By Andy Frisk
January 16, 2012 - 20:09
In my last installment of “Writing About Comics,” I said that this time we’d be looking at a way of writing about comics that's derived from a personal enjoyment of a comic book, not necessarily because it was particularly artistic or literary. I’m going to amend this focus just a bit to focus on a topic that very closely relates to the original idea for this installment.
The Comic Book Bin recently produced its first podcast. One of the topics that came up during the course of the podcast was something that I had been thinking about for some time, but that I’ve never directly addressed. Most of the comic books, in fact more like 99.99% of the comic books, that I write about here at The Bin are comic books that I buy on a monthly basis. I try to pick my favorite character, writer, superhero team, or specific title I’m following and cover it steadily. I’ve done a pretty good job following Superman over the years, and a great many of my regular reviews are of Superman Family books. I’ve branched out and covered other favorite books of mine, as well as some that I found to be particularly interesting. These include graphic novel adaptations of classical literature, and several titles from DC Comics’ Vertigo line. Most of my reviews are usually pretty positive. I have negatively commented on some regular books I review that rightly deserve to be commented negatively upon. Still though, the overwhelming majority of comics I write about, I write about in a positive light. There are few books I buy though that I know I won’t like. Why waste money on something that I’m not going to enjoy? The fact that most of my reviews are pretty positive might lead some to think that I “like everything.” No, I do not like everything. I really don’t like anything to do with the direction that the Spider-Man franchise has taken over the years, so I don’t buy it. Therefore, I don't write about it. Herein lays the quandary…
…am I a serious and objective reviewer? I would like to be considered as such. I think that I am. I really have been pretty negative on several of the Superman Family of books recently. This is not just because the changes to Superman are pretty awful to me. They are pretty awful period. I find it harder to bash something rather than praise it though . I totally will do so if motivated to. The problem is that I’m more motivated to share my thoughts with other like-minded readers who might enjoy or get some type of intellectual stimulation out my insights into a certain book that I really liked and believe that they would like also. The same case is true for those who would detest what I also detest, but when it comes down to it, I’m really only motivated to write about something that moves me, as in me personally. Hence, I think that this allows for me to be seen more as a “he likes everything” as opposed to a “he hates everything” (which is just as bad) or a “he’s truly objective” about everything type of writer.
The problem then becomes, for me and anyone else who is writing about comics they buy, that we might end up falling into the category of the corporate mouthpiece writer, like those who write for the corporate mouthpiece sites (you know who you are). How many negative reviews (even like the few that I write) will you see at a Newsarama or CBR? Not many… Now, here at The Bin there are plenty of us who write mostly negative reviews, as well as mixed ones, as there are those who write mostly positive ones (like me). Some of us are very balanced in our reviews, and I think I have become more balanced over time. The only problem is, if I buy a Superman comic book, I’m buying it because I really like the character. Therefore, I’m either really going to love the book or really hate the book, depending upon how good or bad the writer and artist do on the issue. The real problem is, I’m buying Superman because it resonates with me. Until I get buried in comps, this is probably the way it’s going to be, and I know that I will never get buried in comps. The system of comics journalism, as it is set up now, pretty much ensures that anyone writing for a comic book site is going to write mostly positive reviews since most of what they are writing about are books that they’ve bought with their own money, or because they're a corporate mouthpiece site. So, I challenge the Big Two to put some more of us frankly honest comics journalists on their comp lists, that is if they really want to see what works and what doesn’t.
Reviewers, like myself, who aren’t on comp lists nor are employed by one of the corporate mouthpieces of the industry, are providing our readers, and the publishers, with the type of information that is invaluable to their enjoyment and business…and we do it for free because of our passion for the industry and its product. The Joker once said, in some little movie sometime, “If you’re good at something, never do it for free.” It’s probably a sin to quote a mass murdering “agent of chaos,” but he does have a point. I’m not saying that I am doing this for free...per say. My “payment” for services rendered (that, again, are priceless to the publishers) is that comics journalists like myself, and my fellow writers here at The Bin, are really making an impact on the industry in ways that are superseded by only the industry's publishers, writers, and artists. That is incredibly rewarding. We might be more quick to provide this service, and quicker to tell the publishers, writers, and artists more about what is and isn’t working if they’d be a little more generous with their comp products.
Personally though, I think that writing more general industry and reader commentary, like I do in this column, will make me a more well-rounded comics journalist. By staying away from simply gushing about what I love, and bashing what I hate (there is little ground in between when you are writing about the stuff you’ve spent your hard earned money on), and talking about topics like this, or the occasional review of something that is being really widely read, or incredibly new or of a small run, might make me a little more “objective,” and by default more “respected.”
Oh my God…I’m turning into a Comics Journal snob.
Okay, maybe I’ll still gush over what I love and bash what I hate…just not as often. Sorry Big Two (and your wannabes), the free ride of information isn’t so free flowing anymore.
Like music? So does Andy. Read his thoughts on it