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Ethics

Well, I didn't know where else to post this, since it's a media concern...

So my friend and I want to create a webcomic review site. I don't know about my friend, but I've run into some issues. :P

Basically, it has to do with the thought of criticizing people on their work. As an artist who HAS been criticized (and a LOT), I know it can hurt. But hey... criticism is necessary when you're an artist, right? We have movie critics, book critics, even architecture critics... why not webcomic critics?

I can sympathize with the work that goes into creating a comic. Not only do you need to have appealing art, but an appealing story too, and then you have to update regularly or your fans will come to hate you. :P So as someone who doesn't even OWN a webcomic, who am I to judge?

But at the same time, I think that a lot of webcomics out there are low quality. They're created by people who want to gain fame fast, or by little kids that don't really know much about art and writing yet. One of the things I hate about the Internet is that anyone can be an author, and so standards of quality (such as in fanfic writing, webcomics, web design) are lowered.

This has especially become an issue recently because a friend of mine happened to mention on my LJ a certain comic she dislikes, and the friends of that comicker flamed my friend for her opinions. Sure, no one likes to be criticized... but I personally think it's the mark of a serious artist to swallow their pride and accept criticism. "Take what you like and leave the rest."

And I'm not talking about "This sucks, get some talent!" type stuff. :P But actual constructive criticism.

Yeah... I dunno. What do you think? How would you react if your webcomic received a bad rating on a review site?

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

I'll just throw out as I often do that Comixpedia is a warm and fuzzy place and we are always looking for talented new contributors to the magazine. If you want to write reviews and don't want the chore of creating, maintaining and promoting your own review site you may consider talking to Damonk, Editor for Reviews, about contributing to Comixpedia.

But if not, good luck! Webcomics needs all the love and attention (even critical attention) it can get :)

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

kjc's picture

Well, there are a couple of important aspects of criticism. One is that it's fair - so you shouldn't say "this sucks cuz I say so." You need to back up any criticism with facts. And separate out your opinion - if you don't like Manga, you're not going to enjoy a Manga webcomic. If you have good reasons for not liking a given comic's style or influence, you need to back 'em up with specific reasoning or recuse yourself.

One thing that's really important to me is to find good things to say. Sometimes, because I'm looking for good stuff, I actually enjoy the comic more. In addition to the characters (the default stuff that you always look at) you look for techniques (line work, shading, coloring), you look for details (amusing backgrounds, well-drawn set pieces), you try and appreciate what the creator was trying to do as well as what s/he accomplished.

I don't have a webcomic, but I've been having people critique my writing since I was about 12. The hardest part is getting past the initial ego hit. The whole "you can't say that about MY STUFF!" feeling. If you can get past that and LISTEN, then you can hear some useful things. Critics who find the good and really dig into the bad to understand the details softens that blow.

And, sometimes you hear crap. The critic really doesn't know what s/he's talking about. It does happen. Criticism is based on opinion and some people's opinions aren't really all that useful.

Kelly J.

Bryan Prindiville's picture

Constructive criticism is never a bad thing. Its not always a welcome thing, but its never a bad thing. Key word there is "constructive."

I think a review site is a great idea. Go for it, just don't expect to make everybody happy. If you keep your reviews balanced and find something redeemable in your least favorite comic and something that needs work in you favorite you can at least feel that you are staying objective.

Good luck with it.

-bry

I would definitely be happy to have someone review my comic - nobody's done it before anyway. In time I guess I could write reviews- I am a fair reviewer.

-Seth

I think it's a great idea. I'll even put my comic on the sacrificial review altar, if you like. ^_^

Sounds like you've been getting good advice. I'd say go with reviews over critiques. It's still useful for the creators to know how something is not being well received, but it's ultimately their responsibility to do what needs to be done to make it good. There IS an awful lot of amateurish gunk competing for reader's attention and it would be helpful for the webcomic audience to have some navigational assistance.

Be prepared for a LOT of whining though....

[url=http://www.acidkeg.com/][img]http://www.acidkeg.com/akbanner.gif[/img][/url]

If you are worried about how creators will feel when you reveiw their works maybe you should consider the nice approach. Ask the creators before you write the reveiw, make sure they know what they are getting into. Tell them that they are going to get a fair reveiw and point them to your site. If they give you the greenlight to write the article go ahead (I imagine most would) if they say no, just move on, no hurt feelings.

As for the publicity of being in Halloween event here it is iffy. So far mine has only picked up about 90 hits, and I lucked into being one of the winners. It was a lot of fun though! That is the important part, not the peeps. Keep on chugging away, you will find your audience.

Bad review or not, I'd be happy that someone at least saw my work. Any publicity is good publicity when you're just starting out. Those that can't handle negative feedback shouldn't be posting their work where everyone and anyone can see it, IE the internet.

Being one of those jerks who have to write evaluations for Korean children on a monthly basis, I can assure you that all constructive criticism MUST include some ego-soothing rub. Otherwise the "constructive" will be overlooked for the "criticism".

Of course, if you say a bad thing about my comics, I'll hunt you down and eat your dog. :wink:

It's also worth noting that not all comics are equally appropriate for a review. If a comic is obviously just meant to entertain a few personal friends, that comic probably doesn't warant a review. If a comic is the creator's first attempt, and they're really just going through the process to learn how to do it, that comic probably doesn't warant a review. Basically, if a creator is not actively seeking a wide audience, then it's probably not in anyone's interest to review that person's comic. It's funny, but sometimes people put things on the internet, but don't actually think anyone will read it. If those people aren't looking for attention, and aren't ready for it, it can be mean to subject them to it. It can be difficult, though, to differentiate the people who want to be taken seriously from the ones who don't.

PictureStoryTheater.com:Fables & Fairy Tales

TwentySevenLetters.com: Experiments

hmm I kinda agree with William about not caring if you know what you want already. I haven't really actively seeked critiques in a while. Usually, I only ask if I don't know whether or not my message is getting across the way I want it to. Otherwise, random emails with critiques or people just telling you straight why they don't like your work without me asking would probably irk me a little. In the end though, I eventually consider what they've said and try to see if it's valid criticism or just an opinion (like the age-old "you need to stop drawing anime" statement. I usually just disregard that one... but if it's like "You tend to rush your endings and it ruined the experience for me" then I'd have to think about that one.)

In critiques, I think good and bad should be pointed out, though. You need to know what you should keep as well as what you should throw away in making a really delicious comic. Reviews, however... well, I can't really say anything about that because they aren't critiques, they're people telling other people what they thought about a comic and why. They're not intended specifically for me, but for other potential readers. Well, basically what Joey Manley said on page one. =P

Anyway I think the idea proposed to review pay comics is a good one. =P

With all that's been said already, I think that my only point is that if you want to go critics, instead of reviews, you can start a thread or something like that in this same forums (maybe a weekly forum feature?), because creating a whole page just for the creators to recieve critics, seem like an exagerated effort. I'm willing to hear some critics, if you want to, although I think the main statement would be something like: "If you (more or less) know how to draw, why in the seven bloody hells and gray purgatory are you doing ascii comics?" To which I'd reply that because I like it, I don't have time nor skills yet to do "normal" comic (this is some sort of training), at I prefer this to another sprite comic...

And btw, someone who doesn't accept a constructive critic if it's not favorable, doesn't deserve it, as well as somone who doesn't do constructive criticism shouldn't critic at all.

Here's a question. What if you have long ago decided to do what you want and dont really care what a non-reader has to say about your webcomic? I mean, the extra attention woulkd be nice, but getting a critique from someone who just happened to randomly pulled your URL off of a messageboard the day before they wrote about you doesn't seem all that useful to me.

When it all comes down to it, a critique is just a "loud" opinion.

nilaffle wrote:Yeah, but I

nilaffle wrote:
Yeah, but I guess it's up to the author/artist whether they want to pay attention to a review, right? In fact, unless the reviewer tells the comicker that s/he's reviewing the comic, or if the review site gets big, how would the comicker even know?

This is all true. But I figure it's just be polite to let them know. :)

Quote:
Our biggest hurdle thus far has been what Alexander mentioned, sorting the comics that are intended for a wide fanbase from the ones that aren't. It would be harsh to review a comic that the artist is only doing for a select audience. Of course, this is going to be hard to do, and the best approach we've come up with for this is to simply look at how large the fanbase is: how many hits, if their are LJ communities/messageboards dedicated to the comic, if it's widely linked or has been referenced on websites/zines... such and such. These should be good guidelines to go by, right?

The only problem I can see with this approach is that you run the risk of being the webcomics version of "People Magazine" -- Telling people about stuff that's already popular. You'd either be preaching to the converted if you write a good review, or be accused of being a backlashing punk if you didnt.
I would suggest reviewing everything you come across.And if it's a small website, asking the artist if they're interested in wider exposure (As long as you make sure they know that this isnt the same thing as a good review) and if they're not, skip them.
I know it's complicated. The simplest solution would be the do what you damned well want.

Lol, well, it's an invitation worth considering. ^-^

Maybe you could create a style of article where you do a review AND a critique. Start with a thumbs up or down review for the reader and wrap up with a "technical" critique. You'd be serving the public who could read as deep as they wanted for info, and both parts would be helpful not only to the reviewed comic's creator but other folk that work on webcomics.

do it. it's better for a person who doesn't own a webcomic to review because then you are the perfect audiance. just be honest. a bad review means you have to work harder.
also, if you're going to insult. go for the comic. not the author. I've been noticing that recently.
-samantha

If you want to write reviews, I urge you not to make assumptions about the authors, their circumstances, and their aspirations.

Roberto: Don't worry, that's not my intention. And I hope it didn't sound like I go around making assumptions about artists/writers solely from reading their work. That was a general comment, and anything I do know about specific comickers and their motives is based on a solid foundation of slander and hearsay. :P j/k Point being, I wouldn't use my personal views on a comicker to bash or praise their work.

eldritchmonkey: I wholeheartedly agree. -_-

kjc: Very good points. n__n Especially because a lot of what you've mentioned, I've had to deal with myself. And I too think it's very important to find the good in the bad and vice versa.

grinningdog: Thanks. :D

Uncreativity: Hehe I'll take a look. ^_~

William_Beckerson: Very good point. And haha the joke's on you, I don't have a dog. :P

LMAO I leave for a few days and come back to this...

You all are giving such wonderful suggestions. Just reading all of your replies has lifted my confidence. :D

Well first of all, after a lot of consideration on this, I think we're going to go with reviews, not critiques. I really couldn't imagine keeping a website devoted solely to critiquing... if I wanted to critique comics, I'd just e-mail the authors/artists privately. Our goal is to give comic surfers an idea of what's out there and what's worth reading. And hopefully to provide helpful articles and tutorials on creating comics... at some point.

On reviewing pay comics: Yeah, we've been considering how to approach this, actually.

William: Yeah, but I guess it's up to the author/artist whether they want to pay attention to a review, right? In fact, unless the reviewer tells the comicker that s/he's reviewing the comic, or if the review site gets that big, how would the comicker even know? I understand what you're saying. But I would hope that if a comicker was doing a comic only to satisfy him/herself, s/he wouldn't care what a review said, good or bad.

Our biggest hurdle thus far has been what Alexander mentioned, sorting the comics that are intended for a wide fanbase from the ones that aren't. It would be harsh to review a comic that the artist is only doing for a select audience. Of course, this is going to be hard to do, and the best approach we've come up with for this is to simply look at how large the fanbase is: how many hits, if their are LJ communities/messageboards dedicated to the comic, if it's widely linked or has been referenced on websites/zines... such and such. These should be good guidelines to go by, right?

Another issue is the age of the comic. Brand-spanking new versus well established. I'd find it sort of weird to review comics that have been around for a while, like say, Megatokyo or Diesel Sweeties, but it'd be impossible to go off just 10-15 pages too. So what we're looking for is fairly new, but... established? :F It's hard to decifer.

Seth: Should give it a shot. Sounds like there are a few places looking for reviewers. ^_~ I, personally, haven't had much experience reviewing webcomics, so I'd like to see how this site goes before I start offering my services to outside parties. :D

I have no intention of just reviewing the big comics. Still, going by number of hits is a good indicator of whether the comic is meant as a public endeavor, whether they're receiving 15 hits a day or 1500... or maybe not? :Þ Heheh. And I disagree that comics with a lot of hits are well-known to everyone. In fact, it seems to me that comics have their own "cliques." That is, certain comics all seem to link to the same other comics. Real Life has a completely different circle than Demonology 101, for instance (possibly because they're of different styles and genre, but... there you have it). I would think that a review site would be a great way for people to broaden their horizons.

Of course, this could also mean that these people don't want to broaden their horizons. :P

In fact, I am wary of reviewing the big comics because those are the ones that have been around for a while. It would seem weird to review a comic like Strings of Fate or Mac Hall, which may not be well-known by everyone, but reviewing them would be sort of... pointless, since they're so well established.

Quote:
So, what I'm trying to say is this: before you plan too much more here, you should sit down and try your hand at actually REVIEWING a few comics, so you can get a better feel/idea as to what that involves, and if it's really something that you like to do.

Well... in a sense, that's why I started this thread. I didn't mean this discussion as a means of plugging our site. But I haven't found a lot of websites that review webcomics... and actually, the search is what led me to Comixpedia. The site itself IS our test run, because I'm not just working alone; my two cohorts and I all need to get used to working with one another, in addition to finding our footing in the online world of reviewing. This project may not last, but hey, that's why I'm only talking about it here and nowhere else. Unless you guys are really getting your hopes up about this, in which case I'm very sorry. :P

Hmm... now that I mention it, this has turned into something of a plug fest, hasn't it? ¬.¬

And I didn't say that I've never written revies... I only said that I don't have much experience with it. ^_~

As for asking comickers before reviewing, that would be polite, especially if the comicker didn't want a lot of publicity. But say someone does tell me not to review them simply because they don't want a bad review? Why shouldn't I? o__o I'm sure plenty of movies that got bad reviews didn't want the reviews, but that's freedom of speech, yes?

Plus, it'd become tedious to ask every comicker we come across if they wouldn't mind their comic being reviewed. Especially if they don't reply to e-mails quickly or at all (I've run into this before).

I whole-heartedly agree with Joey from Moderntales - Either do critiques (though there are plenty of places where creators can go for apprasals) or do reviews. I would love a review site that separates some of the wheat from the chaff so to speak. I do not have time to poop around to find the good or interesting stuff out there, so I continue to follow the time honored favorites. Reviews are also fun because you can see somone elses opinion, how they think etc.

stubbs
________

http://stubbscomics
home of boundary waters

Just a note of caution about this:

"a lot of webcomics out there are low quality. They're created by people who want to gain fame fast, or by little kids that don't really know much about art and writing yet."

If you want to write reviews, I urge you not to make assumptions about the authors, their circumstances, and their aspirations. You can't possibly know from reading a strip, even a quasi-autobiographical one, what someone is really like, and how and why they write their comics. Confine yourself to the material, and to verifiable facts about the creator, if relevent. Nothing will put someone's nose out of joint faster than you putting words in their mouth that they didn't say, and thoughts in their head that they didn't think.

Looking forward to reading your reviews :)

- Roberto Corona

Constructive criticism is usually written for the creators.

Reviews are usually written for the audience.

There's a difference.

If the audience for your site will be the creators of the comics you're looking at, and only them, then, yes, absolutely, constructive criticism is the way to go -- you should write critiques.

If the audience for your site will be readers of webcomics, then you should write reviews instead of critiques. Your focus in a review should be: should the people reading this review spend their time (or even money) on this comic -- or not?

That said, a review should be balanced and fair -- I hate reviews where the writers is just obviously trying to think of clever ways to say mean things.

Though I've been guilty of that in the past.

Joey
www.moderntales.com

re: critiques:

A number of attempts have been made to create some sort ofcritique site or message board or yahoo group or etc., and the problem with them is that they ultimately fail, because everyone says they WANT a critique, but no one wants to GIVE them.

re: reviews:

I'm certainly always looking for a few good new reviews writers. If you're interested, please write to me and we'll talk.

I have NO problems with people who dish out good or bad reviews, so long as they can support any arguments they make. Heck, I've never been afraid to give either, myself.

However, make sure you have a thick skin, because you'll get a LOT of flak for giving bad reviews, usually from fans of the comic you bashed. Some people shy away from giving bad reviews precisely for that reason.

Me, I've already got everything I need in life, so I don't feel I have to suck up to anyone anymore, hence my acerbic tongue at times. ^_^

Oh, and while there are a lot of interesting ideas being tossed around here, my advice to you is to start by keeping it simple.

I've had a LOT of writers start out with big ambitions who just can't follow up on them when they realize that said ambitions actually require "work".

It's like starting a workout regimen -- you can't start right off the bat with 200 pound bench presses... you'll only get hurt, ya know?

One more suggestion: if you're doing reviews, see if you can start with pay comics. This is one thing that's missing. Most people can't tell if it's worth it in the first place, and that's what reviews are for. Perhaps some pay comics can grant a sample (obviously, one comic would not do) if you do not have any subscriptions. This is *the* thing missing in the pay-comic business model (whatever one thinks of that model to begin with). If not nilaffle, I hope Xerxes or Damonk happen by this.

Cheers and luck,
The long lost Nicholls
http://gunz.keenspace.com

Addendum: A record of consistent updates will help you along with the pay-comic reviews, I would suspect.

justanothercrowd wrote: Ask

justanothercrowd wrote:
Ask the creators before you write the reveiw, make sure they know what they are getting into. Tell them that they are going to get a fair reveiw and point them to your site. If they give you the greenlight to write the article go ahead (I imagine most would) if they say no, just move on, no hurt feelings.

I think that this is an appropriate approach if you are doing a critique, but I disagree if you are doing a review. Again we have to go back to the difference between reviews and critiques in that reviews are for readers, and critiques are for the creators. If an artist is worried about someone forming an opinion about their work, they should not be publishing it on the internet. As a reader I am always interested in others opinions on a given work as it helps to inform my own, whether I agree or not with the reviewer. A critique is another ball of wax, as it delves into the technical aspect of the work and is meant as a direct communication with the artist (and in art school circles is usually more of a formal affair). I personally am always open to critiques, but I am well used to them at this point and have learned how to accept input on my artwork. However, I could understand if someone did not want a critique if they felt it would be a distraction that may adversly affect what they were trying to achieve.

Quick reply on the pay comic thing before I go to work...

If you sift through our review archives, you'll notice that we HAVE reviewed some pay comics in the past.

I've tried to keep a healthy balance between all types of comics in regards to popularity, affiliation (or lack thereof), and etc. I want to make sure that we are being as fair as possible.

That said, there is a feature/theme in the works for sometimes in 2004 that will be addressing pay sites/portals... this would be the tie for the reviews section to follow suit with a host of reviews on that same subject. ^_^

Damonk, thought I might be wrong on the lack of pay site reviews on here, but couldn't recall. Anywho, looking forward to your special on it.

--D Nicholls

A few added pieces of

A few added pieces of advice:

1) Like William says, beware *only* reviewing comics that all people
already know about. There's no point in just telling everyone what
everyone already knows -- if it's a good review, people will say, "yea,
we already knew that"; if it's a bad review, people will say, "then how
do you explain why 40,000 readers check it out daily? You suck!"

Now that said, that doesn't mean you shouldn't *ever* review big
comics, either. I personally feel that offering a fair mix is ALWAYS
the best way to go.

2) new vs. old comics: you should at leat make sure that a comic has
produced 40-50 or so strips/intallments before offering a review.
Otherwise, you will not have given the creator(s) a chance to really
grow/establish themselves and their story. They won't have had the time
to show what direction they're going in, and, as a reviewer, you simply
won't have enough material to work with.

Now again, a potential solution to this: offer full-on reviews for
comics that have past that suggested milestone, and then, for those who
are new and who look like they have potential, offer a P-review -- a
little blurb that does not go in detail liker a regular review, but
that offers the writer's first impressions and anticipations for the
comic in question. Then, you can even give said comic a full-on review
later, once it's established itself! ^_^

(this has been something I've wanted to implement for a while over here, but just haven't had the chance as of yet)

3) the eggless basket warning: you sounds like you're making all
these preparations and such for a site and for styles and etc., but you
also confess to never having written reviews. This is a little scary,
as it reminds me of those newbie webcomicker wannabes that hype their
new site all over the place yet who have no comic on it and such...
They tell everyone who great they're gonna be and all, and then, when
they start actually trying to COMIC, they realize how muich work it is,
find that they can't keep up with their own promises and
self-expectations, get discouraged, and quit after a few weeks.

So, what I'm trying to say is this: before you plan too much more
here, you should sit down and try your hand at actually REVIEWING a few
comics, so you can get a better feel/idea as to what that involves, and
if it's really something that you like to do.

If it is, and you find yourself wanting to do more, then by all means, continue on with your plans for a site and etc.!

Anywho... just trying to offer some helpful advice. :D