Like the announcement of Minx, the announcement of Zudacomics has proven that everyone on the internet has an opinion — didn’t see that one coming. We’ll be getting to the Talk Soup portion of our program in a minute, but first: we got a lot of private communiques on the subject of Zuda, some of it germane, some not, but we did hear one interesting tidbit. One of the more unfortunate aspects of the breaking story was the New York Times’ infamous “virtual slush pile” line — slush pile being a term of opprobrium in the publishing world. Interestingly, this comment was written by a Times editor, not the bylined George Gene Gustines. Given that the Times is itself in the middle of a huge generational shift as it moves to an increasingly greater online presence, this may have been as much of an editorial comment by an old guard type who can’t conceive of user-generated content being of any value. And ironically, it proved that the old guard of layers of editors and fact checkers can be just as inaccurate as a schlub typing in an internet cafe like me.
That “slush pile” comment is very revealing about the entire paradigm shift. The reality is that the kids are the ones doing it, whether it’s Sergey Brin or Mark Zuckerberg. Or Henry Ford and Thomas Edison, for that matter. Big corporations that jump on new trends are just following the trail of the real entrepreneurs. The radicalizing thing about the internet is that for the first time, creators have access to a full arsenal of tools to monetize their own IP. Tycho and Gabe, Scott Kurtz, R. Stevens, Chris Onstad and Nicholas Gurewitz have been there, done that. Frankly, while the Act-i-vate model may work as a way to serialize more traditional for print, the giant successes of webcomics will be — and already are — bite sized chunks of humor that people can quickly enjoy. For the people who can already do that, they’d be better served ringing up Ted Rall at United Media, which already knows what to do with this stuff.
That said, while Tom’s warning (see below) is well heeded, it’s not really fair for anyone to be bashing DC for IP theft just yet. The contracts will be put on online for all to see as soon as they are hashed out, and we can all put on a rubber glove and have a nice probe around then.
In the wider scheme of things, while I don’t know what DC’s current take on creators rights is — the new paradigm of movie studio comics company to movie option calls for a lot more rights than in the Epic Comics days of yore — in the past it was nothing to be ashamed of. Of course people have been ripped off at all stages, and other people have bitched and moaned about this and that. Once you sign up for a big company’s sales and marketing force, there are plenty of places to get annoyed.
I will say that as a creator’s rights supporter, I never had any problem asking anyone to sign the contract when I worked there and I know for a fact that Paul Levitz is scrupulous in making sure that people get every penny due them on the contracts they have signed. (Of course this also comes under Rule 1B: YOUR KINDLY EDITOR WHO YOU LOVE TO WORK WITH MAY GET A BETTER JOB OR GET FIRED!/or conversely THE KINDLY PUBLISHING COMPANY MAY GO BANKRUPT LEAVING YOUR CONTRACT AS AN ASSET. Paul Levitz might leave DC to go take a job with Bebo, and the new gal might not give a crap about creator’s rights.
Will Zuda be as “generous” as the old DC contracts? We don’t know. Everyone is wise to go into ANYTHING suspicious and have lawyers read everything, but there’s plenty of time for a hanging party when more facts are in.
Okay now to to the peanut gallery!
Two Engine threads here and here show a high level of suspicion from those publicly posting (presumably everyone with no suspicions is already honing their submissions). Spurge weighs in with a fairly brilliant post which tears apart everything I just wrote:
I’m sorry, but while I agree that everyone should rigorously examine their contracts, and that this takes care of a lot of problems, the notion being floated here that no one can possibly get screwed over if contracts are examined falls somewhere on the spectrum between childish and ignorant.
Read the rest; it’s good.
lolcomics weighs in with a more pungent visual representation of Zuda’s still unknown business model. (Left.)
As another wag said, DJ Coffman ironically proves to be the DJ Coffman of Zuda, too:
In summary, after thinking about it some this morning, I think ZUDA will be a good thing for new creators, because it possibly gives some new talented creators out there another way to be seen, make some money and maybe kickstart a career. Sure, the vultures are all going to sit by waiting for the IP contracts to go up so they can denounce it and warn creators to be careful with what they sign up for… but that goes without saying, right? The real truth is, if you want to do this for a living, you better get hustling and start drawing some comics and put the hard work in. If you only have one idea that you’re married to and afraid of sharing with anyone else as a partner, then the business of comics probably isn’t for you. Do the work. No better place to do that right now than in “webcomics.”
Zuda Comics has all the right 2.0 buzzwords: community, blog (not live yet), user votes. It all sounds hunky dory, user-enabled, and happy, but what it really amounts to is an attempt by DC to harness the power of user-created content. It costs money to recruit new comic creators, and even more to market them. Enter Web 2.0, where everyone has a voice.
But what really makes me cringe is when one of the staff is asked about the contracts and the intellectual property rights. I squirmed at the response, and feel for them, really, for having to say it with such a straight face.
5. The rollout schedule sounds pretty ghastly, and I think this might actually be the kiss of death for the site. They’re not starting with a lineup of established comics that already have an audience–they’re not even starting out with a lineup of comics. They’re counting on what, a contest and then a single comic to carry the site for a month?
BUT WAIT! NOT EVERYONE IS SO DEBBIE DOWNER!
The Comic Rack: I Was Right About Online Comics
Sounds good to me, kind of a comics youtube or something along those lines. We have a comic book MySpace, so a user created community of comic books was a logical conclusion. I am pretty excited about this and later this summer, I am going to try out my artistic chops (which are more or less non-existent) and get a comic ready to submit when this goes live in October.
Finally there last two links from various webcomicker communities are probably the most important entries of all, for what is a site without content, and how the people who make the stuff respond will make or break Zuda.
It does seem kinda “Hey, look, we’re hip!” … but at the same time – hey, look… they’re getting hip.
All in all, it’s a smart way to branch out and, as far as I can tell, no real downsides. They get to look modern, and artists get feel respected in a classic sense (getting published). The 4:3 ratio for comics is going to turn a lotta artists off, I expect – but it will keep them from trying to recycle old material, I suppose.
All in all, I think it’s keen.