David Kane ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
The line curved around itself several times outside the room as dozens of people filled out forms. Each person was allowed fifteen seconds to pitch an idea for a one-shot digital comic to a panel of comics makers in association with the digital comics site Thrillbent. The panelists would decide what they liked and choose one idea for development. Moderating the panel was Mark Waid (writer of Daredevil, Superman: Birthright, Empire, Kingdom Come), and he introduced James Tynion IV (Batman, The Eighth Seal, The House in the Wall), Christina Blanch (The Damnation of Charlie Wormwood), Chris Mancini (Comedy Film Nerds), Nicholas Rucka (Kitchen Death Match), Lori Matsumoto (Thrillbent general manager), and Raygun (Thrillbent web development/design).
Mark wished to move things along, as the panel had started a little late, and he wanted to get to as many pitches as possible. He opened with some tips on how to format a fifteen-second pitch: introducing a character, what he wants, what’s in his way, what’s the conflict. To give the audience practical examples, he had the comics creators on the panel give fifteen second descriptions of their works at Thrillbent. He started with Empire, his own series, describing it as “a science-fiction Game of Thrones, where a supervillain has taken over the world. But he’ll find that when you consolidate all the world’s power onto one throne, there is no more dangerous place to sit.”
The artists and writers went down the line pitching their projects, giving the audience an idea of the kinds of work Thrillbent produces. It leaned toward the fantasy realm with visually enticing stories taking us to magical and bizarre worlds while maintaining real-feeling characters. Everstart stars a young Earth girl accidently getting picked up by a rogue spaceship and going on an intergalactic adventure. Motorcycle Samurai takes us through the Old West with a mysterious bounty hunter, House in the Wall shows us a woman who finds an impossible large house within the walls of her small Brooklyn apartment, and Insufferable tells the story of crime-fighting duo, revealed to be father and son, who come back together for one last case despite hating each other. Mark explained that all seventy chapters of Insufferable are on the site, ready to be read, along with the many other issues of the other stories they had just pitched.
Mark jumped right into the pitches, calling up about four people at a time to line up in front of a microphone under the gaze of the panel and the audience. The brave souls going up were given fifteen seconds to successfully capture the premise of their idea. The first man ran out of time, quickly setting the standard for hurried pitches. After each one, Mark streamlined the response process by speaking alone for the panel giving brief advice to each participant and either sending them to the second round or politely telling them their idea, “isn’t right for Thrillbent.”
No one else on the panel gave any advice, except to applaud for a generally well-liked idea, but they would have eaten up time, as pitches came in hard and fast. If Mark liked an idea enough to send the person to the second round, he gave almost no feedback as he believed it was developed enough to expand on already. When he rejected an idea, he did so, not on the grounds that it was bad, but that Thrillbent wasn’t producing something like it and had accrued a style they wanted to maintain. He gave sound reason why they weren’t ready and encouraged them to refine their pitch and come back later. Waid’s eagerness appeared genuine, and he definitely knew what he was talking about, for he only needed to hear fifteen seconds of a story before knowing if was right for a thirty-page digital comic format or not. When it wasn’t, he told them exactly why and said there was hope for them yet with more preparation. He got through about a dozen or so pitches before capping it and carrying it to the second round where the chosen ones repeated their pitches. The panel deliberated briefly, and Mark announced the winner: “Four Seconds” about a Victorian woman who could see four seconds into the future and uses her ability to solve mysteries.
As they fan out of time, Mark Waid announced that he was going outside the room after the panel to individually hear the pitches they didn’t have time for, so as they congratulated the winner and exchanged contact information with him, Waid exited to continue the panel with the audience one-on-one.