Monday, June 09, 2008

MoCCA Art Fest 2008: Webcomics

You would have to be Indiana Jones to get through the bottleneck
at the webcomic section of the convention

There was a strong webcomics presence at MoCCA Art Fest this year -- resulting in a bottleneck in the space where a number of the more well-known webcomics creators were situated. It was so crazy you literally could not get through.

The loyal fanbase and broad appeal of webcomics such as XKCD, Diesel Sweeties, Octopus Pie, and Girls With Slingshots -- all represented at the show -- cannot be overstated. Anybody who tells me that these digital comics do not present any sort of real competition to their print counterparts is full of crap. Seriously.

That said, I think it helps any webcomic creator to have some sort of print edition to sell/give away at show. Nay, it not only helps -- I think it is required. Take the case of Danielle Corsetto, sketching for charity at the Friends Of Lulu table and also selling a print collection of her webcomic Girls With Slingshots. Sales on the book -- that she had done on print-on-demand -- were brisk. The old argument has been: "they won't pay for comics they can get for free." I disagree.

But, the content has to be good, and your fanbase loyal. It's like those "pay-as-you-wish" downloads of that Radiohead album. No, I don't think it's a big moneymaker for them -- but they are still cleaning up on concerts and assorted merchandise. And some people will buy the "legit" collection regardless. Similarly, I think the money in webcomics are not to be made by those "micropayments" Scott McCloud refers to in Reinventing Comics, but in everything else that surrounds the daily or weekly online strip -- ads, merch, con appearances, print editions.

Further, if a mainstream publisher is racking its brains to find comic content with an appeal far beyond the comic book fan market, this is the way to go. One would assume that was part of the reason for Zuda's creation. Visiting their booth that was situated next to Minx & Vertigo, I wondered if they might have been better served in the webcomic section downstairs. But, then the question becomes -- is Zuda following the established webcomics model, or are they really trying to invent their own model?

Are they a "DC," or its own webcomics animal?

I would say, based on my personal observation, that the Minx/Vertigo/Zuda triumvirate is/is becoming as open, openminded, and creatively supportive as anything you could possibly find coming out of a large comics publisher. I think this is driven by the realization that the creation of truly creative content should lie with the creators. You can't just add water, heat and stir. Comics are not ramen noodles or Nestle Quik or instant oatmeal. You need innovative voices behind it, a pulse; you need to take a f**king chance.

It almost feels as if presently two DCs exist -- and the question is, which one will win out five years from now? The innovation, or the obsession with the past?

It's like McCain versus Obama. You know, I really don't dislike John McCain. In a lot of ways, I really respect the guy. But, if he becomes president and not Barack Obama, it's going to be depressing. Because, while I think McCain means well, it's going to be the same old s**t. And it can't be the same old s**t. Some people are so damn attached to the same old shit, but it's an unhealthy and unnatural attachment, and eventually it withers and rots on the vine.

Whatever the case, in five years a regularly updated webcomics feature will be a standard component of every comics publisher. If Zuda is a testing ground for new talent, the imprint itself seems to be a testing ground for the eventual future of the company.

(Oh, and for those who whine that I have a "conflict of interest" in even mentioning Zuda -- you know, I thought so too. That's why I held back from promoting them too much on the blog. And then I thought -- I'm getting slammed for even what little I do promote them. And that's when I realized: "You know f**k it. I'll promote them as much as I f**king want." Yes, I do have a vested interest in Zuda -- in making sure that it's legit, fair and treats its creators with dignity and respect. And it does. So if anybody would be in a position to know, it would be me. Zuda is biggest halo on DC's blessed corporate head. They treat their talent so well it blows my f**king mind. They've created a family environment between their creators and fans that has been absent in comics since around the time of Ask The Answer Man. I think this is a testament to Paul Levitz and his drive to legitimize graphic literature across genres. So unless you are in a position to really know what's going on...)


  1. As one of Zuda's creators, I whole heartedly agree with that little endorsement at the end there. Zuda staff has treated us like gold from day one. The day we went to the DC office to sign our contracts, Paul Levitz went to fetch my brother a Coke. (It's the little things). All the other Zuda creators, winners, competitors and fans have also been very supportive. Zuda definitely feels like a family to me. Creative energies are high, and just being a part of it makes me strive to do better.

    I too am in a position to know!


  2. I can also testify to the ZUDA treatment as a good friend of mine ( actually several!! am i being left out??) have had nothing but great things to say, and that is a lot considering how it is out there. So if Val wants to promote ZUDA, by all means!

    Now if I could finally decide which 3 projects to submit to ZUDA..... help anyone?

  3. Val, speaking as someone who finds Zuda’s interface clunky and its corporate backing odd and unnecessary, I have to say that I still have no problems with you (or anyone else) promoting it. If it works for an audience, then it works – period. As for your critics, well “Look at the cool thing my friend is doing,” is just as valid a reason to point to something as “Look at the cool thing I found.” Spit in their eye and do what you want.

    And yeah, micro-payments are pretty much dead because they run counter to the unfettered distribution potential of the internet. It’s much better to gather lots of eyeballs for free and then sell them to an advertiser. The only ones who can get really get away with charging are the porn comics, because people will pay a premium to get exactly the fetish they want.

  4. Anonymous4:45 AM

    Why should you not comment on things you love just because you or your friends has some involvement in them?

    Seriously. Do it. You are entitled to writing about things you love. Just ignore the bitter comments. And may I add I am SO bloody glad that you didn't stop writing about comics like you threatened some time back.

    That being said... there are one thing I can't forgive with bloggers... and that is if they are PAID by the company in question to promote their stuff secretly and just pretends to like it. I trust this is not the case here.

    Also, if it wasn't for you I would never have discovered ZUDA! I've spent all breakfast reading up on things there, and may I just say... THANK YOU FOR PROMOTING THIS!

  5. hmm. Well based on your reccomendation I may give Zuda a try. I've largely avoided them because I'm on dial up and many things take a billion years to load.

    Here's where I'm a little confused. Not to rehash the past but my general understanding is that you worked for DC, (obviously) and that you had a host of less than charming experiences that left you a bit soured on being employed there and you sought work elsewhere.

    So if this is the case then to me the conflict of interest ( and frankly I still don't think in that term I mean you're a blogger offering your opinions in most cases) would be more if you thought the product being offered was crap because some would dismiss your opinion as sour grapes.

    To me an ex employee saying, "Hey this is a bit of alright." tends to get my attention more if said exem parted on less than glowing terms.

    But maybe I'm just weird.

  6. Totally agree with the free content model. I know a lot of webcomic creators that are making decent livings selling books of stuff you can get online for free. There's something about having an actual print version in hand. And fans totally support creators and will buy mucho swags from their favorite webcomics.

  7. I don't like Zuda cause I want to read the stuff in print, not on my damn computer.

    Gimme Bayou and High Moon in a trade or something, and I'm there. But until then, I'm gonna miss out and just read my Fables Vol. 10 I just got.

  8. Eventually, a lot of the griping about Zuda will die down, as there's that whole issue of Zuda actually having good comics.