“Why Doesn’t Each Issue Start With Matt Holding A Gun In His Mouth?” – The Mark Waid Panel At WonderCon

Peter S. Svensson transcribes furiously for Bleeding Cool.

Mark Waid announced his digital comics plans funded by the sale of his entire comic collection at his Spotlight Panel at WonderCon. May will see the launch of Waid’s new digital publishing imprint alongside writer John Rogers. Waid will begin a regular ongoing digital series with art by his Irredeemable collaborators Peter Krause and colorist Nolan Witter.

“There’s nothing against print comics. I used to have a house full of them. I love comics.” explained Waid, as he then went into his digital plans. First is the fact that he will be self-publishing his own creator-owned titles digitally from now on. Markwaid.com is currently hosting a short comic done with artist Jeremy Rock as proof of concept. Waid explained that the website had just gone online five minutes ago and then paused. “I sound like Ozymandias!” On April 2nd, the site will then fully relaunch in preparation for the May release, featuring interviews and other ancillary material.

Waid then explained more about his philosophy for doing digital comics. The core idea is that most digital comics are done with print in mind, with digital as an afterthought. Print is done in a letter format, while most tablets and computer monitors are landscape. The real digital revolution is to create comics that are meant to be read digitally. Which adamantly does not mean “motion comics” , which Waid detests. “No motion, no sound effects or cheap animation, but good comic storytelling, using some interesting tricks that the computer provides without cheapening the experience. That’s what I’m really excited about.”

Financing such an endeavor requires money, and Waid will be getting that money by selling his entire comics collection, all 150 long boxes worth on consignment through blastoffcomics.com. Waid will be making short videos about certain books to explain why they’re worth buying and of why they were in his collection in the first place. Waid pointed out that selling your entire comics collection is not the easiest decision. Having polled the audience, only one attendee had ever done so. “This is in no way a hard luck story.” explained Waid. “I’m a lucky man. I don’t need it for a kidney. No one has a medical condition. I’m selling it because this is the right time. Time to let go of the past and embrace the future.”

While Waid has kept his trade paperbacks for the time being, he did not keep a single comic for fear of the slippery slope that would have allowed. The hardest one to sell was Secret Origins Annual #1, which he spent his entire adult life looking for a really good copy of that he could love and treasure. The other day he felt that he should look something up in it before remembering that it was gone. “I’m getting by.” joked Waid.

If you are going to get the free comics Waid is putting out, he’d prefer that you get it through his website directly so that he can use the traffic and hit numbers for negotiating better deals for sponsors and advertisers, but if you’re going to torrent it, it’s no skin off his nose. “Be my guest. There’s no point in trying to be draconian about it.”

“Digital comics should be 99 cents. END OF STATEMENT.” stated Waid. He e0xplained that the biggest reason that the big publishers are matching their print prices for digital comics is “because they don’t want to undercut the 1800 Diamond retailers. I don’t want to undercut them either. Marvel and DC can afford to do floppy comics every month.
They’re funded by big giant corporations, they’ve got the momentum of years of publication, the large print runs.” Waid continued to explain that the economy of scale for printing means that smaller companies end up paying so much more to physically print a book when it sells in the 5,000 to 7,000 range, which is sadly not a bad sale for something not from the biggest publishers. At that range, you are almost guaranteed to lose money on making individual issues. “It’s not that I don’t want to give comic shops a comic by me that they can sell. I can’t give it to them in that format. Three issues, then I’ll vanish, nobody wins.”

Digital files that could be converted into print is where his current plans lie. If a traditional printed comics page is letter format, you can quickly create one from a digital comic by stacking two landscape panels, one above the other. Doing so means that you lose full page spreads, but you will gain other tricks to compensate. Waid asked the audience to check out the Marvel Infinite Comics that he helped design, as many of the techniques and ideas used there will be appearing in his creator-owned work. This is still a work in progress, as Waid was done between six to nine digital comics total so far, and working with different artists with different approaches has lead him to discovering new ideas and concepts with every collaboration.

Much research was done into how many screens per installment leave a reader feeling satisfied that each segment was worthwhile. Make it too long, the reader will get overwhelmed. Make it too short, they’ll feel like it wasn’t enough. Keeping a proper pace is necessary to ensure that your readers will come back every week. Waid looked at all sorts of comics to try and reverse engineer the ideal length, looking specifically at old newspaper adventure strips not for the physical formatting or tone but for pacing. Where you present a chunk of story and end on a question that makes the reader want to come back and find out the answer. Eight to ten screens feels about right, which ends up being half the time to read a regular comic per Waid’s calculations. Graphic.ly did a study which agreed with Waid’s research, that most readers prefer about 8 screens per viewing, making him believe he’s on the right track.

Waid really hates Motion Comics. “I can’t speak for all publishers, some love them. I think they’re dumb.”

Part of what made Waid want to write Daredevil was the challenge of following over 15 years worth of excellent writers, such a consistent murder’s row of talent behind that book. “I say that with no insult or darkness intended. I like and am friends with all those writers. I just got tired of taking a stiff drink at the end of each issue. Why doesn’t each issue start with Matt holding a gun in his mouth?” Waid continued to explain that he’s not good at writing folks who are miserable. Which is why he loved writing the Flash, because he’s the happiest man alive. “He didn’t need a day job. He gets to be the fastest man alive. It’d be like complaining ‘oh no, my diamond shoes are too tight!’” Waid went on to explain that he’s had some pretty depressive moments in his life, and that when you think you’ve dug yourself as deep as you can go, you find out that you can dig further.

“At some point in your life, you have to be an adult. No one else’s first job is to figure out ‘how do I make Mark Waid happy today?’”

Mark Waid’s girlfriend gave an audible cough from the front row.

“That’s your second job.” Waid continued to explain that this influenced his take on Matt Murdock, who now goes “I just have to start faking it until I make it. I just have to make it happen. I no longer care about perceived obligations and I will do what I do and live a good life.” The results of that mindset will really come to heads in the second year of Waid’s run, as not everyone is willing to buy into Matt’s new outlook. Foggy sees that underneath that glib exterior is a boiling tea kettle waiting to explode.

Keeping the past continuity in Daredevil was important to Waid, because his current direction only works in contrast to the past fifteen years of strong stories. If he just wiped the slate clean, it would end up feeling like Just Another Silver Age Superhero Book and no one would care about it and it would die. “Where’s the dark and grimness?” joked Waid. “I’m really big on consequences in these ongoing fictional universes. Not always grim dark consequences. But you have to balance the consequences so that the character growth doesn’t end with the character becoming someone else entirely. Hal Jordan becoming Parallax was a consequence, yes, but it means that he wasn’t Green Lantern anymore.”

Waid had a hellish time working under Gary Groth at Fantagraphics, mainly because Waid is a gigantic superhero fan, and Groth is famous for his antipathy towards the genre. Waid told the story of his first day where he his first job was to tell the guy he was replacing that he had been fired. This topic came up because someone remembered a quote Waid gave 20 years ago on the subject, which made Waid realize that nothing he says will ever be forgotten by fans.

In regards to Wally West not being featured in the new 52, “Something will bring him back.” Waid went on to explain that he’s not reading the new 52, as it’s aimed for a new audience. Not in a dismissive manner, but merely matter of factual. Waid’s response to the new Superman costume was to struggle before saying “It’s not the most annoying of the new 52 costumes.”

His favorite issue of all time was Flash #0, where present day Wally West goes back in time and tells himself as a child that everything he’s ever dreamed about will come true. “The actual pages are framed above my desk. There are days when… everyone has bad days. Every once in a while, I look up and am reminded that I could be shovelingasphalt right now. I won.”

Waid has never really gotten to write Batman long term. He would love to write more Incredibles, and joked that if anyone in the audience knew Brad Bird to put in a good word for him.

Waid and Weiringo’s dismissal from Fantastic Four by Bill Jemas didn’t really impact the flow of the book, explained Waid. Tom Breevort, who was in the audience, agreed with that statement, and added that really it was as if those two to three months didn’t happen. Waid explained that the outpouring of thoughts from the fans was fantastic, and that it was like being Tom Sawyer attending his own funeral. The only reason he left the title in the end was because Weiringo wanted to move on, and he felt no reason to continue doing the book without him.

I asked Waid how it felt to be done with Irredeemable and Incorruptible. “You presume a lot about how ahead of schedule I am” answered Waid. He went on to say that while anyone who has read the series knows that it can’t end with the story of the Plutonian redeeming himself, the ending is something you’ve never seen before and nothing you’ve expected. “You know I can’t write something that is that dark and cynical.”

Waid’s girlfriend coughed “EMPIRE” in response.

Fans will tell Waid the most unexpected issues as their favorites, leaving him to think about how many of those were written at 3 AM while on Ambien.

Out of all the books he’s done, his favorite was the Silver Age: Dial H for Hero one-shot from the failed “Silver Age” fifth week event DC did almost a decade ago. “It bombed. In a giant crater. It didn’t do well.” he explained. “I got a chance to do something, add some texture to that character. My job is to take the things I love, and if you don’t love them, I’ll shine them up. Show you why I love it. Maybe you’ll love it too.”

The “I’m not Daredevil” T-Shirt was Steve Wacker’s idea. As was the “I think this is my super villain origin” line from the recent Spider-Man crossover.

Waid’s work on Marvel’s Infinite Comics came out of Quesada calling Waid to see if he knew how to get in contact with several French artists who are pioneers in that field. Waid answered that they stayed at his place at San Diego Comic Con last year.

His run on the X-Men in the 90s was shortly lived because “I wasn’t the best fit for the X-Men. I’m not a big fan of heroes who are persecuted. Who live a life of horror. Not that those aren’t great, I’m just not able to get a toehold on them.” Waid went on to explain that Marvel at the time was very editorial-driven, to the point where “We see writer-driven comics as an experiment that failed” was the point that made him enter a rage and leave. “You didn’t miss much.
It’s not like I have this great X-Men story that the world will never get to see. You woulda liked Cyclops more.”

When asked which one character he would love to write, Waid instantly responded with Superman. Batman as a close second, as he’s never gotten a chance to write Batman for more than the occasional one-shot.

The reason Waid was more of a DC kid growing up as because at that point in the deep south, Marvel comics distribution was spotty. You would get a few once in a while, but not be guaranteed to get the next issue. And as most Marvel books were continued from issue to issue, never being sure that you’d see the conclusion to the story lead Waid to gravitate more towards DC titles which were dependable and complete. The stuff he loved deeply as a child were the Superman and Batman titles. But from 12 to 14, that seminal age when you are quite malleable, Waid fell in love with the second wave of Marvel writers. Steve Gerber, Steve Englehart, Jim Starlin. Warlock, Howard the Duck, Man-Thing, and especially Omega the Unknown. The short lived series by Gerber and Jim Mooney is Waid’s favorite comic of all time. “He hit so many nerves, it felt like this was an authentic comic about a teenager.”

Waid’s favorite comic as a young kid though was Dial H for Hero. And Blackhawk. “There is no explanation for this whatsoever. I’m not a plane fanatic. I don’t like wearing tight leather. Thankfully. I have no real interest in the military. And yet, there’s something about the Blackhawks. Not that they’re seven men on an island. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”

As the panel concluded, Waid asked the audience to check out markwaid.com for the free download of a digital comic and to keep coming back in April and May to see how it develops. Likewise, blastoffcomics.com is hosting
his comics collection, so you can “rip out a piece of his heart.”

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