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Wizard World Chicago: What is Zuda?

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By now, we’ve all heard the news, seen the announcements, wondered about the catchy (if inherently meaningless) title. The implications are fascinating—DC Comics is entering the world of webcomics with their new Zuda imprint. Although the basics of the line have been revealed, DC’s Richard Bruning and Kwanza Johnson stopped by Wizard World Chicago to discuss Zuda with fans and aspiring creators in more detail.

One fan likened Zuda to a comics version of American Idol and indeed, audience and public demand seem to play a large role in Zuda’s process. Contracts for creators will be based on monthly contests, fan voting, page referrals, and the overall reaction of readers. After an initial eight page submission and synopsis/treatment, creators that strike a chord with fans will be contracted to produce 52 more "episodes" of their comic. This, the panel noted, essentially makes the fans the editors and gives them much more say and control over what is published than ever before.

The Zuda line is expected to go live in early October and will be provided via a new comic reader technology, the best yet designed according to Bruning and Johnson. Webcomics submitted to Zuda will fill a space approximately the same as half of a printed comic page, allowing for the best viewing both on a computer screen and in a print-out. If series prove popular, DC would not be opposed to doing print editions as well.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the Zuda project is the level of creator rights granted. DC does not buy the properties submitted to Zuda outright but licenses them for a specified period of time. Creators retain copyright of their stories and characters, while DC will have the trademark, allowing them to pursue adaptations to toy lines or other forms of media if the need should arise. After the contracts end, all rights will revert back to the creator.

This is a significant departure from the usual work-for-hire contract of most DC writers and artists. It does mean that, for legal reasons, existing DC/Vertigo/WildStorm properties are off limits to Zuda creators, even perhaps in parody or satirical strips. This is a small price to pay however considering the creator rights and benefits. For the first time in the company’s history, DC will be making its contracts available on their website so that potential Zuda contributors can peruse them and decide if the deal is right for them.

Bruning and Johnson cited the considerable freedom offered by the digital format. While individual submissions will need to fit within the allotted half page format, within that space creators can structure their comics and panels however they choose. They are not limited by conventions of print comics such as issue or story breaks. There is no need to "write for the trade" or conform to a monthly schedule. Zuda comics can potentially go on indefinitely and update as often as needed, pausing whenever it suits the story structure.

Many of the nitty gritty details of Zuda are still being hashed out and developed even as they prepare to go live. Much will depend on how many submissions DC receives and what sort of reaction and audience demand results from them. Potentially, anyone can submit to Zuda. A minimum age limit and/or parental consent form have not been established at this time. There are also no restrictions on established comics creators who may be getting less work making submissions of their own. However, all submissions will be judged equally.

Johnson emphasized that quality and diversity are the primary goals of Zuda. At this stage, it’s all somewhat of an experiment but the potential is there to help usher in a new form of comics publishing and unprecedented fan/creator/publisher interaction. The word "Zuda" may be meaningless but the Zuda line could end up meaning a lot to the industry.

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For more information, visit http://www.zudacomics.com  

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