The early reviews on DC’s new webcomics initiative are in, and as with most things on the internet, they are full of complaints, some legit, some subjective. We have our own complaints: Yuck, we HATE GODDAM FLASH! Bloggers all hate Flash because we can’t link to it.
Which leads us to the fact that you can’t read the strips at the regular size (wacky, unreadable lettering strikes again) and MUST go to the fullscreen resolution to read them. They do look awesome in the fullscreen mode, but we noticed something interesting about this mode: there is no room left for ads. That plus no direct linking…hm, HOW is this thing supposed to make money? Maybe it isn’t? A possible design flaw.
A lot of people complained about the content, but we think they missed the point completely — this is by far the freshest feeling material DC has put out in ages. Can you imagine Jeremy Love’s gorgeous Bayou coming from any existing DC imprint? Sho Murase’s Raining Cat and Dogs captures the YA girl vibe way better than anything in the Minx line, and Corey Lewis (above) has the energy for five lines of comics. This American Strife, isn’t a particularly good gag strip, but when is the last time DC put out a gag strip? The PR surrounding the launch has been a model of mixed messages — as this interview makes clear, all of the participants were solicited, just like in “regular” comics, but editors Johnson and Perazza should be given some credit for opening the doors of a regular page rate for ORIGINAL creations to different voices.
On the other hand, they didn’t really have a choice. Content-wise, webcomics are already far far beyond anything published by any “mainstream” publisher. We haven’t read all of the Zuda entries yet to be able to judge the entire launch, but by webcomics standards it is still pretty tame. The fact that Zuda looks fresh at all shows just how stylistically rigid Marvel and DC have become.
That’s probably the oddest thing of all about Zuda — it’s a perfect example of a giant corporation jumping on a trend years after it’s already become established. Webcomics have been read widely and making money for nearly a decade (we’ll let T. Campbell tell us the exact date.) There are tons of perfectly serviceable interfaces already existing — but those are not good enough, and corporate giant WB has to team with corporate giant IBM on a deal so extensive that the Zuda development apparently team had to move to New York for months and months. And yeah it’s cool and all, except that you can’t link to it and you can’t copy it, standard for all other successful webcomic ventures.
And how are these comics supposed to find an audience? That’s another huge question, but we’ll leave it aside for the moment while we survey other pundits.
CNet weighs in with a lengthy piece of actual journalism interviewing people with quotes and everything. The Flash interface comes in for the biggest drubbing:
On the one hand, Flash players look nice. However, using a Flash player as a webcomic reader is nearly unique in the world of webcomics. Richard Stevens of Diesel Sweeties, one of the most popular webcomics that has also made the jump to newspapers, questions the use of Flash. “I really hope this doesn’t catch on; it makes bookmarking into a nightmare–there are no plain URLs! It’s too much technology for no real benefit.”
[snip] The viral nature of promotion on the Web runs counter to using Flash, notes David Willis, creator of the webcomic Shortpacked! “Which I imagine is the point,” he adds, “but it hurts the ability to grow an audience.”
As quoted in the article, typically, existing webcomics creators have an overwhelming sense of been there, done that:
The creator of Cat and Girl, Dorothy Gambrell, just didn’t care. “I don’t have an opinion on Zuda. This creaking formation of an industry around webcomics–the corporate ventures, the self-promotion-clogged journalism–is absolutely my least favorite part of drawing comics on the Internet.” She acknowledged the irony in that, though: “My own ability to make a living drawing comics on the Internet is in part due to the same forces that attract industry and its willing sycophants.”
Sean Kleefeld has more in-depth analysis, with particular emphasis on the metrics:
As of this writing, there appear to have been a little over 3,000 people who’ve stopped by to actually read the comics. The most widely viewed so far has been Alpha Monkey and the least viewed is Leprenomicon, which has less than half of AM’s viewership thus far. I think this is reflective of the basic concepts presented, as it seems to follow what people were saying excited them thematically before the actual launch. More interesting — and more relevant to the contest aspect of the experiment — are the votes cast thus far. Not everyone who’s viewed the comics have voted (it appears that only about 2% of viewers have actually voted so far) but there are certainly some titles that seem to be pulling out to an early lead.
Johanna briefly examines Zudabut the best comment comes from Tintin Pantoja:
What struck me was that almost every female character on the site has a bare midriff. I wonder if that was by editorial mandate. But it was oh so thoughtful of them to include one female creator.
Tom, who just days ago was telling us how wonderful comics are, shows that comics are not always wonderful with a sweeping pan:
I have to say, though: the fact that it took a while for me to load most of the cartoons available on Day One combined with the fact that most of what I read seemed on first glance 1980s indy-comic amateurish and 1990s Spirits of Independence boring and almost solely restricted to fantasy comics of various types with other elements sprinkled in? All that makes me not want to go back for a while.
T. Campbell has his usual balanced look:
Best thing about Zuda: The full-screen reader (as opposed to the default reader), which, seriously and for reals, might eventually change the way we read webcomics.
Worst thing about Zuda: The current genre distribution and/or labeling. Seriously, guys, no romance? Not one romance? And does anyone understand “modern” as a genre, anyway?