You’re Not Sending A Card, Are You?
UPDATED from original posting at ‘No One Is Innocent (05/07/2014): Queen has since retracted his DMCA appeal and apologised to Ami Angelwings, who admins the Escher Girls Tumblr. He posted the following on his Facebook:
‘Hey everyone, Just wanted to clear up a few things that happened this past week. I have been having a very hard time in my personal life with the loss of my mother and my marriage having fallen apart and found myself in a very vulnerable and fragile state of mind. There were posts on the web criticizing my artwork that were brought to my attention and added to my stress. I reacted without thinking it through, but have now stopped, realizing my response was the wrong one to take. I am doing my best, each day, to get myself back on my feet and getting my life in a better place and realize now that I have just try to move on and get back to my art, the thing I find the most joy in these days. I want to thank those professionals, friends and family who have been giving me their support, understanding and love. Thanks for listening. ~ R’
The facts first. There is a blog on Tumblr called Escher Girls. Escher Girls deals in taking panels of art featuring artwork from various media depicting women with bad anatomy, awkward boob physics and such. There are caption competitions, ‘Fixed It For You’ redraws and such. It’s a good idea and I hope operates as a low pressure conscience on the comics industry to try to up its game when drawing women as functioning human beings and not twisted spine no organ breasts carrying units. It’s been going for a few years now, and a cursory scan through their archive informs me that every major name in the comics industry has been mocked gently by them. They aren’t making any money from their efforts (although you can donate to them.). It’s just something they do as they think the balance needs redressing.
While the obvious likes of Turner, McDaniel, Lee (Jim), Liefeld and such have all featured in their ‘Seriously how would that even work?’ I don’t believe anyone has called them up on their activity in a ‘cease and desist this mockery’ fashion previous to this week (starting 4 Aug 2014) However, Randy Queen (Darkchylde artist from the 90’s) requested that Escher Girls remove posts of his artwork they critiqued via a use of the DMCA. Escher Girls responded by removing the said posts and asked that their intensely loyal followers not give Randy any grief over this. It has sparked an…um, interesting debate on their message board which is proving intriguing reading, to say the least.
(Also, this has proved, if nothing else, the worst thing you can do in this situation is draw attention to something you don’t want everyone to see, as Bleeding Cool is hosting all the posts on their website, which is seen by far more people than Escher Girls would have been.You can see them here. )
As I said, I’ve been expecting something like this to happen for a while now. Reviewers and Creatives have been sharing the same conversational space on Social Media for a while now, the conflict of being honest whilst being, well, social.
- Here’s my take.Creative Types:Literally the only thing you’re entitled to in relation to your work is the monies you’re arranged with your publisher. I see a far bit of updating from artists and writers after their product has hit the shelves, usually to the effect of ‘Well, I think this reviewer needs to take in that it isn’t just the writer who decides the theme of the books.’ or ‘Has this reviewer never heard of Pauline Kael? That’s not how she would have reviewed a work?’ Or one particularly bitter ‘But I had to do all the housework, take my dog to the vet, look after my grandmother, etc, how dare they not recognise how much craft has gone into my work?’ It must be remembered at all times when responding in this way that the reviewer doesn’t (or at least, shouldn’t) care you, or your life. The only thing they are reviewing is the work in front of them.
- Said people also have a rather annoying habit of linking to favourable reviews whilst using weasel words like ‘Interesting’, ‘Unique’ or worst of all ‘Nice’. Which, if you’re not also linking to reviews that aren’t so keen on your output, make you look like a shill for your own brand, like an infomercial that quotes previous positive testimonials for your work. Less a person and more an egotist offended by the notion that anyone DARE dislike your creative process.Guys, you seriously need to knock that shit off or straight up stop reading reviews of your work. If all you’re looking for sycophantic praise, then you REALLY shouldn’t be reading reviews and I have to question your motivation as an artist in the first place. Here’s why:No one is obliged to write about your product in any form except for the way what suits them.I can hear your rebuttals forming already, so I’ll say it again:
‘NO ONE IS OBLIGED TO WRITE ABOUT YOUR WORK IN ANY FORM EXCEPT FOR THE WAY THAT SUITS THEM.’
You can hope that the person looking through the pages of your magnum opus understands your subtext and allusions, gets the in-jokes and personal tributes to friends, that they’ll be inspired to recommend more of your work and provide links to where your other stuff can be bought. Maybe said reviewer has studied Twain, Swift, Kael, Bangs, Groth, Thompson and can explain exactly why your work is something to be placed on that special bookshelf next to Eisner, Moebius, Bilal, Jodorowsky, Watterson, Kurtzman, Spiegelman. That lot.
It’s none of your business if they don’t, though.
It’s equally none of your business if they’re sent a PDF of your new comic, read through the first six pages and say ‘I couldn’t get through the horrible artwork. Couldn’t be arsed finishing it. Total crap, I wouldn’t pay anything for it and deleted the file as soon as I got a chance.’ You have to accept that nobody is obliged to say anything except what they want about your work. Your standards, desires and hopes for how your stuff is perceived do not matter. There are no rules or obligations for reviewers to follow to make you happy, and the worst that can happen is that the reviewer will be taken off a publisher’s comp list, although again, this just makes the publisher look like they only want positive feedback.
You had full control of the work, got a chance to say everything you want to say before publication, and the reviewer is only bound to get their reaction to how much they’ve paid for the output and what they think of it. ‘Yeah, but they made this video, and they just dismissed my work as crap and…’
That is their right.
All your preconceptions and preferences in this are irrelevant and should be abandoned. Failing that, don’t read reviews.
On the other side of the coin.Reviewers: No artist or publisher owes you anything. NO ARTIST OR PUBLISHER OWES YOU ANYTHING. There’s a creeping tone of entitlement cropping up quite a lot in fandom of late, that a comic has displeased the reviewer because a story didn’t finish the way it ‘should’ have. Or a comic is going to fail to please elements of the customer base because it’s being drawn by Greg Land rather than the artist Marvel ‘should’ have used. DC ‘should’ get rid of The New 52 and revert to the pre-Flashpoint continuity. Zenescope ‘should’ employ some artists who have a better grasp of the female anatomy.Why ‘Should’ they?
Honestly, beyond your personal desires and whatever delusions you’ve told yourself, you have to understand that no comic, no record, no painting, no film, no game, no work of creative endeavour was created to please you, specifically. Everything is a crapshoot. Shoot enough crap and hope an element of it sticks, whether it’s Scott Snyder’s writing, Adam Hughes’s covers, The Winter Soldier, Doc Ock as Spider-Man or Sam Wilson as Captain America, all of these things are done to try to appeal to the broadest market possible whilst hopefully maintaining the current audience enough that they won’t drop the book
The idea that a work is bad because Peter Parker died, because Poison Ivy didn’t show up, because The Hulk is red instead of green, because Rick Remender wrote things happening that you personally didn’t like is an almost laughable sense of entitlement in action. Whatever you’ve told yourself, or connections you’ve formed in your own mind about how these corporate franchises should be handled, the decisions remain entirely the business of Time/Warner and Disney.
You are free to say what you like, but if you get into the world of what ‘should’ be happening, you’ll never see what actually is and adversely, never actually review the work fairly due to it not living up to your groundless expectations. You cannot, realistically, expect every comic creator to sit down and look at every single person in comic’s Twitter/Tumblr and expect them to take in all of these desires before sitting down and writing their newest thing. The only thing I really expect from an issue of Amazing Spider-Man is that the Amazing Spider-Man shows up at some point in the comic.
On both sides of the argument, it strikes me that neither side is happy about the state of affairs, whether it’s artists and writers wanting the right for their work to be only reviewed the ‘right way’ or reviewers too fixated with their own values of what a comic should contain to fairly and properly consider the work they’re dealing with*.
Obviously, these are ideas that need exploring further. There has to be an understanding from each party of the other’s view for things to start moving forward without one side feeling they haven’t ticked off the other’ checklist of imaginary and unnecessary requirements. It’s only by communicating that anything evolves.
Which is why we, both reviewers and creatives absolutely had to utterly reject the notion that Randy Queen should think that blocking reviewing sites from using his previously published art was an acceptable practice. While I disagree with the notion of Escher Girls should have any influence on art and anyone ought to look at their redesigns and suggestions before drawing any women, because any artist worth their salt is going to follow their muse and training, regardless of the voice of their critics, they HAVE to be free to take published work and recontextualize it for their purposes.
If Randy hadn’t had a change of heart and pursued his case with Escher Girls, he might well have helped set a dangerous precdent. One that would allow DC to stop The Outhousers using DC promo images in juxtaposition with their ‘Has DC Done Something Stupid Today?’ section, Rob Liefeld to block anyone pointing out his rather voluminous swipe file, or maybe Rupert Murdoch to stop Private Eye running images of various Sun Employees in phone-hacking pieces.
This had to be treated as an aberration, a laughable display of wounded ego and nothing more. if you allow someone else’s right to express themselves, you can’t be surprised when yours disappears also. This is a terrible period to be an active critic of pop culture and much else. I’m very gratified that the Streisand Effect appears to be working time and again as a principle, but between the incidents involving Total Biscuit, Janelle Assassin, The Jimquisition and last week’s attack on Stephanie Zacharek, who was called a ‘Harlot’ for not liking a film most of her attackers couldn’t have seen at the time she posted her review, it’s clear some kind of…anti-dissent is going on, both from a corporate standpoint that would rather shut down negative opinion of their product and a collective fan (Which I remind you is a shortening of ‘Fanatical.’ ) that fears any suggestion that product from The Church Of Marvel is anything less than a Holy Offering gifted to it’s loyal subjects.
It’s a thought process that needs a swift kick in the bollocks. I am told that the professionals don’t care and that I’m ‘making the industry look bad’ for pointing out this kind of thing. I am not interested in preserving any notion of Comics as some kind of Shangrai-La nor give a fuck if a bunch of comic professionals think the treatment of reviewers and human beings being shut down by Youtube or being called names is something they can laugh off whilst promoting their new work with a callous and cynical ‘Hey Guys’, as if we were all in some kind of arrested development online Goonies alike compound.
Because it is ‘You Guys!’ and not ‘Us Guys.’. You’ve made that very clear, and either you’re on the side of free expression without fear of reprisals from companies nor abuse from Fanatics, or you just have some more shit to try and sell me, and if the latter is the case, Fuck Off. You were only in the way anyway.
*Which brings to mind an ex-colleague who popped into the shop and asked me what my favourite comic was that week. I suggested ‘Superman:Secret Origin’. He came back looking disgusted and said ‘Man, that was AWFUL!’. ‘Really, it’s Gary Frank and Geoff Johns? I thought you liked them?’
‘YEAH, BUT I HATE SUPERMAN!’