SDCC '08 - DC's Zuda Panel

DC Comics announced at the Zuda panel Sunday morning at Comic-Con International that High Moon by Dave Gallaher and Steve Ellis, and Night Owls by brothers Peter and Bobby Timony will both get a second season on Zuda.  They also shared preview art for their next instant winner, but stopped short of giving the title or creator names.

The enthusiastic young creators on the panel were lively as they waited to start, singing “We Will Rock You” to warm up the crowd. On the panel were David Gallaher and Steve Ellis (High Moon), Peter and Bobby Timony (Night Owls), Caanan Grall (Celadore), Tony Trovarello and Johnny Zito (Black Cherry Bombshells), Nick Doan and Daniele Serra (Pray for Death), Sheldon Vella (Supertron), Jeremy Love (Bayou) and Zuda editor Kwanza Johnson. Ron Perazza, creative director, hosted it.

It’s been a year since Dc Comics announced their competitive online comics initiative, and the site has been live for about eight months.  If you aren’t familiar with the idea, here’s how it works: creators submit their webcomics, which can be any genre, to Zuda. The Zuda editors review them and decide if they move into the competition phase. 

From there, the submission is posted on the Zuda website, where anyone can vote for their favorite.  Ten comics are posted every month, and the winner gets a “season” on Zuda.  And possibly more, as the creators of High Moon and Night Owls have learned.  They also have an “instant winner” process, where the editors pick a comic themselves to publish on the site – such as Bayou or Dean Haspiel’s Street Code

Perazza started by asking each of the panelists to talk about their Zuda comics.

Love said Bayou “is a new take on the Uncle Remas tales.” The fantasy story set in 1933 Mississippi is updated ever Wednesday.

Gallaher said High Moon is a werewolf western set in the 1890s about “an unchanging man in a changing time.”  The first season just ended and is available for free on the site.

Peter Timony said Night Owls is a “supernatural detective agency set in the 1920s.  It may contain gargoyles.”  The structure, he later said, is more like a Sunday comic strip than a serialized graphic novel, and it’s updated every Tuesday and Thursday.

Pray for Death, Doan said, is about a serial killer “wants to piss god off as much as he can.”  Doan’s wife was at the panel, dressed as the detective, Abigail Jenkins, who is out to stop the killer.  It is updated every other Monday.

Australian Sheldon Vella, who drove to the convention from San Antonio in a Mini-Cooper, said that Supertron is based on the Joe Jackson song “Real Men.”  It’s about a robot who wants to become a man.

He said the story has been “accused of bigotry and racism, so it’s a fun read.”  He joked that he updates whenever he wants to, noting that he’s behind on creating his pages. 

It was announced at the panel that Black Cherry Bombshells had enough content already created that it would be moving to a twice-a-week frequency.  The comic is about a gang of girls in a post-apocalyptic Las Vegas, where they fight a cross-dressing Elvis impersonator who “holds society together with random acts of violence,” Zito said. “She’s oddly sexy.”

Celadore by Grall is a recent Zuda winner.  Grall said J. R. R. Tolkein called “celadore” the most beautiful word in the English language.

“If you took that and turned it into a name, the name itself would kind of bring a story out of you,” he said.  The first eight panels are still up on the site, with the regular series starting in September. 

A fan asked if the imprint would ever feature DC Comics characters, and Perazza said no, it’s its own imprint.  Another fan asked the creators if they could choose one DC character to crossover into their stories, who would it be? 

Grall said he’s like to do a “Ma and Pa Kent” series featuring a five-year-old Superboy. Bobby Timony said he could see a “Young Eel O’Brian” appearing in Night Owl.

Vella asked, “Is the Hulk DC?” which got some laughs form the crowd.  Doan said he’d like to have his serial killer kill off each of the DC characters, starting with putting kryptonite through Superman’s heart and hanging Batman upside down from a cave.  “Flash is just dead on a treadmill,” he joked.

Ellis said Bat Masterson for High Moon, Love said Black Manta for Bayou and Zito said Kamandi, “the last zombie boy on Earth.”

When asked if the webcomics would eventually be collected in print, Perazza said “Absolutely.”  He added that Bayou is probably the farthest along in terms of having enough content to be collected, and they hoped to have a collection out in 2009. “But don’t hold us to that.”

In regards to editorial input, Love said Johnson has provided “notes about the clarity of the story,” otherwise there haven’t been any changes from Zuda.  Ellis said that it isn’t a free for all, that you receive input that “fosters you to work in the best way possible.”

Vella, who was sporting a mohawk and sunglasses as he drank a Corona beer on the panel, said he’s been asked to take a few things out, so he tries to subtlety introduce the more offensive content.

“It’s like ‘Where’s Wally?,’ but really, really hardcore ‘Where’s Wally?’” he joked.

Doan said there are “some things with religious imagery that DC Comics doesn’t want to put on the internet for everyone to see.”

And Zito said they had to change the name of one of their characters from Starbuck.  He said they also tried to blow up a character “with body parts going in a million different directions.” He said Zuda asked them to silhouette that, which ended up making it more distinct.

Another audience member noted that most of the people on the panel were males and asked what they were doing to encourage more female creators to submit to Zuda.  Perazza said the competition is open to anyone, while Gallaher noted that several female creators had entered the competition. “They just can’t win,” Vella joked, to several groans from his fellow panelists.

Another fan asked if the panelists were “web comic guys” or if they hoped to see their work on bookshelves.  While most of the panelists said they did want to see their work in print, Peter Timony said, “I’m a movie guy.  I want to see a Night Owls movie.”  Gallaher said that as many people don’t have easy access to comic shops nowadays, he liked the fact that free comics were accessible over the internet.

And Grall said, “I’m just happy to be doing a story somewhere,” adding that he was planning on submitting to the competition again, as he wants to be the first person to win a second time.

“I wouldn’t do that again, ever,” Zito said.

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