Pretty, Fizzy Paradise

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

My Two Cents on Criticism:

You know what the best part of doing my Newsarama column is? I find myself with opinions on comic-related subjects I would never have considered before. Like this stuff.

I probably never would have noticed it once upon a time, but since this column has me trying to keep up with things that are going on in blogs and livejournals, I'm actually finding myself reacting!

So, I have my own little message to creators like Rikki Simons, even though I'm not a comics creator myself. Three actually.

1. For every online reviewer that gets paid or free things for review, there are a good number who do not. For example, me. I only review sporadically, I admit, but I have reviewed both positively and negatively. And aside from three people who cared enough to send me first issues of their indy publications, I've never recieved anything free for my trouble.

So before you throw around comments about how hard it is to find your hard work berated by someone who's actually getting benefits from doing so, stop and think, please.

I work for 7.25 an hour at a local toy store. I love my job but it's hectic. When I plunk almost three dollars on a comic, that's almost half an hour dealing with irate customers and screaming children and stupid upper management hinderances. Maybe that doesn't seem like a lot in comparison to the weeks/months you've put into your project, but it's a fair bit of time when added up. I'm not saying I expect everything I buy to be good, but I think I've definitely earned the right to express my opinion about it.

(And most OEL manga and other such publications tend to be a bit more than three dollars thank you)

Besides, most reviewers who do get free things get them because they're considered to be influential reviewers. Their opinions are heard by a lot of people. You'd do much better to conduct yourself with grace and dignity.

(Also, it's not EVER a good idea to defend yourself on a review. Even politely. Because your work should speak for itself. If someone missed what you consider to be the most glaringly obvious point of your work, it means that your point is NOT glaringly obvious. It's not the duty of the reader to dig through the work for any given easter eggs, it's the duty of the writer to make such things readily apparent)

2. Be careful! You are probably a few good steps above an indy creator in terms of job security, but you're still a writer. Your success depends on people buying your product.

Now you may see complaints about the cavalier and even callous manner in which comic companies like DC and Marvel treat their fans. But you are not DC or Marvel (usually). While fans continually bemoan the downfall of their favorite series or the decline of superhero comics in general, the truth is that neither company is in much danger of failing. Not when movies like Batman Begins, Spiderman or X-Men continue to do so well. Not when X-Men Evolution, Teen Titans or Justice League continue to reach new fans.

Batman and Superman are products that have existed since 1939 and 1938 respectively. The X-Men and Spiderman from the sixties. That's a long time to establish themselves in the public consciousness.

So what does that mean for you? Absolutely nothing. This has absolutely nothing to do with you.

So don't do like the big companies. If you see major writers getting cocky, don't for a moment think you can do the same. Because you do not have that level of security that those companies have.

Their products, in some sense, sell themselves. While many fans will drop a bad run of their favorite superhero comics, other completists will keep collecting them regardless. Many readers buy the comics solely to pick at them. In some cases, notoreity can help with that. Like watching a trainwreck, it's sometimes hard to look away at the batshit craziness befalling favorite characters. (*cough*AllStarBatmanAndRobin*cough*)

In general, you don't have that. Your product, for better or worse, stands on its own. This is great in some sense, you have more freedom most of the time. You have the pride of creating work that's your very own. But it also means that the only factors in your story's success are your work and you. So how you conduct publically could DRASTICALLY affect your further success.

3. Not every reader is going to like your work. And many of them are going to say so. Deal with it.

As a comic creator, you are an entertainer and an artist. Which means without an audience, you don't really have a job. Whereas there are always more people in the wings waiting breathlessly for the opportunity to show us what they can do instead.

You need us more than we need you. So suck it up, shrug it off, and focus on what you really love...creating your art.

Or find another line of work.

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  • At November 23, 2006 7:27 PM, Anonymous Loren said…

    Well, a Happy Thanksgiving to you! ;)

    You know the most heinous of these examples (and this is on the big company level) was when Tamora Pierce was pretty much forced to apologized to Mark Millar for her sincere and brutally honest review of Civil War #4. She was just expressing her disgust over how Sue Storm, upon leaving Reed, decided to give him a free roll in the hay before she left and fans went ape shit. It's fine to disagree with a review, but leave it there and move on with your life. Well written, K!

  • At November 24, 2006 12:43 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Hee. My thanksgiving post just went up, but Happy Thanksgiving to you too!

    Yeah, that was pretty awful. What happened to polite disagreement?

  • At November 24, 2006 4:44 PM, Blogger Ultrapavo said…

    Hey, wait a minute! Since when does Rikki Simmons even read critiques?

    Isn't he one of those JhonenVazquian comic creators that insult their gothy, gothy audience for everything from the way they read to the way they think and is beloved in that lil' ghetto for that? (maybe is because their fans think the insults are for those other fans who just don't "get it")

    Since when are the "gothic rants on how you people suck" news?
    Or even noticed for that matter?
    Hell, in not like Simmons even cares about what the general public thinks about him

    In fact, I think he enjoys pissing people off

  • At November 25, 2006 1:43 AM, Blogger Amy Reads said…

    Hi Kali,
    I think all of these critic/critique discussion to be quite fascinating, and thank you for calling attention to it, and for your thoughtful response.

    I, too, review comics and don't get any swag at all. I do it because I love comics. Now, I am a critic In Real Life, but since all of my authors are dead, the only people who care (or get angry) about my criticisms are other literary critics.

    The internet has completely changed the face of author/public relations, no? I don't know where I fall on the spectrum, but I have to say that I think it Bad Form to let the bullies get under our skin, and I think it Bad Form to get angry at the friendly classmate who points out that letting the bully get under our skin is Bad Form, and really, I think it Bad Form to give bullies any time, energy, or thought At All. Bullies get off on attention, no? Honest critics will critique because they believe in the discourse, in the free exchange of ideas. The person who says "you are the suXors!" is *trying* to get a reaction (hence, bully).

    Random babbling thoughts! I just worry when so many people begin to associate "criticism" with "hatred." It seems like to not like something is to call someone's mother odd and disrespectful names, no?

    Thanks, Friend, for letting me ramble in your comments section!

  • At November 25, 2006 1:45 AM, Blogger Amy Reads said…

    Hi Kali,
    That "you" and "our," etc. were all general yous and ours, and not you, Kali, the person yous and ours.
    What I mean is, I was generally speaking about "teh internets" at large.
    Amy, who is a clarifier from way back

  • At November 25, 2006 5:38 PM, Anonymous Starman Matt Morrison said…


    From another reviewer who has gotten free comics sent to him maybe four times (not counting PDFs) and who, currently working PT only, is only able to keep up on most titles because I know my comic shop guys and they trust me not to damage anything I read in the store... THANK YOU for that.

    I'll second the point on #2.

    Worst thing I ever did regarding one infamous review that lead to several attempts to spam bomb my e-mail and a prominent web cartoonish tracking down my place of employment to tell me off in person was to try and correct some of my points that proved incorrect.

    Never mind that the point in question involved my saying that there were no news archives on said site and then saying, six months later, "okay... there IS a news archive but the piss poor site design makes it impossible to find." The minute I tried to correct anything, everything else in the article became suspect.

    Which is funny because one of the things I discussed was how said writer, based on his responses to people asking him questions about his comic, seemed incapable of taking criticism.

    How right I was...


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