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Webcomics reviews-- huh! What are they good for?
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joezabel
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 16, 2004 12:09 am    Post subject: Webcomics reviews-- huh! What are they good for? Reply with quote

This from Alexander Danner's blog. Damn! I couldn't have said it better myself!

'The other sort of review currently found within webcomics is the review that takes a comic of presumed importance or quality (be it social, intellectual, or purely artistic worth), and attempts to analyze just what makes the comic important or interesting. Of course, readers can use this sort of review to find new comics to read as well. But the primary purpose of this type of review has nothing to do with helping readers decide how to spend their money. Instead, it exists for the purpose of facilitating conversation about comics, about ways of growing as an artform. It exists to disseminate ideas about art. And beyond that, it also serves the wonderfully positive role of celebrating the best works the medium has to offer. '
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William G



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PostPosted: Wed Aug 04, 2004 11:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

To avoid making a new thread...

I dont know if I made mention of this, but I was thinking that the Examiner could do well with less reviews, just more in-depth ones. By indepth I mean scrubbing the work clean and seeing why it works where others fail. Treat them like you were doing an English Lit 101 paper on them.

Where Joe mentioned in my review about the Cash cartoon "is it a single image moving forward in time?".. .that's the sort of stuff I mean. Chew on the bones of the stuff more thuroughly. No offense to most reviewers out there, but they tend to be all surface reviews.

I know it would require a lot more work and would annoy the "comics thinking= teh ghey" crowd to no end. But I think it would really focus the "Examiner" part of the mag's name.

Anyway, it's just an idea
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joezabel
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 04, 2004 8:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah, actually that's my personal goal as an Examiner writer, but it's pretty difficult. For me personally, I feel conflicted between wanting to catalog various observations, and wanting to put together a coherent essay that has some over-arching theme and reads well.

In the review of It's About Girls, for instance, it was difficult to segway from consideration of the main comic to a whirlwind tour of the shorter pieces, hilighting some important ideas from same. As a matter of fact, I got some assistance from Associate Editor A. G. Hopkins in how to tie the thing together so it made sense.
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Ghastly



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PostPosted: Thu Sep 09, 2004 8:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interviews, I think, serve a better function than reviews and are generally far more interesting to me. If I find the comic's creator interesting I'll likely find their comic interesting. I'm certainly able to make a better decision on wether or not it's the kind of comic I'd be interested in than a slanted opinion piece passed off as an objective review which is what you usually get with amature written webcomic reviews.

I've also felt that if you're going to write a review, write a review about a comic nobody has ever heard of.

Anytime a new zine or webcomics review site starts up it seems like they instantly jump on one of the big guys like Penny Arcade or Megatokyo or Sluggy Freelance or Sexy Losers and usually their reviews are rather negative. It's as if they're trying to say "Ha ha! Look how big our balls are. We're not afraid to slap around one of the big guys who are far more popular than we are. Who's your daddy Piro? WHO'S YOUR DADDY!?"

Everyone into reading webcomics has pretty much formed their own opinions of the giants of the scene by now. If you're going to write a review of webcomics then hunt down that obscure gem that nobody knows about that could really use the boost in readership. That little guy who still only has 300 regular readers even after months or even years of work of amazingly well crafted comic art. Find me those comics and write reviews about them and then you're doing something.

It's certainly better than some guy wanking over Sluggy Freelance for the billionth time.

Seriously, it's not like Pete Abrams really needs the couple dozen new readers your review is going to send his way.

Interviews though, sure interview the big guys, interview the small guys, interview the guys inbetween. I'm far more interested in what makes people tick than what some third party thinks of their work.
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A.G. Hopkins



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PostPosted: Sat Sep 11, 2004 3:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ghastly, have you actually read the Examiner? I ask because I'm pretty sure we fit the bill you're asking for here, and I'm not sure why you're flogging this horse in this particular thread? I mean, the comment about appreciating interviews better than reviews is fine. That's your opinion, and a valid point. But then you go off on amateurish review zines, implying by context that we are such a site.

We review works that we think are important because of their art, or their writing, or both, or because they do something different from most other web artists. We don't target the big names, although a couple of the more successful people out there have made it into our site. I wouldn't aniticipate seeing Abrams or Illiad, or even Kurtz anytime soon, as they get a ton of other press, and frankly, I personally don't think their work is the type we're looking for, although that's just my personal opinion. I mean, success is important, but does their work bring something new to the field as far as artistic method, or cutting edge writing?

I've been reading comics fairly heavily for about four years now, and with hundreds bookmarked, I hadn't read Sexy Losers. I don't know if I would have placed it up there with Sluggy as a 'big guy,' but that's personal opinion. I think you included it just to give the appearance of legitimacy to your argument. I don't think any of the works we review could be classified as one of the 'big guys', nor do I think most of our reviews are negative, (I'm not certain any have been, yet) and certainly not for the express purpose of some sort of immature pissing contest, as you imply.

We do interviews each month. They're in depth and interesting, or at least I think so. I am biased because I'm on the team, but you'll note I haven't done one myself, so my bias is somewhat limited.

And, while knowing the background to an artist helps immensely when understanding what he/she is trying to say with their work, reviews can be helpful in evaluating if that artist actually is capable of getting it across effectively.
I'm doing a review of a tiny little comic in this next issue which is a bit deceptive. If you didn't read the whole thing, you might find it kind of blah, but once the gestalt is in place, it becomes a much more intriguing work. An interview with this artist would have barely touched on this work, as the thing which I'm sure is currently occupying his mind is his upcoming syndication for a whole other strip.

I think both reviews/examinations and interviews are important and useful, especially in the context Alexander is talking about in his blog entry at the top of this thread.
I think the Examiner provides them admirably and professionally, although, as I said, I'm biased. It's possible we include some amateurs writing for us, but if so, it generally doesn't show, IMO, and certainly not as you describe.
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joezabel
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 11, 2004 6:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A. G.-- Good points all, but I think you're missing the bigger picture. Everybody has their own dream, and when they are avidly in pursuit of that dream, we should respect that. Ghastly's dream is to be the Pat O'Neil of webcomics, and he's doing a fantastic job of fulfilling that dream.

Anyway, if he actually read the website he says isn't worth reading, that would make him a total hypocrite, wouldn't it?
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William G



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PostPosted: Sat Sep 11, 2004 8:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

C'mon guys, Ghastly's heart is in the right place. He wants to see the little guys get exposed (in a clean non-Ghastly comic way) as much as we do.

And I don't know who Pat O'Neil is, so I did a Google and there were so many different people with a bit o' the Irish in them that I still dont know.

But I did find this totally cool southern redneck kids in the 50s picture:


I think the spent shotgun shell on the railing is a nice touch.
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Ghastly



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PostPosted: Sun Sep 12, 2004 3:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A.G. Hopkins wrote:
Ghastly, have you actually read the Examiner? I ask because I'm pretty sure we fit the bill you're asking for here, and I'm not sure why you're flogging this horse in this particular thread?


Eh?

I don't think I ever said you didn't.

I was speaking in general, not about any specific 'zine.

After all the subject of the thread was what are reviews good for so naturally I figured this would be a place to express of what good I think they are. Everyone and their dog has reviewed the big guys to death. Either they love them or they hate them, but everything that needs to be said about them pretty much has been said. I've already read the big guy's strips so I already have my own opinions of them. Naturally once having formed my own opinion of the strip I have little need to read a review of it.

Give me an interview with one of the big guys and I'll read that (but please read other interviews they've given first and try not to duplicate the questions more than neccessary).

Save reviews for the little guys who produce gems nobody would have otherwise heard of and I'll be much more likely to read them.
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joezabel
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 12, 2004 6:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Notice how the Ghast avoids answering the question? Classic Pat O'Neil tactic!

Here's another question he won't answer-- Ghast, why don't you take your criticism over to the message board of the publication you are actually criticizing, i.e., a review site you've actually read?
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Ghastly



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PostPosted: Sun Sep 12, 2004 12:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

joezabel wrote:
Notice how the Ghast avoids answering the question? Classic Pat O'Neil tactic!

Here's another question he won't answer-- Ghast, why don't you take your criticism over to the message board of the publication you are actually criticizing, i.e., a review site you've actually read?


Eh!?

I wasn't aware there was a question asked of me.

Look, I didn't start the thread about what reviews are good for. I just found it. There might be threads about this subject on other zine's forums I don't know. I only read two comic related zines on a regular basis, the Examiner and Comixpedia any other zine I read is only in passing and it's the result of a link posted on one of those two sites. The reason why the Webcomics Examiner and Comixpedia are the only two I read regularily is because they're really the only two that I find interesting enough to read. I saw a thread here with the title "Webcomic reviews -- huh! What are they good for?" which I had assumed would be a thread friendly to the concept that we all share what we think constitutes either good reviews or what place we feel reviews should have in the webcomics industry.

My opinion on the subject of reviews is too many of the zines use reviews of "the big guys" of webcomics as a means of attracting attention (positive or negative it doesn't matter as long as people are reading) to their site, not the webcomic. Most people into webcomics to the degree that they will actually bother reading webcomic related zines are already well familiar with the works of "the big guys" and already have formed their own opinions which a review on a zine isn't going to change. To be really useful zines should concentrate their reviews on the little guys of webcomics who produce overlooked gems and bring our attention to them. Those guys who have just started a new comic that is increadably bold and innovative but nobody has discovered it yet, or those guys who produce masterful work but have been labouring in obscurity for years because they haven't mastered the art of self promotion.

Seriously, after having read 50 different reviews of Penny Arcade none of the reviewers are telling me anything different about it. Those who like it pretty much all like it for the same reasons. Those who hate it pretty much all hate it for the same reasons. There's absolutely no reason in the world I need to read another Penny Arcade review. The same pretty much goes for any webcomic that is over four years old and has over 100K readers regularily checking it out. There's enough attention generated by the enertia of their fanbase that reviews become pointless especially if the comic is not a subscription comic but "free" for any and all readers. In those cases the review servers the reviewer more than it does the reviewee.

Don't get me wrong, my answer to "what are they good for" is not "absolutely nothing".

Now with tens of thousands (if not possibly hundreds of thousands by now) of webcomics out there, there are no doubt a heck of a lot of unknown gems waiting to be discovered. I know I don't have the time to discover them all. I've got enough stuff on my plate to keep me occupied between wife, kids, house, career, and trying to run a webcomic. This is where I have to depend on you guys. Hunt down those gems and post a review of them. If I read the review and the subject matter of the comic seems like something that would interest me I'll check it out. Who knows I may discover a new favorite I never would have even known existed if it were not for your bringing it to my attention. Woohoo!

That is what, in my opinion, webcomic reviews are good for. Bringing forth undiscovered gems to a new audience of potential readers. One more opinion piece on why a comic with over 100K readers is either the best thing ever or a pile of steaming dog crap that caters to dullards and dimwits doesn't really do anyone that much good especially when that comic is already getting far more readers than that review of it will ever have.

Call me silly but I thought the purpose of this thread was to discuss the subject of webcomic reviews as a whole, not just why we like webcomic reviews, or only the purpose of webcomic reviews on Webcomic Examiner, but to discuss the role of webcomic reviews in general on all zine sites. If that was not the intended purpose of this thread then I apollogize that my post was so out of line. I will be more careful about where I post my opinons in the future.

Now I did stray into the area of interviews as well but I think my comments were relevant on interviews were relevant to what I had to say about reviews. Interviews work just as well for "the big guys" as they do for the unknowns. I'll gladdly read a review with Hard or Fred Gallagher or Pete Abrams just as I'll gladdly read a review with some webcomic artist I've never heard of before. Of course all I ask is that the reviewer do his or her research and not cover ground already covered in other interviews unless, of course, it's to get further clarification of a point that seemed glossed over or not well explained in a previous interview. You know like:

Quote:

Interviewer: Jerry Holkins, in a recent interview for Comixtastic you stated that "cat killing" is one of the ways you mentally prepair yourself for writing your comic. What exactly did you mean by that?

Jerry Holkins: You know... not literally. What I meant was in that "domo kun / god kills a kitten" sort of way. You know... doing stuff... with internet porn...

Interviewer: Internet porn?

Jerry Holkins: Well... Harry Potter slash-fics... Don't look at me! I'M A MONSTER!


Once again I'm not singling out any zine with these comments. I'm just saying that in my opinon these are things that all zine writers should keep in mind when doing interviews and/or writing reviews. I guess if boiled down to its simplest essence my opinion is "be original", which really applies to everyone equally in all the arts.

As for Pat O'Neal, I assume he is some sort of American media personality? Perhaps somebody as flamboyant and opinionated as I am with no compunctions against speaking exactly what it is that he is thinking? Would I be far off with my assumption?
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Bo Lindbergh



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PostPosted: Sun Sep 12, 2004 12:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A.G. Hopkins wrote:
Ghastly, have you actually read the Examiner?

Ghastly wrote:
I wasn't aware there was a question asked of me.

Getting surreal in here, isn't it?
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Ghastly



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PostPosted: Sun Sep 12, 2004 1:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bo Lindbergh wrote:
A.G. Hopkins wrote:
Ghastly, have you actually read the Examiner?

Ghastly wrote:
I wasn't aware there was a question asked of me.

Getting surreal in here, isn't it?


Okay I see. I thought that was a rhetorical question. I had assumed by the fact that I've been taking the time to post to the Webcomic Examiner's forum for some time now would indicate that yes, indeed I do in fact actually read the Webcomic Examiner. I can't speak for others but I, generally speaking, do not bother posting to the forums of sites that I do not actually read. This, however should not be misinterpreted to mean that I do not read sites whose forums I do not post on. Some sites will engage me enough to actually become a part of its community in the setting of the forum and some sites I read but do not feel so moved to become part of its community. This should not be mistaken as a reflection upon the quality or value I place upon the site in question as there are many intangable nuances that will inspire my participation in a site's forums. I can regularily read a site, thoroughly enjoy it, yet not feel moved to join its forum. So please, people, before anyone worries that ol' Uncle Ghastly doesn't like their site because he doesn't partake in the community on their forums rest assured that is not neccessarily the case. If I do post regularily on your forum then it is a safe assumption to make that I am, in fact, a regular reader of your site.

My apollogies, I did not realize that the question of wether or not I actually read the Webcomic Examiner was a genuine query.

Yes, I do read the Webcomic Examiner.

I now open the microphone to any other questions people may wish to table at this time. Yes, you, the lady in the back with the tacky handbag. A question?
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William G



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PostPosted: Sun Sep 12, 2004 2:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is my favorite talking past each other thread.
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Ghastly



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PostPosted: Sun Sep 12, 2004 2:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm sorry, that wasn't phrased in the form of a question.

No Final Jeopardy for you my friend.
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A.G. Hopkins



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PostPosted: Mon Sep 13, 2004 10:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ah, I see some misunderstandings and tension building here. This always makes for an interesting thread. However, I'm more inclined to enjoy actual discussions, myself. Smile

Ghastly: While the subject line did indeed imply that this thread was about whether or not reviews served any useful purpose, the actual top level post refers to Danner's blog entry, wherein he answers this semi-rhetorical question in spades. Joe posted the portion which was relative to reviews such as are done at the WCE. I believe he did this because it shows more clearly our goal. It's nice to be validated, methinks. Especially after some of the less than flattering remarks we endured when we first opened up shop.

I think your thoughts are well presented, and represent valid concerns. It is just that, in light of the context of the rest of the thread, it appeared to be an attack on us, and using completely invalid arguments. Heck, I thought for a bit there I'd stumbled into Bush's campaign headquarters. (Ok, ok, I'll retract it. I'd rather focus on the original topic and your points, anyway.)

On the other hand, after reading your later posts, it appears there is no dissension in opinion. I don't think anybody here would dispute that constantly rehashing the same old strips is not just unproductive, but just plain boring.
Interviews can be both enlightening and entertaining. I have, however, seen interviews that bore the dickens out of me. I think there is both good and bad in both forms, and there is cause to read both.

As I said above, interviews, IMO, are all well and good, but I believe it takes both reviews and interviews to fully explore certain works, and that interviews alone do not necessarily provide a good frame of reference for deciding whether or not to invest time in a strip.

Finally, as stated in the original post, there are other reasons why reviews are useful, besides bringing new readers to a site. We'd like to think that's what we're doing here.

Joe: I have to admit, I don't know O'neil either, but I'm now thinking Ghastly wasn't being intentionally inflammatory.
I'm not inclined to simply dismiss him as I have seen him make some very intelligent remarks in other forums. I was, however, disappointed that he apparently only read the subject line before posting.

Hopefully, he'll make some significant contributions to our discussions.

Ghastly, since I must needs ask a question for a decent answer, and you've already stipulated that you do, in fact, read us;
What's your opinion so far? What would you like to see more of? Less of? Other things we don't currently provide that you'd like to see? Where do we shine? Where don't we?
No guarantees of course, that we'll be able to make any changes you suggest, but we'd at least know, eh?

A.G.
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