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Reviews and Pay Comics

Here's an observation:

After the recent spate of discussion over the usefulness of webcomic reviews, some people have argued that webcomic reviews serve no purpose since (to borrow Alexander Danner's paraphrasing of the situation) "(most) webcomics are entirely free, reviews are rendered unnecessary".

If that's the case, then one would think reviews of pay comics would be more common, since they do actually serve a purpose in telling people about what they can't see for themselves straightaway.

But the fact is, there don't seem to be a lot of those kind of reviews out there. I've checked out a few review sites, including Korsil, Webcomics Examiner, Timewaster's Guide, Sequential Tart, Webcomics Fan and Comixpedia.

Of those, Sequential Tart seems to do the most reviews of pay comics, series like Gun Street Girl, Athena Voltaire, Fans!, Killroy and Tina, and Digger being a few who tend to pop up. In most sites there aren't any pay comics reviewed at all. Which seems like a pity, since there are a lot of good pay webcomics out there that IMHO, people ought to know about.

Here's a question:

Is because these comics are pay comics that reviewers shy away from them?

Or have they simply not heard of them at all?

Would complimentary subscriptions to reviewers make a difference?

(Ok, that was more than A question, but I can't count *grimaces* )

Anyone up for an answer?

Yes. I would think that a journalist would be able to see the product, or enough of it to make an informed judgement for free. Maybe not necessarily a free subscription, but a guest pass for 1 comic / 1 day / whatever. Like a movie reviewer can't go in to see whatever movie he wants, but he does get advance screening tickets for free when the producers are publicizing their movie. Hrm, I guess it is a little different because of the specificity of a movie's release as opposed to the ongoing nature of a comic. But yeah, I'd think anyone who'd want their comic reviewed would give a free pass to a proven journalist.

I agree with Dedos, comic reviewers should get a freebie weekend or something. But I suppose they may have to prove who they are otherwise evil people may go around saying they're "press" and get free reads everywhere.

Oh, and Phalanx, are you also including the hordes of hobby reviewers out there? I think Keenspace has about 50 sites where some 14 year old online comic officianado(bah... spelling anyone?) talks about his favorite sprite comics and does "reviews" of them(I liek teh Megamna!!!!1)

Okay.. so maybe that's going a little bit far, but really, there are lots of people who'd consider themselves reviewers, where would you draw the line on who is a reviewer and who isn't?

Uncle Ghastly's picture

Webcomic reviews are really just an exercise in masturbation. When you've got a few hundred BBSs on the internet erupting into flame wars over webcomics with opinions spouting off like blow-holes at SeaWorld having more opinion in Zine form doesn't really contribute much.

It's a way to write "j00 R teh sVxx0rz" yet have some semblance of authority. There have been a few good webcomic reviews written but for the most part it's just a way for the reviewer to show off how superior he or she believes they are to the artist they're reviewing.

You don't like Ebert and Roeper do ya Ghastly?

It's like Dedos told. Maybe not every reviewer out there has money to review subscription comics. Whenever a new movie premiers, the reviewers are always offered a special session, just for them where they get to enter for free and fill a form at the end to measure its quality.

But I have the impression that those large sites already have their subscriptions to the Modern Tales family. Maybe they review more free comics because they are our rule rather than the exception, maybe it's because those reviewers prefer to offer their opinions on something that anyone can check, I don't know....

Any help here?

Uncle Ghastly's picture

[quote:649353a296="Twentyfour"]You don't like Ebert and Roeper do ya Ghastly?

Actually they're not bad as far as critics go. But there's a big difference between criticizing professional industries and picking on amatures. Let's face it, precious few of us in the webcomic world are making our living from our webcomic. We're mostly just amatures enjoying ourselves doing something we love.

By and large the people who are reviewing webcomics seem to be only interested in giving negative criticism. They latch onto our amature flaws and then start shredding. They take a very adversarial role. They also tend to get extremely defencive when you turn their criticisms back on them.

There's already plenty of infighting within the webcomics community as it is and most "reviewers" are just delighting in pouring more gasoline on the fire.

[quote:71f71a18ca="Ghastly"][quote:71f71a18ca="Twentyfour"]You don't like Ebert and Roeper do ya Ghastly?

Actually they're not bad as far as critics go. But there's a big difference between criticizing professional industries and picking on amatures. Let's face it, precious few of us in the webcomic world are making our living from our webcomic. We're mostly just amatures enjoying ourselves doing something we love.

That's my point. We're not talking about amateur webcomics here.

Most webcomics are done for fun, but when you start charging money to view your comic, you more or less have to start being more professional. (NOTE: By definition, the meaning of the word 'professional' means 'doing for a living' and doesn't really have anything to do with the skill level. A professional may not necessarily be better than an amateur.)

I'm not talking about, nor am I interested in, the immature mudslinging and whining on forums and blogs by either the reviewers or the reviewed.

What I'm interested in is honest to goodness REAL comics reviews. Those that tell you about a comic and give you an idea what it's about. Those that can make a statement and back it up with real data.

Mostly, those that can tell you whether it is worth taking a chance and forking out your hard earned cash to read something. THAT's what I'm talking about.

I couldn't give a whit about stupid webcomic politics. What I'm interested in is a medium to help readers decide if a comic that they have to pay to read for is worth reading so they can find it easier to make the decision.

By the way, this kinda indirectly answers the question about what constitutes a reviewer, TwentyFour.

I'm told that in print comics, companies send potential reviewers a complimentary copy of the comic for review. I'm just wondering whether this would be a good practice for the web equivalent.

Ghastly, I don't know where you're reading these "shredding" reviews, but I'm glad I don't read the same sites you do. I like the idea of a well-written review. I don't have time to read every single comic out there. I wish I did, but them's the breaks, I guess. If a review can highlight a comic I've never heard of, wonderful. Even bad press is good press, right?

As far as the amateur vs. professional aspect of it, are you saying it's OK to review the comics on the pay/syndicated sites?

Now, negative reviews shouldn't be a reason to stop doing what you love. They should give you impetus to rise above it and either improve what you're doing, or stick to your guns because you know what you're doing has merit. If, starting off, you think your comic will never be better/more successful than, say, Penny Arcade, is it worth even starting? Hell, yeah. Even if you get tons of "bad" reviews, there's no better teacher than experience. If your ego is too fragile to withstand peer criticism, don't get into the art field. That's what it's all about, after all. But if you go around begging for readers or posting up banners for people to see, you're going to get noticed. And people have opinions. And sometimes, they let you know about 'em.

[edit] Another real world example: in the book world, publishers advance copies of books to reviewers all the time. Same with music, too.

PV Comics offers both free comics and subscriber only content. The first part of each comic series is free for anyone to read (including reviewers), and if people like it enough they can choose to subscribe to read the rest. The daily comics are also free for anyone to read, while the extended archives are only available to subscribers.

I think some of the other subscription sites work in a similar way -- so reviewers should be able to comment on these comics... even if they don't have a subscription.

[quote:a417e507ed="Phalanx"]I'm told that in print comics, companies send potential reviewers a complimentary copy of the comic for review. I'm just wondering whether this would be a good practice for the web equivalent.

This brings a fair point.

That Comixpedia, Sequential Tart and the such covers subscription comics (even if its down to a minimum), no doubt. But what about the outside world? Has Modern Tales, WirePop and PV Comics ever offered free subscriptions to large publications?

Because if you guys got togethet to offer that, along with a nice press release, you would have a big chance to get a big article dedicated solemnly to you (if it hasn't been done before, I mean).

PV Comics has given complimentary subscriptions out to a number of people in the industry. :)

Wizard Edge Magazine included PV Comics in their "Top 10 Online Comics" list. We're often mentioned on the excellent Digital Webbing news site. Some of our artists, like Amy Kim Ganter (Reman Mythology), have been interviewed by places like Sequential Tart. Recently, Matt Johnson (Dewclaw) was interviewed for a story on "Web Comics" that broadcast on NBC. I've posted an archive of the video if anyone wants to check it out.

That last post was me again. :D

Uncle Ghastly's picture

[quote:a7034e9413="Dedos"]Ghastly, I don't know where you're reading these "shredding" reviews, but I'm glad I don't read the same sites you do.

I guess you don't read Comixpedia, Sequential Tart, or for particularily amusing "critiques", Webcomic Book Club

Quote:

I like the idea of a well-written review.

I'm all for well written reviews. Saddly there arn't many professional reviews of webcomics available online. Mostly we just get one group of amatures attacking another group of amatures.

I see very little difference between the opinions of these authoritative webcomic reviewers and the opinions of some shmuck on his blog about why webcomic-x sucks.

Quote:

I don't have time to read every single comic out there. I wish I did, but them's the breaks, I guess. If a review can highlight a comic I've never heard of, wonderful. Even bad press is good press, right?

Wrong. When the review is nothing but opinion about why webcomic-x sucks it does not do any good. Webcomic reviews don't tend to be written in an informative fashion. "This is the plot of webcomic X... this is the style webcomic X is written in... this is the style webcomic X... these are the influences that seem to show in webcomic artist's work... "

That gives you something to go on and isn't colouring the review with the reviewer's opinions.

Webcomic reviews online tend to be of the "Webcomic X sucks. Webcomic X is drawn like shit. Webcomic X just rehashes the same jokes over and over. Webcomic X is incoherent. Only low-brow idiots would like Webcomic X."

That gives you absolutely nothing to go on. The reviewers make everything personal. You're expected to make you choice based on how you feel about the reviewer and not how you feel about the style of a comic, the plot of the comic, or the comic's influences.

Quote:

As far as the amateur vs. professional aspect of it, are you saying it's OK to review the comics on the pay/syndicated sites?

If my options to preview a work are limited then an informative review can be beneficial in wether I decide to shell out cash or not. Personally I don't pay for any comics. There are enough free comics of quality online that I can use them to fill whatever time I have set aside for reading comics.

Quote:

Now, negative reviews shouldn't be a reason to stop doing what you love.

There's a difference between constructive criticism and just slagging someone to get your rocks off.

Let's face it, there's two kinds of writers. Those who are creative and those who arn't. Review writing is a parasitic talent at best. You're not creating anything new, you're just feasting on something somebody else created. It's no wonder that reviewers, by and large, tend to fall into the "uncreative" catagory. There are some brilliant critics out there to be sure, but most of them just seem to be carrying a chip on their shoulder, or even worse are nothing but corporate shills.

Amature reviewers online tend not to have too many creative credentials to their name. You don't hear about too many of them writing great novels or screenplays. They are no more authoritative nor qualified to cast opinion as fact than the teenage slacker who types "Webcomic X r teh sVxx0rs" on his blog.

It would seem, though, that writing webcomic reviews is a better way to get attention and give yourself an air of credibility and authority that you don't really have.

Quote:

They should give you impetus to rise above it and either improve what you're doing, or stick to your guns because you know what you're doing has merit. If, starting off, you think your comic will never be better/more successful than, say, Penny Arcade, is it worth even starting? Hell, yeah. Even if you get tons of "bad" reviews, there's no better teacher than experience. If your ego is too fragile to withstand peer criticism, don't get into the art field.

Of course you should be able to handle criticism, but amatures, particularily beginners, shouldn't have to be raked over the coals.

You want to see constructive criticism that encourages growth?

Look at the way Hyung Sun Kim criticizes someone's work. Now that's freaking constructive. It's informative and factual and non-adversarial. The critiques are honest but not opinionated. That kind of criticism encourages growth. The kind of criticism one typically finds online isn't about encouraging growth, it's about making people feel bad for even trying.

Quote:

And people have opinions. And sometimes, they let you know about 'em.

Of course everyone has opinons and we express them in blogs and on BBSs and everyone counters with their opinions. There's a difference though when you're a writer for a magazine (even if it is just a Zine). When you write a review you're saying "I am an authority on this subject.". You're no longer just another shmoe on a BBS spouting off your opinion. Your opinion now carries weight that other people's opinions do not, backed by the reputation of the publication you're writing for.

Reviews should be factual, not opinionated. If you want to spout your opinions in journalistic form then write an editorial. Everyone already expects editorial writers to be crackpots and blowhards.

Quote:

[edit] Another real world example: in the book world, publishers advance copies of books to reviewers all the time. Same with music, too.

And they're all professionals.

Well, if one were to assume that these pay sites are able to sustain themselves based on the audience size, it would suggest to me that a review of them is unessicary.... since the supposid purpose of reviews is to reccommend things to people.

So, pay site is pay site because they have a large enough audience for it to work, they dont need a review because they're already known.

Joey Manley's picture

Like most print publishers, we gladly hand out comps to qualified reviewers and other press. You can get in touch with me personally, or in touch with any of our cartoonists, to get a comp. In the past, we always handled this on a person-to-person, I-happen-to-know-you basis, but due to the floods of emails we've been getting lately, I've put up a form on our site which will channel these requests into an appropriate place:

http://www.moderntales.com/presspass/

Though we still do emails as well, using the form above is the best way to expedite a request (for comp access to the site, as well as for access to cartoonists for interviews, etc).

I don't know the policies of other subscription services, but my guess is that most, if not all of them would be happy to grant comps to reviewers.

Joey
www.moderntales.com

Joey Manley's picture

Fact is, we've had much better success getting attention in the "real mainstream" mags than we have in the comic book industry mags.

For example, we've had write-ups in Wired and Playboy -- both were fairly brief, neither was very "solemn." Both those guys (Stuart from Wired and Mark, who wrote the Playboy write-up, and is also one of the main guys at boingboing) have ongoing comp subscriptions to all our sites, and ongoing access to me or any of our cartoonists, when/if they need or want it. Haven't heard from either of them in a while.

Would love to hear from other journalists at that level, obviously.

Joey
www.moderntales.com

[quote:c90f1050e3="RPin"][quote:c90f1050e3="Phalanx"]I'm told that in print comics, companies send potential reviewers a complimentary copy of the comic for review. I'm just wondering whether this would be a good practice for the web equivalent.

This brings a fair point.

That Comixpedia, Sequential Tart and the such covers subscription comics (even if its down to a minimum), no doubt. But what about the outside world? Has Modern Tales, WirePop and PV Comics ever offered free subscriptions to large publications?

Because if you guys got togethet to offer that, along with a nice press release, you would have a big chance to get a big article dedicated solemnly to you (if it hasn't been done before, I mean).

I agree with Joey. I'm sure any subscription comic site (PV Comics, Wirepop, 01Comics, etc.) would be more than happy to give a comp. subscription to a journalist writing a story or a review.

Heh. I figured out I could be babbling a lot of obviousness here, but...

Anyways... Now that I come to think about it, I like seeing reviews of free comics better than subscription ones. I guess I'm used to have them for free.

[quote:f5f754c97e="Ghastly"]Amature reviewers online tend not to have too many creative credentials to their name. You don't hear about too many of them writing great novels or screenplays. They are no more authoritative nor qualified to cast opinion as fact than the teenage slacker who types "Webcomic X r teh sVxx0rs" on his blog.

It would seem, though, that writing webcomic reviews is a better way to get attention and give yourself an air of credibility and authority that you don't really have.

I don't know about that, Ghastly.

From the opinion of this humble creator, saying that only people with creative credentials have the right to write reviews is like saying only well-known manufacturers have the right to rate consumer goods. Or only recognised writers and poets are capable of appreciating a novel. That argument doesn't quite hold water.

In any kind of creative medium, the majority of the audience are NOT fellow creators. The majority, the people that hold the power to make something sucessful, are just ordinary people with an interest in the subject.

Does that make them any less capable of telling what's good from bad? I think not. In fact sometimes I think it might be better, because they can connect better with the people who form the audience: the non-credentialed readers.

I don't know anything about growing grapes and wine-making, but my palate can certainly tell the difference between a vintage Grand Cru and the cheap acidic house wine from the local chain supermarket.

I can't sing to save my life, but that doesn't mean I can't tell the difference between say, The Beatles and *shudder* Britney Spears.

I'm only a mediocre cook, but I still can tell you the distinction between a fillet mignion and a quarter pounder from your local McDonalds.

Fact of the matter is, you do not have to be an expert to be able to pronounce a judgement. All you need to be is a part of the audience.

Granted, some people do write reviews for the attention, and some people do write reviews deliberately to strike others down, but I do think most people would have the a little bit of common sense it would take to enable them to tell one from the other.

I've read the reviews from Sequential Tart AND Comixpedia, (and yes, the Sexy Losers ones too) I honestly don't see why you've tagged them as being 'shredding'. Even the Sequential Tart one was quite complimentary about SL ("Hard knows how to tell a good joke.", "I don't buy the argument that this strip is misogynist.") which really surprised me. * Yes, there are criticisms too, but they aren't baseless, offensive and vague (As in "This webcomic sucks and I don't need no reason!") but tend to have a point ("Hard's art is good, but not spectacular. It works for the story he's telling, but there isn't a whole lot that distinguishes it. Also, his character designs aren't very good. His male characters in particular do not look much different from one another. "). An example of a baseless criticism would be: "There is nothing beautiful about this hack's little ink scrawls!"

As for the last link you provided... ach you're right on that one. They didn't even bother to read the entire comic before commenting. Eeks.

If webcomic reviews were an exercise in masturbation, I'd be turning in six webcomic reviews a day!

If not more!

HS Kim Is Giving An Art Lesson/Critique _

Quote:
You want to see constructive criticism that encourages growth?

Look at the way Hyung Sun Kim criticizes someone's work. Now that's freaking constructive. It's informative and factual and non-adversarial. The critiques are honest but not opinionated. That kind of criticism encourages growth. The kind of criticism one typically finds online isn't about encouraging growth, it's about making people feel bad for even trying.

That's a freakin' art lesson man. It's an example of someone very talented and proficient helping someone not learn from their mistakes.

But it's not a review for a reader.

Uncle Ghastly's picture

Quote:

I don't know anything about growing grapes and wine-making, but my palate can certainly tell the difference between a vintage Grand Cru and the cheap acidic house wine from the local chain supermarket.

Yes, but if you were going to present yourself as an authority on wines you'd have to know more than a vintage Grand Cru tastes different from a supermarket house wine.

Quote:

That's a freakin' art lesson man. It's an example of someone very talented and proficient helping someone not learn from their mistakes.

It's an example of how you don't have to be a prick to criticize someone's work.

To be honest, I think most webcomic reviewers seem to be afraid that if they don't slag the comic they're reviewing people won't take them seriously.

[quote:a27e1274d3="Ghastly"]
To be honest, I think most webcomic reviewers seem to be afraid that if they don't slag the comic they're reviewing people won't take them seriously.

I suppose so, praising a comic can make you sound like a mindless fanboy... if all you say is "Megatkyo is GRAET!!!!"

The majority of reviews I've come across(the hobbyist reviewers anyway) were generally praising comics they were bigtime fans of or trashing comics they didn't understand or didn't like the style(The typical Anime sucks/rocks! deal).

Quote:
I don't know anything about growing grapes and wine-making, but my palate can certainly tell the difference between a vintage Grand Cru and the cheap acidic house wine from the local chain supermarket.

I can't sing to save my life, but that doesn't mean I can't tell the difference between say, The Beatles and *shudder* Britney Spears.

I'm only a mediocre cook, but I still can tell you the distinction between a fillet mignion and a quarter pounder from your local McDonalds.

All good points, but how well can you tell the difference, and can you describe the difference well enough that your point gets across with as little misunderstanding as possible? I know what I'm like, I'd describe the difference between a fillet mignon and a quarter pounder as "The Fillet Mignon was great, but it cost plenty, the quarter pounder tasted like ass but cost me $1.25" I can try and go into detail, but how proficient will I be? I say leave the reviews to the people with open minds and the ability to write. Then of course about 300 people who think they have both qualities will start trashing Achewood before I finish typing this sentence....yup... 313 actually.. I counted :D

-24

Uncle Ghastly's picture

You know, the best Quarter Pounder I've ever eaten was in Dubai. Since it's an arab state all the meats are hallal, and the preperation of the meat really affects the taste. It reminded me of this kosher steaks my old boss used to buy us when we went on the company camping trip.

Now Quarter Pounders arn't all that bad a fast food, I've eaten much worse in my life (particularily when I was in the armed forces). But they're far from as tastey as a home made hamburger. The hallal Quarter Pounder tasted a lot more like a home made hamburger than the western Quarter Pounders I've eaten ever have. My hosts were most amused when I exclaimed how suprisingly good the hamburger tasted.

Jeebus, look at all this bitching!

The bashful reviews need to be disregarded. Just focus on the serious reviews, the ones that really do contribute with something for our community. We can't be tight-shutted and ignore the simple fact that other people may have opinions about our work. If we want to be respected as a media, we better learn to accept the reviews as the positive things they are and recognize their place among us.

This metonymization of webcomic reviews has got to stop! We can't deny their place because a few people don't know how to do them!

Meto-wha'? :D Not even m-w.com can help me out there...

But I agree, it seems like Ghastly is jaded by bad reviews and is demonizing the entire concept of them because of it. A poorly-done review will garner as much attention as any other shoddy piece of craft - not alot. I don't think there's a reason to swear them all off because some people didn't do 'em right. That'll be like me abandoning webcomics because of all the bad manga clones out there with filler art right after the cover image.

[quote:e9a1e8ebe5="Dedos"]Meto-wha'? :D Not even m-w.com can help me out there...

"metonymically

adv : in a metonymic manner" .. and THAT is from Dictionary.com!

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This metonymization of webcomic reviews has got to stop! We can't deny their place because a few people don't know how to do them!

I think the problem is that there is far more than a "few" people who don't know how to write reviews. I think that was Ghastly's point.. or at least my take on it.....

Hmmm.. I don't think anyone is really denying webcomic reviews place in our "industry". It's advertising, helpful criticism and a reality check that we all need sometimes. I suppose even the poorest of the poorly written serves a purpose, if even to make the "professional" reviews more feel more legit. To go waaaay back to Phalanx's first post in here...

Quote:
After the recent spate of discussion over the usefulness of webcomic reviews, some people have argued that webcomic reviews serve no purpose since (to quote Alexander Danner) "(most) webcomics are entirely free, reviews are rendered unnecessary".

and then Phally continues with that point hypothetically agreeing with it. I thought I'd take this in another root, forgive me if I'm making opints people already made.. it's been a long day and I'm stupid...er...tired.

A review, regardless of the subject, will bring inside information and a flat out opinion to the masses. How the hell else does one advertise? This is word of mouth with a megaphone! Banner ads are poo, and popularity lists are poo as well(IMO anyway). From what I've experienced and heard word of mouth is the best way of gettin out there, and hell, bad press is still press right? I can think of 3 comics right now that I regularly check up on because I don't like them(they will remain nameless cuz I'm not a complete asshead).

If ya really think about it, the best way to avoid bad reviews(from the pros anyway) is to not suck... or atleast be more appealing then the seething masses of stickman/cut n paste/etc etc etc out there

I have a point hidden somewhere in there....

I guess.... well..... the "Webcomic X is t3h sVxx0Rz" reviewers of the world aren't really hitting your target audience anyway right(assuming wise ass 12 year olds who can't spell aren't your audience)? No one ever asks their Uncle Herb in the Asylum for his opinion on movies right?

... right!

-24

[quote:7d59e6024a="Twentyfour"]Hmmm.. I don't think anyone is really denying webcomic reviews place in our "industry". It's advertising, helpful criticism and a reality check that we all need sometimes.

Hard posted a long rant on his blog about how reviews have no place on the webcomics world because we already hand our works for free thusly making it unnecessary for someone to provide an opinion about it to potential readers when they can just check the material themselves. Ghastly, Space Coyote and a few other cartoonists joined his side, and quite a heated debate took place here at Comixpedia over this subject.

I understood that you are out of the webcomic loop. Just a heads up! :wink:

Uncle Ghastly's picture

I wouldn't go so far as to was reviews have no place but I do believe that bad reviews have no place, and bad reviews seem to be what sticks out when it comes to webcomics.

Since webcomics are, by and large, an amature medium it tends to attract amature reviewers. These reviewers seem to be more interested in promoting themselves than promoting webcomics. They tend to be written with a "Look at me rip into this popular webcomic, can't you see how smart that makes me?" type of attitude. More emphasis needs to be placed on giving the facts of the comic and less on editorializing.

Re: HS Kim Is Giving An Art Lesson/Critique _

[quote:aa06fb2389="ghastly"]You want to see constructive criticism that encourages growth?

Look at the way Hyung Sun Kim criticizes someone's work. Now that's freaking constructive. It's informative and factual and non-adversarial. The critiques are honest but not opinionated. That kind of criticism encourages growth. The kind of criticism one typically finds online isn't about encouraging growth, it's about making people feel bad for even trying.

Wow... Hyung has gotten a lot nicer recently. I remember him being so brutal with a couple of kids that even DFG tore a strip off of him.

Just for clarity, I would like to mention that the quote Phalanx attributed to me above was actually my paraphrasing of the position I was opposing, and not the argument I was supporting. I'm very much in favor of reviews--the full post she was referring to can be found here.

As to the notion that a really bad review can still be good press, I'll say this much; when I do read a really bad review, I generally will go read the comic in question, even if only to see whether it's really as bad as the reviewer said it was. Sometimes I even find myself wanting to like the comic if only to spite the reviewer. So yeah, a nasty review can still benefit the creator.

That's not to say reviewers should write really nasty reviews--again, you can, and should, give your opinion, even the negative ones, without being an ass about it.

As to the idea that a review shouldn't carry the reviewer's opinion--if you strip all the opinion out of a review, what you're left with isn't a review, it's a synopsis. Reviews, by their nature, are opinion columns. The difference between a good review or a bad one has to do with how well those opinions are supported.

As to the idea that all the current reviewers being amateurs--well, yeah, that's true. But it's not like the professionals are clamoring to review our comics. And in any case, you don't get fully formed professionals just popping into existence--they have to start as amateurs. As the industry develops, some of the current crop of amateurs will give it up, and other will grow into better, more professional reviewers. But for now, they're learning their craft by reviewing amateur comics for more-or-less amateur publications. We're an entire industry of amateurs right now, some working on the creative side, some on the business side, some on the journalistic side, and we're all learning what works and what doesn't together.

PictureStoryTheater.com:Fables & Fairy Tales

TwentySevenLetters.com: Experiments

[quote:a34164be79="AlexanderD"]Just for clarity, I would like to mention that the quote Phalanx attributed to me above was actually my paraphrasing of the position I was opposing, and not the argument I was supporting.

Whoops, I only meant to borrow the phrasing, not to imply anything. I should have watched how I presented it. My apologies, Alex. Hang on, let me rephrase that so it's less confusing.

[quote:a34164be79="Ghastly"]
Yes, but if you were going to present yourself as an authority on wines you'd have to know more than a vintage Grand Cru tastes different from a supermarket house wine.

*shakes head* You misunderstand me. There's the presumption that ignorance of the manufacturing process equates ignorance of the subject as a whole.

Let's take Wine-MAKING and Wine-TASTING, for example (again). They're related to each other, but they're not the same thing. One discipline is making the product. The other is about consuming it. Just because you're not and expert manufacturer doesn't mean you cannot be an expert consumer.

I don't have to be a wine-grower to be able to have knowledge of wine itself. I don't have to know about the difference between steel vats or oaken barrels to be able to tell whether a wine is dry, full-bodied or has a complex bouquet. The process is nothing to rating of the quality of the end product if it(the process) doesn't effect it(The quality). (I hope you can understand my odd analogy, I'm getting a bit confusing.)

At any rate, you need to be a good wine-TASTER to be a good wine-MAKER, but the inverse however, does not have to hold true. The same goes for food. And comics.

Currently the argument presented was that you had to be a established comic artist with credentials to write a review that could be worth reading. I'm saying it doesn't have to be that way.

In retrospect, reviews written by people who don't do comics would probably be even better sometimes, since the personal jealousy factor is less likely to crop up.

[quote:a34164be79="Ghastly"]You know, the best Quarter Pounder I've ever eaten was in Dubai. Since it's an arab state all the meats are hallal, and the preperation of the meat really affects the taste. It reminded me of this kosher steaks my old boss used to buy us when we went on the company camping trip.

Just don't eat the ones in London. Trust me on this. I don't know what they put in those things, but I'm not sure if it's really meat.

Where I grew up (and am at right now) all meats are sold halal. The exceptions are required to put up warning signs saying they're not. I have to agree, the halal factor makes hell a lot of difference. Some people say that it's cruelty, but then so is keeping them cooped up in cages all their life until they are to be electrocuted.

If I wanted to be less crueler, I'd go vegetarian. But then again I'd be competing with them for a food source.

Darn. Damned if you do. Damned if you don't.

Now how the heck did this topic get this derailed?

Anyway, to get back on topic. The reviews I'm refering to are the proper ones, and not the silly little scribbles that have jaded Ghastly so.

ps: I apologise for the pun. I'm sorry! Couldn't resist. ;) Dedos using that phrase reminded me of it!

[quote:c6e5a73fea="Phalanx"]Now how the heck did this topic get this derailed?

Anyway, to get back on topic. The reviews I'm refering to are the proper ones, and not the silly little scribbles that have jaded Ghastly so.

Technically, this is all a derailing 'cause the original post isn't about the validity of reviews, it's whether a reviewer should have access to a free pass to the pay sites. :)

We've made arrangements in the past whenever one of my reviewers didn't have access to a particular pay-comic they were assigned to review. To date, the pay site hosts have always been very accomodating.

'Monk, I'll be very happy to let any of you 'Pedia guys look at my site for free. :wink:

scarfman's picture

[quote:1423ebb817="AlexanderD"]As to the idea that all the current reviewers being amateurs--well, yeah, that's true. But it's not like the professionals are clamoring to review our comics. And in any case, you don't get fully formed professionals just popping into existence--they have to start as amateurs. As the industry develops, some of the current crop of amateurs will give it up, and other will grow into better, more professional reviewers. But for now, they're learning their craft by reviewing amateur comics for more-or-less amateur publications. We're an entire industry of amateurs right now, some working on the creative side, some on the business side, some on the journalistic side, and we're all learning what works and what doesn't together.

I'm all for improving as we go along, but I fall on Piro's side of the amateur/professional dichotomy. Piro rants periodically about the way the megacorporate entertainment industry has worked hard in recent years to convince us that our entertainment must be slick and fast-paced and "professional", and how it's not true.

See, it used to be that the common people turned to themselves for storytelling - not just because only the rich could afford the professionals, but because everyone had the same hardware the professionals did: voice and mind. But for the most recent half-millennium (since the advent of the printing press) and particularly for the most recent half-century (since the advent of motion pictures) technology has converted storytelling into the purview of those with ridiculous access to resources and (here's my point) distribution. Technology took storytelling away from the people: even if you made a movie in your garage, how'd you get it to people to see it like the big boys do? The internet has changed that, and still is. One day your tv and your internet terminal'll be the same appliance (and your phone, and your ATM, and your thermostat, and your ...). Technology's given back to the common people what it had inadvertently stolen. And common people like Piro and Iliad and Ghastly are making it work for them.

Don't be afraid to be amateur. Be proud.

Paul Gadzikowski,
http://www.arthurkingoftimeandspace.com New cartoons daily.

This is an argument cycle that is centuries old.

In literature, you see the elitist movement get overrun/pushed down by the masses who rebel against the snobbish decadence and adherences to 'tradition' and formalism.

The masses win, and for a while, formalism is scrapped, and creativity and innovation are the games of the day. Yes, you have lots of crap out there since "everyone thinks they can write", but the best of the best rises to the top, and people hail the best.

Then people, seeing all this 'best of the best stuff', think, 'wow! I wanna do stuff like that, too!' They start to imitate and emulate, and pretty soon they are essentially creating a "tradition".

Eventually, some people look at these works that are "based on tradition" and say that they are nothing but pale shadows of the originals, that the movement is now dead and decadent, and that people who are not following forms are producing crap because they have no guides to help discipline them. They start screaming for a return to forms and to a more "serious" approach, and start saying that not everyone is meant to be an artist, etc. Thus are born the new elitists.

And the cycle starts over again.

In comics, we've seen this cycle happen a few times... and even in webcomics, we've seen a few mini-cycles occur.

Nope, nothing new here, folks.

When webcomics go on indefinite hiatus, they become the grass. And then the antelope eat the grass.

Dude, that's not how it works!

You see, the antelope is the artist. He produces the comic, or the poop if you will, and then it becomes grass for another antelope to eat.

South Park taught me everything I needed to know.

Al Schroeder's picture

I do a "Webcomics Weview" forum at Buzzcomix, at http://www.buzzcomix.net/community/viewforum.php?f=58 and we've LITERALLY got a waiting list a year long (you can see it at http://www.novanotes.com/review.htm because we do it a little differently than Comixpedia or the Examiner do it.
Everybody who signs up agrees to do five reviews of other peoples' comics. And that makes the difference.
Everybody who reviews will BE reviewed. Myself included. So you're less likely to flame, since you know the person you've been reviewing might someday review YOU when your head's on the chopping block. We have a week to read the comic, then start reviewing it on Saturday, and have the rest of the week to post reviews, get feedback from the author. The emphasis is on constructive reviews, on non-flaming reviews. (During that same week we're supposed to be reading the NEXT comic. ETc.)
The hardnosed critic is needed in any media---the critic to tell the public that such-and-such is crap, and why. From Mr. Cranky to Harlan Ellison to Roger Ebert, professional critics are needed. But...
I think there's a need for PEER review too...considering most webcomics authors are amateurs, and just looking for advice and peer review and reactions and suggestions---I think we do the most thoughtful and interesting---and more to the point, the most HELPFUL---- reviews in the biz.
Read through some of them and see if you don't agree. We've been doing this for months, and it seems to be working well.---Al

 Al Schroeder III of MINDMISTRESS---think the superhero genre is mined out? Think there are no new superhero ideas? Think again.

Al:

What you're doing there are actually not reviews at all, but rather critiques. Any time you are writing an evaluation of a work for the creator and not for the general public, you are writing a critique.

Cool thing to do, but not the same thing whatsoever. Just a friendly neighbourhood FYI. :)

-damonk not logged in

Gosh, I wish we had as many people writing webcomics reviews as writing opinions about people writing webcomics reviews!

Regarding reviews of pay comics-- in the print arena, it's extremely helpful when publishers provide reviewers with comp copies. After all, a graphic novel might have a $20 price tag on it (plus $4 postage if you get it through Amazon.com.)

But in Webcomics, pay comics are extremely cheap. I'd be embarrassed to email somebody and say 'Could you please give me a comp to your bitpass site? I can't afford 50 cents to read the comic.'

Sure, it's helpful to give us comps. Anybody who wants to comp the Examiner staff should contact me at . But as a reviewer I don't consider a subscription or a fee to be a barrier.

--Joe Zabel

Absolutely, Joe -- but you have to remember that you will always have some contributors who may not have the ability (or the funds) to pay for even a simple, small pay-comic fee. They could be young students with no credit card, or someone who is really on a tight budget right now, etc. etc.

As an editor (as well as a personal subscriber), you have to maintain a trust level with those comic providers who trust you with a single account. So, say, while I personally have accounts set up with Pay-comic X, it's not ethically correct for me myself to give Reviews Contributor A my own personal account codes... even if for a "noble cause" -- it's a violation of the single user agreement between the provider and myself, because it leads to the risk of Contributor A reading more material than he was "supposed to" (i.e., reading all the product on the site rather than the one review target), or even for Contributor A to give the account codes to friends and etc.

Now sure -- it may not seem a like a big deal at all, and some providers prolly don't care any less whether that's what I/you/Joe Editor Guy did or not.

But to try to help prevent providers being taken advantage of by individuals and consequently losing out on much-needed revenue, it's better for them to offer temporary comp subscriptions (provided that the admin time to hammer out a temp subscription is negligible, of course). Since it also serves as a marketing tool, it's actually a beneficial thing for a pay-comic host to do; by encouraging reviews sites to take free peeks at their work, they increase the chance of getting favorable word-of-mouth for their product through the ensuing reviews, which in turn generates more sales.

Or at least, that's how I see it.

***

Of course, as it turns out, many of my contributors already have accounts for many pay-comics, so it's rarely been an issue to date, go figure. :)

-damonk still not logged in

Al Schroeder's picture

[quote:b33f6f191c="Anonymous"]Al:

What you're doing there are actually not reviews at all, but rather critiques. Any time you are writing an evaluation of a work for the creator and not for the general public, you are writing a critique.

Cool thing to do, but not the same thing whatsoever. Just a friendly neighbourhood FYI. :)

-damonk not logged in

(Nodding.) You're right. But Webcomix Critiques doesn't sound as interesting. *Grin*---Al

 Al Schroeder III of MINDMISTRESS---think the superhero genre is mined out? Think there are no new superhero ideas? Think again.

[quote:cb6b17a8c7="scarfman"]I'm all for improving as we go along, but I fall on Piro's side of the amateur/professional dichotomy. Piro rants periodically about the way the megacorporate entertainment industry has worked hard in recent years to convince us that our entertainment must be slick and fast-paced and "professional", and how it's not true.

This, of course, leads into the semantic argument of what "professional" means. If we're going with the pragmatic definition, that professional just means you make a living from your work, then you're absolutely right, and being a professional is no indicator of talent or quality.

For me, "professional" implies demonstrated experience, combined with a constant striving to improve your ability to do whatever it is you do. Thus, when I say that the current reviewers will become more professional, what I mean is that they'll be more experienced and more knowledgable. I certainly don't mean to imply that they'll be more corporate.

In any case, the work produced by Hollywood and other corporate media may be "professional," but professional what? Money-making, generally. Although there are exceptions among the creative workers, the people who actually decide what movies get made aren't interested in making better movies, just more profitable ones. That's true in a lot of industries.

And for what it's worth, the idea that "elitism" and corporate "professionalism" go together is backwards. Hollywood is populist. It may be geared to make the rich richer, but it does so by responding to the demands of the wider public. The "elitists" are all us poor schmucks who can't pay our rent, but are committed to telling a good story, because we consider ourselves too good to make another Garfield.

At least, that's one way of looking at it. Another way is simply to point out that we're *all* elitists. We just disagree on who the real elite are.

PictureStoryTheater.com:Fables & Fairy Tales

TwentySevenLetters.com: Experiments

I'd say there are various definitions of the word 'professional' in the comics medium.

The 'true' professional is the person who makes their living in comics. The talent, skill and dedication required to do this should not be shrugged off just because one isn't interested in superheroes or Archie. These craftsmen work long hours (60/week is common) and must put up with the strictures of commercial publicatons. Not to mention the financial uncertainty, as when a supposedly solid company like Cross Gen goes belly up.

By extension, the 'professional' tag applies to professional craftsmen working in related fields. Many cartoonists who don't make a living at it work in commercial art as their day job; their level of talent, skill and dedication is generally the equivalent of the 'true' professional cartoonist.

By further (and somewhat precarious) extension, 'professional' can refer to the quality of the artwork itself. It is as if to say the work looks like it was produced by a 'true' professional or a professional in a related commercial art field. Generally, this refers to a high level of talent and skill, a consistency and an abundance of detail, and a relaxed self-confidence that is achieved through steadfast hard work. It also refers to the judgement that under the right circumstances, large masses of consumers would be willing to purchase the work.

But 'professional' is not typically a term applied to alternative comics. Art Spiegelman, Chris Ware and others are in fact 'true' professionals, but are rarely refered to as such. That's because alternative comics artists and fans have a different value system. They don't generally subscribe to the Capitalist work ethic. What's important to them is not hard work, or money, or success. What's important to them is art that has meaning and originality.

I saw this article and thought it was relevant:

[url=http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/entertainment/columnists.nsf/Joe+Williams/944E178F7A6FFF0186256ED900726E95?OpenDocument&Headline=Beyond+the+stars+lies+a+parallel+universe+of+critics'+picks]The Link[/url]

[edited by damonk to fix link/table issue]

Damn. I hope one of the mods fix that link. It's breaking the tables BADLY.

Joe -- I suppose the problem for me in setting aside "hard work" as a value, in favor of meaning and originality, is that (in my mind at least), hard work is almost always a requirement for achieving meaning and originality. Thus, "professional" still means something in judging alternative comics.

RPin -- great link. Highlights one of the more challenging elements of review writing.

PictureStoryTheater.com:Fables & Fairy Tales

TwentySevenLetters.com: Experiments

Yes, I have to agree- that's a great inside look at reviewing. What I've been advocating to people who accuse reviews of being all opinion is that yes, you have to have opinion, but you have to try and be as objective as possible. That's what makes a reviewing job like any other where people who know a lot about something distill it for other people. Say you've got a consulting job for a company that buys watches and distributes them. You have to know a bit about watches and probably own several yourself, but your preferences for the kind of watches you'd get for yourself would be a detriment for providing sound advice to this company, so you'd set it aside for the most part as much as you could, being only human. That's what reviewers should do.
Say a comic is based on an awful pun. Some people will hate it because of that, some people will think it's all the funnier for being awful. But a reviewer can still report it's an awful pun and keep his or her affections for it veiled.

I like that Joe outlined all the common uses for "professional". But I guess we've got the same problem with review. It's a broad word that in the dictionary covers a lot of usage, so it actually DOES apply to critiques, but practically is something completely different from a critique.

As for quality of reviews... this IS the internet. If 90-99% of webcomics are crap, wouldn't that percentage apply to reviews? Like the emergence of more and more awesome webcomics in the past couple years, I think reviews are going the same way. So I'm going to forget all about the awful rants disguised as reviews I've read in the past and focus on what's working.

Oh, on topic- I got a comp to review Slipshine, which is a pay comic site. The advantage of that was I reviewing the entire site, so couldn't possibly abuse the account I was using. I suppose the only other places you could do the same thing would be with bitpass comics or with americanelf, basically.

-Meaghan