In the latest installment of our Recommended Reads series,  Professor Andrew Scott recommends digital comics from Thrillbent.

Mark Waid—co-owner of Alter Ego Comics in downtown Muncie and the New York Times bestselling author of Kingdom Come, Superman: Birthright, the recent graphic novel Shadow Walk, and celebrated runs on titles like Daredevil, Fantastic Four, The Flash, Captain America, and more—is staring the future of comics in the face, refusing to flinch.

In 2012, he sold over 150 “long boxes” of comic books spanning the 20th century to help fund Thrillbent, a digital comics platform he founded with Hollywood writer/producer John Rogers that now publishes some of the best comics anywhere, in a variety of genres.

*Photo used with permission from Thrillbent

*Photo used with permission from Thrillbent

Reading comics on the screen instead of the page is not a new endeavor—unscrupulous readers have illegally downloaded scanned comics since before the days of Napster—but we’re still in the relative infancy of comics intended for the screen, an exciting development for the medium. Likewise, legally purchased digital versions of paper comics are bringing new readers to the medium through Comixology, last year’s highest grossing non-game iPad app. Thrillbent’s titles are free on its website, but are also for sale through Comixology.

One of the key distinctions in this old medium made new is how information is relayed to the audience on the swipe. Readers see the first screen

*Photo used with permission from Thrillbent

*Photo used with permission from Thrillbent

and then, after swiping the iPad (or clicking the arrows on a desktop), the next panel in the story appears:

*Photo used with permission from Thrillbent

*Photo used with permission from Thrillbent

This creates new opportunities for storytellers, especially when the pacing is crucial to a scene’s overall effect, or when the element of surprise—for horror or humor—matters. Usually, the layered transitions are moment-to-moment, but sometimes they are subject-to-subject or scene-to-scene, to use Scott McCloud’s terms from Understanding Comics. Occasionally, I have been truly surprised by what is unveiled on the swipe—a real thrill for someone who’s been voraciously reading comics for three decades.

I recommend three Thrillbent titles, in particular:

  • Insufferable

Written by Waid and drawn by Peter Krause, this is about the generational divide between a Batman-like hero and his sidekick son who becomes a selfish celebrity worried about his “brand” and how social media responds to his heroic deeds.

  • The Eighth Seal

A political/horror thriller—written by James Tynion, Scott Snyder’s former student and apprentice, with art by Jeremy Rock—that Tynion describes as “Rosemary’s Baby meets The West Wing.” The protagonist’s visions and breaks from reality make perfect use of the format’s opportunities to shock and reveal.

  • The Damnation of Charlie Wormwood

Written by Christina Blanch—who gave a great talk as part of the Department’s Marilyn K. Cory Speaker Series last fall—and Chris Carr, with art by Chee (Chee-Yang Ong), a Malaysian artist whose black and white realism anchors this story about an adjunct English instructor teaching in the prison system who is swept into a life of crime.

I’m just starting to read the other offerings on the Thrillbent site, including Pax Arena, The Endling, Arcanum, and Moth City, which are all excellent. Younger readers, in particular, may enjoy Albert the Alien, about “the first intergalactic foreign exchange student.”

Visit the website—I think you’ll be hooked on at least one new series.