If I ran the Zuda
CHILI PALMER: You know how to write one of these?
BO: There’s nothin’ to know. You have an idea, you write down what you wanna say. Then you get somebody to add in the commas and shit where they belong, if you aren’t positive yourself. Maybe fix up the spelling where you have some tricky words… although I’ve seen scripts where I know words weren’t spelled right and there was hardly any commas in it at all. So I don’t think it’s too important. Anyway, you come to the last page you write in ‘Fade out’ and that’s the end, you’re done.
CHILI: That’s all there is to it, huh?
BO: That’s all.
CHILI: Then what do I need you for?
People have been asking us what we think about it. After all, ComicMix is filled with expatriates from DC Comics and AOL. Some of our staff have been involved with electronic publishing since the earliest days of the commercial Internet, and have had some of the bigger successes.
The short answer: It looks like it could be a portal for new talent, and God bless — we need all the talent we can find coming into this industry. The long answer? Well, that requires a lot more unpacking.
Disclaimer: I am writing this with no direct knowledge of the product. Everything is speculation and conjecture based on press releases, DC’s history in general, and my own knowledge of the industry.
But let’s start with that press release. I remember the 90s and the dot-com days, when people would put out a big press release touting the next new thing — and have nothing to show for it. Pure vaporware announcements. Sadly, these press releases, and the website as it stands today, seem to fall into that category.
What’s in the press release? Zudacomics? What the heck is Zuda? (Heck, how do you pronounce it? Zoo-da or Zudd-ah?) The name sounds like a hybrid car. The new Zuda! Get 22 panels per gallon, 28 on Firefox! Don’t knock it, at least that slogan is more distinctive than "Click here to continue." Oy. I won’t play Buzzword Bingo with the press release, there’s just no challenge.
What’s not here to see? DC Comics. None of their characters. None of their back issues. Nothing that could possibly be tied to the parent company. The Zudacomics name isn’t great, but its biggest sin is that it hides any connection to DC Comics. This is reminiscent of when Time Warner took every magazine they had, names with huge brand recognition like Time, People, Fortune, Money, and Entertainment Weekly, and put them all under a brand new umbrella name no one had ever heard of, Pathfinder. Remember Pathfinder? If so, I want you on my Trivial Pursuit team.
What isn’t here? Any sort of content. We have no idea what they’ll be launching with, they have nobody lined up that they’re willing to talk about. Way to build confidence, guys. You couldn’t find anybody? Every other time there’s been a launch of a line from DC (Piranha, Paradox, Vertigo, Helix, Minx, CMX) there was content to go with it, to show what they were talking about. Here, nothing.
What else isn’t here? A contract, even a sample one. When I launched BiblioBytes back in the pre-Mosaic days, we had a boilerplate contract. And yes, it was picked on by various people, including Damon Knight from SFWA’s Contracts Committee. But we had to do it, to show we were serious. Without that, we’re in the dark.
And if you’re already a webcomics creator, you have to be asking yourself: Really, what’s in it for me? A t-shirt deal? I can do it myself with Cafe Press. A printed edition? Self-publishing with Lulu. A share in the revenue? Will Zuda make more money for me than doing it on my own? And what sort of editorial control will Zuda (or DC Comics, or AOL Time Warner) want over my content?
What do I need Zuda for?
I can see only two things, neither of which are spelled out in any detail. One is cash; but with out any contract specs, it’s pie-in-the-sky. The other is eyeballs, if Zuda is placed either on DC’s home page– or even better, AOL’s. But there’s no mention of that, which is pretty telling itself. Come to think of it, the entire thing seems somewhat detached from DC– like they want to be ready to take the entire thing and hand it over to a different arm of the corporation, say Mad Magazine.
But that’s it. It’s not like DC has real experience in running a web publishing empire.
The entire thing seems incredibly risk averse, even for a company that redrew Jack Kirby’s version of Superman’s face. DC Comics thinks that they can bless stars, that they can make magic happen, without risking anything themselves. All the risk is on the up-and-coming creators.
I could be wrong. It’s entirely possible that somebody will do a kick-ass version of "Cap’s Hobby Hints", the same way that Adult Swim redid a lot of old Hanna-Barbera characters for Cartoon Network — and come to think of it, the way DC did with Bizarro Comics.
But this, as presented, looks way too timid and way too grasping. It’s as if DC still thinks of themselves as the only game in town. They should know better. And they should have known better when Image went up. And they should have known better when Dark Horse went up. Or, before that, First, Pacific, and Eclipse. Or, before that, Marvel. And I think DC still thinks that way, even though PVP’s single strip website gets more traffic than all of DC’s.
So I note that I still haven’t answered the title question: how would I run a webcomics site? #1: I wouldn’t run a press release until I had something to show. But when I do, you’ll read about it here first.
For other takes on Zuda, see Newsarama’s Q&A with Bruning and Perazza, Heidi MacDonald, ICv2.com, Alan David Doane, Journalista, The Engine, indiepulp.com, Resplendent Beard, Lea Hernandez, and Joey Manley.