A little more than a year ago, Matthew Petz saw his webcomic War of the Woods win Zuda's monthly contest. A few months later, Zuda ended their monthly contests, then shut down the website and by the fall the imprint was shuttered by DC -- all before Petz's strip ever began its run on the site.
"A year ago this month I was trying to win the Zuda competition. I finally DID pull off the win...only to watch Zuda fold a few months later," Petz told me last week. "That was kinda brutal."
But the end of Zuda wouldn't mean the end of the strip, as War of the Woods, like several other former Zuda strips, has found a new home on comiXology. But while some of the strips offered on Zuda are still being sold and branded under the Zuda imprint -- and through the DC-branded application for the iPhone and iPad -- Petz's strip is now completely creator-owned.
Petz told me that when Zuda closed down, he was offered a percentage of what he would have earned on the contract he won last January, despite the fact that he hadn't produced any work for them yet. "The people at DC I was dealing with and who I've since become friends with were (and still are) very supportive," he said. "So in the end I got some money and more importantly, I was given my rights back. That was the biggest deal. I own War of the Woods 100 percent."
Some of the contacts he made would help him make the jump from Zuda to comiXology. "The day I found out what was happening with Zuda, I got calls from everyone offering support and advice," he said. "Friends like Bobby Timony, Kevin Colden and David Gallaher. It was David that did an email introduction with David Steinberger at ComiXology. Pretty soon after that I signed up to release WOTW through them. So far it's been great. The comiXology team are easy to work with and are really supportive."
And while he no longer has the backing of a large company like DC Comics behind his comic, he does have the lessons he learned from the initial contest.
"Obviously having someone like DC promoting you would be great, but at the same time no matter who you are you need to promote all you can." Petz said. "That's the biggest lesson I think I took from the competition. Promote , promote, promote. Interviews like this, podcasts, conventions and of course social media. Social media has the potential to really democratize things. You can't afford not to embrace it."
Described at War of the Worlds meets Wind and the Willows, the comic details how two otters, a father and his son, survive and fight back against an alien invasion. "We always see what it’s like for humans to survive in movies like Independence Day or War of the Worlds," he told me last year when I interviewed him. "My thought when thinking was…I wonder how the animals are gonna deal with this?"
The first three chapters are available via comiXology's website, as well as the apps they've developed for various platforms. Petz said he expects to have the fourth chapter up soon. He expects the first season to run about 60-75 pages, or about six issues, not including bonus material.
"When that's done my plan is to try and find a print home for the book as well," he said. "I heard that a lot at conventions last year, so fingers crossed. Beyond all that I have a pretty big outline that tells a big global story. I wrote the ending when I wrote the first eight pages, so I know how everything works out in the end."