T Campbell's Blog

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Saturday, September 22, 2007


So the wait is over at last. A few quick thoughts about Zuda's recently released contracts:

1) The timing of the release is interesting. I've complained about how long DC had taken to get these online. But then I had a chat with Ron Perazza, who told me that this contract was just taking a long time to hash out, and they'd release it as soon as it was ready. I believe him. But there's no way the time of week of this release was unplanned, not with the Wall Street Journal just happening to mention Zuda the very next day.

When I worked for The Man, one of the tips I picked up was to fire people on a Friday afternoon. Don't give laid-off employees the opportunity to throw a hissy-fit and poison productivity for the week. I'm wondering if similar thinking drove the decision to release these contracts Friday. "We may THINK we've got our bases covered, but let's reduce the odds of an Internet s**tstorm anyway, hm?"

2) At last I can safely disclose the payouts for top Zuda contributors, and they're worth taking seriously: $250 per "screen," with a couple of additional bonuses, and a royalty package that-- with apologies to my friends at Tokyopop-- is easily the most generous I've seen from a major publisher.

3) What the deal means for webcomics as an art form is a little tough to judge until we find out what kind of comics Zuda's audience likes. And Zuda is as unsure of that as anyone. I think the weekly frequency is still going to keep them from being a really major player in the space: a Sunday-only strip just doesn't seem to be enough to hold people's attention these days. But I don't think Bruning and Perazza are stupid, so maybe that was never their plan. Maybe they intend to be more of a Modern Tales, a choosy repository of high-profile, infrequently published comics.

4) And for that matter, nothing really prevents Zuda from doing it this way for 6-12 months and then starting to roll out the daily features.

5) The reversion of rights is likely to be the issue that critics focus upon. It certainly seems like the Zuda team worked a lot on this part. It's kind of baroque-- you might end up with rights to the comics but not film and TV rights based upon them?

But I don't have much interest in reversion because I consider it pretty unlikely to happen. DC is good at keeping nearly forgotten properties in play just so they don't lose the rights. Which is why that royalties package has my full attention instead.

At this point, I've made my position on this kind of thing pretty clear, but Webcomics.com means some new people will be reading this, so just for the record:

It's silly to think that publishers are evil for wanting to retain rights as long as they can. Publishers offer you a trade-off. You should get some promotion, some help in building a career, and most of all, you should get money. In exchange, publishers need the right to use your work for their own ends, or they will cease to publish.

Some people cannot abide this kind of trade-off. Some people cannot abide doing without this kind of trade-off. Some people, like me, like to make the trade for some projects and keep others close to the vest. I think we'd all be a lot happier if creators and commentators spent more time doing what they wanted, and less time promoting their position on this as the only position worth having.

Update: more Zuda stuff here.



Blogger meager said...

The money is good, sure, but my concern is if unknowns will even get a chance at it.
I can see this turning into a dumping ground for big comic book artists to try out some side projects.
The money would be a pittance to them, they'd just be doing it for the publicity and the fan adulation. Think of the press if they said they were giving their entire Zuda earnings to charity (with the exception of the art originals, which would score them major bucks at conventions).
And Zuda would snatch up every one of these names they could get just so they could say "Look who we got!"
And fans would vote them in because they like the artist's other work, or simply because they actually heard of them.
Thus leaving no room for the little guy to get any of that money.

September 23, 2007 8:24:00 PM AST  

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