Zuda, Contracts, Platinum, and Money

Zuda Comics logo

Zuda, DC Comics’ web-based initiative to find new properties, has posted its proposed contracts (link no longer available), leading to the expected discussion.

Longtime webcomic creator and journalist T Campbell comments. He calls the royalty package “easily the most generous I’ve seen from a major publisher.”

Internet gadfly Chris Butcher has (as expected, and we love him for it) a more jaded take.

It’s nice to be paid a page-rate for your work and all, but that $14,000 salary cap ($1000 purchase price plus 52 weeks @ $250/strip) seems to be pretty limiting, in terms of the potential revenue that could be generated off of a successful webcomic. It’s not bad money I guess, but here’s the thing… It’s less than the money you would make doing a half-page of comics art at DC or Vertigo even, and it also involves selling off the intellectual property for your work for an unlimited amount of time…

Zuda Comics logo

The thing is, both of those can be true. The best deal available to an unknown creator may still be not very fair in the long run.

The problem with analyzing this situation is that no one knows. The publisher wants to find another Superman, a product they got cheap that will keep them in business for decades. But for every Superman, there may be handfuls of Booster Golds or Gunfires. Selling off a not-very-good project for money that will keep you going while you establish your name and get a working apprenticeship is a good deal for a young creator. But do they want to admit that their project isn’t the next superstar? That’s the way this deal makes sense.

Campbell also points out “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,” something Chris agrees with and is very likely. Expecting to get your project back is probably not going to happen unless it’s a true dog.

I like T’s ultimate conclusion, that the trade-off involved may be good for some, terrible for others. So long as everyone’s got their eyes open (and we avoid the “yeah, the company did terrible things, but that won’t happen to ME” blindness that many creators struggle with), that’s a good way to go at it.

In a comment at T’s followup, Joey points out “having publishers begin to publish contracts out in the open can only, over time, lead to publishers competing for talent based on the fairness of their deals”, which is a long-term benefit.

Meanwhile, speaking of openness, Todd Allen looks at Platinum’s financial details (link no longer available). It’s a good reminder of how businesses can appear successful while having minimal assets. Platinum’s figures are available because they’re going public, selling stock.

So you might be asking yourself why Platinum is getting into the stock market. There are usually two reasons a company goes public: either they need additional investment to continue (or expand) operations or it’s an exit strategy. … It is, however, obvious from the filing that Platinum has been burning through money quickly and needs a cash influx to continue operating as normal, never mind expanding their business channels.

Much more detail in the link.

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