The Return of Empire -- An Interview With Mark Waid

In preparation for this week’s release of Empire Vol. 2, Mark Waid sat down with me to answer some questions that I’m sure are on everybody’s mind. This is the biggest release so far that Thrillbent has put out. And now after the countless questions about an Empire Vol. 2 release, Mark Waid is finally here to feed everybody’s inner fanboy. And joining him for the continuation of this very successful series, is Barry Kitson. Empire’s co-plotter co-creator, and artist. And from what I can tell, together, these two guys are going to release the most successful digital title to ever come across our screens. But that’s not all. It seems that Thrillbent has a lot more in store for us this summer, aside from Empire. Can it really get any better?

ERIK McALISTER: How is the second volume of Empire going to play out in terms of a jumping on point for new readers?

MARK WAID: You don’t have to read all of the James Bond novels in order. You can read a James Bond novel or you can read an Agatha Christie mystery. Or you can read a bunch of serial fiction without having to read the first one into continuity. And that’s the audience that we’re playing to. Trust me, by the end of the first chapter of the second volume on Thrillbent, even if you’ve never read Empire before, you’ll know what’s going on and you’ll have a real strong understanding about the world that you’re walking into.

To compensate for those people who maybe that’s not enough for them, and want to dive deeper in, that’s why we made the original first volume a free download for anyone who tries Thrillbent.

ERIK: So do you think that the anticipation that has been built up over the years will have anything to do with the initial fan base for the upcoming issues?

MARK: I hope so. Man, I hope so. Not one convention goes by that Barry Kitson and I are not asked repeatedly, “when are we going to see more Empire?” And I am pleasantly surprised that after all this time, it’s still a topic of conversation. So, I am counting on that to drive a lot of initial interest. As good as the first volume of Empire was back in the day, this is light years of an improvement, and Barry is a force of wonder. His work is amazing.

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ERIK: Since Empire will be the first major title under the Thrillbent banner to be released, do you see it becoming a flagship title that paves the way for other new series?

MARK: That’s the plan, actually. In fact, we’ve already got a bunch of other new material already lined up and in the pipeline for the summer. We have James Tynion, he’s a great writer, he understands the format of digital really well. He’s doing a series that launches in June. We still have The Damnation of Charlie Wormwood. We still have Valentine by Alex de Campi. That’s stuff that we’re very proud of. We also have some real strong releases from myself and also other people who comics fans would be excited about. Like fantasy novelist, Seanan Mcguire, who brings a whole new audience to the table, and I’m thrilled about that.

ERIK: So customers coming into Thrillbent this year are really coming in at the best possible time?

MARK: They really are. You’re coming into Thrillbent for the price that it takes to buy one print comic a month. You immediately have access to all of this material which is way more than what comics are worth per month. Plus, you have free access to our two-year library of everything that is on the site. We’ve got around three hundred comics on that site. Come, look, enjoy. Binge watch, binge read.

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ERIK: Could you describe for me what it’s been like working alongside Barry Kitson again?

MARK: It’s great because he’s so enthused about this. Barry, like me has done most of his work as for hire throughout the years. He’s done a lot less creator owned material than a lot of other guys have. That doesn’t mean that he hasn’t been aching to, but we always wanted to get back into Empire because that was the perfect venue to go off and do our own thing, and under our own rules, and under our own supervision. Without having to worry about corporate overlords or bargaining strategies, or cross overs or continuity. He’s really upped his game. He’s always been brilliant, but this stuff is light years beyond what he’s done before.

ERIK: Is there anything that you want to share with your fans about Empire prior to this week’s release? Maybe something that they could only find out from Mark Waid himself?

MARK: Without spoiling anything, the one thing we can say is that for a plot and emotion reason that makes sense with the whole story, this new volume takes place exactly one year to the day after the end of the previous volume. And there’s a really strong story driven reason for that, but I can’t say what it is without spoiling it for people who haven’t read volume one yet.

There you have it. Make sure you head on over to Thrillbent today and soak it all in. A lot of good stuff there. And there’s more to come. Not to mention that today is the first day that you can start reading Empire Vol. 2. The print comics market will definitely have its work cut out for it now. Happy reading, nerds.