Interview: MARK WAID

PrintE-mail Written by Jason Tabrys

One of the most respected, prolific, and dedicated writers in the comic book industry, Mark Waid keeps adding to his already impressive legacy with Daredevil’s continued greatness, his digital comics site, Thrillbent.com, and the rest of his astonishing workload.

Now, in an exclusive interview with Starburst, Mr. Waid candidly discusses Thrillbent, the business of comics, whether Man of Steel had a responsibility to be more accessible to children, his ideas for Doctor Who, and what’s next for Daredevil...

Starburst: Is Thrillbent.com the product of an obsession with expanding the digital realm or simply the best way to get more people reading comic books?

Mark Waid: Ha! It's a little bit of both. It's certainly a platform by which I and other creators can show what digital can do. But I do believe it's the best new-reader entry point right now, digital. Convenient as hell.

How do you recruit a new creator to Thrillbent.com? What do they have to bring to the table to get your attention?

First and foremost, a story that lends itself nicely to digital - lots of interesting reveals, or ways of using the page, or new storytelling techniques - if it could play just as well as a print comic, I'm less interested. Also, I tend to tune right out on superhero or zombie stories at this point just because we're eager to push other genres.

What made DRM Free seem right for Thrillbent.com at this stage and what do you say to those that say that the reading experience suffers on PDF?

DRM free always seems to me to be the right choice - I see no reason to punish paying, faithful consumers with technical restrictions. I’m a huge believer that if you buy something, you should be able to own it, not just rent it. I'll admit the experience on PDF isn't always perfect, but a lot depends on what reader you're using. Personally, I find that GoodReader duplicates the Thrillbent reading experience just fine.

Did Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin's The Private Eye and pay-what-you-will experiments with music (Radiohead, Beastie Boys) and even comedy (Louis C.K.) help push you toward using that model on the new Thrillbent store with Insufferable?

God, yes. I'm a huge believer in it. Set up your fan base and then take money directly from them. They feel better knowing that there's no overhead to a distributor and that they're contributing more to the artist, you feel like you're really giving them something worth their money. It's not a perfect system, (what is?) but we're gonna try it and see how it works. So far, so good. No one's getting rich, but on average, so far people are paying about what a months-old digital comic is worth.

Presently, if we buy a copy of Indestructible Hulk on ComiXology, it costs us the same as it would if we went to our local comic shop and bought a paper copy. Do you think that we'll ever see digital prices come down to a level more reflective of their overhead cost, and is that identical price point protecting comic shops from an exodus?

I don't think we'll see it as long as lower prices are perceived as undercutting brick and mortar stores. I'd love those prices to reflect reality, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

With the rise of ComiXology, Thrillbent, and a host of other digital options, it seems like digital has attained legitimacy, but how do you make digital comics a medium for connoisseurs? How do you replicate or construct your own high end singular experience on a tablet? Something akin to Building Stories.

That is an extraordinarily good question, and I'm interested in talking to anyone who thinks they have an answer. The right story will dictate the right format-breaking experience.

Can the current work for hire system stifle the creation of innovative new characters? By that we mean, do you think creators are more likely to save their best ideas for creator owned projects?

These days, more than ever. And while that's bad news for, say, Amazing Spider-Man or Green Arrow, I'm not sure that it's bad news for the medium. I will say that I don't have those impulses when I work on corporate-owned comics - ooh, I'll save this idea for Thrillbent! - because (a) I like diving around in pre-established continuity and history, and (b) I tend to tailor new villains to the hero rather than just come up with Totally New Ideas For Bad Guys out of the blue. But that's just me.

You recently mentioned that writing a Doctor Who comic would be cool. Which specific incarnation of the Doctor would you want to tackle and would you want to do a story rooted in human history or something out in space?

Human history. I love time travel stories like you would never believe. Problem is, I'm not a great history buff, so I'm still not sure where I'd set a story. And if I could do any incarnation? Easy: The Tenth.

It's not Wally West, but what are some of your thoughts on the return of a live-action Flash to television on Arrow and possibly in his own series?

I wish them the best of luck and hope they resist the urge to make it too dark and grim.

Did Man of Steel have a responsibility to be more accessible to kids?

It would have been nice, but I don't know about "a responsibility" - it's not as if there's not lots and lots of kid-friendly Superman material available already. Frankly, given the cynical moral messages in the movie, I'm kinda happy it wasn't MORE accessible to kids.

We noticed that not too long ago, Chris Samnee's credit changed to "co-storyteller" on Daredevil, can you talk about the collaborative nature of that relationship and what Chris is bringing to the table on Daredevil month after month?

Sure! Chris and I are very much on the same wavelength when it comes to deciding what a good story is, and we like to challenge one another. I like the designation better than "writer" and "artist" - a lot of times, I leave moments for him to choreograph at his request, and likewise he throws storytelling challenges my way - ideas, characters, scenes - that I can pick up and run with.

As Daredevil peels the onion on the Sons of the Serpent's influence, are we likely to see a few familiar faces that betray Matt/Daredevil?

I would absolutely look for the Jester very soon.

***

Check out Thrillbent.com or markwaid.com for more on Mark Waid.


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