Insufferable is a digital only comic that is free to read in weekly instalments. It is written by Mark Waid with beautiful art by the super-talented Peter Krause. Colourist Nolan Woodward and letterer Troy Peteri complete the very creative team. The comic was the flagship title on the recently launched digital comics site Thrillbent, created by Waid and TV writer/producer John Rogers. According to the two, Thrillbent is an attempt “to challenge 75 years’ worth of accepted “rules” about what comics are and aren’t”. However the creators of the platform also state that it is not an attempt to “kill print.” Waid, Rogers and the other collaborators believe that “print and digital can co-exist; we’re just trying to level the playing field between the two.”
The question of whether print and digital comics can co-exist is going to be something I will be returning to frequently in the World of Web Comics post. As a relative newcomer to digital and web comics I’m still finding my way around all the different platforms and apps and content that is available digitally. My exploration and enjoyment of digital comics has not dented my consumption of print comics, and it will take a lot to stop me getting excited about picking up my brand new comics every Wednesday from my LCS. I do believe that there is a way for print and digital to co-exist and essentially feed each off other and grow the readership for both. It seems to me that sites like Thrillbent are making headway in this regard. The ethos and approach they have is such that they are generating the same kind of anticipation for the weekly episodes of Insufferable that I get for my new print comics every week.
What happens when you’re a crimefighter and your sidekick grows up to be an arrogant, ungrateful douchebag? What on Earth could draw the two of you back together again? This is the premise of Insufferable and the central questions at the heart of the narrative.
The story follows ‘hero’ Nocturnus and his ‘douchebag’ sidekick Galahad as, despite their hatred of each other they are forced to re-unite. As the story progresses we learn more about the background to these characters and the initial impressions we have formed are altered by these revelations.
Thrillbent and Insufferable use digital technology and new media to present and publicize. The use of social media is mirrored in the story itself. Galahad uses Twitter to connect with his fans and stoke his ego. As in the real world this can work the other way however. In a recent episode Galahad is mercilessly ridiculed via the internet when his attempts to rescue his kidnapped ex-girlfriend do not go especially smoothly.
These innovative tropes and the delivery platform of the episodes make Insufferable a really interesting proposition. I wanted to find out more about the development and creation of Insufferable and was lucky enough to catch up with artist Peter Krause and ask him a few questions.
GeeksUnleashed: Hi Peter. Thrillbent launched earlier this year. What’s the reaction to the site been like from the comic book world?
Peter Krause: The reaction has been great. People seem to like the weekly instalments – as long as we give them a “satisfying chunk” to digest. I know that there are fans who say that print comics give them the most satisfying experience. I think what we are doing at Thrillbent – and others that are producing online only comics – shows that there is an audience for digital as well.
GU: You’ve had a good working relationship with Mark Waid previously. How did you first become involved in the Thrillbent project?
PK: Mark kept in touch after I left the BOOM! comic Irredeemable. We had launched the series together, and I stayed on through the first 28 issues. Frankly, I needed a bit of a sabbatical and I had some other, non-comics work waiting for me. I also took that time to get comfortable with drawing on a Cintiq and producing comics digitally. Late last summer – just about a year ago – Mark started emailing me in earnest about Insufferable, our Thrillbent series. I loved the concept, and it keeps me working with Mark. What’s not to love about that?
GU: Good point! You seem to have really embraced the digital technologies that are available to artists. What advantages do you find with drawing digitally over working with paper and ink?
PK: For those not familiar with the Wacom Cintiq, it’s basically a large monitor on which you draw directly. An artist can use any number of programs with the Cintiq to create visuals–I’m using Adobe Photoshop. I need to plug Freddie E. Williams II book “The DC Comics Guide to Digitally Drawings Comics”, which has been a wonderful reference.
I love drawing digitally. It saves so much time. There’s no waiting for ink to dry, reverting the art to a previous vision is just a click away, and there’s no scanning. Gone is the guessing game of how much longer the pen nib will last. And I’m not having to buy paper, ink and brushes.
I’m not saying that I’ll never use traditional media to produce comics again, but it’s unlikely. I don’t know if I’d be able to produce a weekly comic without working digitally.
GU: I understand that you draw Insufferable using totally digital processes. How has this affected the way you structure panels and approach the composition of the comic?
PK: Really, it’s the size of the computer screen/tablet that dictates the composition more than drawing it digitally. We’re working with a landscape format here – more horizontal than the vertical printed comic book page. That gets us away from splash and double-page spreads.
I’m very comfortable working within standard rectangular frames to tell a story. There are times that I wonder how we’ll get all of the story into a “screen”, but somehow we manage. And our colorist, Nolan Woodard and letterer Troy Peteri always make the art look good and the story read well.
GU: As the weeks progress we are learning more about the two main characters in Insufferable, but also more questions are being raised. How much do you know in advance about Mark’s ideas for the direction of the story? How much input do you have in that?
PK: Mark will give me some advance on the broader strokes of the story. At this point, I don’t know how Insufferable will end, but he has let me know about a pivotal reveal that will happen down the road. And early on, we have discussed certain details of our strip so that I’ve been able to contribute a few things here and there. But I always have a few surprises in store whenever I get a new script.
GU: Finally, comics and digital comics are gaining a lot of exposure at the moment, especially with projects such as Thrillbent bringing focus. Do you think the landscape of comic book publishing has changed now? How do you see web comics developing in the future?
PK: Oh yeah, the comic business has changed. There is an independent spirit in comics right now, and not just on the web. Look at series like The Walking Dead, Fatale, Who Is Jake Ellis?, The Activity – all creator-owned. And there are so many digital strips available. The barriers have been lowered to getting work in front of an audience. It’s an exciting and unpredictable time for sequential art. I’m glad to be a part of it.
GU: Thank you so much Peter for sparing the time to talk to GeeksUnleashed.Me.
And that’s it. I hope the interview has given you some great insight into the process of creating a digital comic, and I hope this article has piqued your interest enough to check out Insufferable if you haven’t already. It’s definitely worth your time.
You can check out the latest episode right here – Insufferable Week 16.