“This has blurred the distinction between writer and artist” Peter Krause on new digital comic Insufferable and Thrillbent.com

Back in September we spoke to artist Peter Krause about his iPad artwork as well as his work on the brilliant Irredeemable from BOOM! Studios. Since then, he has unveiled a fantastic new digital project, Insufferable,  which he launched alongside Irredeemable writer Mark Waid  via their new website Thrillbent. Telling the story of an aged super-hero and his problematic former sidekick,  Insufferable is released weekly via the Thrillbent website, and  feature a fantastic mix of gritty superhero story-telling mixed with brilliant and innovative artwork and interactive transitions. We wanted to find out more about how Peter went about putting his story together and just what was involved in this new venture.

The main difference between Insufferable and a traditional comic is the landscape orientation, how much of a challenge was it to break out of the standard grids – are your grids designed primarily for web or for tablets?
Well, hopefully the grids will work for both. Obviously, our format is influenced by the tablet in a landscape format. I quickly found out that I had to be more exact in my borders. I started out thinking more about a possible print edition of Insufferable and was just using a rough, half-page estimation for each screen of the story. Mark Waid very nicely asked me if I could be more consistent. As I’m drawing all of the story digitally -using a Wacom Cintiq and Photoshop – I created a half-page/screen sized template that probably made all of our tech personnel very happy.

Has working on this digitally changed your work process and how you approach a script? Does the new format allow you greater freedom in terms of composition?
PK: As I mentioned in the first question, the biggest change in my work process was going strictly digital. Up through my work on BOOM! Studios Irredeemable, I was working traditionally, with pen, ink and paper. Between the time I left that book and when Mark and I started Insufferable, I took some time to get used to drawing without ever touching a piece of paper. I’ll put a plug in here for Freddie E. Williams’ book The DC Comics Guide to Digitally Drawing Comics, which was incredibly helpful.

Truthfully, I don’t miss vertical splash pages. And I really don’t miss double-paged spreads. I’m not really an “in-your-face” kind of comic book artist – I’ve always felt more comfortable telling a story within a paneled framework. There are times when I look at Mark’s script and wonder how we are going to get that all in what is essentially one-half of a comic book page, but we have managed so far.

How involved in planning the user experience was Mark as a writer and did you tweak elements of the story to better accommodate specific transitions or maximise the new landscape format?
PK: I think the way we’ve approached this has blurred the distinction between writer and artist. Although Mark doesn’t draw anything, he does elaborate within the script on little tricks we can use within the digital format. Such as having a character’s eyes open and close with a swipe, to give a sense of motion you couldn’t get with printed comic. That’s just one obvious example – if you’ve been reading the strip, you can see other times we’ve used the format to tell the story. But it has to convey the story, and the reader must be in control via the swipe or the mouse click. We’re of one mind on that.

For the story itself, Mark is very open to ideas. In one of our episodes, I suggested that Nocturnus – the older hero – ride to a crime scene with his estranged son Galahad in a motorcycle sidecar. Mark wrote some of my favorite dialogue in that scene. It was funny and sad and worked oh so well.

You’ve been quite sparing on the fancy transitions in the first episode, especially compared to the other Thrillbent title Luther and also the Marvel Infinite book, was that a conscious choice? 
PK: Mark was very concerned that there weren’t enough bells and whistles in that first installment. As I pointed out in one of the previous questions, we’ve incorporated more of those transitions as we’ve progressed in the story.

We didn’t get many complaints from that first installment. People seemed to like the set-up. Once again, if the story and storytelling are good, people will enjoy it and any fancy extras are just icing on the cake.

How far in advance have you planned and worked up the story so far? Are you nicely ahead of yourself or are you working on a weekly deadline?
We’re working about a month in advance of publication. From my end, working digitally has saved me so much time – at least two hours for the equivalent of each traditional comic book page. Sometimes, it’s much more savings then that. Nolan Woodard – our fantastic colourist – Troy Peteri – who is doing a bang-up job lettering–and I shouldn’t have any problems keeping up with Mark’s scripts ( I’m knocking on wood after typing that!).

We are going to have a one week break during Comic Con–there is an art contest for our fans that we’ll be running instead of our weekly installment.

Are you planning to release a print version of it at the end? Will it be a landscape book or can the pages slot together to form a portrait book?
PK: That is to be determined. Personally, I’ve let go of that idea and am concentrating on drawing for the screen. If we do a printed version, I believe we would print it in a traditional comic book format–although we’ll have to do some changes (redraws or additional art) to make it flow better on the page. Certainly, if the demand is there and it makes economic sense, we would do a printed version.

Finally, are Thrillbent titles optimised for the new iPad and have you future-proofed yourself against any future developments in that field?
Change is gonna happen. At least for the near future, I think we can count on the iPad and other tablet/phones to be displaying content in a landscape format. It might mean a bit of tweaking, but nothing that would mean starting from scratch as far as the way Insufferable is presented.

Insufferable is available weekly from www.thrillbent.com or follow Peter on Twitter  @petergkrause for updates and more great iPad artwork