, thereby teaching others who might be interested.
In a CBR interview, Waid credited D.J. Coffman for providing some early help with basic web templates that he just hadn’t figured out yet. On his blog, Waid noted that he didn’t figure out how to pace a webcomic until he had gotten to the end of chapter three of Insufferable. That’s an issue I mentioned realizing on my blog back in 2007, and I don’t even write comics!
I don’t say that to mock Waid or anything he might be ignorant about. I point it out to highlight that he’s going through a discovery process like many people looking at webcomics before him have. But Waid’s name carries considerably more weight to it and draws much more attention than Kurtz, Coffman or myself. Which means that Waid’s learnings, while generally not wholly original so far, are being shared with a much broader audience.
Kurtz said that if Waid’s new project takes off, they’ll be coming very soon. He was speaking to current and future webcomic creators about their competition, but it could also be applied to a new audience as well!