Empire's Mark Waid on Bringing Golgoth to Digital Comics

Thrillbent co-founder Mark Waid's relationship to the growing digital comics market is a complex [...]

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Thrillbent co-founder Mark Waid's relationship to the growing digital comics market is a complex one; as the co-owner of a number of direct market retail stores, he flies in the face of many fans' long-held beliefs that he's "anti-print," but when you get him going about the possibilities of digital, it's hard not to get excited about the possibilities. It was, then, not particularly surprising when he recently announced that his (with artist Barry Kitson) long-dormant Image and DC Comics title Empire would return as a digital-first series through Thrillbent. Empire Volume Two brings back the original creative duo of Waid and his co-creator Barry Kitson. Chris Sotomayor handles the coloring and Troy Peteri the lettering. The series continues the saga of Golgoth, a remorseless villain whose long-game plan of world domination finally won him the planet Earth and everything on it. While Golgoth's reign in the first book was filled with challenges and conflicts – including a drug-induced plot again him by his own ministers, his innocent daughter's troublesome aspirations, and the threat of extraterrestrial forces - Volume 2 opens with his grip on the world as strong as ever. But where is his strength coming from? The sole loyalist who kept him anchored to humanity is one year gone, and on the anniversary of Golgoth's loss, several seemingly coordinated new threats are surfacing around the globe. Each presents its own unique threat to the throne, and if Golgoth wants to maintain the crown, he will have to divide his forces–and his attentions–in dangerous new ways. The first new issue hit on Wednesday to critical acclaim, the resurrection of Empire the end product of fourteen years of brainstorming and rights-wrangling by Waid and Kitson, who have also worked together on projects like JLA: Year One and Legion of Super-Heroes. You can check it out at Thrillbent; a subscription will cost you just $3.99 a month with no contracts and a free PDF of Empire's fan-favorite first volume thrown in for your troubles -- which Waid stresses you don't need to read in order to understand Volume 2...but fifteen years later,enough fans still remember the series with fondness that the real question might be why you wouldn't want to. Waid joined ComicBook.com to talk about the return of Empire, and his feelings about bringing the series to digital.


ComicBook.com: Did you guys ever consider taking it someplace else, like back to Image for instance? Waid: Yeah, we did, but at the same time, I like the Thrillbent imprint, I like the fact that we can do it digital first and then retro-engineer it into a print product down the road. We can do that pretty easily and we have plans for that -- nothing concrete that we're ready to announce, but we've been talking to print partners. But I like the extra oomph of doing it digitally because I want to drive as many people to Thrillbent as I can, obviously. ComicBook.com: Is it liberating that you can do what basically amounts to a free ashcan, but because of low digital overhead, your "ashcan" is 250 pages long and full color? Waid: Yeah! That's one of the most amazing things about it. We would never be able to afford to do this in the print world; we would never be able to afford to promote it this way. I think that the digital and the print are two separate products in the sense that there will probably be some potential customers who will take the free PDF and not be interested in getting a copy of the original graphic novel when we reissue it down the road, but I think it's a pretty minimal number and I'm banking on the idea that there are enough people who see it as a separate product and also enough people who want to support what we're doing and see that this is a very good way to support that. ComicBook.com: Do you think collected editions are different from the magazine-format books in that respect? I tend to buy physical for my trades but digital for the floppies. Waid: I feel very much the same way. I've got the weekly comics on the iPad but I still have a library and I still come home every week with an omnibus or a fat trade paperback or an archive edition or something because I still just like that heft of having that in my hand and I like to flip through it and see what catches my interest. That's the downside to digital comics that you don't get to flip through it as well; you've got to kind of make it a dedicated reading experience.