Friday, October 26, 2007

Did I Miss Something About Brave and Bold? Did YOU?

Sometimes I get comics late; time and finances don't always allow me to hop into the shop every Wednesday as they unpack the boxes and stock shelves.

So it's been a couple days at least since Brave and the Bold #7 was released to the world, I assume. Plenty of time for the fast-moving blog world to comment. But a scan of the Oct. 26 When Fangirls Attack shows no mention of it.

Now, I realize that there's a couple more distressing issues to talk about, such as Big Barda's death (and I'm kinda down about that myself, truth be told) or Tigra's beatdown.

But can it be? No love for Wonder Woman and Power Girl teaming up? No kudos for a story which features neither being hogtied or in sexy bondage or defeated and at the helpless mercy of men? Oh sure, there's some MINOR SPOILER ALERT mind control, but the villain never uses it to compel anyone to strip naked and jog in place.

George Perez draws lovely heroines, but unless you have issues with the basic costume structures in the first place, he doesn't over-exaggerate the sexyness.

Mark Waid's written a story where Wonder Woman and Power Girl kick ass and save Superman from a imaginatively horrible death, in about as undemeaning a fashion as I think is possible without swinging all the way to preachy-feminism mode.

It's a fun, fairly breezy comic, probably suitable for kids (well, maybe not real little kids, the Superman bit was creepy), containing no message I can see that would have failed the Comics Code, yet containing little of the chauvinism extant when the Code was formed.

And not a peep out of anyone I've seen going, "Yes! This is how it should be done!"

Last time I noticed Waid's name in the WFA-oriented blogs, it was regarding some old story that was maybe not so thoughtful about the relationship between AIDS and gays and such. So maybe Waid's being snubbed for that or some other offense. And while I enjoyed the comic, it hardly is going to set the world aflame with its genius or depth.

Still... wouldn't you think that if the complaints are about overly sexified, fetishy heroines, misogyny of various stripes, and an unsuitability for the younger audience, particularly girls, then shouldn't a comic that avoids all these things be singled out for praise?

What does it say if I have to do it myself?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A Completely Irresponsible Viewpoint

A discussion about morals or ethics regarding any variety of subjects often will be sprinkled with the word "responsible", or more accurately, a derivative such as "responsibility". This can be useful in many cases, such as when you're talking about owning a gun or a car. You have to be responsible for not driving on people instead of the road. You have a responsibility to not hand the gun over to your six-year-old to keep the li'l squirt quiet while you catch the game on TV. If we (society, acting via the government) give you a license to have and operate these things, we want you to be careful with them.

People use the words a lot when discussing artistic endeavors, as well, but I'd like to speak up for the notion that art, and artists, have no responsibility whatsoever to or for anything except, perhaps, their own artistic drive.

The Comics Code and Hitler quotes I posted last time were surrounded by exhortations for "artistic responsibility" - that is, the idea that an artist, for the good of society, must confine his/her output to things that benefit society or at least do not somehow harm it.

This, of course, is usually based on a particular idea of just what is "good for society", and I shouldn't have to say that opinion varies on that score.

Failing any direct harm, like that which a gun or car could cause, why should any artist feel any particular responsibility for anything? The worst a painting or novel or comic could do is make someone feel bad, or give false information. I'll go so far as to say I don't think artists are even obliged to not lie (well, after all, what is fiction and fantasy, anyway?), and furthermore, I think it is the responsibility of the reader/viewer to sort truth from horseshit. There's horseshit everywhere, possibly even in this blog, and if you blindly accept anything said in some artistic medium, you're really not prepared to live in the world. You owe at least that much to yourself.

What's more, I get a bit annoyed by people who declare that other people have some sort of responsibility, but neglect to clearly state just to what they're supposed have said responsibility. If I write or draw a comic, to what, if anything, am I supposed to have responsibility? The readers? The publisher? Society? Art itself? God?

I think not. Maybe the publisher, assuming they're footing the bills and cutting checks, but the rest? Why?

Ultimately, I think many people use "responsibility" as a quick substitute for "I think you should obey my moral code instead of your own." It's neater, quicker, and implies a correctness that may or may not actually exist. After all, "being responsible" is often seen as a desirable character trait, and it avoids the messy questions that the latter phrase brings up, such as "what makes you think you're so right?"

I also think it can be used as a crutch to avoid responsibility, by shoving it off on others. We have movie ratings, video game ratings, album stickers and comics ratings, ostensibly because producers and publishers have some sort of "responsibility" to assist parents in knowing whether their kid is going out and buying smut or ultraviolence. Only, why should anyone but the parents themselves be responsible for filtering what their kid sees? You want to know if your kid is listening to gangsta rap? Open up their damn CD cases and give a listen! Only, no, that's too invasive and it'd hurt their feelings of privacy and blooo hoo hoo sooo mean! You're shocked that your kid is staring at that lurid tentacle bondage cover? Why'd you let him buy the damn thing in the first place? Label? You trust some label over your own judgment? Go to hell.

At this point, I imagine that some parent may be reading this, fuming, going, "but I need all the help I can get, parenting is hard!" To that, I offer exactly none sympathy. Yes, it is hard, and you should have known that going in. Your lack of foresight, in my view, does not grant you the right to drop some portion of your responsibility for raising your own children at the expense of making things more inconvenient for everyone else.

Nearly all other pleas for "artistic responsibility" will meet with similar condemnation on my part. Particularly if, as described, the "responsibility" is to some amorphous, ill-defined concept of niceness. I mean, you might as well say "God says so" for all the meaning that has. And especially if calling for someone to take responsibility is just a cheap excuse to fob one's own responsibility off on others.

Because that's just the kind of irresponsible cuss I am...

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Things I Like to be Reminded of Every So Often


"It is not the mission of art to wallow in filth for filth's sake, to paint the human being only in a state of putrefaction, to draw cretins as symbols of motherhood, or to present deformed idiots as representatives of manly strength."

"Art that cannot rely on the joyous, heartfelt assent of the broad and healthy mass of the people, but depends on tiny cliques that are self-interested and blasé by turns, is intolerable. It seeks to confuse the sound instinct of the people instead of gladly confirming it."

"As for the degenerate artists, I forbid them to force their so-called experiences upon the public. If they do see fields blue, they are deranged, and should go to an asylum. If they only pretend to see them blue, they are criminals, and should go to prison. I will purge the nation of them."

"If we do not lift the youth out of the morass of their present-day environment, they will drown in it. Anyone who refuses to see these things supports them, and thereby makes himself an accomplice in the slow prostitution of our future which, whether we like it or not, lies in the coming generation. This cleansing of our culture must be extended to nearly all fields. Theater, art, literature, cinema, press, posters, and window displays must be cleansed of all manifestations of our rotting world and placed in the service of a moral political, and cultural idea. Public life must be freed from the stifling perfume of our modern eroticism, just as it must be freed from all unmanly, prudish hypocrisy."

--Yep, Hitler, the last from Mein Kampf, the others from various speeches and writings



General Standards Part A

1. Crimes shall never be presented in such a way as to create sympathy for the criminal, to promote distrust of the forces of law and justice, or to inspire others with a desire to imitate criminals.

2. No comics shall explicitly present the unique details and methods of a crime.

3. Policemen, judges, government officials, and respected institutions shall never be presented in such a way as to create disrespect for established authority.

4. If crime is depicted it shall be as a sordid and unpleasant activity.

5. Criminals shall not be presented so as to be rendered glamorous or to occupy a position which creates the desire for emulation.

6. In every instance good shall triumph over evil and the criminal punished for his misdeeds.

7. Scenes of excessive violence shall be prohibited. Scenes of brutal torture, excessive and unnecessary knife and gun play, physical agony, gory and gruesome crime shall be eliminated.

8. No unique or unusual methods of concealing weapons shall be shown.

9. Instances of law enforcement officers dying as a result of a criminal's activities should be discouraged.

10. The crime of kidnapping shall never be portrayed in any detail, nor shall any profit accrue to the abductor or kidnapper. The criminal or the kidnapper must be punished in every case.

11. The letter of the word "crime" on a comics magazine shall never be appreciably greater than the other words contained in the title. The word "crime" shall never appear alone on a cover.

12. Restraint in the use of the word "crime" in titles or sub-titles shall be exercised.

General Standards Part B

1. No comics magazine shall use the word horror or terror in its title.

2. All scenes of horror, excessive bloodshed, gory or gruesome crimes, depravity, lust, sadism, masochism shall not be permitted.

3. All lurid, unsavory, gruesome illustrations shall be eliminated.

4. Inclusion of stories dealing with evil shall be used or shall be published only where the intent is to illustrate a moral issue and in no case shall evil be presented alluringly nor as to injure the sensibilities of the reader.

5. Scenes dealing with, or instruments associated with walking dead, torture, vampires and vampirism, ghouls, cannibalism and werewolfism are prohibited.

General Standards Part C

All elements or techniques not specifically mentioned herein, but which are contrary to the spirit and intent of the Code, and are considered violations of good taste or decency, shall be prohibited.


1. Profanity, obscenity, smut, vulgarity, or words or symbols which have acquired undesirable meanings are forbidden.

2. Special precautions to avoid references to physical afflictions of deformities shall be taken.

3. Although slang and colloquialisms are acceptable, excessive use should be discouraged and wherever possible good grammar shall be employed.


1. Ridicule or attack on any religious or racial group is never permissible.


1. Nudity in any form is prohibited, as is indecent or undue exposure.

2. Suggestive and salacious illustration or suggestive posture is unacceptable.

3. All characters shall be depicted in dress reasonably acceptable to society.

4. Females shall be drawn realistically without exaggeration of any physical qualities. NOTE: It should be recognized that all prohibitions dealing with costume, dialogue, or artwork apply as specifically to the cover of a comic magazine as they do to the contents.

Marriage and Sex

1. Divorce shall not be treated humorously nor represented as desirable.

2. Illicit sex relations are neither to be hinted at or portrayed. Violent love scenes as well as sexual abnormalities are unacceptable.

3. Respect for parents, the moral code, and for honorable behavior shall be fostered. A sympathetic understanding of the problems of love is not a license for moral distortion.

4. The treatment of love-romance stories shall emphasize the value of the home and the sanctity of marriage.

5. Passion or romantic interest shall never be treated in such a way as to stimulate the lower and baser emotions.

6. Seduction and rape shall never be shown or suggested.

7. Sex perversion or any inference to same is strictly forbidden.


These regulations are applicable to all magazines published by members of the Comics magazine Association of America, Inc. Good taste shall be the guiding principle in the acceptance of advertising.

1. Liquor and tobacco advertising is not acceptable.

2. Advertising of sex or sex instruction books are unacceptable.

3. The sale of picture postcards, "pin-ups," "art studies," or any other reproduction of nude or semi-nude figures is prohibited.

4. Advertising for the sale of knives, concealable weapons, or realistic gun facsimiles is prohibited.

5. Advertising for the sale of fireworks is prohibited.

6. Advertising dealing with the sale of gambling equipment or printed matter dealing with gambling shall not be accepted.

7. Nudity with meretricious purpose and salacious postures shall not be permitted in the advertising of any product; clothed figures shall never be presented in such a way as to be offensive or contrary to good taste or morals.

8. To the best of his ability, each publisher shall ascertain that all statements made in advertisements conform to the fact and avoid misinterpretation.

9. Advertisement of medical, health, or toiletry products of questionable nature are to be rejected. Advertisements for medical, health or toiletry products endorsed by the American Medical Association, or the American Dental Association, shall be deemed acceptable if they conform with all other conditions of the Advertising Code.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Ami, you didn't look hard enough...

"And what’s worse than that is that this sexualization of superheroines doesn’t seem to revolve around them as some sort of goddesses to be worshipped (though that would also be annoying) but as obstacles to be brought down." (Quote from a column by Ami Angelwings)

Weeeellll, maybe it isn't a trend that is heavily reflected in mainstream comics, but there are sites that sexualize superheroines in "dominating goddess" fashion. Although, you could say that, for example, Wonder Woman or Supergirl are by nature super-powerful women who could dominate most normal mortal men, so they already tilt towards the goddess nature by default. If "captured helpless superheroine" scenes in mainstream comics are reflected by more extreme sexual fetish sites, so perhaps are the super-goddess sites reflections of the heroines' natural states.

Ami does point out Phantom Lady's death scene in Infinite Crisis as an example of a superheroine becoming less-clothed in a moment of defeat, but I'd like to point out that Phantom Lady (or at least that particular incarnation) didn't have much covering to begin with. Her costume was a glorified v-type swimsuit, open in the middle, and it wasn't the fatal blow that opened it up any. The costume does appear tattered a bit, but really, she had about as much skin exposed normally.

Aside from all that: Doesn't this read like what I was saying a few posts back, about how people are worried about what other people are thinking? The whole ominous "I don't know what these people are thinking, but I'm worried it's not at all good" tone?


Monday, October 15, 2007

Heroes for Hire: The Numbers Are In

I didn't see anyone else mention it before now, I'm surprised.

ICv2 just released its top 300 comics list for September, which includes everyone's favorite "tentacle rape" issue of Heroes for Hire.

HfH#13 comes in at 40,086 copies sold and sits at #51 on the list.

HfH#12 in July was at 41,229 copies and was ranked #64.

While it's true that sales dropped a bit (1143 copies), its ranking rose. And there's a fairly large difference between the top-selling item in July (Thor #1, 165,325 copies) and September (World War Hulk #4, 148,610 copies), and I wonder if sales weren't generally a bit down for last month, or if perhaps it's a result of there being no super #1 debut/death of iconic hero to buoy up the month's sales. (After re-reading that, I checked: in June, HfH #11 was #53, at 41,298 copies, and WWH#1 was at the top, with sales over 170,000.) Another contributing factor to the slip may be the gap in publication (no issue in August).

Results, therefore: inconclusive. I can't point to the comic and say, "see! boobies and bondage sells!", but on the other hand, it's hard to make a definitive claim like "see! gratuitous offensive sexist material kills sales!", either. I don't think the losses are really all that great. One might speculate that any loss of readers from offense was offset by gains from drooling fanboys, although that would have to assume that those feeling offended actually were buying the title in the first place.

What may actually be the case is that for most comics buyers, having a bondage scene on the cover isn't really all that important an issue either way.

What may be a contributing factor is CONTROVERSY, CONTROVERSY, CONTROVERSY.

Because, May? Ranked #109, with sales of 20,503. Sales after that month doubled. And when did the whole cover controversy break, again...?

Okay, an edit because I'm a moron: of course, it's the World War Hulk tie-ins. dur. With that factored in, even controversy as selling point becomes questionable.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Oh, All Right, You John Solomon Trollburger, I'll Read The Stupid Link.

So a little while after posting my thoughts on "Your Webcomic is Bad and You Should Feel Bad", I got a comment from "Salmo" telling me I should go to "" and read what that guy said about what I said. Since this was prefaced by the phrase, "Oh, wah wah wah," I was pretty sure it wasn't going to be somehow in my favor. So screw that, I thought, and I demurred.

(And isn't "wah wah wah" kind of an ironic thing to post, since the whole point of "Your Webcomic is Bad" is people bitching and crying that these bad webcomics exist, and waaaaaah they don't conform to my standards of quality boo hoo...?)

But then "anonymous" copy/pasted a wad of text from the site directly into my comments section, determined, I'm assuming, to maintain some level of drama by proxy between, if not me and John Solomon, me and some entirely different guy who kind of defends John Solomon. I guess.

Well, if baby gotta have it, then what the hell. All you playing at home can read "More On That Bad Webcomics Site" for yourself.

Solomon apologist Christopher Bird could probably have saved himself a lot of typing time if he'd not jumped to conclusions about what I'd written. In essence, he takes this notable phrase from my previous post:
The moment you really give a shit what a site like this (or any other) says about your webcomic, you lose.
And construes it into a declaration that no creator needs to ever listen to criticism. Which isn't what I said. His "counter", as he calls it, reads like so:
As a producing creative, you have to give a damn about your work.
But that doesn't run in any way counter to my statement.

Behold: the conceit of the Art Critic. It is the idea that all art and artists are, whether they know it or not, completely dependent on the critics for their very existence. Only an Art Critic can thusly confuse giving a damn about your work with giving a damn about what some crank with a badger up his ass thinks about your work.

He also confuses "not caring" about criticism with some sort of hermetically-sealed condition of "never reading" critique, which is, again, not what I said. That's extremely not what I said. And that means that a great deal of his talking about how valuable critique is and it should all be acknowledged has no bearing whatsoever on what I said.

I do indeed think that Art Critics tend to greatly overestimate the value of critique in general and their own importance in particular, but we'll save that for later.

Let's kick this damn thing in the head and kill it right off the bat. Here's the point in his post where he shoots his own argument in the thorax:

Art is something we create because we are driven to create it. We have a need, deep down, that cries out for personal expression.
Exactly. And if you really have that drive, that need, critique is irrelevant. Skill is irrelevant. You will create, regardless. If your drive can be thwarted by John Solomon taking a verbal piss all over your webcomic and your fans, then your drive to create is weak, and, as I said, you lose.

That right there should be all you need. Drive to create is greater than need for critique, and really, there's not much reason for me to write more, or you to read further.


But I did, and you may. But if at any time you feel uncertain or confused, or think I'm losing my way, jump back up over the asterisk line, re-read that. Set yourself straight.

In all actuality, one of the reasons I haven't posted this response sooner is that I began writing a long, point-by-point dissection of his dissection of my rant, and realized that the majority of it was just useless, considering his opinions were based on a complete misreading of my words. But I've preserved some of the better points for those trolls who may be disappointed I didn't come out all a-froth and tooth-gnashing. Enjoy.


I think I see where a lot of the difference in opinions originate, both between me and Christopher Bird and between me and John Solomon. They both fancy themselves critics, they both think critique is Important To Artists, and they have a distaste for artists who show ego they think is not deserved. It's an attitude that smacks of life in the traditional/professional publishing world, where, in order to get your work out there, you have to submit your work to someone else, let them review it, and hopefully convince them it meets their standards for publication. Since there's a lot of this kind of thing going on, it would be easy to forget that this isn't the only way art gets produced and disseminated.

Imagine Picasso, painting what he felt like for decades without giving a crap about what critics said, even when (especially when) they were calling his paintings "the work of the Devil" (cf Wikipedia). Yeah, your average webcomic creator isn't Picasso by any stretch. But then, the internet-wide institution of "webcomics" isn't the friggin' Guggenheim, either.

Let's quote some.

Dismissing a critic - any critic - out of hand is the stupidest, most infuriatingly arrogant thing any artist (or person who wants to be an artist) can do, because the application of criticism is literally the only way that people improve as artists.

Nuh-uh, wrong again. The only way that people improve as artists is by refining and practicing their craft. Critics can be a guide to that end, a signpost to indicate in which way to practice and refine, but they are neither essential nor necessary. Not to mention that there's a host of signs all pointing in different directions.

And look, this "infuriatingly arrogant" business? This comes from an Art Critic, who practices an activity pre-loaded with hubris.

If you choose to ignore criticism, you are, in effect, asserting that you don’t need to pay attention to criticism, because you are too good for it.

Unlike the critic, whose hubris rests in the idea that his or her opinion should be vital to any given creator. Reading a critic complaining about an artist's ego is the magic key that summons Jörmungandr, the serpent that bites its own tail.

Ignoring criticism doesn't have to be a result of either complete self-satisfaction or apathy. A third possibility is that by ignoring criticism, you filter out irrelevant chatter that may distract from your singular vision. And that does sound kind of self-important, but there's a world of difference between saying "I don't need to improve" and "I know exactly what I'm trying to do." "I don't care about my work" is miles apart from "I don't care what YOU think about my work".

The problem: this is crap. You are not too good to be criticized, ever. Particularly if you’re working at a creative endeavor, because god knows the one universal constant about art is that ultimately every opinion has a given level of validity, even if that level is only “does it appeal to me personally.”
But at that given level, opinion is meaningless to anyone but its possessor. The homeless guy in the alley sipping rubbing alcohol and singing about "Puppy Jesus" may have a valid opinion, but that's not going to make me take him seriously.

[...]but all improvement in any craft is predicated upon one simple rote: “You’re doing it wrong.” Over, and over, and over again.

Maybe. But whose "wrong"? In the "Lust" section of the "Seven Deadly Sins" thing that sparked all of this, "Lilith Ester" writes about unrealistic, "bigger than her head", "spherical, shiny" breasts as something not to do. Perhaps if you want to impress Lilith or at least not make her upset, that's good advice.

But if you don't give a rat's ass about what Lilith likes or hates, and if what you really want to achieve is the creation of the hugest, most ridiculously wankable, shiniest, roundest boobies ever, that's lousy advice! Now, you can argue about the relative merits of each path, but this illustrates the flaw in the idea that everybody's opinion actually matters, because if you really count everyone, you get every opinion possible, and that leaves you in the same damn boat as if you heard no opinions.

I will agree with the point that nobody is ever too good to be criticized. In my opinion, rare is the artist worth the title who feels they have reached perfection; good artists are never entirely satisfied by their own work. But heeding outside criticism is simply a matter of taste and preference more than any necessity. It certainly isn't mandatory. Now, do John Solomon's opinions matter? Maybe:
A recent review of the webcomic Broken Mirror, for example, focused entirely on the horrible writing (and it most certainly is horrible writing - gratituous, pretentious, overblown dialogue with no attention to individual character, nonexistent characterization, and pacing best described as “insufferably glacial”), and both Solomon and the commenters quite astutely noted that the artwork, while not particularly amazing, was perfectly serviceable.

That’s a fair review. It’s not nice. But it’s fair.

How do I know this? Because I don’t dismiss Solomon out of hand - and I don’t dismiss the emails I get telling me I suck, either.
In that case, here's hoping "Mightygodking" doesn't dismiss this post out of hand, either, because this bit isn't exactly clear. What is he referring to when he says "how do I know this"? Does "this" refer to his knowledge of the contents of the review? If so, wow. He read the review. Amazing.

Does "this" refer to the fairness of the review? If so, the only way one can judge the fairness of a review is to examine the work yourself and compare your conclusions with those of the reviewer. To know if the reviewer is right about the "glacial pacing", you must experience the pacing yourself and decide if the reviewer is telling the truth. Otherwise, you're taking their word for it on blind faith, which is every bit as stupid as completely ignoring their opinion supposedly is.

That is how you know something is "fair", in the latter situation, and dismissing John Solomon or not has nothing to do with it. In the former situation, we're probably looking at more of this mistaken notion that somehow I think no critique should ever be read by the artist. Which seems to be borne out by this:

The only way to tell if criticism is useful is to read it. It may be useless. You may consider it inapplicable, nitpicky, or simply wrong - not all criticism, after all, is created equal, and critics can be wrong. But if you’re going to be a serious producing creative, you have to acknowledge it, because without it, your creative output will be essentially static.

In one paragraph, here, he's both supporting what I've been saying (critique is fundamentally an opinion, everybody has one, they aren't all made equal or relevant) and trying to push this idea that at the same time you have to listen to it all.

To be clear, I think well-considered critique can be very useful for an artist in the right circumstances. But I think there are circumstances where artists can get along just fine with minimal critique.

I don't have a webcomic for John Solomon to savage, but if I did, I would probably not read what he said about it, and if I did read what he said, I wouldn't care. But it wouldn't be because I refuse to hear any criticism. It would be because:

  • Having read other reviews by John Solomon, I know that he writes in an obnoxious, insulting manner that often crosses over from comments on the work itself to personal attacks. I don't think there is any critique so insightful that someone needs to let someone else abuse them in that way in order to glean whatever scrap of real wisdom they may have buried in the shitthrowing.
  • All I know about John Solomon's aesthetics are what I've read in those reviews, and it pretty much boils down to "I hate damn near everything that has passed in front of my eyes". He may like some other webcomic. I wouldn't know. But someone who hates everything is a useless critic, because they hate everything. Why bother getting his opinion when you can predict the answer? He hates it! Big surprise.
  • Would I really care about the approval of such an obnoxious bastard? One of Curt Cobain's complaints about his fame, before he decided to make moot all his grievances, was that the very same people he despised, the jocks, the mindless frat boys, were now the ones following his music in hordes. I wouldn't consider it worth blowing my skull apart over, but Solomon's favorable opinion would have very little value to me.

So if I dismissed John Solomon out of hand, I'd have decent reasons to do so.

Wholly negative criticism, like Solomon’s, can be the most useful criticism you can receive, for the same reason there are times in life when we need particularly need a cold shower rather than a comfortably warm one.

This analogy is fucked. It might hold true if you were submitting your work for publication by some comic book company (one with standards of quality). You submit your work, the editor takes it apart, burns it, pisses on it. You learn that you really aren't ready yet to work at that company. But one assumes that you submitted your own work voluntarily, specifically to get reviewed, even if the results aren't what you hoped for.

And when one needs a cold shower or warm shower, one assumes that you decide for yourself what kind of shower you want to take.

In the case of this analogy, a John Solomon review is like having some stranger bust into your home uninvited as you're taking a shower and turning off your water heater in order to try and give you hypothermia.

Or for a more extreme example, the cops kick in your door and train the fire hose on you.

Putting something out in the public eye isn't automatically inviting commentary, but it is making it available to be commented upon. Still, any such commentary is surplus to requirements in an arena where literally anyone with a computer that can put some boxes and scribbles together with some text can make a comic, of sorts. And if an artist has a huge ego for not heeding criticism, how much the ego of the critic who thinks his opinions ought to be heeded regardless of whether or not they were solicited?

I'm willing to concede that many artists have trouble spotting flaws in their own work. But there's very little in art that isn't completely subjective, and what may be a flaw to one eye may be a gem to another. Something like "is this a correct and accurate representation of human anatomy" is about as close to an objective question one can ask in graphic art, and even that has value only if an accurate representation of human anatomy is a goal of the artist.

Beyond all that: if someone is so close-minded as to refuse to acknowledge that they are in any way not a perfect creator, all the review in the world, nice or otherwise, isn't likely going to change that. Can anyone seriously believe that John Solomon's "cold shower" is going to "wake up" anyone who is determined not to change? Bullcrappery. They'll just get mad and defensive, and other than that it's BUSINESS AS USUAL. Which makes Solomon's reviews, AS reviews, ultimately pointless.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

How to Win Influence and People Friends.

Stephanie cringed.

She could hear the footsteps approaching the cubicle. To most people they wouldn't have sounded any different than any of the other several dozen footsteps that passed the area during the day, but Stephanie could pick out the specific ring of leather on tile at that precise tempo, then the distinctive scuff on the carpet, as the footsteps neared her cubicle...

"STEPHANIE!" She jumped, as a sheaf of papers flew by her head, splattering on her desk. "WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING?"

"M-Mr. Hayden, I--"

"Do you have the nerve to call this a report? Well? LOOK AT IT!"

She glanced at the pile, held loosely by a couple of staples. The pages that were visible had countless circles and x-marks done in orange highlighter, notes scribbled in the margins.

"Here!" Mr. Hayden reached down and flipped the pile open to some point in the middle. "Have you even SEEN a report before? Do you have any idea how they're organized? This thing is put together like some twelve-year-old's FANTASY of how a report is made! And here--" shuffling through the pages, stabbing at one part with a finger, "--what kind of bullshit is this?? Did you just copy it verbatim from a romance novel??"

People began peeking over the tops of other cubicles. The normal noise and bustle had gone deathly quiet, save for Mr Hayden's bellowing.

"P-please, Mr. Hayden, not so loud--"

"Loud?? LOUD??? I'LL GIVE YOU LOUD!" He grabbed the report and threw it straight up. The staples gave way halfway towards the ceiling fan; white leaves speckled with orange rained across the entire area. "I HAVE TRIED BEING NICE, REASONABLE--" (when? wondered Stephanie) "--AND IT HAS NEVER WORKED! I WILL CONTINUE TO YELL AT YOU AS LOUD AS I PLEASE UNTIL I GET A REPORT OUT OF YOU THAT IS ACTUALLY COMPETENT AND DOESN'T OFFEND MY SENSIBILITIES! I SWEAR, ONE OF THESE DAYS I WILL GET YOU TO DO THE JOB I HIRED YOU TO DO!"

"B-b-but mr. h-hayden," Stephanie squeaked, "Mr. Owens hired me, not you--"



Stephanie might be incompetent. Mr. Hayden may have every right to yell at her. Or she may be blameless, and he may expect too high a standard of work from her.

Either way, I doubt there are many people who wouldn't think Mr. Hayden is an asshole. Possibly he and some of his fictional business cronies get together, and they congratulate him on the way he slaps his employees around. We could say then, that although they may not think of each other as assholes, they probably all are.

Much has been said lately about the relative merits of angry, abusive ranting versus nicely phrased, polite conversation as regards their effect on feminist concerns in comics. Which works better? Hell, I don't know. I know I personally tend to dig in my heels harder in resistance in direct proportion to the obnoxiousness of whoever may be trying to influence or persuade me. But I imagine some people might cave in when faced with anger and heat blasting at them over some issue.

That's not what I want to say. Be quiet, be loud, be rude, be polite. You have the right to do all that, and in any combination.

You have the right to be a complete and utter asshole, if you wish.

What I'm here to say in this post is: at least, though, be aware that you are indeed an asshole.

I know, some of you think your cause is just and right, and you justify being an asshole on that basis. You have to be an asshole in order to get your point across, that's what matters most. Well, if you believe that, fine. But you are still an asshole, regardless of how noble your motives are. Just remember that.

No, I'm not exempt. I've been an asshole before, probably will be an asshole at times in the future. I try to be aware of when I am being an asshole, when it is useful, when it is gratuitous.

Here's a quick asshole test. Think of something you ranted about recently. Swap it around. If, say, your comments on other people's comics covers were applied to a business report you wrote, would you feel insulted? Do you really think you'd be motivated by an honest desire to change, or would you resent the criticism, or change out of intimidation? Would you get pissed off if someone said to you what you've just said to someone else? Well... you were probably an asshole, then.

Again, hey: you have every right to be an asshole. It might even be necessary. But don't kid yourself that you aren't being an asshole. Don't think that your cause makes being an asshole something else.

That goes for everyone.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Your Site that Reviews Webcomics is Bad and This Irony is Probably Lost on You.

Oh, look, one that isn't directly about feminism in comics.

There's a site out there some of you may have heard of: "Your Webcomic is Bad and You Should Feel Bad." The gist of it is, some guy (recently, some people) sits around picking apart webcomics he (they) judges to be bad, usually (pffft, I mean always) in a snark-filled, insulting manner.

This thing gets plugged at me from time to time, and each time, my response to the plugger is, "Why do you hate me so fucking much that you'd try to inflict this wad of crap on my eyeballs?" Because this is exactly the kind of crap that makes me assume an anonymous identity. Holier-than-thou shitbags who aren't content to let anything that doesn't mesh with their perfect art utopia fantasy exist in peace, absolutist jackasses assuming the role of arbiter of taste not only for themselves, but for everybody else as well.

This kind of blog is no innovation. This is the Internet, after all, and snark and self-important twattery are in no short supply. I have noticed what appears to be a pattern among this particular type of critic/reviewer/asshat; I will share the pattern, but only "John Solomon" et al. will know if it holds true in his/their case.

Component 1: Art Student. Took some course of study in the arts, probably at some art-specific school. May very well still be in school. Is convinced their handful of years in an institutional learning facility gives them nigh-superior wisdom.

Component 2: Youth. Is quite probably too young to realize that they don't quite know fucking everything and probably never will. (This is not an absolute rule, see below).

Component 3: Horrible Curmudgeonly Idol. Quite often a teacher at aforementioned school, but could also be some other type of mentor or even some celebrity or notable figure. In any case, the defining feature is this individual's intense hatred for anything that is not either A) themselves; B) something on a short list of personal likes; or C) sucking up mightily to said Horrible Idol. This hatred manifests itself in a harsh binary attack on everything in the Universe, resulting in two classes of things: that which is genius and that which is utter filth. In order to save that which is "genius", it is necessary to destroy (or at least abuse) everything that doesn't measure up to that standard. Rather than put it in so clear a term, however, the hatred is euphemized in some way, such as: "He tells it like it is, isn't afraid to let THE MAN know what he thinks." Noble motives are ascribed to behavior that, for some reason, some people think is visionary inside a classroom, but in another setting, such as a Thanksgiving dinner, would get you ejected from a house and then beaten with crowbars.

Your average Horrible Curmudgeonly Idol is the exception to the Youth component, having managed to maintain the "I KNOW FUCKING EVERYTHING" mentality well past its normal expiration date. What flavor curmudgeon the idol is directly linked to the amount of success he/she has: if they are a successful person, the rest of the world is expected to bend to their whim or be soundly castigated for not obeying/living up to expectations. If they are unsuccessful, sheer bitterness over that which is successful drives a spewing of bile.

("Successful" being related to the Idol's own viewpoint: A person who fancies themselves a painter but cannot make a living at painting may consider having to take a teaching job at some art school to be a personal failure, even if they do quite well at the job.)

Quite often, what happens is this: the nascent asshole hits the art school, becomes exposed to all manner and means of new concepts, and it blows his/her mind, just not quite enough. The Horrible Curmudgeonly Idol is discovered. If it is a celebrity, it is through new exposure to their work, but often it is a teacher at the art school. In the latter case, the student receives a harsh critique on their own work from said Idol, and it "opens their eyes". The failures and mediocrity of their own work is revealed in cruel detail, and the idea is formed that such an awakening never would have happened if not for the glorious whip-hand of the Idol spanking them into awareness... THUS, the asshole-in-training takes this as a sign that they themselves must use this same tactic against art and artists they dislike or despise, to "tell it like it is" in as confrontational and unpleasant a way as possible so that either the object of scorn may themselves "awaken" and possibly redeem themselves, or that they will simply melt away like butter on the skillet of scathing review.

Add in a dash of neo-conservative prudishness swiped right from the bowels of Something Awful, and there you have "Your Webcomic is Ba...

Wait, what? conservative? No way!

Yes way! These folks are every bit as anti-sex as your average Fundamentalist Christian Evangelist, as long as whatever sexual element there is falls outside their politically correct spectrum. Wasn't all that long ago this same kind of person would be openly yelling "faggot" and "queer" at their objects of scorn, but no, now that's a sign of bigotry and intolerance, so to get that same namecalling, finger-pointing rush, they move on down the line to anything less accepted. Furries, for example, or anime freaks.

Make no mistake: this type of person is intensely interested in the masturbation habits of other people. If they even suspect slightly that some person might get a little excited by something a hair out of the ordinary, look out, it's "HAY GUESS WHAT TEH PERVS R DOIN", and it's all okay, because everybody thinks furries (or whatever) are weird. And okay, maybe the furries ARE weird, but what the hell? You've just moved from homophobia, worrying that a gay guy is gonna butt-bang you right there on the street, to worrying that some furfag is going to wrap you up in a coyote skin and mount you on the hood of your Civic. (Or some gender-swap androgynite is gonna dress you up in fishnets and sweatshirts and call you MaryBob, whatever the hell.)

And this goes right to what I was saying last post, about people being all wrapped up in what other people get off on. (So in a way it does tie into feminism, I guess.)

Now, up until this moment, I was satisfied to just let all that go. I mean, picking on bad webcomics? It's like taunting all the kids on the short bus. I suppose it can make you feel superior and all that, but damn, dude, it's way too easy a target and it's a bit overly sadistic for my tastes. My greatest joy at graduating High School wasn't the accomplishment of academic whatever, it was the idea that at last I was free of that cesspool of bullies and cliques. Oh, woe, when I realized that it keeps going long after, but at least I don't have to actually read some fucked-up site about griping about webcomics.

But then someone came up with Webcomics' Seven Deadly Sins, (and someone plugged it to me, the fucker, going "you really gotta read this!", do I never learn?) which isn't even itself all that outrageous, until you get to the last: Pride.

And ooooohhhhh baby, isn't Pride the worst sin of all. Because all those crappy webcomic people think they're the coolest, think they're the best.

But Pride is the very heart of a site like "Your Webcomic is Bad...", the primary driving force. Pride in one's own standards, one's own ability to know what is "good" and more importantly what isn't, Pride in knowing you're in the "cool" section of the Internet, Pride in your ability to make the other monkeys dance and flail and cry, Pride in your very own asshole-ness, your ability to be an utter douchebag to people whose only real crime was to create bad art where you could possibly see it.

(Let's not forget Wrath, too. For every angry webcomic creator who can't accept criticism, keep in mind there's an opposite number right there on "Your Webcomic is Bad..." who can't tolerate the idea that someone would create anything without fucking running it by them to get the aesthetic thumbs-up first.)

(Oh, and though they kinda gloss over Envy, try not to miss that under Greed they complain about some despised comic actually making a profit for the creator In Defiance Of God's Will while other, more deserving and better-crafted webcomics languish in poverty and obscurity. It may not be a personal Envy, but it's certainly Envy on behalf of someone else, at least... the idea that someone does not deserve what they've received.)

At this point I suspect the person who plugged this bit at me knew it'd tick me off, in pure "let's you and him fight" fashion, and I guess it has to some degree. But I have the secret key to victory here in my heart.

If you have a webcomic, and it has been assaulted by this site, or you fear it may be at some point in the future, here is the secret:

The moment you really give a shit what a site like this (or any other) says about your webcomic, you lose. It's the easiest thing to understand, the hardest to accomplish. Almost nobody can completely turn off their feelings when some dipshit yells "you suck, faggot!" at you. Nearly everyone likes approval, hates criticism. But it takes no real skill to dislike something. Everyone can do it. This website is not special in that regard. Any artist or creator must be aware that they cannot please everyone, so worrying about a small clutch of detractors with verbal skills evolved beyond the keyboard fist-pounding argot of 4chan is pointless. Know that your bad webcomic continuing to exist (or better yet, thriving) in spite of John Solomon's shining brow radiating tangible wisdom is the thing that will aggravate him the most.