Mark Waid Talks Insufferable Volume 3, Daredevil, S.H.I.E.L.D. and The Flash!

Back in 2009, writer Mark Waid and artist Peter Krause brought us Irredeemable, the crux of which was “What if Superman went bad?” A second series was born of that with Incorruptible, whose question was the flip side: “What if a villain turned into a hero?” Two years ago, Waid and Krause introduced us to a third meta-story from the realm of superhero comic books with Insufferable, which posed the question “What happens when you’re a crimefighter and your sidekick grows up to be an arrogant, ungrateful douchebag?” Over on Waid’s digital comics platform Thrillbent, the third volume of Insufferable is debuting and SuperHeroHype had the pleasure of speaking with Waid about what to expect from Volume 3, how he got this far down the road, his work on Daredevil, S.H.I.E.L.D., and his love for “The Flash.”

SuperHeroHype: That was quite the cliffhanger you left readers on between Volume 2 and 3 of Insufferable and it’s been almost a year since that one ended, so what was the hold up on Volume 3?

Mark Waid: I was really just trying to get ahead on things. Pete Krause needed a little time to do a few other things and likewise I wanted to get a little bit ahead. The grind of weekly is awesome, I love the fact that we have something up every week for you, but it’s so easy to lose traction that with every arc of “Insufferable” we always start many, many weeks in advance and by the time we get near the end we’re flying close to the sun. The idea at the time was let’s take several months and build material up in the bank so that we’ve got a longer runway. So now we’re at least 13 or 14 chapters in as of today, so that gives us plenty of advanced runway if you will.

SHH: Clearly this is what Insufferable has been building up to since you started it. What’s it like to finally get to this point in the story?

Waid: It’s really scary, because as Peter Krause reminds me, it’s ours, we can do whatever we want. We don’t have to feel like we’ve go to keep certain character dynamics the same because of merchandising, we don’t have to keep the status quo because it’s part of a universe. It’s of its own so we can do whatever we want, and Pete, to his credit, really pushed me with arc 3 to shake up the status quo pretty seriously. It’s fun watching Nocturnus and Gallahad banter and bicker back and forth, but to keep it from being a total sitcom there has to be some sort of character progression or else it’s just the same jokes over and over again. So it’s time we found some way to take their relationship to a new level, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a pleasant level.

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SHH: I wouldn’t say that Volume 1 of Insufferable has a slow place, but it has to set up this entire world and all of these characters, so when readers get to Volume 2 it certainly feels a lot more quickly paced, and based on what I read of Volume 3, it seems like it’s a sprint to the finish, is that a safe assumption?

Waid: Yeah, I think that’s plenty fair. It’s funny, the plus to doing online comics and doing the digital weekly format is that you have a lot more room to stretch your legs, you’ve got a lot more room to take sidesteps, you can just play around more. You can be a little more flexible with the storytelling. The other side of that is it becomes a little easy to sort of wander. I like everything that we did, but I feel like at the end of the second arc you could feel us getting to a point where we needed to refocus and so that was part of taking the time off to. So yeah we’re definitely, as you say, sprinting toward a finish line with act 3 and oh my god the pace at which it unfolds is really rapid fire.

SHH: I love the characters you’ve made with Nocturnus and Gallahad and I love their relationship, but another thing I love are these crazy weird villains that are in the story, and it seems we’re going to be seeing a lot more of that side with Volume 3. So what kind of villains are we going to get to see?

Waid: There’s a lot of stuff with a character called “The Choice,” that we’ve seen a little bit for in arc 2, but she has much more of a role in the third one, which I really like a lot. Also Malvolia we’re getting to see a whole new side of him that is going to surprise people with depth there is to that character.

SHH: Are there any other heroes in the world of Insufferable or are Nocturnus and Gallahad the only ones?

Waid: You know, I think there probably are, because I would rather say that than say that there aren’t, and in fact, I know Karl Kesel has for a long time had an idea for something he wants to do with Thrillbent down the road and he actually asked if he could be a part of that universe and it made perfect sense. So hopefully that will come together someday. I like keeping that option open. I think there’s more to that world than there might first appear.

SHH: Because I don’t get the same vibes from that like from Irredeemable and Incorruptible.

Waid: Yeah, I think that it’s more important to give the illusion at least that there aren’t any other superheroes who can come in and save the day for them, they’re really on their own.

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Shh: Is Volume 3 the same length as the previous volumes in terms of the chapters?

Waid: I think it’ll be a little shorter. It’ll probably run between twenty and twenty-four, just because like I said we’re very conciously trying to step up the pacing.

SHH: There certainly seems to be some finality to this volume of Insufferable since it’s the third act of the story, but is this the end of these characters or will we see a Volume 4 some time down the line?

Waid: I think we’ll keep it open that there might be a Volume 4, but if and when we do it it will be radically different because of the way we intend to leave things with Volume 3.

SHH: Have you considered going back and doing more with their initial break up or stories for Nocturnus and Gallahad or when they were younger and more of a team or do you think that takes away some of the mystery and intrigue with the first volume where these characters are already broken up?

Waid: It’s not so much that it gets away from the mystery and the intrigue, and there may be some milage there, but I just don’t know what kind of story we would tell there that would give you any new information. The trick about writing is when you’re telling a story that the reader already knows in his head. If you’re telling a story that the reader can tell for you then you’re wasting your time. I think there’s mileage there, but I don’t know what we could do there that would shed a whole new bunch of light on their relationship.

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SHH: Also, it’s not a mystery who Nocturnus and Gallahaed are substitutes for, Batman and Robin.

Waid: Actually, Grant Morrison and Mark Millar, but they are like Batman and Robin!

SHH: That makes me curious to go back to the genesis of Insufferable. I assume it’s born out of that same idea with Irredeemable and Incorruptible, so when did the idea for this one pop up?

Waid: It actually came from reading another interview online from an insufferable comic creator, it really did. A guy full of bombast and pomposity and self aggrandizing, sort of the closest comics has to it’s own Kanye West, and to read that interview I was just like, oh my god, that kills me, that pomposity. Out of that I realized ‘oh my god, there’s a comic to be had here.’ So there you go, that was how Insufferable was born if you will.

SHH: Now this marks the third series you’ve done that’s sort of a takedown of big comic book tropes, and I love all three of them, so I’m hoping you’ve got fourth take down cooking in your head.

Waid: Some day. The trick is finding the time and energy, but someday I would like to, yeah. I’ve got other ideas. The trick and the fine line you have to walk with these things is, it is sort of a take down of the tropes but at the same time it’s not a cynical take down. It’s easy to do, and not that you’re saying this, I’m not putting words in your mouth, I’m just saying it’s easy to do “Aren’t these tropes stupid?” But that’s easy to do, it’s more interesting to me to take a microscope to those tropes but in a way where it’s clear that I still love the material. So treading that fine line is more interesting to me.

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SHH: I’m curious if you can talk about how you script things for Thrillbent, compared to how you do your monthly books, because sometimes the same panel can be used for a number of different parts of a chapter on the site. Does that affect how you write the script or is it about the same?

Waid: It actually does affect it. We’re still trying to find the exact, right language for it to tell you the truth. We’re still sort of developing a language. Basically what I do is I still break it down instead of “Page 1, Page 2, Page 3.” I Break it down into “Screen 1, Screen 2, Screen 3,” and then whenever there’s even the subtlest change even if it’s just one word balloon or one new panel element that comes in, I label that a separate screen for the artist. That doesn’t mean he has to redraw everything it means, “Screens 1-4, the art is the same but here is the dialogue changing,” that way the artist only has to draw one thing and then the letterer has to create separate screens. Man, this is like trying to describe to a blind man what an elephant looks like, in an interview explain what the scripting is like for Thrillbent, you’ll just have to trust me, we’re still working on it.

SHH: It was also recently announced that some of these Thrillbent pieces are going to be put in print next year.

Waid: Woohoo!

SHH: How do you plan on putting some of these into print? Because sometimes as you were saying you’ll reuse the same panel but then the next page it’ll be a different overlay explaining the characters, so how do you plan on bringing that into the physical realm?

Waid: You know, it’s much harder than it looks.

SHH: It looks pretty hard.

Waid: I’ve done it with “The Damnation of Charlie Wormwood,” which is actually in print from Dynamite tomorrow. I’m not kidding when I say at the end of the day, despite my fluency with Photoshop and so forth, I just have to print out a bunch of screens and literally sit there like a fourth grader with a glue stick and a pair of scissors into something where we retain the story and the dialogue but we can pick and choose the panel. It is quite the pain in the ass but at the same time I find it intriguing. It’s a really interesting compare and decide. I think people when they get the print editions of Thrillbent stuff and compare it to the online version, they’re not going to feel cheated since it’s the same story, but I’m very interested to hear what people’s reactions is going to be in the comparison. It’s night and day in a lot of cases.

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SHH: Do you feel sort of vindicated that some these books are going to be in print given how some people reacted negatively when you started Thrillbent?

Waid: [Laughs] You know, it’s funny, when I started it everyone said “Mark Waid hates print,” “Mark Waid wants comic stores to go the way of….” and of course that was never the case, I love print. There are going to be people who take this as some sort of victory on their part, fine, I don’t care, let ’em. Print was always part of the deal, and print was always on the radar, but as I’ve always said, doing the digital end of it and finding the new techniques and the new storytelling to use for digital that no one else was doing, that was intriguing to me. That was the priority. Then the fact that IDW was really interested in being our print partner and really putting a lot of muscle and promotional effort behind it, that’s something we find very refreshing and I’m thrilled that they want to do stuff in print. There will always be, no matter how many Thrillbent comics we have, there will always be that subset of readers who don’t want to read digital comics, they want to read print, and that’s fine. There should be something for everyone.

SHH: Circling back to Irredeemable and Incorruptible, both of which I enjoy, but I think Irredeemable in particular is genius and has one of the best endings I’ve ever read in a comic.

Waid: Oh thank you!

SHH Has there been much interest in adapting that series into a film or a TV series? Is that something you’d even want to see?

Waid: Oh I’d love to see it happen! Unfortunately that’s not a creator-owned project, I actually have a percentage of it but it’s owned by BOOM! Studios. So it’s really sort of up to them and their media arm, but if someone could take off with it that would be great but we will see.

SHH: Moving over to your work on Daredevil, you’re doing a great story where you take down the classic villain The Purple Man, and you’ve got The Owl in the mix too. Can we expect you to take your pen to anymore classic Daredevil villains in the near future?

Waid: Yeah, Chris Samnee really wanted to do Stunt-Master. I don’t know why, but he really wanted to do Stunt-Master. He really wanted to do an Evil Knievel guy on a motorcycle and I’m fine with that, that’s issues 11 and 12, that’s a lot of fun, we just finished those. From there more Owl, and possibly somebody else from Daredevil’s past, but we’re still trying to find exactly the right person to fill that role.

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SHH: You’ve also got the first issue of S.H.I.E.L.D., which brings some of the characters from “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” into the actual comic continuity. Are you working with the producers to make sure it meshes with the show or have you been given free reign?

Waid: Well, it is the Marvel Universe version of these characters. I’ve been talking with the TV people, but there’s only so much we can do to really mesh because they’re so much further ahead in their planning than we are obviously. Really the trick is to keep the spirit of the characters the same and to keep the voices the same, and try to ignore the parts that don’t necessarily mesh with the TV show. Not highlight them but rather sort of not show a bunch of helicarriers and a bunch of S.H.I.E.L.D. technology and stuff that doesn’t exist in the show. But that said, what a thrill to write dialogue for Clark Gregg, that guy’s voice is just so distinct.

SHH: I know you had high praise for The CW’s “The Flash” pilot when you first saw it. Have you been keeping up with the series? They gave you a shout-out in one episode.

Waid: I saw that, actually for Playboy.com I have been writing weekly recaps of it. So if you want to read Playboy just for the articles, go to Playboy.com and read my “Flash” recaps. I love that show, I really love that show.

SHH: One last thing, when am I going to be able to get a Golgoth statue from Sideshow Collectibles?

Waid: You know, that’s a really good question. I’ve got to get my people on that. I bet once “Empire” is back in print with IDW, I bet there’s going to be some merchandising. So believe me, I am all over that.

You can read both volumes of Insufferable, and the opening chapter of Volume 3, over at Thrillbent.com.