Normally Wednesdays are known as 'New Comics Day" but that's changing. Thrillbent.com is a website created by Mark Waid and John Rogers. It's another way to get comics only here, it's in a digital format (obviously).
Today, James Tynion IV's new comic, THE EIGHTH SEAL, begins. You can read it FOR FREE at Thrilbent or you can get it through comiXology and get some extra bonus material (since you're paying for it and helping to support it).
We took this opportunity to talk to James about this new comic.
Comic Vine: How would you describe the plot of THE EIGHTH SEAL?
James Tynion IV: The line I've been throwing around to describe the series for the last year has been "Rosemary's Baby meets The West Wing." This is the story of an extremely powerful woman, living a very public life, who is absolutely terrified that she's going insane. She keeps having these horrifying visions, glimpses of herself as a monster committing unspeakable acts of violence, but the part that scares her the most is the fact that these visions are starting to feel more real than her day-to-day life. She keeps telling herself that it's stress, that it can't be anything more than that, but deep down she knows that's not true. The course of the story will show that there's something much much bigger going on. This is Political Conspiracy Thriller meets visceral psychological horror. There are going to be a lot of twists and turns before it's over, but there's not much more I can reveal right now. People are just going to have to come along for the ride, and see where we take them. It's going to be fun, and hopefully just as terrifying as my incredible artist, Jeremy Rock, and I want it to be.
CV: Is this an idea you had for a while or one you recently came up with?
JT IV: I came up with the concept of the series specifically for Thrillbent. I was at C2E2, I think it was, one year ago, where Mark Waid had a big presentation about what they were trying to do with the future of digital comics. Basically, they were offering a new, dynamic set of tools for comic storytelling. The ability to layer panels onto a screen, change small elements in the background mid-scene, or dropping lettering to give a moment a certain weight or pace… They were all true to what comics are supposed to be, keeping the progression in the hands of the reader, but they offered something totally new. I went home from that, and my mind was racing…
I had been wanting to write a horror comic for a long while, and it seemed like Thrillbent was a perfect medium for horror. I could just see the perfect break from reality that is possible when you're layering images over each other. You can show a stark transformation from the mundane to the terrifying. There was also another realization… In print comics there's only one opportunity every two pages for a real scare. It's the page turn. With this… There's no way of looking ahead. You have no idea when the scares are coming. They could come halfway through the layering of a single screen. You're free to go pure horror whenever it seems best, with no limitations. It's incredibly freeing and exciting. I took all of these thoughts, and mulled through what would be the best kind of story to properly use all these crazy cool new tools that Thrillbent has put on the table.
CV: Do you approach the writing differently for a story with supernatural elements compared to traditional superhero stories?
JT IV: The supernatural elements come easily to me for whatever reason. I've been soaking my brain in as much horror as possible since High School, and lately I've been reading piles and piles of Horror Manga just to keep myself attuned to different ways to freak people out. Junji Ito's Uzumaki has been a particularly big influence. My mind has always been a strange place filled with all sorts of spooky weirdness, so this is all just crazy fun to me. I get to sit down at my computer and come up with the most upsetting things I can muster and then I write them down and try to figure out how best to depict them on the screen. It is freaking great.
CV: How many chapters will the story be and what will be the frequency of the releases?
JT IV: Our current plan is for THE EIGHTH SEAL to consist of three story-arcs of roughly 10 chapters each. We're going to release the chapters monthly rather than weekly, but keep every installment significantly longer than the average Thrillbent release, so we're still producing a similar amount of material as the other series on the website… With horror, pacing is everything, and we wanted these larger chunks so we can build tension exactly as we planned. We'll probably do a little hiatus between the story-arcs, but that's getting a bit ahead of ourselves.
CV: Did you write the scenes specifically for the nature of the way the comic reads with the layered images 'appearing' on top of the previous?
JT IV: Yes! It's a looser form of script, because pages can be kind of fluid in this format, which would be nerve-wracking without the right team in place. Thankfully, Jeremy Rock and I have reached a certain mind-meld with this project. My scripts are meant to be adapted, not followed directly, and while I throw in lots of ideas about how to use swipe effects in the best possible way, Jeremy always has a way to do something more with the format. Take each moment a step further. I'm always thrilled when I see new pages come in, because there's always something awesome that I never would have thought of. And with Nolan Woodard's amazing colors, and the personality Troy Peteri gets across in the letters… We have a great team in place for this comic, and even though we're all playing with a new format, trying to understand its quirks and limitations, we're all on board to deliver the best product we can.
CV: You decided to go with Thrillbent. And the comic is FREE. What's the catch?
JT IV: We wanted to try something new with THE EIGHTH SEAL, a way of bringing in a little bit of revenue… We're going to be releasing every chapter for $0.99 on ComiXology and ComicsPlus two weeks before they go up on Thrillbent.com for free. So if you're eager to pick up the next issue and want to read it early, or even if you're just enjoying the comic and just want to do something to support everyone on the Eighth Seal team, buying the comics is the best way to do that. We'll also have some bonus content for the pay versions, with production sketches so you can see how we go from the script to the final product. We're going to launch the first pay version with Chapter 2, which will go live on Comixology and ComicsPlus on May 15th, and go live on Thrillbent two weeks after that, on the 28th.
CV: Since you're doing this on your own, is there more of a sense of 'anything goes' in the story?
JT IV: I've had an incredible experience so far over in the world of work for hire superhero comics, but I have to work my ideas there through a system, and work side-by-side with editors, and occasionally you have to change direction in a story, and so on. It's great, but I can't tell you how empowering it is to be my own boss on this comic. I have long discussions with Jeremy late into the night, figuring out the specific elements, and talking about how to make each moment sing on the page. But if we make a change, it's our choice. The comic is entirely ours, top-to-bottom. It's freeing and energizing, and I love having that kind of control. I just introduced a new character in the script for Chapter 5 that I think will make a whole subplot of the book come to life in a much bigger, cooler way. Writing every chapter of this has been absolutely liberating.
CV: Do you plan on doing more comics through Thrillbent?
JT IV: The Eighth Seal is definitely my sole focus at Thrillbent right now, but I've been thinking about other things I could do with the format. I want to keep playing with the possibilities of this format as long as they'll have me. The Eighth Seal is going to have a good long run, and there's plenty on my plate already. But I'm always developing a few small projects in the back of my head. We'll see. It's been an incredible experience so far, and working with Mark Waid is a literal dream come true. So stay tuned, but for now, enjoy The Eighth Seal!
Go check out THE EIGHTH SEAL right now!