I suppose we should have seen Zuda's announcement that they were ending their "American Webcomics Idol" contest as its death knell. But I didn't expect it to perish so quickly, smothered by the pillow of DC Digital Publishing. As of yesterday, the entire Zuda site has been taken offline, taking all of its comics with it.
Hmmph. Guess I should have read Bayou when I had the chance.
DC Digital's Ron Perazza says we shouldn't mourn for Zuda's titles just yet. Zuda is being folded into the larger DC Digital Publishing initiative, meaning you'll be able to read Zuda titles on your iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, or PSP.
Color me unexcited.
I realize that reading on mobile devices is probably the future of comics, and I'm probably revealing my luddism here. But you used to be able to read Zuda comics on any device with Internet access. Now, you'll have to buy a certain (rather pricey) device to read the comics at a decent size. Perhaps this will become less of an issue as more tablet computers come on the market, but right now, I'm feeling pretty much blocked from reading Zuda's digital-only comics.
It also means that we will have to pay for comics we used to get for free. Le sigh. At least DC Digital is planning on doing a revshare with creators. I do genuinely hope this change means some cash for the Zuda creators.
No more Zuda website means no more Zuda reading community. As many problems as the Zuda competition system had, it got a community of readers invested in the comics, the creators, and what would happen next. I was really looking forward to seeing how Zuda would evolve once it did away with the competitions and how it would continue to engage the reading community. It's frustrating to think that DC wasn't willing to give them a chance to innovate when innovation is so key to online comics.
I don't know enough about the internal workings of Zuda to speculate on why DC killed the website, but other people have their suspicions. From Sean Kleefeld (via Robot 6):
See, I get the impression -- from all the anecdotes I've heard over the past few years -- that there was a distinct schism between Zuda and "DC-proper." The Zuda crew have very much been a family. That's readily apparent if you watch any of them in Twitter. Not only are they all chatting with one another, but there are often notes about them all hanging out together at a bar or something. By and large, they come across as a pretty tight group. But a tight group that was doing something totally different than what was being done in the Superman and Batman offices. From what I saw -- and, let me emphasize, we're talking just anecdotal evidence from one guy now -- there was more interaction between the Zuda crew and folks working for Marvel than any of the guys working at "DC-proper." From my vantage point, the split between DC and Zuda (emotionally and philosophically) was about the same as can be seen between newspaper cartoonists and webcomic creators. There were these old school print guys who, for the life of them, could not wrap their head around free digital comic distribution.
In other words, the folks at DC weren't feeling warm and fuzzy enough toward the folks at Zuda to try to understand what Zuda was doing or let them prove out their ideas. If that's the case, it's sad. When Zuda launched, it looked like a major publisher was taking webcomics seriously, and it's frustrating to think that they've dismantled it because they just "didn't get it."
But PVP creator Scott Kurtz says that we shouldn't count the Zuda crew out yet:
What I’m hoping is that DC understands that there is an opportunity here to create new content for the web and its new digital platforms. Beyond just reprinting their print versions on the iPad and PSP. I had a wonderful talk with a guy at DC I won’t name because I don’t know if I have permission to. But he seemed eager to discover the proper format for creating new digital content. I would like to think that Zuda is poised to become what I always hoped it could be: a push by DC to create web-based (or digital) comics with new and established talent. A new line, like Vertigo, that is synonymous with digital.Well, that's sweet. But how am I going to finish reading The LaMorte Sisters now?
The Future of Zuda [Zuda]