Free To Read: 4 SECONDS

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Last year, at Comic Con San Diego 2014, Thrillbent ran a unique contest. I’m happy to say the results far exceeded my expectations in terms of participation and energy generated. For an hour, I listened to pitches from writers, having guaranteed in advance that we’d publish, at our own expense, one and only one: the one that most impressed me and sounded like the best use of digital storytelling techniques. The catch was, writers had to pitch their stories in fifteen seconds or less; comics is a medium of storytelling economy, and these were one-off short tales, so get to the point, said I.

I listened to over 100 pitches that afternoon, rat-a-tat-tat, and I cannot think of a better time I have ever had at a convention, because almost every pitch was clever and workable and all of them were worth hearing. There were several that I especially loved, but one by Paul O’Connor–a crime noir tale with a science-fiction element, about a clairvoyant young woman who can see only heartbeats into the future–stood out to me as the kind of story best told in digital, accomplishing things that cannot be accomplished in print. His story is called 4 SECONDS, and while such an ambitious piece of work took longer to finish than I’d hoped, it was worth waiting for just the right artist: Karl Kesel, who just gets it when it comes to doing digital-first comics and using cutting-edge storytelling techniques. Grace Allison rendered Karl’s art in beautiful color and did a stunning job.

We’re debuting 4 SECONDS on Thrillbent today, presented free for a limited time as a proof-of-concept of what makes our comics unique. If you like it–and I think you will–please tell your friends about it and share the link. Paul, Karl, Grace and I are very proud of it.

Feb 10, 2016 In: Comics, Site News, Thrillbent News

2015 Contest Results!

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As we prep release of 2014 contest winner 4 Seconds–more on that in a few days as we nail down a release date–there’s something else exciting in the pipeline. As you’ll recall, Thrillbent ran an artist-seeking contest at Comicon San Diego a few months ago. I reviewed porfolios–a lot of portfolios–with the promise I’d write a short story for the one artist who I felt could best tell a story. The artist and I would–will–co-own the story as co-creators, and we’ll publish it on Thrillbent when it’s done.

That artist is a young man named Jason Muhr, an up-and-comer whose work appealed to me because it showed a lot of range and felt like it had a good deal of humanity to it. Right now, Jason’s working on our one-shot, “Like Giants,” and with his permission I’ll be posting some pages as he goes. For right now, take a look at a small selection of the samples he showed me. But don’t steal him away until he’s finished with my script!

Muhr Samples 1 Muhr Samples 2

Nov 03, 2015 In: Comics, Thrillbent News

THE EIGHTH SEAL–Free To Read!

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Mark Waid here. I know I shouldn’t pick favorites among the Thrillbent strips, but THE EIGHTH SEAL has always been one I’m especially proud of. James Tynion IV and Jeremy Rock have produced what I think is consistently the best, most innovative and most disturbing horror comic on the web, maybe in the overall comics medium.
Today, they wrap their first arc with a dynamite conclusion–and to make sure everyone savors the full impact of what they’ve produced, Thrillbent is hosting the entire series free online, every chapter, for a limited period starting now. If you’re a fan, enjoy the first arc’s climax. If you’re new to the strip, start from installment one. Either way, none of you are going to want to sleep tonight without a light on.
Sweet Dreams.
Oct 28, 2015 In: Comics, Thrillbent News

The Best Thing–And Such Portions!

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Hey! For those of you ardently following The Best Thing here on Thrillbent, the end of our first arc is live today. We apologize for the delay, but we are on the case and we appreciate your patronage greatly.

But what’s next? More Best Thing! Artist Erica Henderson, deservedly so, is getting more opportunities laid before her throughout the industry, and we’re genuinely happy for her and sad to see her move on. But stepping up to work with Seanan McGuire on the next story arc is the terrifically talented Caitlin Like. We’re going to post some of her non-TBT work below so you can see why we knew she was right for the gig, and you can find more of her art here and here.

She’s working away even now with Seanan on the next batch of chapters, and as soon as she gets a good rhythm going, we’ll schedule them and let you know when to expect them. I’ve read the first few, and trust me–they’re absolutely worth waiting for.

Caitlin Like Sample 2

 

Aug 10, 2015 In: Comics, Site News, Thrillbent News

7 THINGS I WISH I KNEW BEFORE I STARTED A KICKSTARTER

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Hi. Mark Waid here, intro’ing a guest blogpost by one of Thrillbent’s longtime contributors, Trevor Mueller, very much worth a read. Trevor’s Albert the Alien has been a success story for Trevor and his collaborators, and rather than ask us simply to endorse his upcoming Kickstarter campaign (which we do), he’s penned a very informative process piece which we encourage you to read and share. Thanks! 

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Last year, Albert the Alien artist and co-creator Gabo and I launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the character’s first graphic novel: ALBERT THE ALIEN VOLUME 1: NEW IN SCHOOL. The campaign was a success – the first successfully Kickstarter funded Thrillbent series (and for their first syndicated all-ages series, to boot)!

Kickstarter was such a great help, we decided to fund the second graphic novel on there as well: ALBERT THE ALIEN VOLUME 2: THE SUBSTITUTE TEACHER FROM PLANET X! The campaign launched on May 31, and you can check out the project here.


Albert the Alien volume 2 cover

People have been asking us how we did it. It’s hard to find a silver bullet that’s going to work for every person every time. If I had that golden ticket, I’d be doing Kickstarters every few months! But that said, I would like to provide some helpful insights on things we learned during our Kickstarter campaign – A few key items that have stuck with us from last year, and that we’re keeping in mind for this year’s campaign.

I want to start by saying that your experience may vary. No two people have the same experience on Kickstarter, and I’m sure our experience this time around will be different from last year. Having a big name can be helpful, but having a big fan base (or even better, a quality product) can help even more. It’s really going to depend on how much effort you put into the project, and into the campaign to make your project. With that said, below please find the Top 7 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started my Kickstarter:

1) It’s a time commitment
Kickstarter campaigns are a lot of work. Before they start, while they’re going, and after they’ve ended. I spent about 4-6 weeks prepping for our Kickstarter prior to hitting the “launch” button. And that doesn’t count anything about content in the book (finding my guest artists, writing bonus stories, etc). That’s just researching and getting the assets together for the campaign itself. Some of the things we had to do were 1) write the script for the video; 2) film and edit the video; 3) figure out our costs, our goal, and our timing; 4) figure out what rewards would appeal to our fans; 5) get tracking into place so we could see what promotions were proving successful (and which were a waste of time / money); 6) figure out shipping (not just postage, but packaging); the list goes on.

During the campaign I was posting about the Kickstarter 5-10 times per day. Making updates, reaching out to friends, fans, and family, and trying to get the word out about the project to the masses. This was no easy feat. Thankfully, Albert is a quality product, and it’s easy for me to talk about how awesome he is. We also had some great endorsements from industry pros who loved Albert (Mark Waid among them). We got some great coverage during the campaign (and even more after it ended).

After the campaign ended, I had to put the book together, collect bonus stories and art from our guest artists, collect photo references from our appearance backers (people who pledged enough money to appear in a story), and also ship the files off to the printer. We had a time table to get this book out in time for the holidays, and it was a tight timeline. There was little opportunity for missing a deadline, and those deadlines needed to be communicated out to the team. Which brings me to my next point…

2) Get organized — and stay that way
Making comics is a lot of fun, but it’s also a lot of work. Especially if you’re self-publishing a book, like I was. I had to juggle 5+ artists, photo references from 23+ pledgers, work with shipping companies to get the best rates (both domestically and internationally), and also work with the printer to make sure they were making their deadlines to print and ship the book. There are a lot of moving pieces that all need your attention when putting a book together on your own. Thankfully, it was my our first attempt at self-publishing a comic book. However, it was our most ambitious to date.


This is what a pallet of 700 books looks like, weighing approximately 800lbs. The work’s not done when the campaign ends

3) Set realistic (budget) goals
Lots of people ask how to set their goals for the book. I was paying for my artists out of pocket, so I ate those costs. But the printing, shipping, shipping supplies, etc all needed to be accounted for in the funds we received. And printing (especially in color) and shipping are EXPENSIVE. Also, Kickstarter and Amazon take a cut of the earnings (approximately 5% each). So how do you set a realistic / attainable funding goal for Kickstarter?

Let’s talk about every creative person’s favorite topic for a moment: math.

I started by totaling all of my costs: printing, shipping, supplies, etc. I then added 10% to that to cover the Amazon and Kickstarter fees. Our total was about $8,000 (which was our funding goal). I then took that number and divided it by 25. Why 25? Because this is statistically the most popular funding level for Kickstarter campaigns. This is likely where you will receive the bulk of your backers. So dividing your total by 25 tells you how many backers you need at $25 each to reach your goal.

Our number was 320.

I knew 320 people who wanted to back this project. So this was a very attainable goal. In the end, we had 171 backers for our first project – but many of them pledged a lot more than $25.

4) Expect to pay more
Even though our Kickstarter was successfully funded, I lost money on the campaign. First of all, I paid all of my artists out of my own pocket. This was my choice. However, the other issue we ran into were printing and shipping rates.

Printing quotes are typically only good for about 30 days. Thankfully, I had negotiated with our printer to extend that to 90 days (they were a good partner). However, the specs and parameters for our book had changed slightly. Some of our stretch goals unlocked new story content, and that meant more pages in the book. I also lowered our print run from 1,000 copies to 750 copies because we didn’t move 320 copies of the book. We had a lot of people fund at higher levels ($100 appearance level was our most popular reward level), which moved less copies but made us more money. I didn’t want to sit on the extra inventory, so I decided to shrink the print run a bit – which increased our costs overall by a bit, since we were no longer running at any special bulk rates.

Additionally, shipping costs changed. Apparently they change all the time. So my rule of thumb on shipping now is to take the estimate in the shipping quote, and increase it by 1/3 to 1/2. Because yes, sometimes shipping can change that much, depending on who you’re shipping through and the time of year you’re shipping.

5) Project completion
I can’t tell you how many Kickstarter campaigns I’ve backed that I still haven’t received the reward. Or I had to wait years for the reward to get shipped to me. Some of them were so long ago, I don’t even remember having backed the project. I didn’t want Albert the Alien to be one of those experiences for our backers. So how did we combat this? We had the book done BEFORE we started the Kickstarter.

We had 100 pages of story content from our webcomic series, and then a bunch of bonus stories from guest artists (some of which a pledger could appear in). Those bonus stories were all finished before I hit the launch button. Expect for the actual appearances themselves. Those were digitally dropped in on another layer after we were successfully funded.

Now, this approach may not work for all projects. Some people are trying to pay themselves or their artist with the Kickstarter. This is a totally fine approach, but my recommendation would be this: at least have half of the project done before you start a Kickstarter campaign. There are a few reasons I recommend this:

1) More content to show to your readers and to reviewers
2) Shorter wait time for you to finish the book, and to get your book in the hands of your readers
3) The opportunity to show your work to editors at conventions – I’ve heard a handful of success stories of creators having their projects picked up for publication, but you need to have something for those editors to look at

I’m a strong proponent of the concept of “Brand You.” This concept states that it doesn’t matter who I think I am, it matters who YOU think I am. The goal should be for both of these things to be the same. I know I’m a guy that can get a project done on time or early, and get it to you by or before I’ve promised it. Many of our backers were impressed when this actually happened – and I know they’re going to be repeat backers of our next project because of it.


Some fliers we made for convention appearances. If you pledged at the con and showed it to us, you got an exclusive gift

6) Promotion, promotion, promotion
This is always going on. You may feel like you’re overwhelming your social feeds with posts if you post 5-10 times per day. Well, it depends on how many people they are following. But I had a bunch of people tell me in week 3 they didn’t even know I was doing a Kickstarter, and I had been posting about it constantly. Part of this is because Facebook filters what posts actually reach your friends organically. Part of this is because friends may not be “following” you on Facebook.

There are a couple of ways to do promotion for your Kickstarter. We tried a bunch of these, and some worked better than others:
1) Social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, etc)
2) Interviews (podcasts, web interviews, etc)
3) Reviews of your finished project (you can only do this if your project is done)
4) Direct mail
5) E-mail
6) In-person bonuses at conventions (we did a postcard)
7) Digital ads (web banners, link exchanges, etc)
8) Begging your parents
9) Begging your extended family
10) Direct sign up at convention / signing tables

My approach was to try a little of everything and see what worked the best. This is where measurement was important, so I could know where my time (and sometimes, my money) was best spent in promoting the campaign. Thankfully, poor performers were quickly identified and I was able to focus on the channels that were driving conversion. If you don’t have a way to measure the success, then you’re working blind and you may waste a lot of time on channels that aren’t working for you. I recommend tracking EVERYTHING.

7) Keep track of your schedule
In my day job I work in advertising, and a part of that is project management. It’s ensuring you make a schedule and stick to it. Sometimes that means building in buffers – a little extra time for some tasks that are outside of your control. But essentially it boils down to this: don’t miss deadlines. Especially when you’re the one making the deadlines.

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Thanks so much for reading through the list. I hope you find this list helpful in starting your own Kickstarter campaigns, but again your experience may vary. I’ve only scratched the surface of our experience crowd-funding our graphic novel project. If you want to see how things are going with our current project, please check out the Kickstarter page here. And if you like what you see, please pledge to receive a reward and / or share the link with your friends and fans.

Jun 09, 2015 In: Comics

The Return of INSUFFERABLE

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INSUFFERABLE. The creator-owned superhero comic I do with co-creator/artist Peter Krause. The end begins today, and I promise this–you won’t see what’s coming.

When we first launched Thrillbent, we put our best foot forward with our first ongoing weekly series, INSUFFERABLE, which answered the musical question “What if a crimefighting sidekick grew up to become an egomaniacal celebrity asshole?” INSUFFERABLE introduced the world to the protectors of the city of St. Barrington: Nocturnus and his grown son, Galahad, who detest one another but who are manipulated into one last team-up to solve the mystery of just exactly what happened to their wife/mother all those years ago.

Right from the start, Pete and I had the time of our lives producing that initial arc, which very deliberately steps back and forth between heartbreaking drama and dark comedy. INSUFFERABLE became Thrillbent’s signature series, and not long after it wrapped, we brought you the second story arc, INSUFFERABLE: ON THE ROAD.

Today, Team Insufferable–Waid and Krause, along with our invaluable partners Nolan Woodard (colorist) and Troy Peteri (letterer)–launches the final arc, INSUFFERABLE: HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE, and we’re really extra-proud of this one. We’re bringing the Nocturnus and Galahad tale to an end, and we’ve very much surprised even ourselves by the twists and turns their final adventure has taken.

Please join us every Wednesday as we tell what has become a poignantly personal story of a father and his son. I know it’s hit some strong emotional chords with Pete and myself. It’s got action, mystery, and tension–but above all, it has heart.  Come see for yourself.

Nov 12, 2014 In: Comics, Thrillbent News

NEW SERIES: Everstar

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Hey, Thrillbenders,

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!

Aug 11, 2014 In: Comics

NEW SERIES: The House in the Wall

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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.

Jun 20, 2014 In: Comics, Site News, Thrillbent News

The End

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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.

Jun 12, 2014 In: Comics, Site News, Thrillbent News