One Fan's Opinion: Issue #23

Thu, January 19th, 2006 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Erik Larsen, Columnist

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"Warrior Magazine" #2
This comes up every so often. What is the role of the critic? What qualifies them to criticize a given work? Why value that opinion?

There was a point a while back where I had stated an opinion about a certain artist's work on a message board and a number of folks got pretty bent out of shape about it. How dare I criticize this guy's work? Did I think that I was better than he was? Some even postulated that in order to criticize his work that I should be better than he was.

That's not the case.

You see-- if you held a standard of "you have to be better than a person in order to critique their work" we would have no critics. Those at the top of their game aren't going to throw it all away in order to critique others. Is Alan Moore the only one qualified to critique comic book writers? Should only the top directors be allowed to judge the merits of a particular movie? That may make sense in order to give out Academy Awards, but to let you and I decide whether we want to take in a particular motion picture? I don't think so.

By that standard, how could the person who postulated that in order to criticize this other artist's work that I had to be better than he was make such a statement in the first place? Is he qualified enough to know that I'm not as good an artist as the one that I criticized? Isn't it more than a little hypocritical for him to judge the relative merit of my work (he being a person that is not a working comic book professional) when he professes that I'm not qualified to judge to merit of another artist (when I am a working comic book professional)?

Regardless-- the bottom line is-- do you like it?

It doesn't matter if something is good on a technical level or not-- to you. Do you like it? What's your opinion?

Just because everybody tells you that Big Macs are the greatest thing Ever, it doesn't make a difference to you if you> don't like them. Maybe the man on the street isn't qualified to tell if something is good or bad, but they could certainly tell if it was something that they liked.

Check out those hands! The cover to "Savage Dragon" #103.
I don't think you do have to know better in order to critique something. Just because I can't write better than Alan Moore it doesn't mean that I can't have an opinion about something he's written. I can still think that Alan Moore's "Marvelman" started off with a bang when it ran in "Warrior" magazine and became tedious and dull by the time his "Miracleman" story came to its end. I may not be able to craft a more eloquent sentence, but I know how the words he wrote struck me as a reader.

I don't think you have to be able to draw better than I do in order to look at my work and figure out that I draw hands too big or that basic facial construction is all over the place and that my work is not particularly "realistic."

Being "realistic" has never been something that I've tried to accomplish. If drawing unrealistic is a shortcoming, then it's a shortcoming I'm only too happy to live with. Part of critiquing something is trying to determine the intent of the author and judging whether you feel the author has succeeded. I wouldn't criticize "Calvin & Hobbes" because it wasn't as realistic as "Mary Worth" or "Apartment 3-G."

When Charles Schulz sat down to draw a "Peanuts" strip he wasn't attempting to draw like Alex Raymond and falling far short. Not everybody sets out to draw like Alex Raymond. I don't set out to draw like Alex Raymond, although I'm willing to concede that Alex Raymond could draw like a motherfucker.

Editors are like critics. A good editor can read through a manuscript and find flaws and point them out so that the author can make his work even better. There are many creators that can use a good editor. I send my stuff around before it sees print to a number of colleagues in order to get feedback and find typos and whatnot. I don't have an editor per se, but I do solicit opinions from others and adjust things accordingly if things don't read as well as I thought they did.

Criticism has its place. I think it has value.

If you follow the writing of a certain critic and become accustomed to his or her taste in relation to yours, you can get a decent idea of whether or not you might like something. And I think that's valuable.

"Miracleman" #16, Alan Moore's Final Issue.
I think there's a value in getting critiques from reviewers and feedback from readers. If a reader found a certain passage confusing, I want to know about that. If they thought something was terrific, I'd like to know that as well.

I listen to others. If somebody has a comic they love, I want to hear about it. I'll often check out books or comics that people recommend to me. And I don't always like them. You and I are different people. You and I like different things. You may like something that I find has no real merit or interest-- to me. But I still want to hear about it.

I have an issue of "Savage Dragon" coming out next week. I'd like to know what you thought of it. I just started coloring the book. I'd like to hear how you thought that turned out. There are things that I'm seeing now that the book is in print that I didn't see when it was being colored on my computer screen. There are things I'd do differently and will do differently, but I'd be curious to know what you thought.

They say opinions are like assholes-- everybody's got one. And that's meant to be a somewhat dismissive statement. Opinions have value. And I'm not saying that I'm going to necessarily change the way I do things because of somebody's opinion, but that doesn't mean that I can't learn a thing or two.

You're certainly entitled to disagree with me. You may even have a more qualified opinion than I do, but that doesn't mean that I'm not entitled to my own opinion and that I shouldn't be allowed to voice it.

But that's just one fan's opinion. You may feel otherwise.

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