14 ways to spot a bad critic

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14 ways to spot a bad critic

Postby robotthepirate on Tue May 15, 2012 12:55 pm

From the creator of Goblins.

LINK!
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Re: 14 ways to spot a bad critic

Postby LibertyCabbage on Tue May 15, 2012 1:51 pm

Oh, yeah, Goblins! I totally forgot about that comic. The guy who does it used to post here once in a while, too.

I actually disagree with just about every one of his points, although my objections probably won't make any sense until I explain them. I'll probably post a quick rebuttal here when I get a chance and send it to Thunt.
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Re: 14 ways to spot a bad critic

Postby McDuffies on Tue May 15, 2012 4:00 pm

1. Anyone who says “This is the worst thing I’ve ever seen in my life“.

3. Anyone who uses the word “history” in a comparably definitive way.

4. Anyone who writes “period” as a way of re-enforcing a previous point.

7. Anyone who uses the phrase “One word comes to mind…”.

8. Anyone who uses the phrase “I want my X minutes back“.

9. Anyone who tells you to stop creating.

10. Anyone who says “This sucks“.

6. Anyone using multiple exclamation marks or caps lock.

11. Anyone with terrible spelling/grammar.

You noticed that seven of 14 paragraphs here are about some particular phrasing that is supposed to instantly discredit a critic... and that two more are about formal elements which I otherwise would agree on (grammar is important) but here just seem like a part of the overall obsession with form over content. They're not necessarily untrue, but it's such a messy, disorganized article with a lot of redundancy (like, 1 and 3 are basically the same) that it seems more like a brainstorming session after reading several bad reviews than an attempt to delineate anything. It seems more like a list of his pet peeve phrases that critics often uses, not that some of them aren't very irritating and damaging for one's credentials. But really, a guy who harps so much about people who are making blank and exagerated statements, makes a list consisting mostly of "Anyone who says this word is a bad critic" and "Anyone who says that phrase is a bad critic"?

2. Anyone who criticises your work without seeing the whole thing.

Eeh... depends. I once criticized an italian comic that runs over 300 50-page episodes, when I've only read several of them. I was attacked that I could not properly judge the serial without reading all of them, but I thought that 5 to ten episodes were a good sample, that they had well enough time to express their best in those episodes, and that the odds that I somehow stumbled onto exclusively the worst episodes were very small. There was also looming implication that my criticizers hoped that any potential critic of the comic would give up on criticizing them at all, if he was forced to read the entire run.
I don't think you neccesarily have to see the whole thing. I think that you have to try to see the representative thing. If I have to read an article on, say, Frank Zappa, but don't want to spend the end of my days doing that, I'm gonna start by finding out which albums of his are considered the best or the most representative.
But I do agree that, say, judging a comic based on it's first chapter is like... why, it's almost like rejecting a critic's entire body of work based on the phrases that he uses!

5. Anyone who jumps to conclusions about behind-the-scenes reasoning.

I do agree that psychoanalytical critique is a croc, specially if critic is as sub-par pop-psychologist as most are. But the funny thing is that he beings his article by committing the very same thing:
Secondly, it can make the critic feel superior to the creator. I mean, if Mr. Creator has been deemed “amazing” by making something that’s entertained a lot of people, and I then belittle his work, I must be even more amazing than Mr. Creator! This is unhealthy and pathetic. So how does Mr.Creator know which critic to listen to and which to ignore?

It looks like he already forgot what he wrote few paragraphs above. Or forgot what he was about to write.

12. Anyone who brags about themselves during the review.

I actually don't like when critics write about themselves in reviews at all. To me it's false advertising because I came to read about the work, and if I knew that the article would be about some guy I don't know or care about, maybe I wouldn't have read the article. And if you've read enough Pitchfork articles then you know that critics can get carried away with things that aren't even tangentially related to topic at hand, as if their literary firework is a proof that they're instantly right about the thing they're reviewing. Also it reeks of a wannabe novelist who's trying to showcase/sneak in his fiction work to an audience that doesn't want to read it.
Reviews should first and foremost be analytical and informative. Entertaining comes only after that as a bonus, and only if critic is sufficiently opportunistic and doesn't believe that critical discussion is entertaining in itself.

13. Anyone who tries too hard to be funny or focuses too much on creative ways to insult your work.

This is something I very much agree with too. It's when a critic tries to convince in his opinion not by the strength of his arguements, but by imaginativeness of the way he expresses his opinion. Basically we're supposed to believe him based on the strength of his opinion, based on how much he hates, and not why he hates.

I dunno, there are some things that would crumble my opinion about a critic, but using cliche and overstating phrase would be just one point in the list. To me the single most important factor about judging the critic is what kind of opinions he displayed in previous reviews. If he notoriously criticizes things I like or glorifies things I loath, that will make me reject that critic quicker than anything else. But I'm still leaning towards idea that there's no completely useless criticism. Like the bad reviews we got for our albums which I already mentioned - while I wasn't particularly impressed by the arguments they had against us (to say the least), it still made us wonder what kind of perception various people have of us, why do they have it, and whether we want them to have such perception or not... It's another matter whether this is worth the anguish that one overly sensitive artist may experience because of that, but really too often artists are living in the shell that consists of their own perception of themselves, perhaps their friends, family and some fans, that is can only be beneficial for an artist to peek at the other side of the fence.
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Re: 14 ways to spot a bad critic

Postby VeryCuddlyCornpone on Tue May 15, 2012 4:36 pm

McDuffies wrote:I dunno, there are some things that would crumble my opinion about a critic, but using cliche and overstating phrase would be just one point in the list.


yeah seriously, that really padded the list out for no reason



I keep reading the thread title as "14 ways to spot a bald critic." I figured that would be a pretty clear thing to identify, and there's like a maximum of five things (generously) that could comprise such a list.
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Re: 14 ways to spot a bad critic

Postby McDuffies on Tue May 15, 2012 7:10 pm

VeryCuddlyCornpone wrote:I keep reading the thread title as "14 ways to spot a bald critic." I figured that would be a pretty clear thing to identify, and there's like a maximum of five things (generously) that could comprise such a list.

Actually on internet it's a pretty pressing issue. Rumor has it that creators of Penny Arcade are as bold as billiard ball, but noone could guess.
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Re: 14 ways to spot a bad critic

Postby robotthepirate on Wed May 16, 2012 1:29 am

McDuffies wrote:
VeryCuddlyCornpone wrote:I keep reading the thread title as "14 ways to spot a bald critic." I figured that would be a pretty clear thing to identify, and there's like a maximum of five things (generously) that could comprise such a list.

Actually on internet it's a pretty pressing issue. Rumor has it that creators of Penny Arcade are as bold as billiard ball, but noone could guess.


No!

I think Cuddly is bald. Voluntarily.

Honsetly this is the werst list Ive ever seen. Period. I didnt read the hole thing but thats only because IT SUCKS!!!! Never is the history of lists has anyone done something this terrible or at least not since WWI and even that was en-list (lol). Whoever wrote this must have serious mental health issues and needs to put down his pen: go see a sphyciatrist (like he can afford one, lol): sort out the mess in his brain and then NEVER pick up a pen: pencil: keyboard or any writing tool EVER again. One word springs to mind: LOSER! I should know, I've written reviews of all the top comics, I made all 8 crators of Penny Arcade so angry they put a restraining order on me so I can't even go on the website. That's just how cutting my slaughterous review of that fan made comic was (Well, if the fans suck the comic must too. Am I right? I'm right!). There's someone who can't take criticism and I bet this Thunt guy is just the same. Final thoughts; give me my 2 f'ing minutes back you ass! [/joke]

I put in a few spelling misteaks but then I couldn't be bothered to butcher it any more. Still I think I got them all in there. And even went a little overboard at times.
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Re: 14 ways to spot a bad critic

Postby McDuffies on Wed May 16, 2012 3:44 am

:D
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Re: 14 ways to spot a bad critic

Postby LibertyCabbage on Wed May 16, 2012 7:27 am

I'm glad I'm not the only one who found fault with the article. McDuffies did a great job dissecting it, and I don't really have anything to add to his rebuttal.
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Re: 14 ways to spot a bad critic

Postby Harishankar on Wed May 16, 2012 9:01 am

I don't know. I think criticism of a certain kind can destroy motivation. Art is hard work, but it's even tougher to put together art and writing to make a good comic. 90% of the comics out there are average, even the ones with great art and even the ones with decent writing - I put myself entirely in the reader's shoes here. But when comic artists specially ask for a bit of help or feedback,I think sometimes critics need to lower their expectations and still be honest about their views - in an encouraging way of course.

I think, especially on comic fora like these, critics become overly technical and too art oriented. I think the best comics I've read are unconventional, witty and bold, not necessarily the ones with the greatest or best artwork but overly conventional and conforming. Critics tend to evaluate comics based on their own views of what a great comic should be. An open mind and a little bit of kindness are still great qualities of critics, without sacrificing honesty.

I also think that critics sometimes lose all sense of proportion. Most of us are doing comics as a hobby - and as a hobby it's one that really takes time and effort. I guess 99% of those who ask for a critique aren't professional artists making a living from their craft and even if they do, they will most likely not ask random strangers on the internet and instead will ask well established peers and their own fanbase. Maybe it might help both the critic and the creator if the critic asks the creator why a review is needed in the first place without making assumptions. Critics too often don't consider these issues.

Here's my thoughts on comics in general:

1. A well drawn comic is visually pleasing, but bad or average writing can quickly turn off readers.
2. Art style is something I pay attention to only initially. If the artwork is reasonably consistent and not too distracting from the story/joke, the quality of the writing is what I end up assessing.
3. I don't think good artists necessarily write well. They end up using too many cliches and repetitive themes.
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Re: 14 ways to spot a bad critic

Postby RobboAKAscooby on Wed May 16, 2012 12:49 pm

Harishankar wrote:Maybe it might help both the critic and the creator if the critic asks the creator why a review is needed in the first place without making assumptions.

Why get reviewed/critiqued?
To find out if it's working and, if not, why.

If you want a reviewer to pat you on the back and say "well done" then you're not ready and should stick to showing friends/family.

Yeah it sucks when your hard work is torn apart but IF you like what you're doing you get over it in a few days and IMPROVE.
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Re: 14 ways to spot a bad critic

Postby Harishankar on Wed May 16, 2012 6:50 pm

RobboAKAscooby wrote:
Harishankar wrote:Maybe it might help both the critic and the creator if the critic asks the creator why a review is needed in the first place without making assumptions.

Why get reviewed/critiqued?
To find out if it's working and, if not, why.

If you want a reviewer to pat you on the back and say "well done" then you're not ready and should stick to showing friends/family.

Yeah it sucks when your hard work is torn apart but IF you like what you're doing you get over it in a few days and IMPROVE.


I don't think you get my point.

Here's my take on the usefulness of random reviews - critical or otherwise:

The reviewer's view is just a personal opinion - nothing more or less - unless the reviewer actually knows his/her stuff; and a highly critical personal opinion is about as useless as a highly appreciative one. Just because a review says "your work sucks" etc. doesn't automatically make the review useful and just because a reviewer says "I like your work" doesn't make the review totally useless. Unless the reviewer happens to be an expert in his field and is equally willing to share his/her knowledge to improve the subject of criticism, the review is next to useless. In fact, it is useless. And a negative useless review is worse than a positive useless review in the sense that it can be demotivating.

All reviews are just packaged personal opinions in the format of a "review". Experts or people who genuinely understand the medium and equally have knowledge to help others improve are the ones whose opinion is worth reading.

I think what I'm saying is that the reviewer should stick to the same high standards they set for the object of their critique for their own products: i.e. reviews. Reviewers shouldn't go on the defensive when they find their own reviews criticized. Otherwise, they should be honest and admit their own shortcomings before going on to bash somebody else. That shows class and a certain level of integrity.

We artists certainly aren't obliged to take every random stranger's review as a honest and totally useful one unless the reviewer can establish a certain level of credibility.
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Re: 14 ways to spot a bad critic

Postby VeryCuddlyCornpone on Wed May 16, 2012 7:22 pm

I can see your point, however I don't feel it's the reviewer's responsibility to explain where their own weaknesses lie before they give critique. Some choose to, as I do, because often it helps to make something more clear or to ensure the recipient knows that the criticism isn't intended as a personal insult.

Also to be considered is whether the criticism is done for the creator- here's your faults and here's how to fix them- versus done for potential readers, like Roger Ebert does for films. In the latter case, there is no obligation whatsoever to say "here are some steps you can take to improve." In that case, the reviewer may just point out what he/she perceives to be wrong.

Again, it's a personal choice whether the reviewer is going to hold the creator's hand* throughout the process. Some will point out tutorials, excercises and study material that could help the reader, whereas some would prefer ot just say "Here's what I feel is lacking" and leave it up to the creator to find the path to resolving that issue.

Often times, people getting reviews find the second type listed there to be impersonal or "mean"; however I find in many cases these are the same poeple who wouldn't take the advice of someone in the first category, either. Some people simply aren't able to put any type of criticism to good use.


*I don't mean this in the demeaning way in which it is often used- I don't mean that the reviewer in this situation is coddling the recipient, but more that the reviewer is acting as a guide or mentor.
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Re: 14 ways to spot a bad critic

Postby Harishankar on Wed May 16, 2012 11:11 pm

I was talking about the reviews on request, not the reviews that people write for the benefit of the general public.

In the latter case, reviews can be much more subjective. It can also be more negative on the whole without having to point out specific errors.

I think in the case of reviews being sought for by comic artists, it is only proper to assume that the comic artist is seeking genuine help and critical feedback from somebody who knows more about the craft than he/she does, not simply a subjective opinion. I don't think a lot of comic creators simply ask for reviews just to get patted on the back. Sometimes this unfair assumption is made without any basis.

Reviewers in this case ought to play a more constructive, mentoring and teaching role than a strictly critical one. Of course, this is my view on the subject as a whole. Mistakes and errors, even bigger fundamental flaws can be pointed out without hurting or insulting a person. :D
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Re: 14 ways to spot a bad critic

Postby McDuffies on Thu May 17, 2012 7:29 am

Harishankar wrote:I don't think you get my point.

Here's my take on the usefulness of random reviews - critical or otherwise:

The reviewer's view is just a personal opinion - nothing more or less - unless the reviewer actually knows his/her stuff; and a highly critical personal opinion is about as useless as a highly appreciative one. Just because a review says "your work sucks" etc. doesn't automatically make the review useful and just because a reviewer says "I like your work" doesn't make the review totally useless. Unless the reviewer happens to be an expert in his field and is equally willing to share his/her knowledge to improve the subject of criticism, the review is next to useless. In fact, it is useless. And a negative useless review is worse than a positive useless review in the sense that it can be demotivating.

All reviews are just packaged personal opinions in the format of a "review". Experts or people who genuinely understand the medium and equally have knowledge to help others improve are the ones whose opinion is worth reading.

I think what I'm saying is that the reviewer should stick to the same high standards they set for the object of their critique for their own products: i.e. reviews. Reviewers shouldn't go on the defensive when they find their own reviews criticized. Otherwise, they should be honest and admit their own shortcomings before going on to bash somebody else. That shows class and a certain level of integrity.

We artists certainly aren't obliged to take every random stranger's review as a honest and totally useful one unless the reviewer can establish a certain level of credibility.


It seems to me like what you're saying is basically that there are bad critics and their opinion is worth less, and then there are good critics and their opinion is worth more.
Ok, I guess we're on the same page there. You might have run into us harping about the superficial, tabloid-like way Bad Webcomic wiki and the likes approach reviewing elsewhere, though those remarks are buried somewhere in a different thread... but there's certainly no issue with the opinion that some people who do the criticizing simply don't do that job right and consequently waste everyone's time.

But I'll repeat my statement from before, which I'm saying strictly from the point of author who's been a subject of critique, that even reviews which I found terribly amateurishly written where useful to be in the long run. They may not have presented any particularly truthful information, but they did act like a splash of cold water, which alerted me in the sense that they reminded me of other possible perceptions of my work. As I said, you may get cocooned during the creation, surrounded by collaborators and people who reliably like your stuff, and forget about the other directions in which you may take your work - these reviews serve as a reminder that there are other directions.
Now I am aware that I am one of those more dedicated to my "art". I am aware that there are people who make comics in a decidedly unambitious manner, to whom spending a few hours doing something that they enjoy is the main draw, and who aren't interested in improving, reaching more audience or creating something that will be praised. That's a valid choice as any, it's nothing to be judgmental about, and I guess those people perhaps can't benefit from badly written reviews.
But I also can't help but remember all the people who allegedly worked in this leisured, hobbyist manner, and still often complained that their comic's popularity didn't reach their expectations. That's like wanting to have your cake and eat it too, because popularity usually requires work and dedication that are on the level of professional work.

Now, it may seem sucky how everyone who can cobble together a web page thinks they have "credentials" to be reviewers. But to me this is like asking an artist to show "art credentials" before posting his comics. Because - this is internet. It's the great equalizer. The very fact that internet has no quality control results in the fact that any of us can get our comics out there without needing to go through tedious editorial and approval process, but we just have to be at peace with the fact that the same thing goes for reviewers. "The great equalizer" is both a great and an awful thing. It gives us comics such as "Dinosaur comic", which are great, but would have zero chance being published in papers. It also gives us hundreds of kids who photograph their toys, stick speech bubbles on them, and then go around bothering strangers, complaining how noone wants to read their great comic.

To me, enjoying all the benefits of internet but complaining about it when it comes to activities of other people, is hypocritical. It would be as if I was urging to stop those kids from posting their toy photos of internet, while at the same time I myself never apply my comics to anyone's approval.

And I know you'll probably think that it's different with reviewers, that reviewers are there to bash someone else's work while comic authors are purely and independently creative. But then what about webcomics that are critical of something as well? What about political comics? Should we object to Penny Arcade criticizing games in their comic? Shouldn't we say "hey, someone invested a lot of money and effort in that game, and now you're bashing it in a comic strip that took you couple of hours to produce"? I don't think so.

Furthermore, what many artists don't realize is, reviews are awfully hard to write too. One of the hardest things about writing reviews is actually achieving balance. For one, critic has to balance between being too harsh and too soft. Critic has to appear flexible, yet he has to have authority about what he's saying (which is why it's a very bad idea for a critic to point out at his own shortcomings in attempt to appease artist he's criticizing).
Be too condensed in your writing and you'll be accused that you're not helpful enough. Try to guide an artist by the hand, and you'll appear patronizing, or meddling too much in other people's work. Then there's also other things that pretty much any writer has to deal with, such as: organizing your thoughts, organizing the structure of your article, trying to transfer what you think into words without losing anything in "translation"... In general, a critic has to find his voice, he has to learn his craft, as much as the artist does. Where will he learn if you're asking him to know his craft as soon as he hits the paper for the first time?
And let's not be mistaken: no matter how good a critic is, artists will always hate him. Artists hate critics, that's a given. No matter what they say aloud, artists actually don't want to be criticized, they want to be praised. No matter how noble they appear about critiques, artists sill always see a critic as someone who is ruthlessly and effortlessly stomping all over their hard work (despite the fact that, if you're an unambitious hobbyist, this work couldn't have been that hard).
Artist hates a critic, no matter whether he is an internet hobbyist who is giving away entertainment and asking for basically nothing in return, or a Michael Bay who is being paid enormous money for doing a really shoddy work.

I'd also like to say that I'm slowly getting tired of the whole "poor artists being deeply hurt by bad reviews" spiel. I advocate every artist becoming callous about reviewers, and about other people's opinions as well. Opinions are gonna happen, no matter how much you resist putting your comic's name in the google, they'll be out there, and you have to learn to deal with that. I may appear terribly cruel when I say this, but if one really can't stand hearing other people's opinion to that level of emotional hurt, then one should reconsider showing his work to other people.
Realize this: when you post your comic on internet, you are implicitly asking us to judge it. Perhaps not to write a lengthy diatribe about it's strengths and weaknesses, but when I visit your site, I am asked to a) like it and read it, b) be ambivalent and c) hate it and leave it. Expression of my opinion is recorded in your user stats. If you check your stats and see that your site has three readers, you are receiving implied criticism, and believe me you're gonna feel hurt as much as if someone trashed your comic in a review. If you never get a bad review in your life, you'll still gonna feel hurt if noone reads your comic.
Artists like to act as if reviewer hurt them personally, they like to equal this to a reviewer physically attacking them or someone close to them, perhaps and most notoriously, their children. This is an insult to everyone who actually had someone close to them attacked or hurt. Realize that this is only comics. They're supposed to be fun. They're supposed to be a pastime. We are not supposed to take them all that seriously. So why are we suddenly acting as if it's something much more important than a simple hobby once the criticism arises?

I should point out, though, that I still hate John Solomon and Bad Webcomics Wiki and the likes. They may be the most well known of the webcomic critics, but only in the tabloid sort of way, because if you're playing a douchebag for the sake of publicity, you get more publicity than dozens of people who are doing an honest job out of something. Blame internet audience on this, not the reviewers.
(Actually what I really hate is probably the fact that they are popular, that these are people and places that internet audience has decided to make into stars)

Also to be considered is whether the criticism is done for the creator- here's your faults and here's how to fix them- versus done for potential readers, like Roger Ebert does for films. In the latter case, there is no obligation whatsoever to say "here are some steps you can take to improve." In that case, the reviewer may just point out what he/she perceives to be wrong.

Critics like Ebert never take the "educator" stance, but they still have a lot of useful things for an author. For one, if they point to what the work is missing, isn't that useful? If I say that work is disorganized, isn't that a pointer to try to have your work more organized? If they say what are work's strengths and weaknesses, haven't they already told a) what artist should accentuate in next work b) what artist should work on improving c) what direction artist's work might go to? I think if, in such review, artist is saying that reviewer wasn't helpful enough, artist is basically just looking for an excuse to reject the review. Actually I'd go as far as to say that these reviews are better because they make a reviewer think instead of telling him what to think.
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Re: 14 ways to spot a bad critic

Postby Mastermind on Thu May 17, 2012 7:34 am

1. Anyone who says “This is the worst thing I’ve ever seen in my life“.
Sometimes, people who are unable to properly and succinctly make a point[...]


I think the very fact that he feels the need to elaborate on these phrases like that makes it look like this is personal. For someone who's not enraged, a list of lame phrases would suffice. Maybe he did receive bad criticism from someone who never gave him a chance to respond/discuss and made no valid points. But why not write that and perhaps make fun of those reviewers instead? It's not like someone can post a comment on that rant anyway.
and what's with the "anyone". Ever heard of context? :eyebrow:
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Re: 14 ways to spot a bad critic

Postby Harishankar on Thu May 17, 2012 8:01 am

McDuffies wrote:
Harishankar wrote:I don't think you get my point.

Here's my take on the usefulness of random reviews - critical or otherwise:

The reviewer's view is just a personal opinion - nothing more or less - unless the reviewer actually knows his/her stuff; and a highly critical personal opinion is about as useless as a highly appreciative one. Just because a review says "your work sucks" etc. doesn't automatically make the review useful and just because a reviewer says "I like your work" doesn't make the review totally useless. Unless the reviewer happens to be an expert in his field and is equally willing to share his/her knowledge to improve the subject of criticism, the review is next to useless. In fact, it is useless. And a negative useless review is worse than a positive useless review in the sense that it can be demotivating.

All reviews are just packaged personal opinions in the format of a "review". Experts or people who genuinely understand the medium and equally have knowledge to help others improve are the ones whose opinion is worth reading.

I think what I'm saying is that the reviewer should stick to the same high standards they set for the object of their critique for their own products: i.e. reviews. Reviewers shouldn't go on the defensive when they find their own reviews criticized. Otherwise, they should be honest and admit their own shortcomings before going on to bash somebody else. That shows class and a certain level of integrity.

We artists certainly aren't obliged to take every random stranger's review as a honest and totally useful one unless the reviewer can establish a certain level of credibility.


It seems to me like what you're saying is basically that there are bad critics and their opinion is worth less, and then there are good critics and their opinion is worth more.
Ok, I guess we're on the same page there. You might have run into us harping about the superficial, tabloid-like way Bad Webcomic wiki and the likes approach reviewing elsewhere, though those remarks are buried somewhere in a different thread... but there's certainly no issue with the opinion that some people who do the criticizing simply don't do that job right and consequently waste everyone's time.

But I'll repeat my statement from before, which I'm saying strictly from the point of author who's been a subject of critique, that even reviews which I found terribly amateurishly written where useful to be in the long run. They may not have presented any particularly truthful information, but they did act like a splash of cold water, which alerted me in the sense that they reminded me of other possible perceptions of my work. As I said, you may get cocooned during the creation, surrounded by collaborators and people who reliably like your stuff, and forget about the other directions in which you may take your work - these reviews serve as a reminder that there are other directions.
Now I am aware that I am one of those more dedicated to my "art". I am aware that there are people who make comics in a decidedly unambitious manner, to whom spending a few hours doing something that they enjoy is the main draw, and who aren't interested in improving, reaching more audience or creating something that will be praised. That's a valid choice as any, it's nothing to be judgmental about, and I guess those people perhaps can't benefit from badly written reviews.
But I also can't help but remember all the people who allegedly worked in this leisured, hobbyist manner, and still often complained that their comic's popularity didn't reach their expectations. That's like wanting to have your cake and eat it too, because popularity usually requires work and dedication that are on the level of professional work.

Now, it may seem sucky how everyone who can cobble together a web page thinks they have "credentials" to be reviewers. But to me this is like asking an artist to show "art credentials" before posting his comics. Because - this is internet. It's the great equalizer. The very fact that internet has no quality control results in the fact that any of us can get our comics out there without needing to go through tedious editorial and approval process, but we just have to be at peace with the fact that the same thing goes for reviewers. "The great equalizer" is both a great and an awful thing. It gives us comics such as "Dinosaur comic", which are great, but would have zero chance being published in papers. It also gives us hundreds of kids who photograph their toys, stick speech bubbles on them, and then go around bothering strangers, complaining how noone wants to read their great comic.

To me, enjoying all the benefits of internet but complaining about it when it comes to activities of other people, is hypocritical. It would be as if I was urging to stop those kids from posting their toy photos of internet, while at the same time I myself never apply my comics to anyone's approval.

And I know you'll probably think that it's different with reviewers, that reviewers are there to bash someone else's work while comic authors are purely and independently creative. But then what about webcomics that are critical of something as well? What about political comics? Should we object to Penny Arcade criticizing games in their comic? Shouldn't we say "hey, someone invested a lot of money and effort in that game, and now you're bashing it in a comic strip that took you couple of hours to produce"? I don't think so.

Furthermore, what many artists don't realize is, reviews are awfully hard to write too. One of the hardest things about writing reviews is actually achieving balance. For one, critic has to balance between being too harsh and too soft. Critic has to appear flexible, yet he has to have authority about what he's saying (which is why it's a very bad idea for a critic to point out at his own shortcomings in attempt to appease artist he's criticizing).
Be too condensed in your writing and you'll be accused that you're not helpful enough. Try to guide an artist by the hand, and you'll appear patronizing, or meddling too much in other people's work. Then there's also other things that pretty much any writer has to deal with, such as: organizing your thoughts, organizing the structure of your article, trying to transfer what you think into words without losing anything in "translation"... In general, a critic has to find his voice, he has to learn his craft, as much as the artist does. Where will he learn if you're asking him to know his craft as soon as he hits the paper for the first time?
And let's not be mistaken: no matter how good a critic is, artists will always hate him. Artists hate critics, that's a given. No matter what they say aloud, artists actually don't want to be criticized, they want to be praised. No matter how noble they appear about critiques, artists sill always see a critic as someone who is ruthlessly and effortlessly stomping all over their hard work (despite the fact that, if you're an unambitious hobbyist, this work couldn't have been that hard).
Artist hates a critic, no matter whether he is an internet hobbyist who is giving away entertainment and asking for basically nothing in return, or a Michael Bay who is being paid enormous money for doing a really shoddy work.

I'd also like to say that I'm slowly getting tired of the whole "poor artists being deeply hurt by bad reviews" spiel. I advocate every artist becoming callous about reviewers, and about other people's opinions as well. Opinions are gonna happen, no matter how much you resist putting your comic's name in the google, they'll be out there, and you have to learn to deal with that. I may appear terribly cruel when I say this, but if one really can't stand hearing other people's opinion to that level of emotional hurt, then one should reconsider showing his work to other people.
Realize this: when you post your comic on internet, you are implicitly asking us to judge it. Perhaps not to write a lengthy diatribe about it's strengths and weaknesses, but when I visit your site, I am asked to a) like it and read it, b) be ambivalent and c) hate it and leave it. Expression of my opinion is recorded in your user stats. If you check your stats and see that your site has three readers, you are receiving implied criticism, and believe me you're gonna feel hurt as much as if someone trashed your comic in a review. If you never get a bad review in your life, you'll still gonna feel hurt if noone reads your comic.
Artists like to act as if reviewer hurt them personally, they like to equal this to a reviewer physically attacking them or someone close to them, perhaps and most notoriously, their children. This is an insult to everyone who actually had someone close to them attacked or hurt. Realize that this is only comics. They're supposed to be fun. They're supposed to be a pastime. We are not supposed to take them all that seriously. So why are we suddenly acting as if it's something much more important than a simple hobby once the criticism arises?

I should point out, though, that I still hate John Solomon and Bad Webcomics Wiki and the likes. They may be the most well known of the webcomic critics, but only in the tabloid sort of way, because if you're playing a douchebag for the sake of publicity, you get more publicity than dozens of people who are doing an honest job out of something. Blame internet audience on this, not the reviewers.
(Actually what I really hate is probably the fact that they are popular, that these are people and places that internet audience has decided to make into stars)

Also to be considered is whether the criticism is done for the creator- here's your faults and here's how to fix them- versus done for potential readers, like Roger Ebert does for films. In the latter case, there is no obligation whatsoever to say "here are some steps you can take to improve." In that case, the reviewer may just point out what he/she perceives to be wrong.

Critics like Ebert never take the "educator" stance, but they still have a lot of useful things for an author. For one, if they point to what the work is missing, isn't that useful? If I say that work is disorganized, isn't that a pointer to try to have your work more organized? If they say what are work's strengths and weaknesses, haven't they already told a) what artist should accentuate in next work b) what artist should work on improving c) what direction artist's work might go to? I think if, in such review, artist is saying that reviewer wasn't helpful enough, artist is basically just looking for an excuse to reject the review. Actually I'd go as far as to say that these reviews are better because they make a reviewer think instead of telling him what to think.


I think I fundamentally differ on the point that everybody who puts their work out there on the internet or any public platform is implicitly asking to be judged. I feel that for some independent creators, the fact of simply putting their work on the public internet is a way to express themselves on a medium that reaches out to a larger number of people and make a connection with other like-minded folk, not necessarily get judged. Of course, I understand that people will judge and criticize and one cannot avoid it. But nevertheless, I think it is a bit hard and unfair to paint all artists with the same brush: commercial/professional and hobbyist/amateur alike. There is a world of a difference between the reasons and motivations of the professional/commercial artist to put their work on a public platform and the amateur one.
Last edited by Harishankar on Thu May 17, 2012 8:02 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 14 ways to spot a bad critic

Postby LibertyCabbage on Thu May 17, 2012 8:02 am

Harishankar wrote:Unless the reviewer happens to be an expert in his field and is equally willing to share his/her knowledge to improve the subject of criticism, the review is next to useless. In fact, it is useless.

Can you imagine, though, what it'd be like if a reviewer had that attitude towards webcomics? If they said, because a creator isn't an expert writer or artist, that their webcomic is "useless"? Oh my God. People would flip their shit.

I'm not supportive of basing reviews on "expertise" and "credentials." Let bad reviewers write bad reviews, and encourage people to try, even if it means they fail. Give advice to bad reviewers, and hope they consider it and improve. I look at reviewing as a craft, similar to how I look at webcomics as a craft.

Both your posts and Thunt's article have an overall gist of, "Don't discourage creators from making comics," but in a way they also discourage people from reviewing comics by placing these unfair pressures and expectations upon them. Again, inverting it to a webcomics standpoint -- how many webcomics would exist today if the webcomics community condemned any work not made by "experts"? Probably very, very few, especially considering how many of today's "expert" webcartoonists had humble beginnings.

Look at this way. How many potential webcomic reviewers feel too intimidated to actually write anything? Probably most of them. After all, how many people are gonna take the time and energy to write reviews if everyone's so eager to discredit their efforts as "useless" if they don't have the right "credentials," whatever that means? A lot of people with legitimate and useful criticism to give are reluctant to share their views because the attitude of "Well, what makes you so high and mighty that you're fit to judge somebody else?" is so oppressive and uninviting.

And who is it, exactly, that evaluates which reviewers have "credentials" and "expertise," and which don't? The person being reviewed? A committee? Other reviewers? Scott McCloud? You? Adding that extra layer of complication doesn't make sense. What does make sense is evaluating reviewers based on one sole criteria -- the quality of their reviews. Trying to bring other factors into the situation isn't anything more than being spiteful and evasive.
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Re: 14 ways to spot a bad critic

Postby Harishankar on Thu May 17, 2012 8:06 am

LibertyCabbage wrote:
Harishankar wrote:Unless the reviewer happens to be an expert in his field and is equally willing to share his/her knowledge to improve the subject of criticism, the review is next to useless. In fact, it is useless.

Can you imagine, though, what it'd be like if a reviewer had that attitude towards webcomics? If they said, because a creator isn't an expert writer or artist, that their webcomic is "useless"? Oh my God. People would flip their shit.

I'm not supportive of basing reviews on "expertise" and "credentials." Let bad reviewers write bad reviews, and encourage people to try, even if it means they fail. Give advice to bad reviewers, and hope they consider it and improve. I look at reviewing as a craft, similar to how I look at webcomics as a craft.

Both your posts and Thunt's article have an overall gist of, "Don't discourage creators from making comics," but in a way they also discourage people from reviewing comics by placing these unfair pressures and expectations upon them. Again, inverting it to a webcomics standpoint -- how many webcomics would exist today if the webcomics community condemned any work not made by "experts"? Probably very, very few, especially considering how many of today's "expert" webcartoonists had humble beginnings.

Look at this way. How many potential webcomic reviewers feel too intimidated to actually write anything? Probably most of them. After all, how many people are gonna take the time and energy to write reviews if everyone's so eager to discredit their efforts as "useless" if they don't have the right "credentials," whatever that means? A lot of people with legitimate and useful criticism to give are reluctant to share their views because the attitude of "Well, what makes you so high and mighty that you're fit to judge somebody else?" is so oppressive and uninviting.

And who is it, exactly, that evaluates which reviewers have "credentials" and "expertise," and which don't? The person being reviewed? A committee? Other reviewers? Scott McCloud? You? Adding that extra layer of complication doesn't make sense. What does make sense is evaluating reviewers based on one sole criteria -- the quality of their reviews. Trying to bring other factors into the situation isn't anything more than being spiteful and evasive.


I am not asking reviewers to achieve something spectacular. Writing a good, objective review is still orders of magnitude easier than creating something original - be it a work of painting, drawing a comic, composing music or even producing a movie. And each of these artistic expressions have their own levels of difficulty/mastery to reach. The least a reviewer can do is to avoid hypocrisy and (1) set themselves at least as high a standard in their work as they expect the artist to achieve in his/hers. (2) Know a bit about the object of their criticism and the subject matter to be constructive. Nothing more or less.

The reason I mentioned expertise is because I feel that a subject matter expert will always have a broader perspective and probably point out things that the normal reviewer may not be able to.
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Re: 14 ways to spot a bad critic

Postby VeryCuddlyCornpone on Thu May 17, 2012 8:17 am

McDuffies wrote:I'd also like to say that I'm slowly getting tired of the whole "poor artists being deeply hurt by bad reviews" spiel. I advocate every artist becoming callous about reviewers, and about other people's opinions as well. Opinions are gonna happen, no matter how much you resist putting your comic's name in the google, they'll be out there, and you have to learn to deal with that. I may appear terribly cruel when I say this, but if one really can't stand hearing other people's opinion to that level of emotional hurt, then one should reconsider showing his work to other people.
Realize this: when you post your comic on internet, you are implicitly asking us to judge it. Perhaps not to write a lengthy diatribe about it's strengths and weaknesses, but when I visit your site, I am asked to a) like it and read it, b) be ambivalent and c) hate it and leave it. Expression of my opinion is recorded in your user stats. If you check your stats and see that your site has three readers, you are receiving implied criticism, and believe me you're gonna feel hurt as much as if someone trashed your comic in a review. If you never get a bad review in your life, you'll still gonna feel hurt if noone reads your comic.
Artists like to act as if reviewer hurt them personally, they like to equal this to a reviewer physically attacking them or someone close to them, perhaps and most notoriously, their children. This is an insult to everyone who actually had someone close to them attacked or hurt. Realize that this is only comics. They're supposed to be fun. They're supposed to be a pastime. We are not supposed to take them all that seriously. So why are we suddenly acting as if it's something much more important than a simple hobby once the criticism arises?


I agree with this. When someone recieves critique (even if it's just in the form of someone leaving a comment saying "The anatomy looks a little warped in the third panel" or something), there are people who will whip around and insist that they weren't asking for your opinion anyway. Like hell! If the commenter had left them a praiseful comment, I doubt they'd be saying the same thing. An artist saying they don't want people's opinions would be like someone signing up for an online dating website and then getting mad when people try to put the moves on them. If an artist doesn't want anyone's opinions, there's a simple solution- don't let anyone see it.

I should point out, though, that I still hate John Solomon and Bad Webcomics Wiki and the likes. They may be the most well known of the webcomic critics, but only in the tabloid sort of way, because if you're playing a douchebag for the sake of publicity, you get more publicity than dozens of people who are doing an honest job out of something. Blame internet audience on this, not the reviewers.
(Actually what I really hate is probably the fact that they are popular, that these are people and places that internet audience has decided to make into stars)

I'll admit that I find BWW entertaining in a really horrible sort of way. On some level, one might consider those reviews to be at least a little helpful, though the hyperbolic writing style tends to make each review less about the comic and more about the poor, poor reviewer having to read such an awful thing. But it saddens me that people hear "webcomic reviews" and immediately picture the BWW style of "review." There are plenty of good reviewers out there who take care when writing their work, but people think of the "swear-word, swear-word, vulgar phrase, ad-hominem insult" manner that comprises the Bad Webcoimcs Wiki, and then they assume every other reviewer is like that.


Also to be considered is whether the criticism is done for the creator- here's your faults and here's how to fix them- versus done for potential readers, like Roger Ebert does for films. In the latter case, there is no obligation whatsoever to say "here are some steps you can take to improve." In that case, the reviewer may just point out what he/she perceives to be wrong.

Critics like Ebert never take the "educator" stance, but they still have a lot of useful things for an author. For one, if they point to what the work is missing, isn't that useful? If I say that work is disorganized, isn't that a pointer to try to have your work more organized? If they say what are work's strengths and weaknesses, haven't they already told a) what artist should accentuate in next work b) what artist should work on improving c) what direction artist's work might go to? I think if, in such review, artist is saying that reviewer wasn't helpful enough, artist is basically just looking for an excuse to reject the review. Actually I'd go as far as to say that these reviews are better because they make a reviewer think instead of telling him what to think.

Don't get me wrong, I love Ebert and I definitely find those types of reviews helpful. I feel that there is a mindset though that if the reviewer simply points out the absent or wrong parts of a comic without providing a tutorial on how to make improvements, then that makes that reviewer mean. A good artist can make use out of almost any review (even those that might seem to be "worthless" on face value). Like you said, it's usually an argument brought on by less experienced or less mature artists who might honestly not know where to go when someone gives them a specific criticism. Though just as often, I could assume it is also done to excuse laziness.
Of course there is also the problem of creators putting all of their stock in one review by one reviewer. While any review is probably (almost certainly) better than no review at all, multiple reviews are even more helpful. The problem is some creators get "burned" by their furst review and then are too sad and wobbly to ask for more, when that would be a reallyu good idea in most cases. Different reviewers naturally are going to focus on different things, and have different strengths and weaknesses regarding their criticisms. It is also silly for artists to assume that reviewers are taking a holier-than-thou stance merely by writing reviews. I have yet to find a reviewer who really feels that he/she is the true arbiter of what makes a good-quality comic. Too often it is a strawman argument pulled out by hurt artists when looking for ways to discredit the person who gave them critique.



Regarding expertise/knowledge/ability on the side of the reviewer:
My anatomy isn't that great. My backgrounds aren't that great. My coloring isn't that great. But that doesn't mean I can't spot bad anatomy, backgrounds, coloring in other comics. I don't need to be an ace at something myself before I can help someone else. Otherwise who would be able to critique the really "great" comics?

Obviously understanding the way something works is pretty important as a revieiwer, but I don't really think anyone's arguing against that :-?


Putting something on the internet to share with other like-minded individuals is asking for judgment. Judgment does not necesarily mean "negative" judgment. Judgment refers to looking at something and "judging" whether you like it or not. Like-minded individuals would just be more likely to judge a work in a positive way. The judgment is still happening.
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Re: 14 ways to spot a bad critic

Postby Harishankar on Thu May 17, 2012 8:27 am

But judging for your own private reasons and keeping it private is different from putting the entire judgement in a review format and then putting it up in the public domain, particularly when the artist has not requested a review. I think it's in bad taste to write unsolicited reviews of artists who don't specifically go about seeking publicity, even though they might have put their work on the internet.

I think what's even more in bad taste is to bash a creator's work in spite of the creator acknowledging that they might not be all that good in the first place.

I think everybody is judging something or the other at different levels and for different reasons every day. And most people probably keep it to themselves.
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