Saturday, August 21, 2010

small press, small mind

My tolerance for small press comics is fairly low. There are a lot of good ones out there now, and the top end blurs the distinction between small press and, er, big press. But there is still also a lot of crud.

But we all have to start somewhere, and the best way to learn how to do comics is to do comics. But there is a "small press" mentality that irritates the hell out of me.

Disclaimer: Please note that there are a ton of excellent small press comics that do not fit into this tirade, from the humble mini-comic photocopied at work when the boss wasn't looking, to the glossy colour 64 page spectaculars. If you think this rant is aimed at you, then deep down you must believe that you deserve it.

What I am talking about is the attitude of those that somehow think they are above mundane details like correct spelling, coherent storytelling, basic research, or any kind of perspective on what they are doing. I am unable to comprehend why someone would go to all the time and effort to create a comic purely for the love of doing it, and then not bother to finish it properly. Have they lost interest in it half way through? Do they consider it in some way cool to make it less than it could be?

And then there's the "re-inventing the wheel" approach. The language of comics has been developed through a century of use, but that's not good enough. These people know better. The result is almost always something that is far harder to follow than a regular comic, but doesn't have anything more to say. The alternative styling achieves no useful purpose and in fact distracts from the storytelling.

But the main thing I dislike about these small mind/press guys is the way that they are incapable of dealing with any feedback that is not exclusively telling them how wonderful they are. Say "I liked that story but this panel would work even better if the hand was a little bigger" and they react as though you had called them a donkey bothering bed-wetter. And the funny thing is that the better looking someone's work is, the better they are at handling creative criticism. Nobody is perfect. I've seen Brian Bolland original artwork and was incredibly reassured to find that there was whiteout all over it. Even he makes mistakes.

So these days if someone asks me for an opinion of their work I have to say to them "do you want a real opinion or would you just like me to say it looks nice?" And yet nine times out of ten when they claim they want a real opinion and I pick out a couple of weak spots that could do with some polish, they still get all offended and behave like I suggested they had innappropriate relations with zoo animals. The tenth one will look thoughtful and then often say "Yes, there was something bugging me about that that I couldn't quite work out" and be happy that they have found a way to make their work better.

How to tell whether someone likes your work:

If they give you some blanket negative comment like "It's a stinky pile of poo." then they don't like it and probably haven't even read it.

If they point out some small error, or suggest some way in which an aspect of the story could be improved then they have read it, thought about it, and found some way of helping you to make it look better. This person likes your comic and wants it to be the best it could possibly be. If you feel personally insulted by their comment then you are an idiot. This rant is for you.

Moral of the story: don't ask for an opinion unless you really want to recieve one.

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