I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with what I like to call pro advice and I have already written about some of my more hated examples of it. On one hand I respect that it’s about and for people who no longer have to worry about building an audience and need to know where to go next. On the other hand, much of it is given out to creators at all levels, even ones who are nowhere near the sorts of problems pros run into.
To explain what I’m talking about, let’s look at the webcomic reality show Strip Search. I’m not bashing the show, it wasn’t bad. However at first I had a hard time seeing what the point of it was. All the artists were already good at what they did, many of them already had a following, and the challenges had nothing to do with creating comics, it was all about the outside stuff. However, this advice was still important because in webcomics, you usually have to do it all by yourself.
But most of the challenges had no relevance to people just starting out.
First off, I’d like to thank everyone who gave their input to my comic last week, thanks a lot. I was happily surprised at the amount of detail you all went in to. What I’m also happy about is for the first time in way too long, my websites are now clean and google has taken down the Malware warnings. So why not take a look at Living With Insanity and Domain Tnemrot to see what my writing is like when done by someone who can actually draw. And feel free to review those two if you want. While I review a comic by people who actually know how to make a living off of it.
So back in 2010, Mike Krahulik, Jerry Holkins and Scott Kurtz made an announcement at PAX that they would be collaborating on a comic together. I was intrigued, like many of their fans. After all, these three are considered pioneers of the webcomic industry, so imagine what they could create. Plus, these guys are the experts, one even helped write a book on making webcomics. It’d have to be one of the best things ever.
You might be guessing the above is sarcasm. You would be correct; I have been quite underwhelmed by this comic.
Recently, on PvP, Scott Kurtz introduced a cadre of villains nominally named the Algonquin Hate Table (or The Sophisticates) as part of his current LOLBat storyline.
However, the strip was updated moments later.
Catch the change? Here, I’ll make it easy for you.
As it turns out, unbeknownst to Kurtz, the character of Onomatopoeia had already become cannon in DC Comics. He was created by Kevin Smith (of Clerks and Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back fame) as an enemy to Green Lantern. He shared a similar gimmick, as well as a similar costume.
So when his fans noted the similarity, Kurtz had an “Oh, sh**!” moment and redesigned the character. (Although, in my opinion, the new character of The Palindrome bears a visual similarity to this guy.)
I’m going to believe Scott Kurtz’s blog post, and that this was all some freaky coincidence. After all, there are only a few things you can do when your villain is named Onomatopoeia, all of which are awesome. What I don’t understand is the complete gimmick shift. “The Palindrome”? The new dialogue is already giving me headaches. (I am not a fan of Buckley’s Chef Brian character in CAD, and these lines are reminding me of him. A lot.) Is Kurtz going to redraw ever panel that formerly featured Onomatopoeia and replace all dialogue with nonsensical jibber jabber?
Secondly, I think Kurtz could’ve easily gotten around the whole Onomatopoeia thing by simply re-naming they guy. How about this: Foley Man. (Named after the Foley sound effects used for movies. No relation to WWE Superstar Mick Foley.) All that would require would be a slight costume change. No dialogue change needed.
Oh, sure… fans in the know would still connect Foley Man with Kevin Smith’s Onomatopoeia, but is that so bad? Are you telling me the weasel guy isn’t some sort of take on the Penguin?
Of course, now that I’ve thrown out the Foley Man idea, Kurtz can’t possibly use him because everyone would now say that he took his idea from me. So Palindrome it is.
FULL DISCLOSURE: This blog post was solely created to have yet another Scott Kurtz related post this month, easing the transition to when this site is re-named “The Scott Kurtz Overlook.”
Kurtz, Kurtz, Kurtz!
EDIT: Smith Michaels of the Blurred Productions blog theorizes that Savage Critic is a stand-in for Johanna Carlson, whose review touched the whole “Critic vs. Artist” debate. Supporting evidence? Ms. Carlson used to write for a site called “The Savage Critic.” Hmmmmm….
Kurtz, Kurtz, Kurtz!
What is it with all the Scott Kurtz stuff on this site, anyway? First his lampooning by Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, then his comments about webcomic critics, then his Webcomic Weekly counter-agruments about the comments from webcomic critics. Is there any way to escape form Scott Kurtz? In short: NO! Absolutely not! This site is going to feed you more Kurtz than you can possibly stand! For you shall have so much Scott Kurtz it will be coming into and out of your wazoo. YOUR WAZOO! It’s almost Biblical, if you think about like, the the copious amounts of quail the Israelites had to consume in the Wilderness.
If you think this is the lead in to a PvP review, well… I don’t every really plan on ever reviewing that comic. Frankly, PvP Makes Me Sad does it better. (Despite the title, PvP doesn’t always make blogger “Fake Scott McCloud” sad.) And, besides, the site’s archives are a murder to waddle through. You know, I get Scott’s mission statement that his strip is supposed to be read like one you’d find in newspapers. That is, miss the daily strips, and you’re out of luck until the book compilation comes out. But, c’mon, man, this is the age of the Internet! Instant Getification and all that.
Anyway, I’m taking on the far more managable Ding!, Kurtz’s take on the World of Warcraft culture. I might be out of my league here, by the way, since I don’t even play World of Warcraft. Heck, I hardly play MMORPGS. My only exposure is the low-tech, highly text-based variety where your character in the world map is represented by a generic Men’s Bathroom icon.
Is this fair, to review something with specialized in-jokes tailor made for fans? Hey, you’re reading the site that once dared to review a webcomic created for Transformers toy collectors. Let’s continue.
It looks like Kris Straub, Brad Guigar, and Scott Kurtz have responded to the powderked touched off by Mr. Kurtz’s blog posts about critics.
A couple of key quotes:
Scott Kurtz: “I appreciate & read the works of critics.”
Kris Straub: “There’s inconsistency and difficulty in listening to unsolicited critiques.”
Scott Kurtz: “I just think it’s really easy right now to put up a blog and try to take your review and elevate that review out of its very noble purpose in either defending the new or protecting a consumer or advising a consumer and taking it to be its own creation, equal to that of what you are critiquing.”
Brad Guigar: “I think that’s perfectly fair to share your opinions with a work of art. But I think … anyone who acts in that role as a critic or a maker of opinions that you cross a line when you go from ‘Here’s what I thought’ to ‘Here’s what you should think.'”
I suggest listening to the podcast if you’re still interested in the critic vs. creator debate. (A surprise for listeners: Scott comes off as probably the most sympathetic to critics of the three.)
Kurtz also recites the Anton Ego quote from Ratatouille that I quoted on an earlier post. (OK, I’m not going to be so pretentious as to think he got it from this site. I mean, I imagine that artists of all types have this particular quote embedded inside their wallets.)
PS Stay around for a very intriguing battle between Kris Straub and Scott Kurtz over whether or not Fred Rogers from Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood was creepy or not. (I’m with Mr. Straub on the “Mr. Rogers is a great guy” side of things.)
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.
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.