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December 28, 2007 9:12 AM   Subscribe

"Zuda takes the Web publishing aspect out of the creators' hands, freeing them up to focus on writing and drawing the story. But to get Zuda to publish your comic, you first have to win a competition..." A major player enters into the fray of web comics publishing, previously populated mostly by independents. Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

Zuda's owned and operated by DC Comics. You can submit one to the contests yourself if you're artisically inclined (but know your rights before you do), or you can just read what others have submitted. I guess the winner is the reader, because for the moment at least, it's free. Yay free. One that caught my eye was Alpha Monkey but it's hard to find a favorite. I thought this one was a bit too bloody, but one's trash is another's treasure and all that.
posted by ZachsMind (47 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Jeezum Crow. Why on earth they insist on using that stupid viewer is beyond me.
posted by Greg Nog at 9:28 AM on December 28, 2007


But to get Zuda to publish your comic, you first have to win a competition...

Why am I reminded of this?
posted by Pollomacho at 9:40 AM on December 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


Ufda. That interface is a stinker. Anyway, the prize money aside, I'm not really seeing the appeal for aspiring creators. You don't have to be tech-savvy to publish a web comic in this day and age; there are WordPress themes and plug-ins that pretty much automate the whole process. Zuda looks like DC is either A) jumping on a bandwagon that rolled out years ago, or B) trying to find the next big thing without spending a lot of money or effort. Thumbs down, sorry.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:43 AM on December 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


You didn't have to be tech-savvy to publish a web comic in the previous day and age either. How hard is uploading a .gif?
posted by DU at 9:49 AM on December 28, 2007


Paging verb... verb to the front desk please.
posted by seanyboy at 9:51 AM on December 28, 2007


Amen Pollomacho, it also reminds me of a TV ad for some technical college I keep seeing that says "We can't show you the next great video game...because YOU haven't created it yet!" Imagine all the bling and hotties you'll have as a video game designer - and all it takes is a few years' worth of tuition!
posted by XMLicious at 10:05 AM on December 28, 2007


"Paging Verb..."

Dangit! I did a searches on Zuda in here before I posted this! I was wondering why no one had mentioned this before. Bleargh. Fine. Kill the FPP. Put it outta my misery. I misformatted one of the links anyway. Gawd, why can't I ever frikkin get it right?
posted by ZachsMind at 10:10 AM on December 28, 2007


Easy there, ZM. It's just on Projects. That means it's not a double on the blue.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:19 AM on December 28, 2007


In consideration of all promises made herein, and subject to the reversion rights set forth in Paragraph 8 below, You grant and assign to Zuda, its successors, licensees and assigns, solely and exclusively, in any and all languages and media, whether now known or hereafter devised, throughout the universe for the term of copyright, all rights in and to the Material

I LKE UR BABBY

GIVE ME IT

THANX SUCKA
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:26 AM on December 28, 2007


So if I'm reading this correctly, DC really believes that people want a paper-comics distribution model to be applied to web-comics?

How fucking dumb are they?
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:35 AM on December 28, 2007 [2 favorites]


I think the worst thing about this is that it demands that all the comics are in 800*600 pixel format. One area where webcomics have a real advantage over print comics is the freedom and flexibility of the shape and size of the pages and strips, and Zuda just gets rid of that entirely
posted by ZippityBuddha at 10:37 AM on December 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


I think the worst thing about this is that it demands that all the comics are in 800*600 pixel format. One area where webcomics have a real advantage over print comics is the freedom and flexibility of the shape and size of the pages and strips, and Zuda just gets rid of that entirely

A standard format will make the webcomics easier to republish in print.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:41 AM on December 28, 2007


Faint of Butt: "That means it's not a double on the blue."

Oh. So I'm not the only one who never reads Projects? I thought I was alone in that.

So the general consensus thus far is that this is a bad idea. Good. Still, I think the fact that a corporate monolithic bigwig like Warner is deeming to cater lip service to us little people. C minus for effort at least, eh? Admittedly, with ZippityBuddha's point, their control freak issues may drop them down to an F.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:41 AM on December 28, 2007


yeah sorry. I wasn't saying it was a double, I was saying that hopefully verb will see this and add his thoughts.
posted by seanyboy at 10:45 AM on December 28, 2007


DC does one or two things really, really well. Doesn't like web comics are going on that list. Zuda simply asks web comic creators to give up too many of the things that make web comics great in the first place.

Also

(d) The right to edit, alter, revise and make any and all changes to any Versions of the Material, including making necessary additions thereto and deletions therefrom.

Fuck no. Looks like they get control of merchandising and spin-offs as well. But what do you expect from a company that joined with Marvel to trademark "superhero?"
posted by EatTheWeak at 10:51 AM on December 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


Not bad for a first try, but I'd be interested to see where it goes and how quickly they can make changes.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:52 AM on December 28, 2007


Dangit! I did a searches on Zuda in here before I posted this! I was wondering why no one had mentioned this before. Bleargh. Fine. Kill the FPP. Put it outta my misery. I misformatted one of the links anyway. Gawd, why can't I ever frikkin get it right?

Um, the entire point of projects is to get cool stuff users create on the front page (well, one of the points). That's why there's a "Post this to meifi" button right on the page!
posted by delmoi at 10:55 AM on December 28, 2007


So it's American Idol for comics? Well, at least the works here are originals.
posted by cmgonzalez at 11:00 AM on December 28, 2007


Is Zuda actually going to pay anyone to do these? I mean, the biggest, most important factor in a webcomics success it's authors persistence. Willing to put up new material day after day, year after year. There are some really awfully drawn (and not ironically bad, although that’s out there too) comics out there that have a wide following. And some poorly written crap as well. But they're popular because their daily.

On the other hand there are some great artists out there who aren't really interested in the effort to put together a daily webcomic. So, if the 'contest' is just in artwork and not perseverance then winning won't really be a great predictor or future success. Plus, there is a huge difference in the amount of time it takes some people to draw things, irrespective of the final output quality.

Anyway, this is dumb. If DC wanted to capitalize on web comics, they could have setup a platform for people to write for and managed the advertising for a flat fee. The control freak aspect is an anathema to the web.
posted by delmoi at 11:02 AM on December 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


XMLicious writes "Amen Pollomacho, it also reminds me of a TV ad for some technical college I keep seeing that says 'We can't show you the next great video game...because YOU haven't created it yet!' Imagine all the bling and hotties you'll have as a video game designer - and all it takes is a few years" worth of tuition!"

Yeah, DeVry. And it's better to get a CS degree from a traditional university than DeVry, or, hell, it's even better to get an associates through a community college.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:04 AM on December 28, 2007


How fucking dumb are they?

Well, these are the people who thought up Infinite Crisis.
posted by Rangeboy at 11:11 AM on December 28, 2007 [3 favorites]


I'm guessing DC hopes to score one or two hits or cult followings, enough to profit from the effort of putting a lot of also-rans up for free viewing. They get all the licensing money and the creator gets whatever DC feels like, with the contract subject to change at DC's whim.

I have no idea what the artists and writers gain from this. It's like a band signing over all their creative work to Warner Brothers in exchange for a Warners-controlled MySpace page.
posted by ardgedee at 11:20 AM on December 28, 2007 [3 favorites]


Full disclosure: as an earlier poster noted, I had a small hand in the final launch of Zuda.com. I work for a Drupal consulting company and we were brought in at the 11th hour to help with some technical questions and performance optimization. They also used a small pile of GPL Drupal add-ons that coworkers and I wrote when building some portions of the site. The team that put the site together is full of cool people (naturally) and it was a lot of fun working with them. I was given a nice deck of DC Comics poker cards for Christmas, but I don't feel it unduly biases me. I still read Something Positive. ;)
I think the worst thing about this is that it demands that all the comics are in 800*600 pixel format. One area where webcomics have a real advantage over print comics is the freedom and flexibility of the shape and size of the pages and strips, and Zuda just gets rid of that entirely
I'm not sure this is a bad thing. It's definitely a constraint on artists who want to experiment with new forms. I can't speak for Zuda's creators, but I think the goal is to occupy an emerging middle ground between the wild and woolly world of free webcomics and the rarefied work-your-way-up-then-we'll-talk world of print comics. None of the specific comics I've seen on the site have jumped out at me yet, but it's a really interesting system: artists submit samples of their comic, readers of the site vote to choose the best of the bunch, and the winners of those competitions enter into talks with DC Comics to continue the series under the Zuda banner with actual editors, deadlines, money, and so on.
Anyway, this is dumb. If DC wanted to capitalize on web comics, they could have setup a platform for people to write for and managed the advertising for a flat fee. The control freak aspect is an anathema to the web.
Well, there are a lot of existing systems like that. There aren't many like this. Back in July, Eric Burns of WebSnark posted a pretty interesting writeup with his impressions of the project when it was in early development. He's quite a bit more knowledgeable than I am about 'the industry' and its workings.
...Shaenon and I gave a lecture on the importance of editors -- how the lack of an editor gave webcartoonists an almost unparalleled sense of freedom, but that carried with it the dangers of a lack of discipline. Editors are good things. They make you produce, on time and to spec. They tell you when you suck and they make you do bad work over again. They remind you that you're being paid to do this -- if indeed this is how you make your money -- and you god damned better not forget that or they'll stop paying you to do this.

Well, Zudacomics.com will have all the disadvantages that strong editors entail. You're not going to be free to do whatever the Hell you want with your comic. You're going to have to produce. It will have to be of a given quality.
I think it would be tragic if Zuda were to somehow stomp out other webcomics collectives and independents, standardizing things and pushing out the folks who have spread their wings in the new medium. I think that's pretty unlikely, though. More realistically, it will occupy a new niche of 'professionally produced and edited comics that are distributed on the web.' Time will tell whether the comics that come out of it stands on its own and draw readers who aren't just poking curiously and looking at Zuda itself, but it's certainly interesting and not (IMO at least) doomed from the get-go.
posted by verb at 11:22 AM on December 28, 2007




I think the worst thing about this is that it demands that all the comics are in 800*600 pixel format.

Nope, it's just demanding that Zuda comics are 800*600. To argue that this is somehow limiting strikes me as strange, considering that movies, tv, dvds, websites, print comics and just about any sort of mass media comes in a standard size.

A good story is a good story. Forcing a standard format won't effect good storytellers.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:48 AM on December 28, 2007


What's the standard size of a website?
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:01 PM on December 28, 2007


ardgedee: "I'm guessing DC hopes to score one or two hits or cult followings"

Well my money's on Alpha Monkey cuz y'know any time underwear is worn outside the fur coat that's gotta be a hit! What a fashion statement!
posted by ZachsMind at 12:18 PM on December 28, 2007


> A good story is a good story. Forcing a standard format won't effect good storytellers.

Designing the comics page and layout is part of the art of storytelling through comics. Some artists will thrive within that constraint, some will find it intolerable, and it has little to do with their artistic or professional skills.

As far as I can tell, the 800x600 format ensures that it will fit on a 1024x768 screen (handwaving all the bannering and crap also cluttering the window), assuming the user is willing to scroll a little, and it also means that two on-screen pages of comics will fit a single conventional comic book page.
posted by ardgedee at 12:21 PM on December 28, 2007


I'm genuinely curious, verb: how do you see that as being a good thing?
Well, I'm not saying that 800x600 limitations are inherently a good thing. I just don't see size constraints for some comics as an inherently bad thing. As another poster said, this is about what size constrains are necessary for comics on Zuda.com. Some artists do awesome things with size freedom -- Gabe and Tycho have done a number of special one-offs in various sizes for example. The bulk of their archives are in a very consistent format, though, and I don't think that kind of consistency is a killer for a well-written work with good art.

I think at a higher level, I'd really like to see what kind of webcomics evolve out of a system like this: the fuzziness of a 'net based distribution and a diggish, Survivor style selection process combined with a stronger editorial hand for the final products.

I don't think it would work for all comics (perhaps not even MOST webcomics), but it could definitely work well for some and I'd like to see how it turns out.
posted by verb at 12:37 PM on December 28, 2007


"Looks like they get control of merchandising and spin-offs..."

I have an idea for a character I want to put in comic book form. Been working with this idea a couple years now, but I don't want to do that so bad that I lose the character idea to DC. However, I been spinning my wheels thus far. Either way, the story in my mind is not getting done.

My real problem is I'm a writer, and not a visual artist. I can't make the character or her world as beautiful and vibrant as I see in my head. I've tried, and the end results will never see the light of day. I would imagine that most artists would rather not draw someone else's story when they have the talent to draw their own.

And DC's not gonna help someone realize their vision if they don't get a lion's share of the pie. That just stands to reason.
posted by ZachsMind at 12:47 PM on December 28, 2007


There are certainly other and arguably better ways to find an artist for your scripts than by entering into, frankly, a stupid relationship with a publisher. I don't have very much sympathy for anyone who gets screwed down the line when licensing makes DC a fortune off one or more of these strips. Honestly, by now comics creators should really know better.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 1:01 PM on December 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


"...arguably better ways to find an artist..."

Any port in a storm. Any foot in a door. I can't afford to be very picky, but I also want high quality for my baby. It's a tough row to hoe.
posted by ZachsMind at 1:05 PM on December 28, 2007


Any port in a storm. Any foot in a door. I can't afford to be very picky, but I also want high quality for my baby. It's a tough row to hoe.

Your baby is what you're giving the publisher, ZM. They can do anything they want with your baby, including fire you. It's a bad, one-sided arrangement. You're not that hungry. Really. You're just not.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 1:10 PM on December 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


ZachsMind - I feelya, believe me. But Zuda is not your friend.

Better ways to find an artist --

Flyer in a comic store
Flyer on a college campus, near the studios
visiting a convention - tons of aspiring artists'll have their portfolios with them
Finding a web comic creator with talent but low traffic, and suggesting collaboration. They may well be looking for a new project.
Craigslist and other message boards

and so on ...

Also, no one is born a great artist. Practice is where great artists come from. You could always take a battery of art classes at a community college, buy some anatomy books, and learn to draw up to your standards. Get "How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way," "Understanding Comics" and "Making Comics" -- who says you can't build the skill?
posted by EatTheWeak at 1:18 PM on December 28, 2007


Many years ago when Jim Shooter was Editor in Chief of Marvel, he wrote a series of bullpen columns where he described in excrutiating detail the step by step process of how submissions were accepted (or more often than not, NOT accepted), then the gruelling process of essentially retraining and even retooling a young starry-eyed talent in the ways of comic design. His experiences with that young talented writer/artist who had a story he was trying to sell was very telling and scary. Shooter was effectively trying to scare away anyone who didn't REALLY want to tell comic book tales for a living. I guess with me, he succeeded.

kittens for breakfast: "You're not that hungry.."

Maybe I'm not hungry enough. Maybe that's my problem. Sometimes I'm tired of answering other people's phones, I can say that much. Storytelling, however, doesn't pay my bills.
posted by ZachsMind at 1:22 PM on December 28, 2007


Previously...
posted by blacklite at 1:29 PM on December 28, 2007


(I should have made that say MEANWHILE...)
posted by blacklite at 1:29 PM on December 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


Anyway, never mind my brooding. Never mind our questioning DC's motives. There's objectively some appealing work being submitted to this thing. What's everyone's fave? My money's still on Alpha Monkey.
posted by ZachsMind at 1:43 PM on December 28, 2007


So you want to get consistent, well made web comics uploaded to your site by people too lazy and incompetent to spend an hour setting up their own damn website?

Perhaps one of the several dozen webcomics I read was once hosted on one of the existing "webcomic publishing sites", anyone with any talent quickly realizes that they need to just register a domain already. It's bad just to be associated with the furry/otaku/superhero crap that fills these geocities of comics, much less their 13-year-old creators.

I personally despise print comics. I usually hate webcomics made by artists who read print comics. I would never like a webcomic whose creator wanted to associate themselves or their work with the DC/Marvel corpse.

Also, a flash-only interface for viewing bitmaps? It would be terrific if the comics were vector art and the viewer allowed for things not possible with plain bitmaps, but no. And it won't stop someone from just decompiling the flash and distributing CBRs via bittorrent if any of the comics turn out to be decent.

The web in webcomics has implications beyond the delivery mechanism. Print & Newspaper comics published on the web are not webcomics.

Look at the quality of rstevens' newspaper version of Diesel Sweeties — it's shallow pandering pablum compared to the webcomic version, which itself has gotten less reliably good since he started making the syndicated version.

FUCK PRINT
posted by blasdelf at 4:17 PM on December 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


A good story is a good story. Forcing a standard format won't effect good storytellers.

Yeah, and from now on all written works must be in OED English.

What? That won't affect good writers!
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:18 PM on December 28, 2007


One thing I can respect about this endeavor is that at least they aren't trying to make micropayments work. Probably the worst possible business model for webcomics.

Fuck Scott McCloud
posted by blasdelf at 4:21 PM on December 28, 2007


Yeah, and from now on all written works must be in OED English.

From what I understand, there's this new thang called the internet, that lets you publish any damn thing you want for a few bucks a month. However, if you want to be published by company X, they have a specific format.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:12 PM on December 28, 2007


RangeBoy: "Well, these are the people who thought up Infinite Crisis."

These are also the people who published Birds of Prey. The TV series sucked, but the comic book series freaking rocks. Action. Espionage. Intrigue. Comedy. Romance. Scifi. What's not to love about Especially the reign of Gail Simone. The character of Barbara Gordon was a joke when I was a kid. Now she's got depth and range and presence. She's a story of hope in a world of fear. I can only wish I could write that good.

But yeah I gotta grant ya. Infinite Crisis just hangs in the air like a bad fart. Dan Didio needs to have his head examined too with the stuff since then: Year One, Fifty-Two. Final Crisis Countdown. And these "All-Star" stories are despicable. All-Star Superman is a major wince-fest. The art is cringeworthy. The stories are far from enjoyable or "classic." It's cringeworthy. Heads should roll.

Salvation Run is an interesting idea but it's being executed like a bad SNL skit.

Arena's an excuse to manufacture senseless violence.

Amazons Attack is the blatant raping of a mythology, and less believable than your average episode of Doctor Who.

Mister Mxyzptlk doesn't get branded by an upstart whining SuperBrat unless Mister Mxyzptlk wants to be branded. He's from the flippin' fifth dimension. Someone needs to take the definition of 'omnipotent' and email it to Didio, cuz he obviously doesn't know what it means.

But, still. I love DC. For every few dozen bad ideas, they have one great one. I enjoyed the idea of Montoya being the new Question for example. That was inspired. I hope they go somewhere with that. Batman being the source behind the OMAC Project? That was cool. DC is not completely brain dead.
posted by ZachsMind at 6:29 AM on December 29, 2007


I don't wanna derail by dorking out on a superhero comics tangent, but I do have to disagree with you on All-Star Superman and the new Question, ZM. The former is just fun comics. And Montoya as the Question -- good stuff may come of it, but I can't forgive DC for canceling the awesome Gotham Central and turning two of its leads into nth generation reboot characters (see also the Spectre), and I further don't see why every damn time they've got a non-white character, they have to obscure that character's race as much as humanly possible, either with a mask that completely obliterates that character's features (Montoya and -- though I dig both character and costume -- also the new Blue Beetle) or by literally turning that character's flesh white as a freakin' ghost (see again the Spectre!). All that said, though, I am glad Montoya's still around, and unlikely to be ushered off into the limbo of forgotten characters anytime soon.

[end tangent]
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:38 AM on December 29, 2007


I think the Superman question is great. The comic figures are just that comic in design. I think some people comment on the design without knowing what a real comic book looks like. FYI they sell them at your fav book store.
posted by lash505 at 11:19 AM on December 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


We went to their launch party in San Diego kind of worried that they were gonna be a problem for self-publishers like myself and others, but when we saw exactly what they were unveiling we realized we didn't really have anything to worry about.
posted by wigu at 2:16 PM on December 29, 2007


Jeffery Rowland: I think that's the best summary of their efforts
posted by blasdelf at 2:34 PM on December 29, 2007


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