As you may or may not have noticed, I have posted more than a few links regarding Zuda Comics DC's new union of webcomics and American Idol. Well, the site went live this week, and the first batch of "contestants" (I can hear Kurtz bellyaching from here) is up for perusual, in addition to the first winner, Bayou. Hope on over there and check out the first batch, then come here for my thoughts. No, it's cool, I'll wait.
Alrighty. Now, there's been a pretty vocal set of critics of Zuda pretty much from the get-go. Initially, there was hew and cry about how the creators were selling their souls to DC and how they were going to be ripped off and exploited. Then the contracts went up on the site, and, well, that went away. The current round of complaints centers on the idea that artists are "creators, not contestants." Which is all well and good; I'm not a creator. I'm not a contestant, either, owing to a number of factors but not limited to the fact that I cannot draw. No, see, I'm a consumer. As such, I don't care about the ethical quandries these cartoonists either accuse of or participate in, I want a product. And hey, if that product is of good quality and value, then I'm a happy consumer. And happy consumers tend to consume more of the product, and begin to trust the brand, and develop loyalty when certain expectations of quality are consistantly met... not sleeping through Marketting and Economics helps out from time to time.
So all I'm looking for is good comics, which begs the obvious question of "Does Zuda deliver?" Let's take a look at both the "preview bites" as well a the ongoing.
Alpha Monkey would probably make a good one shot or OGN. Superhero parody is an easy field, and adding monkeys usually pays dividends. The art is snappy and fun, and reminds me of a few modern kid cartoons.
Battlefield Babysitter is another good premise, especially in this post-Incredibles mainstream landscape. I think that's something necesary for the reading. I liked the narration, too.
The first few pages... err, "screens" of Black Swan make it look like Kurosawa, but then it dives headlong into boobime, that dangerous combination of boobs and anime. Meh.
Similarly, Dead In The Now looks and reads like something a 16 year old did in the back of his notebook during Global Studies. This might have gone over better a few years earlier, before zombies were a pop culture phenomenon.
I might be biased -- I mean, a Western with werewolves -- but High Moon impressed me with it's dialogue and art, and used it's allotted space very well.
The premise of Leprenomicon cracked me up, and the strip itself delivered. As a gag comic, this could have some legs.
Raining Cats and Dogs surprised me and frustrated me at the same time. The narration really piqued my interest, and it's certainly a unique assemblage of characters, but there's very little indication of just how this would play as a larger work.
On the other hand, The Dead Seas does a great job of previewing how it would flow as a series. The art is too high-gloss anime-style for my tastes, but the Pirates of Dark Water-esque concept is intriguing.
The Enders didn't do much of anything for me. The countdown premise is a nice hook, but there's not much here which would make me stick around, conceptually or artisitcally.
This American Strife is the oddball of the bunch, a series of non sequitor strips all palling around together. Of all the contest strips, this one (along with Dead In The Now) is closest to what I expect from an indy comic. It's hit or miss, but mostly hit.
Jeremy Love's Bayou is the best strip on the site, no doubt partly because at 17 screens it is also the longest and has the most time to develop itself. As a Yankee by birth, but a Southerner by choice, I enjoy reading about Southern culture and history, warts and all, so this appeals to me right out of the gate. The art has a sort of whimsical quality to it with the right amount of haze overlayed. As an OGN or a miniseries, I would buy this, which is the best endorsement I think you can give to a series.
Overall it is a varied field, which I imagine is the point. I'm pretty sure most visitors will find at least one which they like enough to vote for it. Personally, I am undecided, but I have narrowed it down to a few choices.
There are some things I am not overly impressed with. The reader is a pain in the butt, because the default size is not always good for reading the different types of lettering. I get why they use it, but it's still frustrating -- opt for Full Screen mode instead. And as diverse as these selections are, they are still somewhat niche-y; 3 are Superheroes, 3 are manga/anime style, 1 Western, 2 indy strips, and 1 Comedy. Where's the Romance or High Adventure? Where's the kids comics in the vein of Richie Rich or Casper? Sure, these are niches too. It's just that nearly all of the contest strips could be put out by Wildstorm without much fretting. I guess that's just my take on it, though.
The verdict for Zuda's launch: a decent ribbon cutting, if not without a few problems. I'll continue to read Bayou, and I will read whomever wins if the strip appeals to me. But this is very much a "work in progress" and I imagine the kinks will be ironed out as we go on. But, I have to call it a successful launch, if for no other reason than the consumer inside me is screaming "Hey! Free comics!"