I'll be the first to admit that I don't really get Zuda.
Zuda, for those not in the know, is DC Comics' webcomicky answer to American Idol. Each month, the powers that be select
eight ten comics to compete head-to-head in what is purported to be the ultimate comics cage match. Readers get to see an eight-page pitch from each comic and can then score the comics and vote for their favorites. The winner gets a year-long contract with Zuda and (potentially) fame and glory.
It's a decent idea in theory, provided the non-winners can take their hard work elsewhere. But I've never fully warmed to it. Maybe it's because if a comic I like doesn't win, chances are I'll never see it again. Perhaps I'd have warmer and fuzzier feelings toward Zuda if it did more to promote the losers post-mortem.
But one thing I will say for Zuda is that, most months, it does seem to be a meritocracy. While my favorite comic doesn't always win, the winner is usually one of the month's two or three higher quality comics, and anything truly terrible quickly sinks to the bottom. Most months, I (and I suspect many readers) can more or less predict where the final rankings will fall.
This month is not most months. Don't get me wrong, the comics occupying slots one and three are great looking little comics. The Thunderchickens is a self-aware superhero comic with lively dialogue and solid character design. And I'd probably choose Phantom Sword as this month's winner, despite my slight aversion to high fantasy. But when Zuda released this week's rankings I was shocked -- shocked -- to see a comic called NewBot nestled in the number two spot.
I generally hate to just swoop in and trash people's hard work, but DC is one of the largest comic publishers, and this competition is their most significant foothold in the webcomics world. And NewBot simply isn't up to snuff. The artwork is clunky, the character design derivative, and the entire eight-page pitch is essentially a rehash of the first scene of Edward Scissorhands. Still, there it sits, above the charming War of the Woods, above the beautifully rendered Pavlov's Dream, and above the satisfying noir of Candy from Strangers.
I doubt this is an issue of deliberate gaming. As of this writing, NewBot has only 111 "favorite" votes; at that number, its ranking is more likely the result of overzealous self-promotion. Still, something seems amiss in Zuda's voting system if one comic can shoot up the rankings with so little merit. Perhaps it's a sign that Zuda needs to limit the number of fighters in its comics cage match, or perhaps it needs to give greater weight to voters who have voted in the previous months.
Hopefully, this is just an anomaly, but Zuda may need to take stock of its system. If they insist on being so intractably winner-take-all, they better make sure that their winners are the best comics of the lot, not just the comics with the best marketing machines.