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Zuda, It's New-da!

Soundbite snark. Pick one. Pick 'em all.

There's a webcomics site on which women and girls will find things to read! There's a line of girl's books! OMG! DC made it to the 21st century (following in the wake of GirlAMatic.com and Viz) only nearly a decade in!

ETA: Oh, lolcomics, you are like P.O.O.P.: you never let us down!

And it's called Zuda. Whatever that means.

ETA: DC, carrying on its fine tradition of naming comics lines with names already used (Femme Noir, Minx), has used the name of a artist , ZUDA, as the name of its webcomics line. At least this time its not the name of an existing comic.
(ETA: That was pointed out by Matt M. at The Beat. Sorry about neglecting to link, Matt!)

I bet the name "Zuda" came from the same Alloy Scrabble tile bag as Jetix and Meguzi. Considering that DC's girl's line (inspired by Shelley Bond seeing girls reading manga and then deciding to do books NOTHING LIKE MANGA) was named "Minx," we should all be grateful Zuda isn't called "Smeg."

What Heidi calls the punditocracy is saying things much like what I said about TokyoPop contracts well over two years ago. To wit: this smells, and creators should beware. If you think this is a great opportunity, and all the other wah-wah I heard about TP two years ago, have fun. Don't try to defend it here.

You know, I think I'm pretty funny, but the Zuda fact sheet is much, much funnier. Let's look, shall we?

"Zuda Comics will be all-new, original comics made specifically for the web."
It's new! These comicwebbies!

"Not only that, but the majority of comics we publish will be selected by the Zuda community...The one you guys like the best is the one we'll sign up for a one-year contract."
Hey, DC! Does this mean you'll poach from Zuda, your own site, instead of from Oni and Slave Labor and other establlished webcomcis sites? Are you in a plan like TokyoPop, which is to find hungry, ignorant and in-denial creators looking for their Big Break?
How is it that Platinum and TP beat you to the "have a contest in the barn and get a winner so excited about validation they'll pretend they don't see the mouse print " bandwagon?"

"We're giving away postcards at the San Diego Comic Con in order to make a giant collaborative Web Comic."

I bet the "by submitting, you give us all rights throughout the known universe in all forms of media current or yet to be created" boilerplate on the reverse of that  postcard  is smaller than the type on the back of a lottery ticket.

"We're using a lot of open source technologies to build the final Zuda Comics site. That's just how we roll."
I'll be over here, in the corner, in a fetal position, seeing how long I laugh before that rib I cracked at APE in 2004 breaks again.

" Every artist needs to work on a page, even if it's a digital one. Yeah, we weren't sure just what that meant either"

Maybe you should've launched when you had a site, then.

 "...so we did a lot of work to figure that out. Our page had to work on screen and, eventually, in print and it had to work for single panels, strips and pages. [Dave] came up with this complex formula that resulted in an aspect ratio that worked for everything - 4:3. Turns out, it's an industry standard. "

The? Fuck?
You know, there was a panel on webcomics in 1997 at the long-gone pro/Con. Scott McCloud hosted it. Attending this panel were any number of comics pros, including Kurt Busiek and Chris Claremont. Claremont had cast himself in the role of naysayer,  again and again giving reasons webcomics wouldn't work. He would write down his statements on a legal pad, and shout them out when there was an opportunity.
The panel eventually ended, and I met up with Kurt and Ann Busiek outside, and discussed Claremont's combativeness. Kurt had been reading Claremont's legal pad over his shoulder.
"He didn't get to my favorite point," said Kurt.
"What was that?" I asked.
"'Comics pages wrong size for computer screen.'"

"Every artist needs to work on a page, even if it's a digital one. Yeah, we weren't sure just what that meant either so we did a lot of work to figure that out."
This is dissembling. Gosh-darn we're new here too dissembling. Gosh-darn we're you're buddies we'd never ask you to sign away anything that'd hurt ya! We're pals! Here, have a few pomegranate seeds!

"You make the web comics and send them to us for publication."
This whole Zuda things smells of "Webcomics! How hard could it be to run an electronic slushpile? How hard can it be to run a webcomics site? There's no print prep, people submit, the readers 'vet,' we sit back and pick what we want."
How hard are webcomics sites to run? I can answer that, having launched a site (amongst great hostility to the idea of a girl- and woman-friendly portal) and running it for two years: very hard, if you want the work to appear, you want creators who can sustain over a period of time, you can deal with the anger of being poached and creators forgetting they started with you, the editor's work to be transparent, and the reader's experience seamless.
Ask Warren Ellis. Rocket Pirates, anyone?

Back when Summer was a baby, I was approached by an editor of Mondo 2000 at a party. Fresh off a hit of wacky tabaccy, she asked me me if I was interested in doing a manga for Mondo.
"What's the pay," I asked.
She answered in a voice constricted and gravelled from smoke, "We...pay in...acclaim."

A final thought, to go with all the warnings:


( 34 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 9th, 2007 07:32 pm (UTC)
Payment In Acclaim™! - it's why all those legendary blues musicians died penniless, alone and drunk.
Jul. 9th, 2007 09:33 pm (UTC)
That's also the reason why Mondo 2000 hasn't put out a new issue in almost fifteen years. Funny how they can't get printers, distributors, and postal meters that work on acclaim, isn't it? (It's also the reason why Queen Mu hasn't shown her face in years: I imagine she has a nice list of creditors who want to do nothing more than start smoking solely so they can put cigarettes out in her eyes.)
Jul. 9th, 2007 07:45 pm (UTC)

We should start a betting pool--how long it takes 'til either the site fizzles, or there's a nonpayment / rights scandal.
Jul. 9th, 2007 09:36 pm (UTC)
Considering the track record of sites such as this, you'd better make sure that the betting pool is set for a matter of hours or days instead of weeks or months. I myself will bet $10 that the whole plan was the idea of some protege of Kevin Dooley's who thought that this sort of site would be a "cool" way of claiming street cred without actually having to pay for comic printing costs (anyone remember DC's Helix line a decade ago, and how quickly that imploded?), and that it'll quickly shut down the moment the editor in question sees another shiny object on the horizon and loses all interest.
Jul. 9th, 2007 09:39 pm (UTC)
Wait--we're bettingmoney? Are you sure acclaim wouldn't be a more appropriate currency?
Jul. 9th, 2007 09:58 pm (UTC)
I can't pay my bar tab with acclaim. This should tell you right off the bat which deals work and which ones don't.
Jul. 11th, 2007 03:17 am (UTC)
Twenty bits of acclaim and a pizza says this doesn't last six months before the editors either quit in frustration/fatigue or an artist starts raising a stink of the lack of rights.
Jul. 9th, 2007 07:55 pm (UTC)
::LOL!:: I knew that site was fishy! "Look at us, we are much with the Casual Friday and teh INDIE CRED! OBTW, we're DC kthxbye" I'm vaguely reminded of the recent "FanLib" meltdown---in that both sound like naked marketing ploys. Does it never occur to the big guys that people want to create because they want to express a vision, not be grist for some corporate marketing machine, or that even the smallest wannabe fanfic writer or webcomics author might have some healthy respect for themself as an artist?
Jul. 9th, 2007 07:56 pm (UTC)
What I'm trying to say is, thanks muchly, Lea, for the more experienced viewpoint that rips this to shreds in ways I only had vague inklings of. ^_~
Jul. 9th, 2007 08:31 pm (UTC)
Zima? Zuma? No, wait. Xuxa? Yoda?

I'm so confused.
Jul. 9th, 2007 08:43 pm (UTC)
*sings* Zuda, Z-U-D-A Zuda, Zu-Zu-Zu-Zu-Zudaaa...
Jul. 9th, 2007 08:46 pm (UTC)
Zip-a-dee-Zu-dah, Zip-a-dee-ay...

By the way, that's a twisted icon you have there...
Jul. 9th, 2007 08:59 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I made it myself. :D
Jul. 9th, 2007 09:25 pm (UTC)
"We...pay in...acclaim."

Sweet fancy Jesus!

Lady, most supermarkets do not accept acclaim in exchange for goods. Come back when you've at least got food stamps or something.
Jul. 9th, 2007 09:31 pm (UTC)
Sadly, that shit goes on in far too many magazines, particularly the "edgy" ones. And the day I find one that promises "Oh, we can't pay contributors right now, but we hope to some day" and actually follows through, I'm hunting down the editor to steal his/her unicorn, because that sort of editor doesn't exist, either. (You'd be amazed at the number of magazines of that sort that promise "Well, we can't actually pay you, but it looks good on a resume" but make goddamn sure that the editorial staff gets paid. I worked for one in Portland, Oregon a decade ago that imploded because the editors were too busy fighting with each other over which one was going to be the first to quit his/her day job at Burger King to worry about getting the magazine out on time.)
Jul. 10th, 2007 12:01 am (UTC)

I was doing illustration for a while, and stopped because I got so bloody sick of this "argument." I'm now doing metalwork, and what I say to people is that if anyone takes my stuff now and argues that "gold wants to be free!" I can call the cops on them- as was NOT true of my illustration work. *eyeroll*

I am perfectly happy to donate my work- as long as I have guaranteed food, clothing, shelter, studio and materials. Wait- I have to PAY for all these? Well, then, I guess I have to CHARGE for my efforts!
Jul. 9th, 2007 09:28 pm (UTC)
Hhhhhhhh. Counting down the seconds until the first "You don't know what you're talking about! Zuda loves me! You're just jealous!" comment in five...four...three...and then I get to smack the deluded little twit in the head with a steel curtain rod.
Jul. 9th, 2007 09:39 pm (UTC)
Oh God that article is a gold mine
Though I think the biggest warning sign is:
Although the site will carry advertising, its primary purpose will be to develop new intellectual property which DC can then use in its publishing, licensing, and other operations
My, that doesn't sound like they're just looking for a means to make people sign away their ideas for zero pay. No sir!
Jul. 9th, 2007 09:50 pm (UTC)
Re: Oh God that article is a gold mine
And the longer interview has an even scarier quote:
"Once one of the creators is selected, it’s a much more complicated relationship with contracts and so on, where there are participations and all of that."

It's complicated...
Jul. 10th, 2007 01:54 am (UTC)
Re: Oh God that article is a gold mine
With participations!
Jul. 9th, 2007 10:59 pm (UTC)
Re: Oh God that article is a gold mine
This reminds me a LOT of a kid I met when I was just starting in anime fandom... at the time, any art was considered rare and valuable, even fan art, even photocopies (of fan art). The kid I'm thinking of hit on the idea of photocopying the art straight out of the books or fanzines and selling it for 50¢ a sheet, figuring a 90% profit on 5¢ a photocopy. I sat there and was amazed at the wheels turning in his head as he processed how he could get more art, then sell the photocopies, which would let him get MORE art, and thus sell MORE photocopies... I don't think my suggesting that it might not work that way really sank in.

My point in the story is, it wasn't cute with a 14-year-old kid, and it certainly isn't cute with an international business.
Jul. 9th, 2007 11:24 pm (UTC)
Re: Oh God that article is a gold mine
Well, presumably the kid didn't have a creative team (who've probably had plenty of people try to screw them like this), a legal team (who know how messy this can get) and/or a marketing team (who can work out how bad it will be for them when it goes wrong) so it's possible he was just ignorant. DC can't really claim the "I didn't think it'd hurt anyone" excuse.

Really I think it's going to get interesting if the guys on Penny Arcade decide to jump on this one, considering they once did sell the rights to their comic without realizing it.

Not that DC would ever exploit naive creators like that of course. *whistles*
Jul. 10th, 2007 01:38 am (UTC)
Re: Oh God that article is a gold mine
Wait, what? DC sold the rights to Penny Arcade?

No, the kid was just a goober who didn't really get ideas like "copyright infringement" or "creator's rights" or even "basic supply and demand". He was just having a greed overload, which is normal for a naive kid. Wasn't all that attractive, so I have always tried to keep my greed under control... at least in public. ^_^
Jul. 10th, 2007 02:18 am (UTC)
Re: Oh God that article is a gold mine
No, a web hosting company eFront once bought Penny Arcade, the guys basically grabbed the money without realizing what they were selling and only got their comic back because the company went under. They occasionally reminise about it in their news posts.

Essentially the trick is not like that pulled by bigger companies all the time. At the end of the 90s/early 2000s the big thing I remember was "Royalty Free Clipart" (artists get paid a one time fee... if that, company sells the CDs indefinitely).

That DC Comics says they want to enter a "complicated" agreement over Intellectual properties says to me that anyone signing should be very wary of exactly what they're agreeing to.
Jul. 9th, 2007 10:26 pm (UTC)
I can just hear the pitch the DC people did for their suits.

Webcomics (or iPhone comics or whatever) is the future, and it's a future with no overhead, no specialised external suppliers. We get rid of the printers, we get rid of the distributors, and we get rid of the professional artists. There's an endless supply out there in the US of A (better avoid Europe where they have these weird ideas about the individual rights of creators and avoid also the rest of the world where they have a scandalous treatment of copy protection) of kids living with their parents or in college dorms and some of them are bound to do trendy, attractive strips.

The only real cost is moving pixels and there are thousands of competitive Web page design/maintenance companies and corporate ISPs we can deal with or throw away when it suits us. This the millenium of business deals and it's time for comics to move out of the craft world and into business.
Jul. 9th, 2007 11:09 pm (UTC)
This almost sounds like something Rick Olney would try, but he's not savvy enough.

"I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a happy meal today."
Jul. 10th, 2007 12:14 am (UTC)
Pissed off
Regarding this quote: "How is it that Platinum and TP beat you to the "have a contest in the barn and get a winner so excited about validation they'll pretend they don't see the mouse print " bandwagon?"" Since that's firmly aimed at me, the only winner of a Platinum contest so far, I thought I'd ask what exactly your beef is with that, and to let you know you're wrong. For one, I wasn't born yesterday and read ALL of my contracts. Contracts that no one else has seen except for Platinum and myself. Two, I don't know shit about the Tokyopop thing, but did it ever occur to you that the excitement wasn't about validation, but the opportunity for me to make a living drawing comics, and contrary to your belief, actually control and steer my own creation with Platinum as a business partner? I mean, you just don't know the deal there. And you have yet to read any actual contracts from DC's Zudo thing either. So I'm wondering what exactly you're going on and on about and why? Blowing off steam? Just maybe open your mind a little bit to know that not all "creators" are good businessmen so partners like DC or Platinum CAN be helpful to some. I was doing my own thing just fine and making good money with it, but my deal with Platinum is beyond that. I wish you'd stop bringing it up since it's sort of misleading of you to do so, and pretty much paints my deal in a bad light to readers, when it's not.
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 10th, 2007 02:44 am (UTC)
Re: Pissed off
I was just speaking in regards to the Platinum and the winner, which was only me so far. She's got her facts wrong about it, and it's pretty irresponsible to assume or suggest someone like me didn't read a contract, when she didn't know what the specific details of said contract was. Maybe in that other case with Tokyopop, fine, but I'm not going to let anyone spread false ideas about my business relationships.

As far as her working for two decades, I don't care if it was five decades, it doesn't mean you're always right-- it's still fair for me to point out how she's wrong in what she typed regarding Platinum's contest.

Do people get screwed over? Every day. I'm not one of them.
Jul. 10th, 2007 02:54 am (UTC)
Re: Pissed off
D.J., it's not always about you.
Jul. 10th, 2007 12:46 am (UTC)
I *love* how you used scenes from "Rumble Girls: Silky Warrior Tansie" to illustrate your points ;)
Jul. 10th, 2007 01:59 am (UTC)
Me, too. Our Lea isn't afraid of anything.
Jul. 10th, 2007 03:05 am (UTC)
Because I got nothing to be afraid of, at least not where comics are concerned.
Jul. 10th, 2007 12:00 pm (UTC)
I've actively avoided reading about the Zima site (sp?) because it tweaked my interest and set off warning signs at the same time. On the one hand, I'm nearly 37, have a full time job, and just once would like someone to take over the publishing/distribution end of the comics for me. Plus, I would like to break out of the triple digit income bracket on comics work. My grand distribution model of "get the work within driving distance of my house" isn't getting me that far.

But this isn't the thing. In fact, this just pushes me to continue massaging my website until that becomes the thing. Money? Like I said, I've got a full time job, and I only work 4 days a week.

Jul. 11th, 2007 03:08 am (UTC)
Zuda is not a comic, it is a series of tubes
"We're using a lot of Web 2.0 open wikipedia user-enabled buzzword blogging to build the final Zuda Comics site. That's just how we roll."
( 34 comments — Leave a comment )


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