DC is going into the webcomics business, and the site may provide an opportunity for creators with more talent than connections to break into the biz. The site is zuda.com, and there’s a placeholder up right now. Publisher’s Weekly has an overview, and ICv2 has more detail. Even the New York Times has picked up on the story (registration required).
The Times gets it right away, describing Zuda as “a virtual slush pile, accepting submissions from the public and paying for the best comics that come in.” Creators submit an eight-page sample, and every month, starting in October, DC Director of Creative Services Ron Perazza and Comics Online Editor Kwanza Johnson will choose 10 submissions for readers to vote on. The winner will get a 52-week contract for a webcomic and the work will appear in print as well, either as a collection of a single series or an anthology of several Zuda comics. If the editors find a comic they really like, they can skip the voting and declare it an instant winner. DC is encouraging creators to submit work in all genres, and according to the ICv2 article, for all age levels, as they seem to think screening mature material from minors will be pretty easy. The comics can be any format as long as the page has an aspect ratio of 4:3. Everyone whose work is chosen for the site will be paid, and, from ICv2:
Ownership of the [intellectual property] will be shared, with “a deal that’s consistent with the other types of deals we offer for new talent for new properties,” Perazza told us.
While Zuda will carry advertising, the main purpose of the site is to develop new properties and build a following for them. Despite the contest format, they seem to be looking for submissions from professional creators. In the Times article, CEO Paul Levitz is bullish on over-the-transom submissions:
â€œWeâ€™ve always found interesting stuff in submissions,â€ said Paul Levitz, president and publisher of DC Comics. â€œOne of the problems that comics have today, I think, is that open door is much more closed. This creates a more open door.â€
This all ties in neatly with DC’s investment in the Japanese company Flex Comics a few weeks ago. Flex, a new company, presents its comics online before printing them and also publishes webcomics for cell phones.
UPDATE: Hmmm, Dirk Deppey has just weighed in, and he is deeply skeptical. He seems to think that the shared-ownership thing “on a practical level really means that DC will own it lock, stock and barrel.” They run your comic for a year, drop it, and own it forever. And with so many webcomickers making it on their own, he doesn’t see any incentive for creators to flock to this site. I dunno, it seems like the DC name still carries some prestige. But yes, a lawyer is always a good investment. Their standard contract is your starting point for negotiations. Anyway, Dirk has lots of comments and more links, so check it out.
52! 52! 52!
2008 – The Year of Webcomics? Could be… looks like all the big guns are finally getting into the fray.
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So, they pretty much took the Drunk Duck model Platinum has had in this way– focusing on the community running the site and having a say in things by voting, etc etc, but instead of leaving it open for anyone to publish, they’re making it editorial driven like a Modern Tales type of deal.
But it’s interesting to note- Platinum closed it’s submissions from the public and would rather people submit to Drunk Duck or Comic Book Challenge— I’m reckoning that DC will soon just tell aspiring creators to submit to Zuda.
Also, like Platinum, in those articles they pretty much flat out say they’re interested in the IP, or the future down the road of those IPS, because if it so happens that a tv show is made, it benefits all parties in the contract. Makes sense, but it clearly shows you the true motivation behind this– DC wants to be able to have access to a vast original IP library much like Platinum already has, they’re just going about it in a round about way.
I get the feeling like DC has missed it’s webcomics boat here. While the idea is nice to launch as an imprint, I think they’d be WAY better off focusing on their flagships and launching some exclusive web continuity storylines featuring Batman, Superman or all of their icons. Same goes for Marvel…. i mean, I’ve said for years “WEB of Spiderman” is dying to be an exclusive webcomic.
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I just keep reading the bullet points they released, which say things like, “We used open source stuff cuz’ that’s how we roll.” and can’t help but think they really have no clue what they’re doing. Rotating comics based on votes won’t work to establish a reader base for lesser-known webcomics. At most, they’ll be able to seek out people they can sign with work-for-hire contracts; that’s probably the only thing that will come of it.