I Want To Believe

So as you know, I’ve been critical of Zuda Comics in the past. I’ve never liked the idea of a large company like DC treating new talent like American Idol contestants but that seems to be a new direction the industry is heading. Not something I want to get behind. Not something I would ever do myself.

But this weekend I had a chance to witness first hand a couple things about Zuda Comics and it stopped to make me rethink my position a little bit. And I feel it’s only fair that I be as vocal about this thought as I have have been in the past about my critical thoughts. If I’m gonna to jerk my knee around like this, it’s only fair to report when it jerks in the other direction as well.

This weekend, three Zuda Comics were nominated for Harvey Awards. One of them, HIGH MOON, not only debuted a new print version of their book at the show, but won the Harvey for best online comic strip.

I witnessed the Zuda crew at their table at the awards ceremonies. They were all excited, having a good time, and most importantly, brothers in arms. Its the same camaraderie that I’m blessed to experience with my buddies at Halfpixel.

Ron Perazza has always been a really gracious and level headed guy, even when I’ve been really critical and snarky of him. He was a real sweetheart during the ceremonies and looked back at us when he was presenting to confess that he was so nervous to be up there his hands were shaking. This is after I introduced him to the crowd by announcing “Our next presenter was chosen from an online contest where he competed against 9 other talented presenters for the opportunity to be here tonight.” The Zuda table erupted with laughs and cheers. After the show they all took time to tell me I had done a great job and to remind me that even though we fight online, they understand that my heart’s in the right place.

So, passing the High Moon booth on Sunday on the way to my own table, I had to ask myself a very pointed question: if David, Steve and Scott had taken MY advice and gone it alone with HIGH MOON, would they be here a year later with a full color graphic novel, their own booth at the Baltimore Comicon and a Harvey Award? Possibly. But can I say probably? I don’t think I can in all fairness.

I would never sign up for Zuda comics. I still don’t like the idea of turning creators into competitors. I still don’t like the idea of spec work or building someone elses brand instead of my own. But I’m a results-oriented person and I can not argue with these results. And I can’t say in all honesty that David, Steve and Scott would have earned what clout they have this year going it on their own. Certainly they could have, but WOULD they have? That’s the real question.

Here’s what I do know: these guys, these Zuda creators seem to be having the time of their lives. They’re learning things about the industry and meeting people. I can see that there are things they like and dislike about Zuda. But I could say that about Image too. The bottom line is that I’m witnessing them progressing.

I’m happy. I’m relieved actually. From what I saw this weekend, Zuda’s doing better than Platinum ever did for it’s creators. That’s the impression I got this weekend seeing the Zuda crew in the wild. And I’m sorry if it upsets anyone for me to say this since I’ve been so vocally critical about them in the past. I’m not sure that’ll change either.

But you know what? I can’t deny what I witnessed this weekend. Zuda is for sure not right for me. And it for sure may not be right for you. But I can’t deny that at least right here, right now, it’s right for David, Steve and Scott. And let’s say some worse-case-scenario plays out and Perazza rips off a mission impossible mask to reveal he’s Scott Rosenberg and runs away yipping with their IPs. I think even then they still made real progress this year that they more than likely would not have on their own. Could have, but probably wouldn’t have.

If companies like DC can enter the Webcomics world, and find a way to work with creators fairly and bring credibility and positive attention to this medium…that’s good. If Zuda can light a fire under the asses of talent that normally wouldn’t make progress, that’s awesome. We want that, don’t we? Doesn’t a rising tide lift all ships? I know I’m skeptical. I like being skeptical. But maybe I’ve witnessed so many Platinums in the past that I’m a little gun-shy. Maybe…maybe...Zuda isn’t going to fuck people over.

I want to believe. And this weekend, I swear I saw Bigfoot taking a picture of Elvis.