Monthly Archives: August 2008
Scott Kurtz has been making waves lately with a recent blog post.
Here’s the key paragraph, methinks:
I’m not sure how I ended up in so many tug-of-war competitions with bloggers, where the outcome of our match determines the superior position: creator or critic. But it seems to be cropping up again. There is a strange sense of entitlement, an eerie assumption of an unspoken working relationship that I am happy to inform does not exist. Why we insulate ourselves from the notion that the external critic can EVER be right, is because their critique is moot in regards to the progression of our work.
“Critique is moot,” you say? Now, I’m a reviewer-type guy. I feel compelled to respond to this absolutely inflammatory notion put forth by the Big Man.
He’s mostly right.*
As a reviewer, this site wasn’t set up to improve or fix webcomics. I had one stunning goal in mind when I created The Webcomic Overlook: to talk about the webcomics I read and whether or not I liked them. That’s it. My target audience were readers who haven’t read webcomics, or those whose only experiences were perhaps xkcd or Order of the Stick.
Now, when Kurtz and Dave Kellett say that “critics are never right,” I take that to mean that opinions are absolutely subjective. Look outside of webcomics and into movie reviews. Roger Ebert can flat out state his opinions for why he thinks “Team America: World Police” is a terrible movie. Perhaps he’s got very legitimate concerns, but his opinion is still an opinion. Plenty of people will still go watch the movie, perhaps find it hilarious, perhaps gape at the mastery of low-tech special effects, or perhaps come away with a personal message. So, in a way, how can you be right about an opinion, which inherently is neither right nor wrong?
So if an artist or writer comes away with something valuable from some of my reviews, then great! I’m glad for you! But the truth is that it’s probably something that, deep down inside, you knew you had to improve all along. When Scott DeWitt of Fanboys, for example, decided to switch up his style based on online criticisms, I’d like to think that part of him already knew that he had to do something for his comic to stand out from those lookalike gaming comics out there.
That’s the path of an artist. Critics hated the Eiffel Tower when it was built; now, it’s a Parisian landmark. The Académie des Beaux-Arts derided the struggling artists who didn’t practice classical painting, and yet the Impressionist movement changed the way we looked at art in the century after. There are thousands of examples of artists who eschewed critical assessments and created something new and exciting. There are thousands more who didn’t take criticism to heart and failed. No one can really know what the consumer wants, but you have to try.
That’s why, in my “About This Site” page, I include this quote by Anton Ego from Ratatouille:
“In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations, the new needs friends. Last night, I experienced something new, an extraordinary meal from a singularly unexpected source. To say that both the meal and its maker have challenged my preconceptions about fine cooking is a gross understatement. They have rocked me to my core. In the past, I have made no secret of my disdain for Chef Gusteau’s famous motto: Anyone can cook. But I realize, only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.”
Heads up to The Floating Lightbulb and fellow Comic Fencing blogger Delos at ArtPatient (who has his own excellent, different, and rather enlightening response from the standpoint of a creator and a critiquer) for directing me to Scott Kurtz’s blog. Also, check out Kurtz’s response at ComixTalk.
* — NOTE: I said “mostly right.” The part that’s not right: his godawful analogy to the Prime Directive.
What the hell, Scott Kurtz.
Not only is that the most dorky analogy I’ve ever heard, it doesn’t even apply to making webcomics. By saying that a creator should just evolove naturally, you’re almost saying that writing courses and art classes are detriments toward the ideal. Artists and creators don’t live in a hypobaric chamber, isolated from the rest of society like the alien civilizations in Star Trek.
Otherwise, you were spot on.
The Comic Fencing guys take a look a Gunnerkrigg Court! Wait… why does that sound familiar? oh, right… I reviewed it on this site some months ago. Still, I reveled in the chance to take a look at it again. Opinions were split… two negatives, two positives. And I think I went off the deep end professing my undying love for it.
I guess there are just some things that people won’t agree on. The Transformers movie, for example. There’s one camp that declares it the worst movie on earth with terrible acting, liberties taken with the source material, and confusing action, there’s another camp that loves the shout-out to the old show and the cool CGI. Neither side will ever get the other to come to an understanding, and sometimes that’s where you’ll have to let the discussion stand. (For my part, I loved Transformers. Suck lemons, haters!)
Anyway, check it out.
As a side note, this is also going to be my last Comic Fencing review … for now, anyway. Real life has a way of taking priority over writing a bunch of comic reviews. And frankly, nothing in life takes more priority than getting married. I’m getting hitched in a short while now, so that means plenty of things to do. Reservations! Decorations! Photos! So while I could handle the once-a-week pace before, I can’t now.
And really, it’s a pity. I had a blast writing these last two, Kukuburi and Gunnerkrigg Court. I think Ebert once said that good reviews are more fun to read, bad reviews are more fun to write. I think it’s the reverse for me.
Plus, I think that the Comic Fencing crew was really starting to gel. I always imagined a group like this would end up doing an honest back-and-forth discussion like Siskel & Ebert or, as of late, the AV Club movie reviews. We were starting to get there in the comments. Hopefully, you’ve been reading those, too, not being intimidated that the writers were hogging up all the space.
So there I go, back to the rugged lands of the Shaolin. As for this site, I’ll still be writing reviews as much as possible. I plan on writing an entry for Dumm Comics next week. At some point, I’m planning on writing up a review of Sluggy Freelance (only at 2001 in the archives *sigh*). ComixTalk is probably going to be a pass for this month, though I do have an entry planned for September.
So who is this Chris Sanders guy? What are his vital stats? A/S/L, if you will? First off, the man looks a little like Anthony Bourdain. Second, the man’s got great taste in the ladies. His cheesecake art gravitates toward a healthier, tanned, and more rounded (yet not overweight) feminine form. I imagine him looking at those beanpole dames in the magazines and going, “You ain’t it, Ms. Thing!”
Let’s, what else? Oh, yeah, he was also the director of Disney’s Lilo & Stitch, taking an active part in all aspects, not the least of which was the artistic direction. That achievement is wack. Heck, Chris Sanders represents the sort of guy I wanted to be when I grew up (save the Anthony Bourdain resemblance). Things haven’t been going so well between him and Disney lately, what with them hijacking his project American Dog (now called Bolt and starring, ugh, John Travolta and Miley Cyrus). But Sanders’ unique approach to cartoons lives on, most prominently on his own webcomic called Kiskaloo.
Hilarious stuff, in you’re a fan of the stylings of one Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. Scott Kurtz of PvP, by the way, appears at the 2:38 mark and is the butt of some fat jokes. Scott seemed to be pretty stoked about it. Also funny: Triumph giving nerds wedgies.
And in Dark Knight news: this book is wrong. So very, very wrong.
It’s time for a Comic Fencing review again! After handing out negative reviews, I think I was due. This time, we’re reviewing Ramon Perez’s fantastically surreal webcomic Kukuburi. And, for the first time in a while, I handed out 5 golden stars. I haven’t read the other reviewers’ opinions yet (this post was written yesterday and I’m releasing it on a time schedule), though I checked out their ratings and opinions seem to vary.
What can I say? I’m a sucker for a well-dressed skeleton.
In other news, happy August 1! July was the first month I picked up 11K page views. It ain’t Penny Arcade numbers, but it’s growning, and I’m happy with what I get. Thanks again for visiting this site, you wonderful readers you!
Also, if you’re up for some humorous fare, over at my Rooktopia blog I posted a Guide to What His Favorite Superhero Reveals. It’s a response to an article from Cosmo that I got forwarded the other day.
EDIT: Comic Fencing got interviewed by The Webcomic Beacon podcast. In a weird twist of fate, Delos was the only one who could make it. I give him some serious props for doing this gig. Plus he give me and my various review projects a shout-out. Thanks, Delos!