Funnybook Babylon

August 18, 2008

Quick Rant on Criticism

Filed under: Blurbs — Tags: , , , , , , — Joseph Mastantuono @ 8:51 pm

I wanted to add my 2¢ to the current debate about “Comics Criticism” that David Brothers over at 4th Letter has already covered.

I believe that the creators repudiating critics haven’t experienced much actual criticism; they seem to be responding to reader mail and message board threads. To paint critics as message board posters is absolutely ridiculous.

If Scott Kurtz feels it’s necessary to ignore all criticism of his work, more power to him, but to frame the discussion as a question of “Which is superior? Artist or Critic?” is silly. I wouldn’t care if this concept wasn’t getting spread around in the blogosphere.

Good criticism isn’t about saying “This sucks!” or “Go buy this thing!” Good criticism is an examination or mediation of its subject. It’s disassembling the pieces to see how the work affects you. A good critic can provide context, illuminating a piece of work that may otherwise be opaque.

A good critic is one whose work you can read after reading the book critiqued to get additional perspective on what you experienced.

Criticism is not a mandate on what an artist’s work should be, even when seems like it is.

To all these creators that feel like they need to tell critics to fuck off, my suggestion is to go read some Pauline Kael. If you want a sample of similar criticism apllied to comics, Chris enjoyed Douglas Wolk’s Reading Comics. Wolk cites Kael as a significant influence.

And if people really need to play the “Which is more important? Critic or Artist?” I’d like to mention Roland Barthes. This guy was a critic that developed a whole new language for talking about visual art, from newspaper advertisements to classical paintings. Barthes revolutionized the way we currently think of images and their meaning, and contributed as much to today’s art as any artist.

But this whole debate feels like a thinly veiled way for certain artists to say, “I’m a better person than you.” Making Good Art does not make you a Good Person. Making Bad Art does not make you a Bad Person.

Case in point: RICHARD WAGNER. Or on the flipside, Jeph Loeb. I’ve heard Loeb in interviews and he seems like a genuinely nice guy who’s trying really hard to make good comics. This doesn’t make him a bad person. It just makes him a person who created a bad comic. And criticizing his book doesn’t mean you’re attacking him as a person. If everyone, from “critics” to “artists” to “fans” could remember this, we’d all be better off.

Powered by WordPress