Can We Critique?
First, a quick plug, I recently discovered that if you buy one of my comics, there’s an option to receive a discount if you share it on social media. So you get a cheaper book and I get some more exposure. Everyone wins.
This one took me a while to get down properly because it’s a delicate subject and needs to be worded properly.
With webcomic criticism, there has always been a bit of debate over whether it is actually allowed or not. I have seen numerous people, authors and fans alike; respond to negative feedback with “You shouldn’t complain because you don’t have to pay for these comics. If you don’t like it, just don’t read it and stop complaining.”
And I have to call bullshit on that.
What most of these people saying that criticism is invalid are forgetting is that these authors are putting up ads in order to receive some compensation. Ads that are paid for by other people who wish to get their products out there. And you are making money off of me every time I visit your site, whether it’s just to check on the latest page or read the archives, because my visits raise your traffic, which raises the amount of ad revenue you receive.
Ads are a primary income for many people online, which is why there is a controversy over ad block for individuals. If you can’t see the ads, the ad companies do not give money. In one of the comfy-con panels, Randy Milholland and Danielle Corsetto mentioned that because of ad block, they have lost a chunk of money and as independent web cartoonists, they can’t always afford the loss, which is why I only run ad block on sites with annoying ads, or in the case of blip, ads that cause the video to not play.
This is why I don’t take stock in the whole idea of “I don’t owe you anything.” I’m not saying I am entitled to the sort of comic I want, I am most definitely not and neither are the rest of the audience. However to dismiss negative feedback because “I don’t owe you anything” is a bizarre form of creator entitlement that has never sat right with me. By that logic, people cannot complain about free-to-air television even though those companies fund their programs and pay their staff on ad revenue and are able to charge higher for shows that receive higher ratings, much like websites do.
Once you put up an ad, print a book or make some other form of merchandise, you are saying that you believe that this comic is good enough to deserve money. That enough people come to the site that advertisers can reach a new audience through you, that your characters or phrases are good enough to wear in public, and in the cases of printed books, that your comics are in fact worth money.
That is what gives me, El Santo, Robert Howard, the Bad Webcomics Wiki and all the rest the right to point out problems or issues we have with your comic. It’s why I have no problem with anyone doing a review of Domain Tnemrot, Living With Insanity or Gemini Storm. In fact I encourage it. Because I freely acknowledge that even though you may not be paying me out of your own pockets, I still make something from you visiting my websites just like everyone else.
That’s the best thing about the internet, just because something is free does not mean the original creator does not see anything from it.
Unless you’re the kind of person who torrents. Then you don’t really have a leg to stand on.
Also, tomorrow marks one year since my first opinion column went up on Webcomics Overlook (Should redo it soon). Thanks to El Santo for letting me do this and also thanks to you guys for the kind words in response and also for being honest when you thought I was screwing up.