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Baltimore Comic-Con 2012: Interview with Thrillbent’s Christy Blanch

Mark Waid has started a neat digital comic publisher called Thrillbent.  Up until now Thrillbent has only published Luthor and Insufferable.  At a panel about Thrillbent (which I’ll be writing an article about for Player Affinity), Mark mentioned that in the next couple of months he’ll start publishing comics by many other writers with a goal of a new “issue” from a different writer every day.  One of the writers was in the audience that panel.  When I saw her at another panel I asked if I could interview her. 

Christy Blanch of Thrillbent

Me:  I’m here with Christy Blanch.  I met her yesterday at Mark Waid’s Thrillbent panel and she has a really cool comic.  Can you give me the elevator pitch?

Christy Blanch: Elevator pitch is that there is a college instructor who teaches in prison.  This really happens.  And he doesn’t get paid a whole lot and has a lot of medical bills from his son.  And gets an offer from a prisoner to make money on the side.  Instead of just doing that he realizes, “I can make a little more money by a little bit of double-crossing”.  

Me:  That’s really cool.  You said you got this idea because this is something you actually do.  Not the double-crossing part, but teaching in prison.

CB: Yes, for eight years Chris Carr, who’s my co-author, and I taught in the prison system for a university.  So many of the stories you will read in The Damnation of Charlie Wormwood actually are real stories.

Me:  That’s really, really cool.  There’s one that you told yesterday while we were waiting for one of Mark’s panels to start about this guy who was having a dating service issue.  Would you be able to tell us about that?

CB:  Yes.  There is a dating service for prisoners.  Prisoners can pay to put themselves on a website.  And one of my prisoners was talking one day before class about how the lady he was dating was a swamp donkey.  To which my reply was, “what’s a swamp donkey?”  It’s a woman who waits until men get inebriated at bars and takes advantage of them.  And I was laughing.  And then I found out a few classes later that she was a, as he put it, a “midget” or a little person, and then it came out that she was a bounty hunter.  To which I could not teach for ten minutes because I was laughing so hard imagining a little person swamp donkey bounty hunter thinking - this would be a great series!  As a bounty hunter she would get the prisoners to confess more of their crimes and then turn them in for money.  

Me:  Like I said yesterday, it’s something that if you put it in your comic, I wouldn’t believe it.  I’d think it was crazy and yet it happened in real life!

CB: Yeah, I don’t believe half the things [they say], but then I look it up and they turn out to be true.  Chris Carr and I have so many stories and after the prison program ended we just thought we had to write them somewhere.  What better way than a comic?  What better venue than Thrillbent.com?  

Me:  I remember Mark talking about it, but I’m sorry that I forgot.  Have you announced when he Damnation of Charlie Wormwood is coming out?  

CB:  We haven’t announced yet.  We’re waiting right now.  The site was ….. well a lot of digital comic sites have been hacked - there’s somebody out there that hates them.  So we’re kind of doing a reboot of the website and we’re going to get an app out.  As soon as all that’s ready then we’ll have a lot of titles.  There’s going to be a Gail Simone book, there’s going to be Clown Tales, there’s going to be Working for Mondays [title].  So there’s going to be a lot of different titles up.  It should be some time in the next month or two.  We don’t know exactly when, but soon.  We have five issues complete.  So as soon as we get three more we’re ready to go.

Me:  I was talking to Gail Simone yesterday on twitter and she was saying at least partially that her comic was going to be available free on Thrillbent.  Is your comic going to be available for free and would that include a pdf or cbr like Mark Waid’s doing with Insufferable?  

CB:  I don’t know.  I would like to be able to offer it for free.  And one possible idea is that if you download the app for 99 cents you can get everything a month in advance.  I know I’d be willing to do that for things that I like.  Because for 99 cents I’d love to show my support.  One of the things I feel is that I can’t charge for my comic yet, I’ve got Mark Waid GIVING AWAY a comic.  Who’s going to come read a Chrysty Blanch, Chris Carr, and chee comic?  Although our artist chee is incredible.  Just alone looking at his work - he amazes me every time we get pages back.  It’s all black and white, but it’s shaded - he’s amazing!  Just check out his work, he’s AMAZING.  I cry when I see them.  

Me:  That sounds really, really awesome.

CB:  When we talked about just doing it black and white - I was thinking like Walking Dead line art.  This is - it’s beautiful!  It looks like it’s colored.  I don’t know how he does it.  But he’s brilliant and I hope he stays with us a LONG time.  Don’t go away Chee!  It’s beautiful. Just for him alone it would be worth paying for it.  But it’ll probably be free online and then if you download the app, not only could you get it a month in advance, but you could get the script, some concept art, character sketches.

Me:  So kinda like what you get if you buy a trade paperback?

CB:  Yes.  And we’re thinking our story is in three parts. We would like each one to be a trade.  So you could get all those bonus drawings and scripts and stuff like that in the trade also.

Me:  One final question - the format in terms of how many pages it has and how often it comes out is it going to be similar to Insufferable?  

CB:  The first one is longer to establish [the story].  Mark wants us to keep it to eight screens - now on each screen there are multiple clicks.  We’re trying to keep it between eight and ten.  It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever written because in a regular comic book you can just have one hook in the end.  Here it’s every four installments is a comic book.  So you need to have four hooks.  So trying to get what you need to make them come back in eight screens is REALLY hard.  But it’s going to be very similar to the format of Insufferable.   This is the first digital comic Chee has worked on and there’s seriously one screen he did that almost made me cry from how he did it.  And Mark was like, “wow, I should have kept him” and I said, “No, you can’t have him!  He’s mine!”  Chris and I have a great working relationship - he has a literature background so we’re tying a lot of what’s being taught in the classes and the themes into the story.  I just think it really works well.  It’s a really great story.  I would read it.  I’m hoping everyone else would like it.

Me:  Thank you very much for taking time to talk with me.

CB:  Thank you.


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