How To Make Webcomics Without Critics?

One more post I guess:

Scott Kurtz the person online has always had a somewhat dramatic relationship with what… the world?  At least with people who comment on his work, primarily PvP. Today he writes at length, apparently prompted by a passage in a review by Comics Worth Reading of the book  How To Make Webcomics (which Kurtz is a co-author of).  First off, it’s a hugely positive review of the book so it’s hardly the case that Johnana is slamming it.  She simply makes the point as a writer that there are a few simple tools available for publicizing work that aren’t mentioned in the book.  I really think Kurtz is reading way too much into her review. 

While I appreciate his frustration at the negative energy an artist can pick up from a negative review, the answer to that is probably simply to ignore the reviews.  Sometimes a review is useful, sometimes it’s not — there’s no obligation for an artist to read anything written about their work.  But some reviews are useful to some artists.  Some artists can deal with all reviews, some can’t deal well with any kinds of reviews (and all sorts in between). Maybe the best advice is to find out what kind of artist you are with regards to external commentary and try to stick to guidelines that work for yourself.  You can’t stop the world from commenting on what is public art.



Xaviar Xerexes

Wandering webcomic ronin. Created Comixpedia (2002-2005) and ComixTalk (2006-2012; 2016-?). Made a lot of unfinished comics and novels.


  1. Really?

    I should remind you that the most repsected movie critic in the world is Roger Ebert, and his movie experience is a screenwriting credit for the terrible "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls."

    There’s not very much of a link between good creators and good critiquers.  Great movie directors aren’t usually great movie critics, and great comic reviewers (like, say, The X-Axis’ Paul O’Brien) aren’t necessarily churning out comic books.

    Not that I disagree with Scott Kurtz or anything.  He’s right that it’s important to develop a peer circle.  However, I think people are usually off the mark when they say things like, "What’s your business reviewing things when you have never put out a good comic?"  The beholders, after all, have different eyes than the creators.

    EDIT: Incidentally, Scott, is this going to be a subject for a Webcomics Weekly?  ‘Cuz that would be awesome.

  2. The only critics I would pay any attention to are ones who actually do comics well. I know by comparison to others my skills are not great, but I don’t want to hear that from someone who can’t even draw a straight line.

  3. Jerry Pournelle made a great point in a panel at a convention: We were talking about writers’ groups (read: internal criticism) and he said that the only opinion that matters is that of your editor, because he/she is the one making sure you get paid.

    Webcartoonists work without editors, and it hurts us a lot. We often get paid directly by our audience, and there is no single voice to which we can listen that ensures we’ll get our next "book advance." There is a clamoring congregation, and they’re all saying different things.

    I’m not suggesting that we as webcartoonists should seek traditional publishing arrangements. I’m just pointing out that this new market which we have pioneered has some glaring imperfections — sharp edges against which we will regularly bruise and bloody ourselves.

    Coming back to Doctor Pournelle… in our market his advice must be reinterpreted. The opinions of my work which matter are those which I trust as representative of the readers who buy my merchandise, and/or to whom my advertisers wish to advertise. This puts me in the role of publisher and author, seeking a wise, market-savvy  "editor" critic to stand between the two halves of my brain and mediate.

    I listen carefully to the praise I get from people who are buying my books in person at events. What do they like? What got them engaged in the story? What is their favorite book from me? I also bounce my comics, pre-publication, off of a few trusted friends who seem to think the same way as these book-buyers. It’s still imperfect, but it’s a lot better than going it alone.

    It also beats the tar out of listening to professional critics. These people are almost nothing like most of my readers, or even most of the people I want to be my readers. Critics typically take a loftier view, and judge a work not for what it is trying to be, or for whom it is trying to be that, but for what it can never be.

  4.  Wow.

    Who knew this would get such a response? Has Johnana responded yet? Just curious.

  5. El Santo, I thought it was Siskel who had the writing credit for "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls."

    In any case, whichever one it was, at least they had SOME Hollywood experience under their belt and they were both very decorated and respected journalists before starting their show.

    That isn’t always the case in this day and age of "blogs, blogs, everywhere a blog". These days, all you really need is an internet connection and a keyboard (and if you’re lucky enough to have an iPhone, you don’t even need THAT!). 😉

    Now, I do agree that you don’t need to be an artist or a writer to give an opinion about a comic book, webcomic, album, film or anything artistic or entertaining. Rolling Stones, after all, has had a long history of music critics that never played or published music before. And, truthfully, when it comes to entertainment, everybody loves to give their opinions about what they like or don’t like.

    But in this day and age of blogs, it’s almost like there’s a sub-section of internet species that are living in quiet desperation and their only legitimate way to feel relevant in this world is by criticizing anything and everything they wish they could do themselves. And do it so loud and so passionately, that they get noticed on Technorati.

    I made a point in another blog that I think, in general, artists are usually very receptive to critiques. For those of us who have taken a lot of art classes, critiques are a part of that so it’s not like we aren’t accustomed to criticism. But the problem with the internet is that you just don’t know who it is that’s "critiquing" you. It could be a 13 year old that’s mad because his stick figure masterpiece wasn’t selected as 1st place in his Jr. High art contest or it could be a 72 year old art history professor who has written several books on art.

    I ask you… who’s opinion would YOU value more? The 13 year old or the professor’s?

    Yet, we as artists, are chastised because we have the audacity to say the 13 year old’s opinion isn’t valid or useful to us.

    Of course, that’s just my opion. I could be wrong…


  6. All fair points, Chris.  I was more disputing the notion that you have to be some sort of expert to write a review.  There is benefit, I think, in being an observer.  I have no argument with you that experience leads to better critiques.

    Also, it was Roger Ebert.

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