Especially now that we’ve gone with the subscription model, I get a lot of (very fair and good) questions about how we choose what to run when, how we choose where series “breaks” happen, all that sort of thing.
Sometimes, bad luck trips us up–Troy Peteri’s been down with the flu for days now, but the next chapters of THE DAMNATION OF CHARLIE WORMWOOD will be up any moment now, as will the next THE HOUSE IN THE WALL. Troy’s lettering adds so much to those strips that over his own protestations, I’m not going to hand the work over to someone else and I’m banking on our fans giving us that leeway in this case.
That said, by and large, we’ve been every bit as diligent about hitting our deadlines as we’ve been all along, and I’m proud of us for that. For reasons that are equally editorial/publishing and budgetary, we tend to run each of our ongoing series anywhere from eight to sixteen chapters in a row (each set of chapters comprising one volume). In general, we schedule brief breaks in between volumes to (a) buy some time to get ahead of deadlines and (b) allow for new series to be rotated in as we gradually build our catalog of monthly offerings. That 8-to-16 number is hardly hard-and-fast, but that might help give you an idea why we take planned breaks with series like INSUFFERABLE, breaks that are built around strong, gut-punching cliffhangers.
The overall goal is to give subscribers far more than one standard print comic’s worth of content each month in exchange for their $3.99 subscription fee, and I feel confident we’re doing just that–and there’s much more to come. When I can finally come up for air, we’ll finally post the long-promised “upcoming” calendar to the site and app so you can see just how much you’re getting and when (and you’ll be pleasantly surprised).
Also, Troy just texted to say that he came back from Urgent Care armed with meds and cough super-suppressant and that he was jumping on WORMWOOD later tonight, but I told him to rest, for God’s sake. Thanks for understanding. We don’t and won’t abuse your trust in Thrillbent!
Becky, here! You don’t know me yet, but I’m the creator of Thrillbent’s newest title, Everstar. Updating every Friday, Everstar will hopefully be bringing an added dose of whimsy and adventure to Thrillbent’s lineup. As my first jaunt into the world of digital comics, Everstar’s creation was simultaneously incredibly enjoyable and a little nerve-wracking.
The task of creating a digital comic was, to be perfectly honest, daunting. While I was certainly familiar with the medium, I felt more comfortable with the static images of print where I didn’t have to worry about whether or not the art would be staying in one place. With Thrillbent’s “still animation” style that allows the panels to change from one swipe to the next, the writing process becomes very different indeed. It requires you to think about what overlays would move or appear in addition to the usual meat of the script like dialogue and descriptions. I’m an obsessive fan of comics, but the truth is I had never considered writing something in this particular format until the prospect of working with Thrillbent came up.
Once I started the process of writing specifically for Thrillbent, however, something clicked and the writing process it became more and more fun. I also had the added bonus of working with Joie Brown, an artist who was more than up to the challenge. With Thrillbent’s unique style of digital storytelling, the possibilities now felt practically endless in terms of what could be done. We could toy around with things like physical humor or science-fiction visuals in a way that we wouldn’t be able to anywhere else—and I can say that I might have gotten a little trigger-happy with the space battles as a result.
As I worked with Joie, it became clear that we were lucky enough to be working in a genre and style that lent itself perfectly to the digital format. We could use both the art and the storytelling style to draw kids in and provide them with a different kind of immersive storytelling experience, regardless of whether they’re familiar with comics or not. In writing a series for children, we wanted to capture as much of the wonderment and curiosity of kids as possible—in Everstar’s case, that wonderment is seen through the eyes of an eleven-year-old girl on the voyage of a lifetime.
Above everything, my goal with Everstar was to create something for all ages. It’s a simple story of a young girl and her spaceship and it will be bringing with it all of the adventures of a wild and crazy kid in outer space. Expect pirates, irate robots, and new galaxies waiting to be explored. It may be intended for kids, but we hope that it’s a story that can be enjoyed by everyone. The first two chapters are up now, so let us know what you think!
Well, that couldn’t have gone better. Seriously.
As announced in a previous blogpost, Thrillbent opened up the pitching process at San Diego Comic-Con this year. The rules were simple: we’d take the best pitch for a single short story and develop it for release on Thrillbent later this year–we’d pay for production, you’d own the story–but your pitch had to clock in at no more than 15 seconds.
We began our panel with a quick recap of who we were and what we did while tyros started lining up at the microphone. To show we could play by our own rules, our panelists–James Tynion IV, Christy Blanch, Chris Mancini, Todd Harris, Becky Tinker and myself–each pitched what we were doing for Thrillbent in that same 15-second space, to wit:
“EMPIRE is a science-fiction GAME OF THRONES where a supervillain has taken over the Earth. He’s trying to maintain his reign only to find out that once you’ve consolidated all the world’s power on one throne, there is no more dangerous place to sit.”
“INSUFFERABLE is about father-and-son crimefighters where the son grew up to be a jerk, went solo, and broke up the team. Now an ex-villain is trying to pull them back together for one last case.”
“The year is 1812, and VALENTINE is one of the few soldiers left of Napoleon’s once-mighty army felled by the Russian winter. Given a mysterious package by a dying general with orders to see it safely back to France, Valentine finds himself pursued through the snow by blood-eyed monsters who intent on stopping him.”
“ARCANUM follows the adventures of the secret government agency using creatures of myth and legend as its agents to fight invading arcane forces that bullets and rocket launchers are useless against. It’s 24 by way of Once Upon A Time.”
And so on.
We blew through our entire slide presentation in six minutes, including the various announcements we’ll share with you later this week. Success. Then we turned to the waiting contestants. Going in, I figured we’d have 15, maybe 20, and that the panelists and I would have time to ask some follow-up questions and discuss the merits of the pitches amongst ourselves.
I was informed just before we began that we’d had to cut the line at 100.
That didn’t leave much room for back-and-forth; it was pretty rat-a-tat-tat. Fifteen seconds isn’t a whole lot of time. But here were the things that amazed me:
First, there weren’t any terrible pitches. Not one. As someone who’s been an editor for over thirty years, I’m here to tell you that this is statistically impossible. Yes, there were some worn and tired ideas. Yes, there were some unintentionally derivative pitches. But I kept waiting for someone to step up and give me “A werewolf wakes up on the TITANIC” or “Turns out they’re all vampires,” or (BOOM! founder Ross Richie’s classic go-to example for hollow ideas) “A monkey punches a robot.” This didn’t happen. Everyone who got up to pitch–everyone, without fail–was prepared and rehearsed. Most people had written their pitches down to read. No one made me doubt the existence of God. Joe Casey asked me yesterday if I’d experienced anything recently that gave me faith that the future of comics is secure, and I told him about those pitches.
Second, there was an encouraging amount of diversity at play. Despite the fact that it was open-call, were most of the volunteers of the white-male demographic? Yes. But by no means was that majority a wide majority. I was thrilled at the number of women in line, at the number of men who didn’t look like cracked-mirror versions of me…and they all had stories to tell. Fantasy tales. Crime tales. Romans a clef. Stories of joy, of darkness, of hope. So many, many good pitches.
As we went, I answered most every pitch with an off-the-top-of-the-head comment/snap judgment (seemed to me like these people ought to hear why their pitches did or didn’t work for me–fair is fair and, besides, this was intended as a teaching process as much as a pitch session). A lot of them were good ideas that were too big for the short-story one-off space we were offering; I encouraged these writers to develop them as longer pieces or mini-series for someone. Many of them were good ideas that would be better served in another medium; there was a great one about worldwide body-swapping that, given the relatively internal nature of the conflicts it created, wasn’t terribly visual–but as I said as I rejected it, if it were a novel, I’d read the hell out of it. Some of them were just too close to things we were already publishing or were planning on rolling out. And a couple of them just didn’t strike me. (As I likewise warned everyone going in, just because I don’t like your story doesn’t mean it’s a bad story. One of the realities of publishing is that you have no idea going in how tired I might already be that day of hearing zombie pitches or vampire pitches or what have you. Nothing you can do about that; just pitch.)
As we went, we got through more than half the contestants (!) and pulled aside ten or so as potential winners. When we’d just flat out run out of time, I chose the story (congratulations, Paul O’Connor!) that all the panelists felt had the greatest potential to use the unique tools of digital storytelling well, but that was a tough call, because all the semi-finalists had dynamite pitches (especially Josh Southall, Suzy Stein and Fernando Perez, and Richard Stouvenel). I told them all to give us their contact info so that if Paul gets hit by a bus tomorrow, they can step up.
Then I went out in the hall and listened to the rest of the pitches. Everyone understood that we’d already picked a winner, but since we’d had no idea how many contestant would show up and thus hadn’t limited the number of slots, those remaining shouldn’t be penalized. Again: some amazing pitches. No dumb ones. Some I’d publish tomorrow if we had the time and resources. Only one guy whose heart visibly shattered into pieces when I told him, wincing, that his idea was too close to a Greg Rucka comic already in print. Two pitches that would have made the semi-finals easily. One that might well have won. By every measure, the panel was a rousing success, so keep visiting the Thrillbent site and reading the blog (scroll to the bottom of the page to sign up for the mailing list!) to see when and where we’ll do this again, because I can’t wait. (I know what you’re asking, and yes: we will eventually open up this site to unsolicited submissions outside of conventions, hopefully later this year, but right now we simply don’t have the peoplepower. But do keep watching the site and sign up for the mailing list so you’ll know when we throw open the gates.)
Thank you so much to everyone who came out for this. Thanks for being good sports, thanks for the good will. And watch for Paul O’Connor’s detective noir tale 4 SECONDS coming soon!
Every week, we here at Thrillbent HQ receive many, many inquiries about story submissions from new creators looking to break into comics — particularly digital comics. The short answer remains that we still don’t have the time-and-energy resources to take submissions, though we still hope to later this year. BUT —
— the slightly longer answer is that if you happen to be attending San Diego Comic-Con this year, we will be holding an open pitch session at our presentation/Q&A panel — Thursday, July 24, 5:30pm, Room 8 — where my intrepid crew and I will accept ONE PITCH to develop and, if the final story is good, host on Thrillbent. If you’re an artist/writer, that’s awesome: step up. If you’re a writer and we like your story, we will find you an artist if you need one. We will pay for production (art/lettering/coloring) and you and the artist will share the copyright — this isn’t work for hire. It’s a showcase for your short story.
Anyone is welcome to participate, absolutely anyone, but there are some ground rules:
- You must be physically present at the panel to deliver the pitch.
- You’re pitching ONE STORY. Not a sprawling ongoing series, not a 52-week arc. Look at any chapter of anything we have up on Thrillbent.com and/or the Thrillbent app and you’ll get some sense of how long it should be — thirty to forty pages, TOPS.
- You must be able to deliver your story pitch in no more than 15 seconds. We will have a timer. If you go past that time limit, your entry will be INVALID.
- No visual aids. You must be able to describe your story well enough so we can begin to see it in our heads.
- If my friends and I have further questions about your characters, plot, or what-have-you, you should be able to answer them. CONCISELY.
- By stepping up to the mike, you’re gonna have to trust that neither we nor the 500 other people in the audience will steal your idea. That may worry you, but it’s a risk you’re going to have to take throughout the length of your creative career. The hard truth is that ideas are easy; it’s what you do with them that’s the magic. But everything starts with an idea.
- We retain the option to put more rules on the table before showtime if need be or if we realize we’ve not covered our butts legally on something. But the first six are the important rules.
Fifteen seconds is not a lot of time, but as I’ve been saying since before you were born, comics is about THE ECONOMY OF STORYTELLING. Get in, make every word and every image count, get out. If it takes you as long or longer to verbally pitch your story as it would take to read it, you should be working in another medium. Brevity. Brvty. Brv.
Things to bear in mind that will help you immensely:
Know what a story is. A story is not an anecdote. (“A little girl gets taken by a tornado to a magical realm, the end.”) A story is someone wants something, and something is in his or her way. (“A little girl gets taken by a tornado to a magical realm and the only way to get home is to defeat an evil witch.” “An explorer is searching for the Ark of the Covenant, but so are the Nazis.” “A scientist craves recognition, but he knows his breakthrough discovery could endanger the world.”)
Little Miss Muffet is not a story. Little Miss Muffet is a setup and no punchline. Girl wants to eat, spider frightens her away, the end. It becomes a story if, win or lose, she (or the spider) takes some sort of action and ends up different in some way as a result. Conflict/resolution. That’s a story.
Pitch a story that works well in the Thrillbent digital format. “We see one event from two simultaneous points of view side-by-side.” “This story takes place somewhere visually interesting.” “As the scene progresses, some of the scenery begins to fade from view.” And so on. Be imaginative. But at the rock bottom minimum, have a premise that is visually interesting.
Remember at all times that your final story can be no longer than about thirty to forty pages, TOPS. Extra points for fewer pages.
For the six million of you who will not be at San Diego Comic-Con, I apologize in advance, but right now, this is the best we can do; we are a very lean crew and we are getting to open-submissions as fast as we can. For those who are attending, once again: our panel is on Thursday, July 24 at 5:30pm in Room 8. If you have (concise) questions regarding the pitch session, send them to lori (at) thrillbent (dot) com. Do NOT send her pitches ahead of time; they will be rejected instantly.
See you in San Diego!
If you like THE EIGHTH SEAL, this is a very good day for you.
Writer James Tynion IV (Eighth Seal, Batman Eternal, The Woods) today launches the first chapter in his new Thrillbent horror series, THE HOUSE IN THE WALL. Joining him are co-writer Noah J. Yuenkel, artist Eryk Donovan, and colorist Fred Stresing, and together they creep me the hell out. Or, rather, their work does. You know what I mean. I’m sure they’re lovely people. I am willing to overlook the fact that James frequently, frequently giggles with a pitch, tone and volume identical to everything that ever gave you a nightmare when you were five. On the plus side, his table manners are impeccable.
THE HOUSE IN THE WALL is a ghost story stripped of all the hoary tropes and infused with a macabre edge familiar to Tynion’s fans. It’s about a recurring dream, a series of corridors, an impossible house, and a very brave woman scrambling to survive. It is awesome. And, like EMPIRE, it comes to subscribers every two weeks. For your $3.99 a month, that’s yet another comic delivered under the Thrillbent banner to join THE DAMNATION OF CHARLIE WORMWOOD, EMPIRE, ALBERT THE ALIEN, our full 300+ library of “back issues” of our various other series… and more new series to be announced in the next couple of weeks. I would pay that just to read one James Tynion IV comic, and I’m saying that with utter sincerity. Given all that comes with that… you shouldn’t miss this. THE HOUSE IN THE WALL. Check it out here.
So The Endling has reached its ending. Naturally, I couldn’t resist ending on two more cliffhangers. Nature of the beast, I suppose. Can’t honestly say I’m sorry.
At the risk of having the MPAA orchestra play me off, I want to thank Cecilia Latella for knocking out gorgeous, human, exciting, expressive artwork week after week after week. Not to mention serving as de facto editor and compiler of our amazing collected issues (which you can and should check out at the Thrillbent store). You should keep an eye on whatever she does next, because it’s going to have a hell of a lot of heart. Paul Mounts helped kick off the series with his colors for the first four issues and for that I’ll always be grateful. Jenn Manley Lee somehow pulled off both a smooth transition from Paul’s style and a quick, distinctive, glorious style of her own. Months later, some of her and Cecilia’s most striking work remains vivid in my mind. If you can’t recall any panels, go back and read the thing again—you were going too fast the first time! Troy Peteri lettered the entire series—on one end putting up with my nitpickery and on the other going above and beyond with thoughtful, exciting, dynamic sound-art that made panels and sequences work that had no business working when the script left my computer. Great work by great folks.
Mark Waid and John Rogers made it all possible—not only helping to find much of the creative team but also cheerleading all the way. Praise from those guys? If you’re reading this, I know you can imagine what a big deal that is. And unsung Thrillbent reality-maker Lori Matsumoto never faltered no matter how kvetchy or grumpy I got.
When I started this, I had done two Batman stories for DC. I googled constantly for feedback after they came out. With The Endling, I was gratified that you guys shared your thoughts with us in Thrillbent’s comments section, on our Facebook page, and on Twitter. We even got to meet honest-to-goodness, real-life Endling fans when James Tynion IV graciously let us squat at his NYCC table last year. Dave, Brad, Darryl, PipedreamComics.uk, and many other folks let us know week after week that we were blowing their minds and that’s what got us through all the technical and production hassles that are part and parcel of any endeavor like this.
So…what was The Endling all about? I didn’t want to say anything before, but as you’ve probably figured out by now, it’s basically an origin story. It’s the story of how Amber Black and The Endling form an uneasy partnership to save humanity from humanity’s future. It’s a story about how people behave when the stakes are the highest possible—and the ways evolution does and doesn’t serve us in those circumstances. I became much more attached to these guys than I expected and killing some of them off gutted me much less than leaving them all behind does now.
What’s next? Beats me. As far as I’m concerned, I hope to write more comics. I have ideas for other series—so if you’re an artist who wants to collaborate on something, hit me up. And The Endling? Right now, this is it for him and Amber and their world(s). I’d love to write the story of their race to stop the Primogenitor some day. But that’s not going to happen unless more people get exposed to this story and there’s a demonstrated demand for new ones. So if you want more Endling, his future—like the world’s—is in your hands.
Thanks again to Cecilia and the Endling crew and Mark and the Thrillbent crew for making a lifelong comics fan’s dream come true. The only thing better than the time I had creating this story has been seeing the enjoyment our readers have gotten it. Thanks for sharing that with us.
PS: It’d be great if everyone could pitch in and save the real world, too. Climate change is real. Please vote and act accordingly.
Fourteen years later….
In 2000, artist/collaborator/friend Barry Kitson and I launched a mini-series called EMPIRE, which answered the question, “What happens to the world if the bad guys win?” EMPIRE was the story of Golgoth, an armored despot who succeeds where every other super-villain in history has failed. Before the series even opens, Golgoth has conquered the world. He’s eliminated all his enemies, he’s snuffed out all opposition, and now he rules the Earth from a vast citadel sitting in what used to be Central Park. Now his enemies come not from without but from within; his counselors and court ministers, all bound to his side by a mysterious and hyper-addictive performance-enhancing drug called Eucharist, plot against him. His teenage daughter, innocent and guileless, has her own ideas about what the future ought to be. And an alien race who has been patiently waiting for Golgoth to finish consolidating Earth’s power under one crown now prepares to make its move.
It was a 192-page Eisner-nominated ride–our futuristic science-fiction Game of Thrones, if you will–that was a blast and one of the best things I’ve ever written. Unfortunately (and staggeringly), the collected edition has been out of print for years, but Barry and I have finally reclaimed the publishing rights and, as we’d always planned, are launching its sequel, a story over a decade in the making.
And we’re launching it here, today, at Thrillbent, as a flagship of our redesigned site–the first of many new launches in the upcoming weeks. Subscribe now for the price of one monthly print comic (the same as you’d pay for EMPIRE VOLUME TWO in print, if that existed) and not only will you get new chapters of EMPIRE VOLUME TWO every other Wednesday, you’ll have access to:
- Weekly installments of our ongoing Thrillbent series THE DAMNATION OF CHARLIE WORMWOOD (every Monday), ALBERT THE ALIEN (every Tuesday), and THE ENDLING (every Thursday);
- Extra-length chapters of the creepy horror chiller THE EIGHTH SEAL by James Tynion IV and Jeremy Rock;
- Tynion’s new series, THE HOUSE IN THE WALL, which launches Friday, June 20th;
- EVERSTAR, a jaw-droppingly great comic about an eleven-year-old girl who’s the bravest starship captain you’ll ever meet, launching August 1st;
- The first-ever comics series by the acclaimed novelist Seanan McGuire;
- The third volume of INSUFFERABLE, at which Peter Krause, Nolan Woodard, Troy Peteri and I are already hard at work;
- More new series to be announced in the coming weeks;
- And, of course, full access to our library of the 300-or-so comics we’ve published on Thrillbent since we launched more than two years ago.
Oh–and, for subscribers–remember how I mentioned that EMPIRE VOLUME ONE was long out-of-print? Subscribe now and you’ll get a downloadable, DRM-free PDF of the ENTIRE Volume One collection immediately.
Frankly, that seems like a pretty sweet bargain to me, and we think you’ll agree. You get all that for $3.99 a month, the price of one print comic, and you can subscribe through our website–or, if you have an iPad, you can download our Thrillbent app and sign up there, whichever you prefer.
Enjoy Empire. We can’t wait for you to see what Barry and I have been cooking up for Golgoth these past fourteen years….
This is neat. Because our own Christy Blanch is a guest this coming weekend at Motor City ComiCon–in part thanks to her work with Chris Carr and Chee on THE DAMNATION OF CHARLIE WORMWOOD–she wanted to have something in-hand that she could use as a sales and promotion tool to target fans unfamilar with Thrillbent or WORMWOOD. So we did a little (okay, a lot of) production work to assemble the first five digital chapters of the Blanch/Carr/Chee masterpiece THE DAMNATION OF CHARLIE WORMWOOD into a 32-page print comic.
It’s a small run of 300 because as I keep saying, print is expensive. Plus, we had to pay a high premium for a rush job (because we were learning the finer points of print production as we went, on the fly, and that took time). I bring this up not to complain (or to taunt completists who have no way to buy a copy because they’re not at Motor City), but to explain why we don’t (yet) have print copies for sale beyond those 300–
–and because next week sometime, I plan to write a comprehensive blogpost about how we retro-engineered from digital to print given all the non-duplicable digital techniques Chee uses. It was a fascinating process, even if it did shave years off my life. I’ll run some compare-and-contrast examples. Stay tuned. And in the meantime, if you’re at Motor City (or in Muncie at our store, Alter Ego Comics, co-publishers of the print comic), feel free to purchase a signed copy, and we thank you for your support.
When I was in high school, I understudied for the lead in BYE BYE, BIRDIE. The reason you can’t picture me in a Dick Van Dyke role is because I was, at the time, 130 pounds soaking wet, and ten of that was hair. Also, I would have been terrible. I can’t act. But I still know all the songs and I can’t hear the name “Albert” without humming “An English Teacher” and OH, MY GOD, WHAT IS HE TALKING ABOUT AND WHAT DOES IT HAVE TO DO WITH THRILLBENT AND WHO THE HELL IS “BIRDIE” sorry, it’s just that this is about school and (another) Albert.
Faithful Thrillbent visitors have been following the serialized adventures of ALBERT THE ALIEN for some time now. It’s great work, funny and charming. Trevor Mueller and Gabriel Bautista are a good team. And now they’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign for a print edition, and I heartily endorse it and implore you to check it out. It contains bonus content including new stories in addition to those you’ve read here, sketches and behind-the-scenes looks, and more. Anything you can contribute to the campaign is welcome, whether you want one of the books or simply want to show your support to some of Thrillbent’s hard-working creative partners. Check it out.