Zuda Shuts Down (And My Own Zuda Experience)
I just read that the webcomic contest running site Zuda (or DC to be more technically accurate) was pulling the plug. I don’t think this was a HUGE surprise, since they had stopped the monthly competitions a few months back. I figured something was up, especially since there were some changes going on at the top levels of DC (Levitz, Lee, etc). Zuda seemed to be a fair shot at a great opportunity. I say ‘seemed to be’, because there were always cries of favoritism on the message boards and even by some of the competitors and noone could explain how the votes were actually tallied since ‘favoriting’, views and comments were all said to have weight in the monthly contest’s outcome. This also was not helped by the fact that the editors were for the most part non responsive to the public. That always fueled speculation that the competition was just a running publicity stunt to bring attention to their preordained picks. But, again, that’s all just speculation. It SEEMED to be a great opportunity for cartoonists and writers.
My own experience with Zuda went something like this. I found out about it, by stumbling upon a website from a past competitor in Zuda. He was nice enough to answer a question or 2. Then I found and read the rules on the Zuda site and again, it SEEMED to be a pretty good opportunity. But as I always do, I had some questions. I sent a couple of questions through their ‘Feedback’ option and got no response, but I entered anyway.
Blake Roberts (the writer) took about a month to find something that I ( Crash! Landen) would be interested in drawing. It actually took a little longer to do the 8 pages than I thought it would, but that was mostly because t6here was a lot of hand wringing about how the story would be told. There was an awful lot of editing and condensing to try to end the 8th page on something that would show that there was an idea o whereb the story was going. There was a lot of action sacrificed and a lot of dramatic moments were completely thrown out the window because the story never would have been where it had to be on the eighth page. It was a lot of headaches.
But we completed it to some degree and sent it to them and braced for the possible 90 days until rejection. There were mistakes, but I was sure that if they did pick the story, that they would allow for corrections to be made. Here was what you saw when you submitted:
Yes, ‘congratutations’. I don’t know if I saw the misspelling as a bad omen or if it was just my own self defeating nature, but I had this INTENSE feeling that it was already REJECTED. But I didn’t worry about it. There were friends and family members that were more concerned than I was. I did check for emails often (I’m hopeful), but the 90 days came and went without anything. So at that point, my fear was that they never even got the thing. After I again tried the Feedback Forum thing… And after trying and failing to get a message to the forum moderator I posted this (on somewhere around Day 105). The response from the Zuda Editor was so quick, I wasn’t aware of it until the next day. A friend of mine saw it before I did.
This gave me new hope, since someone else that had the same thing happen to them actually got picked and made it in. So almost another month went by. I have to say the days after the 90 Day Review Period were not nearly as agonizing as the next 20 or so days. I had also (at the suggestion of a Zuda Message Board Regular who appeared to know the Zuda folks to some small degree) started following the Editor on his Twitter page. That was probably the hardest part of the post-review period, but one fine day in January he started posting his frustration at how awful all of the entries were. Some of the comments about ‘over-rendering’ seemed to be aimed directly at me, but that’s probably my own silly paranoia. But within the hour I received my Form Letter Style Rejection slip from Zuda. If you ever wanted to know what it said, here it is:
This may be my only real complaint that I had with the entire process, but it kind of goes along with all of the complaints that I’ve heard that Zuda was oblivious to their fans. Like not answering ‘Feedback’ (and I’m not the only one that said there was no communication there). There’s nothing worse than salesmen who act like they want to know what you think, but you know the reality is that they just want your dollars. I do understand that they are part of DC (and it’s a business), but that they were trying to help new talent just seemed like a false pretense most of the time.
Am I writing out of frustration? Yeah, maybe a little. But, while having my own entry REJECTED I can still see it as a positive experience. I’ll probably never know how seriously my entry was ‘reviewed’, but I figure if it did get looked at, at least one of the editors had to have liked it (Kwanzaa or Nika?) to some tiny degree or else they wouldn’t have held it so long. There was a page or 2 that I was really proud of. Blake thinks it was the story that sunk the ship, but the writing was probably a LOT better than the art. It was my choice to give a general description of the synopsis, too. It probably would have helped if I had given the entire story (including the ending), which I did not do. But I have no idea what they did or didn’t like about it.
I do think Zuda sparked a lot of interest in webcomics. From my own perspective, I would have never thought about doing a story that was NOT meant to be printed in comic form until Zuda. They changed my mind greatly about webcomics. I think Zuda gave a lot of cartoonists a GREAT opportunity to be seen, also, by a large number of people that normally they wouldn’t have had access to. And of course they had some talented people on some pretty good strips (Nite Owls, Azure, Bayou, etc…) that I’m sure we’ll all hear more from in the future. There were a lot of entries that were great also; some that I thought were better than some of the winners.
On a personal level, getting rejected made me look at what I’m doing a little closer. The Zuda REJECTED entry is being reworked, because I do think a story worth telling is there. It’s the knowing what parts of a story to tell and in what order is the hard part. I realized after doing the 8 pages that this wasn’t where the story should have started. In any case some things that are worth doing require a lot of time, sweat and patience. It also needed a name change.
But above all, I wanted to say ‘goodbye’ to Zuda and thanks for presenting the opportunity. I’m sure a lot of other writers and artists feel the same way. Maybe it wasn’t perfect, but not much ever is.