Posted by on May 24, 2012 in Digital, Thrillbent | 98 Comments

(Actually, I loathe the use of the word “piracy” in the context of filesharing, but a good headline is supposed to be short and punchy, so.)

It came as no surprise to me that, about 24 hours after we posted the first installment of INSUFFERABLE over at Thrillbent, the pages had been downloaded, zipped into a .cbr or .cbz file, and uploaded to various torrent and filesharing sites. The only thing that startled me was that it took 24 hours. Sure enough, installments two and three were similarly webripped, converted and uploaded with increasing speed. By week three, they were available for download around the world within hours. Taken straight from the Thrillbent site.

THIS IS A GOOD THING.

I am not being the least bit sarcastic when I say that I WAS OVER THE MOON ABOUT THIS.

Your mileage may vary but, me, I’m okay with torrenters and “pirates” sharing INSUFFERABLE. Not just because, what the hell, it’s free anyway, Mr. Cynic…my hand to God, even if we were charging for it, I’d still be happy because the exposure and promotion is worth more to me at this point than dollars and cents. But more than that…more than that…after having been hip-deep in the research for the past three years, I have seen zero conclusive evidence that, on the whole, “piracy” removes more money from the system than it adds to it. Are there readers who would be buying my print comics who download them for free instead? Sure. Are there, conversely, potential readers who download one of my print comics, sample it, and then become a paying customer if they have access to ensuing print copies? Absolutely, and I’ve personally sold books to hundreds of them at store signings and conventions. Do the latter outweigh the former? (a) I don’t care, because I can’t stop the former, and (b) I believe, if you build up enough of a loyal fanbase, that potential exists; certainly, every meaningful* study undertaken on how piracy affects CD sales, DVD sales, etc. shows repeatedly that “pirated” content of quality material can actually act as an effective marketing tool and lead to increased sales. (*meaningful = not bought and paid for by the MPAA or the RIAA. Listening to them talk about piracy is like getting your cancer statistics from Big Tobacco or nutrition info from McDonalds.)

I could be wrong about this. I don’t think I am, but I don’t know everything. So, that said, let’s put my personal feelings away. Let’s set aside the hypothesis that, on the whole, torrenting is as much a plus as a minus. Leave that out of the equation. Ignore EVERYTHING in the previous paragraph after the word “cents.” Let’s just look at the facts.

FACT: Within hours of INSUFFERABLE installments being posted, they’re torrented.

FACT:  There is no force on Earth that I can use to stop that from happening.

FACT: Being angry about it or trying to prevent it is like standing on the beach and trying to push back the incoming tide by yelling at it.

So why be mad, I decided? Why not turn file-sharing into a tool I can use and control more directly rather than yell at the ocean? 

As you may have noticed, effective with yesterday’s installment four and retroactive back to Week One, we elected to make pirating INSUFFERABLE easy. No longer do uploaders have to go to the trouble of downloading the screen images and packing them into a file they can then share. Now you can read the installments online, as you have been…OR you can download them as PDFs and as .cbz files that you can read offline, upload, share, whatever. The links are right there underneath the comics themselves. That’s right, my pirating friends, I did the work FOR you. I didn’t muck with the comic itself, I didn’t DRM the images, I didn’t add anything to the downloadables that made them different in any way from what we give you online…

…EXCEPT for a stylishly designed credits-and-copyright page at the end that says “if you liked this, visit Thrillbent.com for more free comics!”

I can’t control the internet. I couldn’t count on uploaders not to “simply” unpack the Installment Four file I provided, excise the referral page, repack the file and upload that.

Except they didn’t. Judging by what I’ve seen around the web, the digital file that’s most in circulation is the one I myself provided…the path of least resistance…which means that thousands upon thousands of new readers who might otherwise not have thought to go to the source are now exposed to the Thrillbent link and have been pointed right towards the site and have been invited to join the community.

This doesn’t have to become a standard Thrillbent procedure; as other creators come aboard, I’ll let them decide for themselves whether or not they want to follow suit. But for now, this is a marketing model that works for me on a technical and ethical level. If you’re with me, I appreciate your support. If you think that all I’m doing is validating thievery and devaluing comics and, in general, contributing to the breakdown of civil society, I look forward to your enraged responses.

98 Comments

  1. D.J. Coffman
    May 24, 2012

    That’s the way! There’s also a way to track how many downloads from torrents there have been too. More circulation = greater ad value too in the future perhaps ;)

    Reply
  2. David
    May 24, 2012

    I have been reading your comic on the website but, I prefer .cbr. If you sold it on the site for .99 cents, I’d buy it.

    Reply
  3. Blue Tyson
    May 24, 2012

    Other possibilities :-

    Put Thrillbent in the filename too

    Do an ‘official’ torrent so the torrent name has your advertising promo name/url etc. in it.

    Reply
  4. Andy
    May 24, 2012

    If you demand an enraged response, then here’s one: “How dare you speak so much common sense! This is the internet!”

    Reply
  5. Cornelius Stuyvesant
    May 24, 2012

    You know, between this and a forum post on the Darkhorse board (http://boards.darkhorse.com/viewtopic.php?f=33&t=19358&sid=dd56781380c8548f2cae0c2bbeec58eb) I am starting to think there actually is some logical thinking out there.

    If you take the time to build a relationship with the reader, they will want to support you. Time and time this is proven not just with individual creators (Warren Ellis, Neil Gaiman, etc.) but also companies (Apple, Southwest, etc). The catch is it takes more work.

    Now, my suggestion here, I find your content great but reading on the website a PITA. However I also think that going to copying the content into a tablet CBR reader a bit easier but still takes some effort from me. But, I would gladly pay through an app on my iPad for access to the content. (One weeks content for 99 cent is likely too little content, but I am sure there is something I would pay.)

    The catch is I need it easy to pull into my tablet from the tablet.

    Keep up the great work, and congrats with the recent wrap of Irredeemable.

    Reply
  6. Adam
    May 24, 2012

    You should include a NFO file with some ASCII art.

    Reply
  7. Michael Nimmo
    May 25, 2012

    The same thing happened with Warren Ellis’s Freakangels (and I’m pretty sure it will happen with the Crossed series)

    Reply
  8. Don Garvey
    May 25, 2012

    Piracy is difficult to discuss at times. Not because it isn’t a black and white issue, but because speaking frankly about it, like you do here, often confuses the issue and can be misinterpreted as justification. That should not force us to ignore the issue.

    It is nice to hear you put piracy into these terms. I’m of the opinion that the vast majority of pirates were never going to be your (or anyone else’s) customer in the first place. The torrenters are largely a “plus” margin. If you are an unknown or partaking in a new venture, I believe this recognition from the piracy community only increases your visibility in a positive way. A torrenter has the same ability to turn to his or her friend and say “Hey, did you read this comic?” as the person who came to your site and viewed it for free (or bought in a store or elsewhere).

    Though back to my first point, I wonder how long before the “internet” claims that Mark Waid supports digital piracy!

    Reply
    • Steve Broome
      May 25, 2012

      The “wouldn’t have been customers” example only applies, again, if the item is actually for sale. A more relevant point to discuss when an item for sale is whether or not people who pay for something are having their commitment devalued by people who get the same experience for free. The issue should be consumption with or without paying.

      Reply
      • Don Garvey
        May 26, 2012

        I get your point when we’re comparing free to free (as in, you can read Insufferable on Thrillbent.com or download a torrent and both are free).

        When it comes to pay – I’m not sure I understand how my commitment is being devalued in a meaningful, non-philosophical way – in a way that actually diminishes me. I pay $2.99 for a comic and, ideally, get $2.99 in value from it (if I don’t, shame if I continue to patronize).

        Pirate Pete steals the $2.99 comic and reads it for free in exchange for assuming any risk involved with being a thief (w/regard to comics, it appears there is none). I contend that Pirate Pete was never going to drop $2.99 on that comic in the first place for all manner of reasons I won’t go into here.

        Whether Pete steals the comic or never reads it, my life, experience, and satisfaction is unmarred. I can’t spend my life fretting over unfairness or make decisions based on what Pete does – it will not protect or enhance my life in any way. It’s a rat-hole.

        Reply
  9. Brock Beauchamp
    May 25, 2012

    It’s nice to see such a proactive approach to the “freeloaders”, Mark. Piracy is a Pandora’s Box that can never be closed, no matter how hard businesses try to get governments to slap Draconian restrictions on the Internet. With that in mind, why not take advantage of them instead of fighting them in what is SURE to be a losing battle?

    You’re getting more eyes and mindspace dedicated to ThrillBent. At this point, what could be better for the longterm viability of the site? If the person has real interest in Insufferable, sooner or later they will pop onto the site and check it out first-hand to make sure they’re not missing anything. They may even start subscribing to your RSS feed. Bingo, you have a new customer.

    It’s really refreshing to see someone take a proactive approach to this “problem” instead of having the typical knee-jerk reaction to piracy. Kudos.

    Reply
  10. S.K.P Dadzie
    May 25, 2012

    How does the website make money then? I think this is a great way to promote but how do you keep the site running?
    Also, the “CBZ” file of Insufferable #4 isn’t downloading correctly. If Mark is reading this, can you check it out? Thanks.

    Reply
    • Mark Waid
      May 25, 2012

      Will look into the Insufferable 4 download–anyone else having any problems?

      We began the site out-of-pocket at a loss to build recognition and word-of-mouth, but there are advertisers and sponsors lining up–maybe enough to pay the bills, maybe not, we’ll see and I’ll let you know as we go. Moreover, Thrillbent partner John Rogers is working with an app developer to release our comics through iOS, as well, and that’ll help. Also, making downloads available for free is not a mandate at Thrillbent–it’s up to the individual creators who you’ll be seeing here over the next couple of months, and they’ll be experimenting with revenue stream-models, as well. Trust me, you’ll know everything we know.

      Reply
      • SB
        May 25, 2012

        I had to unpack it and repack it to read it. I’m still sharing the file as is, I just had to jump a single hoop.

        Reply
        • Mark Waid
          May 25, 2012

          Weird. It’s reading fine for me, but I’ll fuss with it. Thanks!

          Reply
          • SB
            May 25, 2012

            Just thought I’d add that I use CDisplay as well. I’d suggest testing in that app before releasing, as it is one of the most popular readers.

          • Brock Beauchamp
            May 26, 2012

            I’m having difficulty with Comic Zeal for iPad, as well. That’s a really popular reader for the system. The first three issues are fine, the fourth is not opening.

    • Mark Waid
      May 25, 2012

      Just checked Week Four’s download–it works fine for me. Not sure what to tell you. Anyone else having this glitch?

      Reply
      • Adam
        May 25, 2012

        I think the problem is that the .cbz file is a 7-zip archive and some (at least the version of CDisplay I have installed) comic viewers assume that a .cbz file is actually a .zip file, so CDisplay can’t view it.

        Reply
      • hUjOw
        June 1, 2012

        Same problem with #4, cannot open it on iPad comic zeal. Because of this i had to come back to the site to read it and then went on to check out the rest of the site. I see what you’re doing here, trying to have readers become enthusastic about this initiative when it’s clearly motivated by the will to inovate and produce original content. You should be ashamed to be so straightforward in this day and age.

        Reply
        • lori
          June 2, 2012

          When did you download #4? I replaced it with a better file a few days ago; could you try this and let me know what happens? (info@thrillbent.com)

          http://www.thrillbent.com/cbz/insufferable/Insufferable_04_Mark_Waid_2012.cbz

          Thanks!

          Reply
          • Max Vaehling
            June 3, 2012

            Still glitchy. The problem seems to be witth the zip file. If I rename the file into .zip, the zip won’t open either.

            [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ’0 which is not a hashcash value.

  11. Andrew DelQuadro
    May 25, 2012

    We have been doing this with our titles at 215 Ink and it always goes over well and has helped build a fan base.

    Reply
  12. Mike
    May 25, 2012

    Mark Waid supports digital piracy? Say it ain’t so.

    Oh, wait….

    Reply
  13. Andrew DelQuadro
    May 25, 2012

    D.J., we put up trackers of our titles ourselves and then post the links directly to them on our site. This way we can track the amount of downloads each title receives, we can read community feedback and we have sold ad placements based on these impressions.

    There really is no downside to this channel.

    Reply
  14. Padraic Walsh
    May 25, 2012

    My nearest comic shop is 100 miles away. Up to the recent advent of digital comics I had to spend a day travelling to said comic store in order to get my ink fix. This meant that more often than not I either wound up spending way over my intended budget, (since these trips are frequently weeks apart!), or I had to forego issues of my favourite titles.

    This meant that I frequently downloaded comics simply because I didn’t wait months to see am issue (and equally frequently because I simply couldn’t access these books offline). For the record in most cases I also purchase the trades for series/arcs I’ve enjoyed (and previously downloaded).

    Since comics went digital I can get the bulk of the titles I want online, which is fantastic, and I no longer download ANYTHING. I’m also actually buying more comics whenever I buy online because I no longer have to pay for travel and many books are slightly cheaper online. I also no longer bother downloading anything (except for Insufferable :p Which I get direct from Thrillbent :D), because now that I have easy access to these books online I’m more than happy to pay for them.

    So I’m a guy who is a subject of the post above; I have frequently downloaded books which has almost always lead to me picking up additional books/trades by the same creators in brick-and-mortar retail stores and now that I can actually buy my titles online I’m buying more books, at least some of which I would never have known existed if not for torrenting. Irredeemable and incorruptible are two examples of this, originally I couldn’t lay my hands on the books/trades so I downloaded them. But since going digital I’ve started buying the issues of these two titles online as well as buying the back catalog for both series online.

    So, other than satisfying my need to rave about digital comics SOMEWHERE, my point is that it’s great for me to see a creator, (and obviously such a prolific and top-tier creator), embracing digital distribution and actually trying to drive it as a vehicles for sales and therefore story :D

    Keep it up sir! And I promise to keep shelling out for these great books :D

    Reply
    • Mark Waid
      May 25, 2012

      Much appreciated. The other part of the equation, BTW, is that with a lot of non-DC and non-Marvel comics, potential readers don’t even know they EXIST unless they stumble across them online. It’s not just a matter of digital being more convenient when you’re not in driving distance of a store–it’s that even the stores IN your area have the ability to shelve and promote only a small fraction of the available comics out there.

      Reply
      • Blue Tyson
        May 25, 2012

        Yep, and in Australia, the suddenly hot/interesting/popular titles will always get sold to the USA first if running low and screw everyone else.

        Missed an issue of Hush like that, for example.

        And no shop in the country will ever buy enough to get a particular variant if you want that etc. etc.

        Reply
      • Steve Myers
        May 25, 2012

        I’ve been enjoying reading about your journey into the online world and web comics. Keep it up. You’re right about the marketing potential. I always look at Penny Arcade as a great model for how the medium can expand. Their content is free on their site. But that doesn’t stop oodles of peoples buying collected editions. They’re a pop culture phenomenon. And they help keep the “gag strip” alive after print media did its best to kill it. Comic books can thrive online. They are thriving online. I’m very interested to read more posts from you as you travel down this road.

        Reply
  15. Barry Convex
    May 25, 2012

    I’m continually amazed and impressed by how your views on piracy are so much saner than those of not just other creators of your generation, but many younger creators as well. Kudos.

    Reply
  16. Brock Beauchamp
    May 25, 2012

    BTW Mark, I’m having difficulty creating a torrent. While I understand any reluctance you might have about posting such a thing online, is there any advice someone at ThrillBent could email me on how to do it? Specifically, I’m having difficulty sorting out how to create a tracker.

    Reply
    • Mark Waid
      May 25, 2012

      Ha! Join the club. Anyone out there to give advice to us both? Thanks in advance!

      Reply
    • Lori
      May 25, 2012

      I followed the instructions on Demonoid — they’re pretty comprehensive.

      Reply
  17. N
    May 25, 2012

    “That’s right, my pirating friends, I did the work FOR you.”

    Now if we can have a little talk about tagging your files properly. :D

    Reply
    • Mark Waid
      May 25, 2012

      Talk to me. This is a new form of distribution for me–do you mind walking me through what you mean by “tagging the files properly”? Thanks!

      Reply
      • N
        May 25, 2012

        Honestly that was me having a little fun. Anyone who is giving away their creative efforts will always be my hero. And you can tag your books however you see fit.

        By tag I just meant naming. Although you might have already seen your books tagged like this:

        Insufferable 001 (2012) (Mark Waid, digital).cbz

        Reply
    • Padraic Walsh
      May 25, 2012

      http://torrentfreak.com/how-to-create-a-torrent/ 0BAM! Link title says it all :)

      Reply
      • Lori
        May 25, 2012

        THANK YOU.

        Reply
  18. Shawn Coots
    May 25, 2012

    Mark, this is a honest look at the state of entertainment (not just comics) at the moment. It’s refreshing to know a creator of your caliber is trying to figure out new ways to communicate with your audience. If you put it out there for everyone, and if the work is good, then good people will want to pay you for it. I truly believe that. So whenever you get a pay structure/ios app figured out, I’ll be there with some cash. Thanks so much!

    Reply
  19. Ted
    May 25, 2012

    Trent Reznor used a similar approach a few years back when he put out his own torrent-exclusive compilations out there on the web. He wanted to be in control of how people heard his music. He later continued to experiment with piracy and his music, and has pretty much proven that it is possible to make money while still giving some stuff away for free.

    I always wondered why the Big Two never put there stuff out as cbr and cbz files, considering it all winds up online anyway. It just makes sense to have it in a format that a majority of people use.

    Here’s to Mark Waid beating them to the punch.

    Oh, and full disclosure, I stopped reading comics about 17 or so years ago, rediscovered them via piracy in about 2002, and now spend about 30 dollars every week on comics at my local comic book store. Piracy CAN work.

    Reply
  20. Luis Escobar
    May 25, 2012

    I’m confused, is it piracy when you’re giving the comic away for free anyway and someone merely changes the distribution method? I mean, your not trying to make money DIRECTLY off of the product. It’s monetized INDIRECTLY so what’s being “pirated”. Doesn’t pirating something imply theft. But if it’s free, can it be stolen? I would think the term would apply only if you were attempting to “sell the bits” in which case, someone distributing them for free, when you were asking for money for them, would then be stealing. Even if you over valued “the bits” you were attempting to sell.

    I know Mark, you said that “Pirating” isn’t the correct term to use here. “Filesharing” is, but the term is still being used and it gets confusing.

    Reply
    • Matt Goldey
      May 25, 2012

      Copyright is not necessarily about selling your work, it’s about controlling the way it’s distributed. So if an artist/writer/musician puts their work up on a website in such a way (flash video or audio, etc…) that requires the consumer actually visit the website to see the work but the artist still gives it away for free. They have control over the distribution of that work. If someone comes along and uses some kind of technology to circumvent that and then distributes the work in a way that the creator did not intend, then I would consider it piracy.

      Reply
  21. Jack
    May 25, 2012

    Excellent post. Its really wonderful to see a high profile creator come out and say something on the subject other than “ITS INDISPUTABLY EVIL AND I HATE THE PEOPLE WHO DO IT BECAUSE THEY ARE EVIL!”

    File-sharing isn’t black and white. People don’t just download comics to avoid paying for thme. Thats why many do it, but not all. Every month I go to my LCS, pay for my books, go home and read them. And when I’m done reading them I download them from filesharing sites. I do it because I want to have digital backups of my books and I don’t want to pay an inflated price to get my books in a DRM-riddled format that I’d just end up ripping the images from and making a .cbr file of anyway.

    As I understand it, it is not illegal or unethical to rip the music from a CD to your computer, so long as you don’t distribute those files. Its also not illegal or unethical to rip video from DVDs (again, as long as you don’t distribute it). And so I assume its not illegal or unethical to scan my comic books (once again, as long as I don’t distribute them). So downloading an issue is just saving me an hour per issue. Its not supporting anything as I don’t use torrents (which are a two-way system of stimutaneous downloading and uploading). Its not stealing anything because stealing is the act of not just acquiring something but removing it from the owner’s possession. So I download digital copies of my books as a time saver and don’t lose any sleep.

    The big worry over piracy is nothing new. Before the internet it was taping movies and TV shows with a VCR and before that it was taping songs off the radio. The problem is that many companies/industries choose to assume all people download out of greed and act on that assumption, rather than sitting down and thinking of other reasons. Perhaps they don’t do that because it would mean facing the problems with how they produce and distribute things.

    Valve is a company that not only develops and publishes videogames but also owns the most popular distribution channel for PC games. Valve co-owner and CEO Gabe Newell has said that piracy is not at all a concern for him or the company because they realize that the best way to counter piracy was through improved customer service rather than increasingly restrictive DRM (which only harms people who actually bought the game because the pirates find workarounds). One example cited was Russia. Russia is known for being a hotspot of piracy, to the extent that publishers don’t even bother localizing their games for Russia under the assumption that they’d just pirate it. Valve looked at possible reasons for this and concluded it was due to delayed localization of software, with the localizations themselves not being very good while the pirated versions worked fine. Valve made it a point to do a better job of localizing their games and releasing the Russian versions stimutaneously with the American versions and found that piracy of their games in Russia basically disappeared.

    So why would someone pirate a comic book other than simply wanting to read for free (Other than my own stated reason of course)? One big reason is price. Generally, three bucks will get you twenty pages of story, but at Marvel many popular books are priced at four bucks for the same number of pages (Amazing Spider-Man is one example). People unwilling to pay a popularity tax will pirate it instead. Another part of price is the cost of a digital version vs a physical copy. If the reader doesn’t want a physical copy but feels a digital copy should be lower in price he will simply pirate it because hey, its already digital and in a better format to boot. Related to price is shipping. Lately Marvel has been double-shipping lots of books, and Amazing Spider-Man ships twice a month anyway. This means the monthly cost of their hobby can double and is no longer practical. And thus another pirate is born.

    DRM on digital titles is a factor as well. A .cbr file comes with zero DRM and is yours until you delete it. A comic from Comixology is merely licensed to you and that license can expire if Comixology ever goes out of business. Why pay more for less?

    The percieved value of digital is a reason as well. Some people, myself included, simply don’t want to pay money for a digital comic. I’d rather dig around in a back issue bin than buy digital.

    A whole other reason could be print status. Someone might be willing to buy it but its unavailable. Trades often go out of print, especially from Marvel (odd how they keep popping up…). If a book is out of print then how is someone supposed to read the material? They could buy digital, but that just tries into the previous three reasons. An example of this is the Punisher Volume 5, the 37 issue ongoing series from the early 2000s. Well recieved comics and part of Garth Ennis’ legendary run on the character yet out of print in every format (they didn’t even finish releasing it in hardcover) and the books in existence go for heavy prices on eBay (which neither Marvel nor the creators see a penny from anyway). They aren’t even available digitally! What can a fan do other than pirate?

    One final reason (that I can think of off the top of my head anyway) is the simplest: Just giving it a test run. Comics are expensive and you can’t always be sure if you’ll like something enough to invest in it. This comes in a couple forms: People who pirate something, pass judgment on it and either start buying it monthly or don’t, and people who pirate a series monthly and buy it in their preferred collected format (trade, hardcover, omnibus, whatever). These are people who might not want to pay for something twice yet want to read it monthly anyway.

    Any of these reasons can be justified or villified, it doesn’t matter. The point is that publishers no longer have the power over the readers. They can’t pull them by the nose wherever they please anyway. They can’t drag them into a crossover and say “Buy every tie-in or you’ll miss out MUAHAHAHAHA!” They can’t say “Pay 4.99 for 16 pages or miss out MUAHAHAHAHA!” Continuity isn’t just a story device, it is a ball and chain to keep readers buying. Now readers are free from their shackles if they choose to be. The publisher can no longer win them over just with story, they have to provide customer service worth paying for. 3.99 for 20 DRM locked pages twice-monthly isn’t good customer service.

    Reply
  22. Marc Hammond
    May 25, 2012

    I co-own a new comic book store. It will take us time to build up the GN and TP to where we want it. We receive new shipments for that section every week. We don’t always have what the customer wants, nor can we afford to buy everything we want all at once. But, we tell people we’re happy to reorder for them, and do so as quickly as possible. We’ve been showing people Thrillbent. Every time we have shown people this FREE content, it has resulted in the sale of an Incorruptible, Empire, Kingdom Come, or another of your works. Every time. Even to customers who are known and unabashed torrenters. Every. Time.

    Reply
  23. Steve Broome
    May 25, 2012

    Yeah it’s more redistribution than piracy, and I find these discussions only relevant when something is up for sale. As you say it’s up to artists and writers. For those that are fine with it, I say more power to them. The question is what do we have to say about people who disrespect the wishes of creators who DON’T want to have their work distributed in this way? Are we helping their cause by pretending like it’s all perfectly fine just because nothing can be done about it?

    Reply
    • Brock Beauchamp
      May 25, 2012

      I think it’s fair to say that it’s wrong to take anything for free where the creator expects you to pay for it and does not offer a free version.

      But piracy is never going to go away. And since it’s here, you may as well try to make it work for you instead of against you.

      Reply
      • Steve Broome
        May 25, 2012

        This is what cracks me up, is there any other situation where we take such a dismissive view of creators being treated like garbage? Marvel or DC mistreats a creator and people lose their minds and talk about protests and how evil the big two are. Polls pop up asking if they plan to even buy Watchmen books b/c of the way Alan Moore feels about it. Creators don’t get paid for work and Bleeding Cool has immediate stories about it and the commenters all go crazy about boycotting the company (Bluewater, etc.) But if normal people show the exact same kind of disrespect it’s just “one of those things”?

        HUH?

        Reply
        • Brock Beauchamp
          May 25, 2012

          I think the difference is that something can be done about corporations treating their creators like crap. You can boycott companies, protest your little ol’ heart out, write letters, blah blah blah.

          On the other hand, there’s not a damned thing that can be done about piracy short of letting the government impose insane regulation over what is the greatest invention in the history of mankind. And that’s not a good idea under any scenario.

          Reply
          • Luis Escobar
            May 25, 2012

            I thought the comment was meant to simply show the hypocrisy of the fanbase.

      • Luis Escobar
        May 25, 2012

        Yes. What Mark is doing well here, is making his comic “Pirate proof” by making it impossible to pirate. Even if he makes a print version of his comic, a free digital version already exists, making a scanned digital version of the print version, redundant.

        His intent is to make the digital version a commercial for everything else he can sell with the characters.

        Reply
    • Mark Waid
      May 25, 2012

      “Are we helping their cause by pretending like it’s all perfectly fine just because nothing can be done about it?”

      I understand your concerns, I really do, but until someone comes forth with a workable fix that retrogrades us back to where filesharing isn’t possible, my only choices are to rail against the darkness or to light a candle. I choose the latter. YMMV.

      Reply
      • Mark Waid
        May 25, 2012

        Steve, I apologize–the “YMMV” came off as snarkier than I intended. All I mean is that we each make our own decisions based on our needs and ethical yardsticks…and we all bear the subsequent consequences. I’d never tell anyone they shouldn’t be upset about filesharing if they want to be; I’m just saying that, from my POV, it seems counterproductive to rail rather than to adapt.

        Reply
      • Steve Broome
        May 25, 2012

        I didn’t take it as snarky at all, I just find the whole thing smacks of the “you should feel honored to tell stories/this isn’t a real job you should expect to get paid for” vibe that so many commenters online offer. Are we looking to make a viable alternative to the Diamond/industry model or are we treating digital comics like an internship before making real money via other avenues?

        We see web designers and artists always talking over the last year about not doing work for other people without any expectation of compensation, I’m just trying to figure out how creating fiction is any different. Or at the very least find are all the people who slave over their with no compensation. I have a feeling most of the people who are so gung-ho about not paying for anything are compensated for their day jobs and would be outraged if we used these points against them.

        Reply
        • Brock Beauchamp
          May 25, 2012

          I’ve been round and round with so many people over this that I don’t bother counting anymore. Without a doubt, there are people out there who staunchly defend their piracy. I find these people insufferable (heh).

          Taking things without permission is wrong. I think that’s a stance almost every creator can agree about. But we can’t stop it. And since we can’t stop it, we may as well make the best of the situation.

          I think the saddest part of this situation is that there are many out there who defend taking work from struggling creators without compensation. As you said, if the tables were turned, they’d be outraged about it. But they don’t care. They’re receiving a product they want for free and that’s all they care about. I’ve pirated before. I admit it. But I generally do it after I’ve tried to find a way to pay a reasonable amount for a DRM-free version of the item I desire. Unfortunately, under the current business climate, that’s a rare commodity. After I’ve exhausted that option (here’s looking at you, iTunes, and your $55 television seasons), I will revert to “stealing” the object in question. It’s certainly not something I’m proud of but I’m not a fan of getting unnecessarily hosed by greedy, oppressive corporations, either.

          All in all, it’s sad that neither side is willing to budge enough to make it reasonable for everyone to enjoy a particular product. But, alas, that’s an argument for another day.

          Reply
          • Steve Broome
            May 25, 2012

            Just to clarify I think that the piracy as a response to overpriced or out of print/region locked stuff is no different than what’s always been done, and when CDs were still 18 bucks, etc. it was the only option. There are still examples like TV season costs which I just don’t comprehend, where I understand. Comics of course often fall into this, I think asking people to pay 4 bucks 12 times a year for a plodding story is laughable, so it’s not like I’m saying I’ve never downloaded music before buying and that anyobdy who does is evil. I should clarify that. I also think a physical copy purchase should automatically entail ownership of a digital backup of the content, but that’s for another day as you say.

  24. Mark Waid makes life easy for file-sharers | Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources – Covering Comic Book News and Entertainment
    May 25, 2012

    [...] preaching the gospel of the “culture of sharing” for a couple of years now, he’s making his comic Insufferable available for anyone to download and [...]

    Reply
  25. Matt
    May 25, 2012

    It is really refreshing to see someone embracing the future instead of trying to hide from it. For the people who get mad about the ease to copy and freely distribute… what can you do? Reinvent the world so it works the way they want? I think it is a childish notion to think that you can control what happens with your work once you have put it out there for the public to see in any form. It is definitely a control freak issue as far as I am concerned. You know where writers and artists have absolute control? While they are creating. Their godlike powers of control end right there on the page, digital or otherwise.
    If your idea becomes popular enough, the regular revenue streams will come into play.

    Reply
  26. Mark Waid Sees Pirated Comics as a New Opportunity » Comics Worth Reading
    May 25, 2012

    [...] creator Mark Waid has posted at his blog the [...]

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The comment’s server IP (97.74.24.43) doesn’t match the comment’s URL host IP (97.74.182.1) and so is spam.

    Reply
  27. Allen Berrebbi
    May 25, 2012

    Once again, it’s as if Mark speaks what’s in my own mind. I have said the exact same thing for years. I would add one more benefit of piracy.

    From my experience, piracy has kept people reading comics and caring about them, when otherwise they would have just dropped out completely. They were never buying these books. But many of them, stayed involved through piracy and then buy other things related, where in the past, they would have moved on like so many other former readers have.

    This is not a statement about the morals of piracy, this is a statement about the perceived pros and cons of piracy. In an ideal world there would be no piracy AND comics were priced to encourage the “keep on collecting them” mentality. But we have to make the best of the current situation.

    If there is a good way for Mark to track downloads everywhere, the ad money could rise as well.

    Reply
    • Luis Escobar
      May 25, 2012

      Yes, but through his actions, Mark is bypassing piracy altogether by using the system that is usually used to pirate, to market his product. His webcomic is, in fact, NOT being pirated at all and seemingly CANNOT be pirated.

      Reply
  28. Brian C
    May 25, 2012

    A while back I came across the fascinating story of how piracy made H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds a huge hit in the US years before it was legally published on this side of the pond. Here’s the basics:

    http://www.atomic-robo.com/2010/12/22/internet-piracy-of-the-19th-century/

    Reply
  29. Stormrider
    May 25, 2012

    I am one of those dirty, dirty pirates. Not the ones swiping INSUFFERABLE, but your standard ‘any comics I follow coming out this week that I need to download?’ pirate.

    I pirate for two reasons: The primary is an utter lack of money. I don’t have the funds to buy comics. I barely have the funds to buy food. I own something like two to three thousand physical comics, because when I HAD the money, I was at my local shop every Wednesday wanting to know why the UPS guy was late. (Half the people reading this are now nodding their heads in agreement.)

    The second is basically ‘try before you buy’. Check out a comic and see if it’s as good as the sales copy makes it out to be. Even if I DID have the money, I’d still do this. It’s just logical to me.

    There are several comics I have in my digital ‘collection’ that I want physical copies of SO DAMN BAD. And I fully intend to when I do get the money. Short list:

    ARROWSMITH TPB.
    All the ATOMIC ROBO collections.
    ECHO by Terry Moore.
    EMPOWERED by Adam Warren.
    Everything by Warren Ellis. It’s a sad, sorry state of affairs when I own nothing physical from this man. I would NEVER have gotten into Ellis’ stuff if a friend hadn’t sent me a torrent of TRANSMETROPOLITAN and told me to read it.

    ASTRO CITY is not on that list because I physically own the first collection. It was my ‘sample issue’.

    If I actually had money for it, I would be a prime example that piracy helps sales. As it is, I’m a prime example that not every piracy is a lost sale, because I couldn’t get it anyway. :/

    Reply
  30. George Tramountanas
    May 25, 2012

    This is beautiful, Mark. I can’t wait to see the outcome from your little “experiment.” Have a great weekend!

    Reply
  31. George Collazo
    May 25, 2012

    Also, one thing to note is that if you are pirated there is a demand for your product. There are droves of people out there that pirates simply skip over or just don’t make something that merits their interest.

    Reply
  32. Bruce
    May 25, 2012

    Mark, you are, as always, a voice of reason in the wilderness. Glad to see the great experiment continues onward!

    Reply
  33. Steve Lieber
    May 25, 2012

    It’s a real pleasure seeing a comics-maker of Mark’s stature taking such a sensible, pragmatic approach.

    Reply
  34. Scott
    May 25, 2012

    This guy speaks the truth. I actually saw the cbr first from a friend that recommended it, ended up following on twitter, retweeting this article, and am now viewing the webpage and digging around. It works. Ever seen coupons or free samples at the grocery store? Yea exactly.

    Reply
  35. Ziggy
    May 25, 2012

    I’d just like to thank you for creating these files, not for their torrent potential, but for reading.

    I posted in the Thrillbent forum about how reading from the website on my tablet was troublesome (the controls weren’t always responsive and even more so with all that content on the page both above and below the actual comic images, accidental scrolling was a constant problem). But a .cbz I can read! So thank you for making my tablet reading experience better. I posted some suggestion in that thread that I still think will make reading from the website more friendly overall, but for me personally this works great.

    I did notice that images inside the .cbz are cropped right to the edge of the panel borders. Not a big deal but maybe add some gutters on the sides so that there’s some breathing room for the panels and the edge of the screen.

    Reply
  36. Caroline Chuin
    May 25, 2012

    Back in September of 2010 at CBR you said:

    “I’m going to be rolling out some ideas in the next few weeks on how I personally want to make torrents work for me, not take away from me, and how I plan to shift the paradigm. Lots of you already have similar ideas or will, as well. I’m not saying that to plug anything I’m doing; I just want to go on record that I’m willing to walk the walk. My ideas may work. They may not work.”

    Then nothing ever came of it. I waited for you to say something profound about these “ideas” of yours and possible solutions but I heard nary a peep. Now, 2 years later, the master plan is finally revealed: Give it away for free.

    Um…ok. Not exactly what I would call reinventing the wheel, not exactly what I would call an “idea” but that’s cool. But why waste everyones time by dressing it up and acting all mysterioso and saying how you had a secret masterplan in the works? Why didn’t you just say “give it away for free” 2 years ago? If that’s all you’ve got, then own it. Don’t play games and act like you’re doing something new or original. I get that comic creators have egos, but Jesus.

    Reply
    • Mark Waid
      May 25, 2012

      Ouch.

      Experimenting by giving some stuff away for free with an agenda is a step, not the whole “master plan.” I’m actually flattered that you think there’s a “master plan.” There’s not. As I’ve explained at length on this blog, we’re going to be trying all sorts of “sub-master plans,” if you will, and reporting back with full transparency on their varying levels of success and failure. Yes, I wish I’d been able to begin implementing my thoughts earlier, but life gets in the way of the best of intentions; no one’s more frustrated than me that this is taking so long. There are other torrent-related plans, as well–I’ll talk about them (and show my math) as they gell. Deal?

      Reply
    • Brock Beauchamp
      May 25, 2012

      Jesus. I think it’s only fair to let Mark play his hand before railing on him for not getting it all done yesterday. ThrillBent isn’t even 60 days old yet. I don’t know what he has planned next. You don’t know what he has planned next. All I can see is a website with some pretty good comics and some pretty great ideas behind it. Is that all there is? Dunno, but before I draw any conclusions, I’m going to wait and see how it plays out.

      Reply
    • Steve Broome
      May 25, 2012

      No need to be mean. Anytime you see someone do a venture with a small crew you may want to assume that it’s difficult and be patient (as opposed to the internet theory of relativity, which states that everything everyone else does is as easy as talking about it on a message board).

      Reply
    • scottstory
      May 25, 2012

      Amazing. Yelling at a man for giving away content for free. Caroline, you seem to assume that Mark owes you something, that he’d better deliver what you want, and now!

      As far as ideas go, there creativity in the format and delivery of Thrillbent’s comics. He and his team are thinking big, trying to establish, if not a universal format, then at least a viable template for delivering stories.

      In fact, it occurred to me, the traditional job breakdown in comics–writer, artist, penciler, colorist, etc.–should be amended to include a coder or programmer. The person who decided how to break down and tell the story best is a viable specialty. If you don’t believe me, then hand your comic over to most app makers and weep at what you get back.

      Basically,Caroline, you are displaying a sense of ownership in the end product that you do not have. Many people have tried to find the best way to monetize content online, and railing at Mark for giving away free content is ridiculous.

      Reply
  37. Algeya
    May 25, 2012

    thats a great idea I will torrent some of my comics as a test

    Reply
  38. Solomon Mars
    May 25, 2012

    um… okay, there’s a lot of praise going on here. have a majority of comics creators & readers (digital or otherwise) not thought of doing this? it’s not a new concept. i personally understand that this is new for mark, but reading through the comments… my gawd are that many people really that detached from the existence of such things? i don’t want to come across as some sort of villain, or be misunderstood with this comment (but i probably will)
    it’s just a little frustrating to see people shower accolades and applause for this act. an act that a lot of digital comics creators have been doing for years now. i mean, good on you mark for playing in those playgrounds… but it’s really starting to bug me how people are responding as if this is something new mark thought up. this isn’t directed at mark, but more so those commenters who are shocking me with how long they’ve been playing in the shallow end of the pool.
    pardon the familiarity. C:

    although, it’s one thing to torrent a free item, and another to torrent an item with a price tag.
    it’s a mixed bag

    Reply
    • Matt
      May 25, 2012

      I think Mark was very clear on not being the creator of online comics. But he is obviously bringing in new blood, people who did not see the viability of Free Online Comics. Not everyone has been chest deep in the online experience. Many of us still live in the real world and don’t get the chance to enjoy what is going on with quality Free Content online. I am very sorry this bothers you. To get upset that others are having their eyes opened. I have already read posts from artists who want to try what Mark is doing. This is all positive. No one is stealing thunder. Lets take a moment to thank Benjamin Franklin for all he has done for Free Online Comics. After all, he did get a kite struck by lightning.

      Reply
  39. Josh
    May 26, 2012

    Fact: I originally “pirated” the new Daredevil series, from #1-#7. I read it all in one sitting, and now I’m a paper-copy subscriber at my local comic shop.

    I’ve done that with a lot of series, too. My comic boxes and shelves are lined with books I’ve “sampled” online first.

    That said, Mark, I’d really like if you offered a way to pay what we want. Give the reader the chance to download it for free, but the option to pay would surely attract some of your most ardent fans. Has that option ever been on the table?

    Reply
  40. Chris
    May 28, 2012

    I used to collect comics, until the publisher did a “mega-event” that trashed all the lines I collected. A few years later, I dipped a toe in the pool and downloaded a few comics through torrents. That got me back in – I tried before I bought. Once I’d read an issue or two, or twenty, I started buying the comics – perhaps back issues to have a hard copy, and support the comic, and certainly current issues. And then, last year, everything rebooted again and I stopped buying, tired of the urge to constantly re-invent.

    So I’d like to praise a creator who produces consistent and excellent work, who celebrates a form of distribution that encourages the casual non-die hard reader to invest their time and interest in their work. Congrats Mark, I hope you are able to monetize this experiment and continue to produce work you like and take pride in.

    Reply
  41. the trojan
    May 28, 2012

    Caroline Chuin makes a good point,I also came here to share in the new way forward and I must admit I was slightly disappointed.

    I am of the mind that the only way creatives can make money and support their craft is by being clever…we are entering a time where lots of media is no longer able to make money due to the nature of the internet and piracy.

    The point is in finding a clever way to enhance the ‘free’ content.
    Merchandising is an option,as is eventually being approached by companies who may wish to exploit ones work or dare I say it…A comic book publisher..ha!

    I was involved in music for years and when the internet and technology made it amazingly easy to produce and profile your music,I was over the moon…(still not set anything up though)
    The only thing needed once content is created is promotion and publicity and its the same for comics.

    Here is something else to ponder..what if thats it,the game is up,creative industries are no longer able to make money and we head into a cashless society and there is no longer any need to struggle financially to do what you want to do..
    But there is no more financial rewards for success….

    I find myself (at the moment) in a situation where I dont need to work and I have no pressure on myself to think about anything else other than my creative work…..
    Brilliant,true art,no drive other than being creative…

    And I cant get my finger out of my …. to do anything.
    Really confusing….
    Ive confused myself now so adieu!

    Reply
  42. Robert Saggers
    May 28, 2012

    I think the problem is that companies etc feel that every downloaded file is a genuine copy they’ve missed a sale on.

    It’s simply not true.

    The guy who downloads 5 films a day for free would not buy 5 films a day, he’d probably just watch TV.

    The same with music, although I feel there is a completely different angle with music using it to simply sell a live show. I know I wouldn’t have even heard of half the bands I’ve seen (in the hundreds) at a live show buying tickets and shirts if not for downloaded/copied/pirated music.

    Of course the real fear could be that certain big companies release some complete rubbish and they don’t want everyone finding out how bad it is for free…

    Reply
  43. Simon Fraser
    May 29, 2012

    It’s goods too see this kind of pragmatism seeping into the industry. I’ve had heated discussions with well known pros who are outraged by filesharing, interpreting it as money taken directly from their pockets. Though they have been perfectly sanguine about the back issue market, libraries & Ebay for decades. The only thing worse than having you’re work on filesharing networks is NOT having your work on filesharing networks. If nobody even wants to put it online for free , then you have a serious marketing problem.

    I put my comic Lilly Mackenzie on activatecomix.com for free. It was then published I’m paper in the Judge Dredd Mega zone

    Reply
    • Simon Fraser
      May 29, 2012

      … Megazine , for which I was paid, then I had the highly amusing experience of seeing the print edition scanned by someone ( very well) and them shared, even though it had been online for free for several years by that point. I’ve now compiled the work into a limited edition book, which I sell in person at conventions. I think I have earned a fair sum of money from the work now, but I own the rights so I can keep selling it for as long as I want, to people who have already read it. Yay!

      Sorry for the break, typing (and reading comics) on a phone is not ideal.

      Reply
  44. @TheGreatArnoldo
    May 29, 2012

    I’m probably exactly the type of person you’re talking about. I’ve downloaded six graphic novels. Four of these have caused me to stop reading after about twenty pages, go online and buy a legit copy. I wouldn’t have purchased any of them otherwise. So, thats four lots of royalties that creators wouldn’t of otherwise received generated directly via ‘piracy’. Kind of makes you think.

    Reply
  45. Jonathan
    May 29, 2012

    I’m very happy to see you take this logical and forward-thinking stance on “the” issue which haunts the industry like a spectre. People who do not adapt and accept the current technological wild west we find ourselves tromping through will only suffer and alienate fans because they do not understand what fans want or how people really think once you detach them from an accounting report.

    All in all, I highly recommend you create official torrents for your Thrillbent releases – tag everything properly, include ancillary information and you’ll no doubt see a huge boon to your views/downloads/fanbase.

    Of course, you’re Mark Fucking Wade – so I’m sure you’ve got this all plotted out ;) But just in case you ever need any help figuring out all this computer trickery, please, utilize folks like me, your fan-base. Crowd sourcing doesn’t just have to be about raising money for a specific project, it can also be used to glean valuable information which will help you (and hopefully in turn, everyone else too) better understand and utilize the available dark corners of the net!

    Reply
  46. Jonathan
    May 29, 2012

    I’m very happy to see you take this logical and forward-thinking stance on “the” issue which haunts the industry like a spectre. People who do not adapt and accept the current technological wild west we find ourselves tromping through will only suffer and alienate fans because they do not understand what fans want or how people really think once you detach them from an accounting report.

    All in all, I highly recommend you create official torrents for your Thrillbent releases – tag everything properly, include ancillary information and you’ll no doubt see a huge boon to your views/downloads/fanbase.

    Of course, you’re Mark Fucking Wade – so I’m sure you’ve got this all plotted out ;) But just in case you ever need any help figuring out all this computer trickery, please, utilize folks like me; your fan-base. Crowd sourcing doesn’t just have to be about raising money for a specific project, it can also be used to glean valuable information which will help you (and hopefully in turn, everyone else too) better understand and utilize the available dark corners of the net!

    Reply
  47. Wright Johnson
    May 29, 2012

    Really cool to watch you figuring this stuff out, Mark. Of course, it’ll be cooler when I’m able to follow your lead. :)

    I suppose I should add to the confess that I pirated the first few issues of your DD during the long, depressing period when Marvel, ComiXology and/or Apple did not allow me to throw money at them to get it digitally. I got the first few issues from a torrent site, read them, and immediately pre-ordered the first collection from Amazon. Now it’s sitting in my house, and I’ve pre-ordered the second collection in addition to buying the issues on ComiXology. Granted, I was always planning to get it, since, you know, I hear that Mark Waid kid is pretty okay at comics. But still. ;)

    Really enjoying your career renaissance, dude. Cheers!

    Reply
  48. Asa Fager
    May 31, 2012

    Mr. Waid, you sir are a gentleman and a scholar. I’ve always loved your writing and I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to see a creator be realistic and accepting of this new wave of media distribution. The battle “against” piracy has already been fought and lost, for better or worse. The best any of us can do is just jump on the ride and keep putting out good stuff. Keep up the good work. Never stop writing.

    Reply
  49. Luis Escobar
    May 31, 2012

    By the way Mark, loved you interview on the COMICS ARE GREAT

    Reply
  50. Luis Escobar
    May 31, 2012

    By the way Mark, loved you interview on the COMICS ARE GREAT Podcast:

    http://comicsaregreat.com/cag56

    (screwed up my first attempt at this post)

    Reply
  51. Speed Reading: Digital Comics « Speed Force
    June 10, 2012

    [...] Waid on Marketing Through Piracy, one of Thrillbent’s tactics: You can’t stop all the piracy…but maybe you can [...]

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The comment’s server IP (173.236.204.25) doesn’t match the comment’s URL host IP (173.236.212.30) and so is spam.

    Reply
  52. Allen Gilmour
    June 10, 2012

    Hi, I’ve also been having problems with “insufferable” Part 4.
    Ive tried downloading it several times but I am still unable to read it. I am using comical on my p.c. and Ive never had a problem
    before, Very strange. is there a solution?
    However, I am really enjoying the series, I think this is the 1st digital
    comic that actually works on screen.
    At a time when i am canceling Marvel titles every month,Along comes”Insufferable” well plotted, lovely art ,comes out every week? And is free!
    If I had to I would gladly pay for it. really.

    Reply
    • lori
      July 9, 2012

      It’s a pesky pesky file, that Insufferable #4. I’ll replace it next week! Sorry for the inconvenience.

      Reply
  53. king rais
    July 9, 2012

    Digital marketing is the use of digital sources based on electronic signal like internet,digital play advertising & other digital media.I agree Content Marketing is an effective strategy.

    Reply

Leave a Reply