When I first wrote about Zuda Comics back in July, DC Comics’ venture into creating an online comics community and developing a commercial line from it was barely more than a web page and a promise.
In the intervening time, however, the promise has begun to fill out, and there is now a substantial presence, with some 20 or so webcomics running, and more competing for viewer votes to gain a slot in the roster.
Basically, anyone can submit a webcomic, registered site visitors can then vote on the comics. There is also a provision for leaving feedback on the postings of individual comics and a more general message board.
Those whose submissions are chosen to run as features are offered contracts for a certain period, over which they agree to produce a certain amount of material. Unlike a lot of webcomics, there is actual payment and the potential for royalties here, though not at the same scale as in traditional print comics lines.
I have to point out that I have not read their terms and agreements in detail, and those interested in submitting webcomics for consideration should, of course, carefully do so. There are three agreements listed in their FAQ, and submission instructions here. I would be particularly cautious in making sure you understand the rights being assigned and how that is applicable to your ownership of the material.
On the reading side, after more than 12 years(!) of crabbing about how monumentally clueless Marvel and DC have been about how comics can work on the web, I have to admit that Zuda, at least, is getting many things right.
First of all they seem to finally be aware that computer monitors are horizontal, not vertical like a comic book page, and have created a standard size horizontal format within which all of the comics are presented.
The way the comics are presented is also well beyond the usual clueless interface disasters the the big companies think are appropriate for presenting online comics (which are usually focused on preventing you from “stealing” the pages, and shoving ads in your face in the process).
The presentation of the Zuda webcomics is within a very nicely implemented Flash interface. (This is not a contradiction in terms as my previous rant may suggest, such things are actually possible!) I’m not sure who designed the interface, but someone who worked on it had a good grasp of interactive information design and it works very well.
You can advance through the pages of an individual comic with slide-show style arrow controls, supplemented with a pop-up bar of thumbnail images. The interface tells you what page you are on and indicates the total number of pages currently available for that comic. The entire navigation can be tucked away at will. The Flash module even remembers where you are in a story if you click away and return.
The comics can look slightly pixelated in the window at first. This is actually because they are being scaled down in Flash. The comics are posted in high-resolution and they can either be scaled with a zoom slider within the default window, or toggled to full screen mode. In full screen mode only the comic is visible against a black background, and even the navigation bar can be hidden, leaving just a full screen of high-resolution comic page. This is a wonderful feature and my hat’s off to the Zuda team for making this call and carrying it through with such aplomb.
Of the 20 or so comics currently available, there is some variety of subject, approach and level of ability. If you roll over the comic’s panel in the selection page you get a brief synopsis and creator credits, with more detail provided to the right on the comic’s dedicated page. I haven’t had a chance to read through all of them in detail but there are a couple of standouts.
Bayou (image above, top), written and illustrated by Jeremy Love and colored by Patrick Morgan, isn’t afraid to take on topics like depression-era race relations in the American South, mix them with actual character development and throw in characters from fiction like Br’er Rabbit. The story is well paced and nicely drawn, particularly in zoomed-in or full screen mode, where you can appreciate the use of coquille-board style crayon textures. As of this writing, Bayou is up to 47 pages and feels like it’s just gaining momentum.
High Moon (image above, bottom), written by David Gallaher, with art by Steve Ellis and lettering by Scott O Brown, is only up to 8 pages so it’s hard to judge the story, though it seems to suggest “High Plains Drifter Meets the Werewolf”, but the art by Ellis is just terrific. Again, use the zoom or full screen feature to see his expressive line work, shape-defining hatching, solid draftsmanship and emotionally effective use of color and texture.
These two alone are enough to keep me coming back to Zuda, but I have a feeling we’ll be seeing a lot more from this fledgling online comics publisher, and I hope this turns out to be a successful paradigm for the presentation of new comics stories and fresh talents.