Well, this Zuda Comics experiment has been garnering some attention in recent weeks, mainly surrounding the basic contract framework (since that's about all most people really had to look at). But it's been a little over 24 hours now since it's been announced who's working on what and I thought I'd put together some thoughts on the various projects and who's working on them.
The first folks I want to call attention to are (in alphabetical order) David Gallaher, Matthew Humphreys, and Pop Mahn. The reason I'd like to single them out is because, as of this writing, they appear to be the only participants I can find who've made any sort of online acknowledgment/promotion of their respective projects. I was speaking just the other day about how one needs to have more than just raw talent to succeed, and it's only been these three gents out of the eleven participants that have done anything beyond the actual creation of their comics. I've checked the web sites that made the announcement as well as the creators' respective web sites, blogs and MySpace pages -- and there's not a whole lot going on with respect to the creators. (Admittedly, I haven't checked non-web sources, but we are talking about a WEB COMIC contest here!) While that certainly doesn't mean that the other creators' works are lacking in any respect, but it does seem to give three projects an early edge over the others as the contest is being voted on by the viewing public at large. Given that we're dealing with an online forum for the contest itself, it seems to me that the folks who are the most savvy at web marketing in general (whether by innate skill or formal education) will stay at the head of the pack.
Gallaher and Mahn have given themselves a slightly greater edge as well by posting some promotional artwork online. We're talking comics here which, by any definition, are a visual medium. That means that the readers/judges are going to be responding to not just the writing, but also the illustration. Many a great story has been ruined by poor artwork, and many a mediocre story has been saved by a talented artist. Ignoring even the "elevator pitch" concepts we're read thus far, The Dead Seas and High Moon stand out because we've got a tone clearly established in the illustration styles.
Now, looking at the concepts themselves, there's a pretty wide range of material. We've got comedy, adventure, horror, science fiction, Western, superhero... There should be something for just about everyone. The downside to this, however, is that some ideas are going to become popular for the genre alone. For example, Dead in the Now -- at a conceptual level -- holds zero interest for me because I really don't care for zombie stories on the whole. My personal preference aside, though, zombies are fairly popular these days, so that could well work in Corey Lewis' favor. (Assuming, of course, that marvel hasn't completely drained that well dry already! There's certainly such a thing as over-exposure.)
Superheroes continue to remain popular, so Alpha Monkey and Battlefield Babysitter have that going for them conceptually. I do have to wonder about Alpha Monkey, though. It's sounds like a great concept, but could potentially be an extremely shallow one depending on how it's executed. Simply recasting the Superman mythos in a simian vein is essentially a one-note joke and wouldn't be sustainable in the long-term. What will really keep viewers coming back to the strip will be if Bobbie Rubio and Howard M. Shum can develop their characters into unique personalities. Parody by itself has short life span -- one really needs to delve into something deeper and take it beyond a simple parody to make it sustainable. Whether or not that's evident in Alpha Monkey, I don't know yet.
Although many of the creators involved have worked in the comics industry professionally before, I'd bet that Pop Mahn is probably the biggest "name", having worked on a number of recognizable characters/titles for both marvel and DC. However, it's worth noting that he's writing his own material here, and I think that's going to work against him. While I don't doubt his ability to tell a story, I've seen him falter with good characterization and plot nuances. They're subtleties that can make the difference between a good story and a great story, and that some of the other projects have dedicated writers might put a dent in Mahn's ability to draw (no pun intended) on his name recognition.
At this point, based purely on the extremely limited material I've seen so far and my reasoning above, I think Alpha Monkey, The Dead Seas and High Moon have the best chances out of the gate. Whether or not they can sustain whatever initial momentum they have, though, is a matter of execution to a large degree, but I'll certainly be interested to see how the contest plays out and how well the creators can garner support for their respective strips. Will it be exclusively a matter of talent? I doubt it. I think we can expect the winner here to be the person who's able to put together the most welcoming, comprehensive web presence with an eye directed at making not just a comic strip, but a user experience.