Webcomics Weekly responds to the Critics! (With a capital “C”!)

It looks like Kris Straub, Brad Guigar, and Scott Kurtz have responded to the powderked touched off by Mr. Kurtz’s blog posts about critics.

Webcomics Weekly #44 – Everyone’s a Critic

A couple of key quotes:

Scott Kurtz: “I appreciate & read the works of critics.”
Kris Straub: “There’s inconsistency and difficulty in listening to unsolicited critiques.”
Scott Kurtz: “I just think it’s really easy right now to put up a blog and try to take your review and elevate that review out of its very noble purpose in either defending the new or protecting a consumer or advising a consumer and taking it to be its own creation, equal to that of what you are critiquing.”
Brad Guigar: “I think that’s perfectly fair to share your opinions with a work of art. But I think … anyone who acts in that role as a critic or a maker of opinions that you cross a line when you go from ‘Here’s what I thought’ to ‘Here’s what you should think.'”

I suggest listening to the podcast if you’re still interested in the critic vs. creator debate. (A surprise for listeners: Scott comes off as probably the most sympathetic to critics of the three.)

Kurtz also recites the Anton Ego quote from Ratatouille that I quoted on an earlier post. (OK, I’m not going to be so pretentious as to think he got it from this site. I mean, I imagine that artists of all types have this particular quote embedded inside their wallets.)

PS Stay around for a very intriguing battle between Kris Straub and Scott Kurtz over whether or not Fred Rogers from Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood was creepy or not. (I’m with Mr. Straub on the “Mr. Rogers is a great guy” side of things.)


About El Santo

Somehow ended up reading and reviewing almost 300 different webcomics. Life is funny, huh? Despite owning two masks, is not actually a luchador.

Posted on August 20, 2008, in The Webcomic Overlook, webcomics and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. May I share a few thoughts on the artist-critic relationship?

    1. Like every vocation in life, there are incompetent critics. Some deserve a rebuttal, some should be ignored, and a rare few deserve a thrashing. Any discussion of critics needs to distinguish careful, thoughtful criticism from reckless commentary.
    2. As someone who is both a cartoonist (Li’l Nyet, Scratchin Post) and a critic (Floating Lightbulb), I can assure you that critics, even good ones, are not taken too seriously by most readers. People, to their credit, prefer to make their own decisions, especially with comics. Movie theaters, who help you spend admission and popcorn money, have more influence, and can do more damage.
    3. I don’t know Scott Kurtz, but he might consider whether he wants to allow his personality to compete with his comic (by being more provocative and blog-worthy) or enhance it (case study: Charles Schulz — read the recent David Michaelis biography). Time was, I thought Scott was mouthing off thoughtlessly, and I thought less of him. Today, I see him as a dynamic and interesting guy, a character who enriches the landscape, and I think he only gets in “trouble” when he prints items that could use a cooling off period and some editing. Or perhaps he is just a brilliant self-promoter, artfully sticking himself into situations that will create controversy and headlines. After seeing him on Conan, I think he has talents in that direction, but I don’t think it’s calculated to a huge degree, like with the fabricated celebrities who dominate entertainment news. He works for a living.
    I’m not big on crowds, hanging out, or even phone calls, but Scott Kurtz is someone I wouldn’t mind meeting some day. Despite his gifts, he is a man who struggles daily toward his goals, and I think I could learn some interesting things.
    He’s also friends with Brad Guigar, a guy who has bent over backwards to be nice and helpful to me since before I even had a webcomic posted, and that’s a serious endorsement.
    I wouldn’t be surprised if Scott Kurtz turns out to be the first webcomic cartoonist to be the subject of a serious biography.
    Thanks for sharing the podcast highlights with us.

  2. The situation reminds me of the backlash against Roger Ebert (ahhh! Here I go with the Ebert comparisons! Gah, if I love him so much why don’t I … um … OK, fugue over) when he started talking about why he didn’t consider video games to be art. The thing was the only thing that was heard was the “headline”: “Ebert thinks video games not art!” and the reasons (excellent points all, in fact) were often glossed over. That’s the nature of the internet … and society, really. We’ll get worked up over the headline and not the content.

    Incidentally, I love the Webcomics Weekly podcasts. Love love love love. Previous to the podcasts, I guess there was a reputation going around that Scott Kurtz was a smug, arrogant fool, and I suspect a lot of that had to do with the frankness of his writing. When you hear him, though, especially when he’s interacting with other people, you come to realize that he’s not mean-spirited (like his writing sometimes implies) and he’s actually quite open and very humorous.

    And I agree with you on Brad Guigar, Ben: the man is a classy, top-notch guy.

  3. Proving once again that I don’t just read the interesting blogs, I often re-read them, here I am back, and the news is not good. Like an intelligence agent adjusting the terrorism risk chart, my settings for HalfPixel have changed.

    I currently see Scott Kurtz as a blowhard and bully, who is willing to post comments on things he has not read. That biography I mentioned: unless it’s a puff piece, it will have to take a long look as the forces shaping his personality, morals and mood lability, because as a cartoonist, he isn’t very interesting. As a businessman, he is intriguing, especially with his advocacy of “fake it till you make it.” It could be a real “battling the inner demons” book, but unfortunately his fans won’t warm to it (being in that hero-worship stage of school) and not many others would care. But heck, I’d read it. I might even write it.

    I came away with my admiration diminished after interviewing Brad Guigar. The tenseness and manic use of smiley faces to disguise an erupting temper were a surprising action, since we’d always got on fine, and I was asking him to defend one sidebar paragraph. I was looking for the story of how it came to be, expecting to write a narrative explaining the history of a flaw. Instead he was defensive, unhelpful and resistant. Then another HalfPixel bubble burst — the one about self-sufficiency from comics — when Straub announced he was taking a job, and people started mentioning Guigar’s employment outside of comics. Somewhat less that candid, IMHO.

    Interviewing Dave Kellett was interesting. He hurls the same insults as Kurtz, and comes off as similarly untrustworthy. The transcript of the interview reveals a man too bothered to read: he responds to what he guesses you said rather than what you did say. Hostility and insults. It makes you wonder if they have any PR experience at all.

    I hate people who pull age as rank, and I don’t mean to be like them when I mention that being in my forties puts me in a fairly small club: men from about 38 on up involved with webcomics. Many of the most wise and accomplished of my peers have spoken to me at times about various things webcomic. At times, I have been told accounts that are clearly or specifically about HalfPixel that reveal my experience with them is not unique. I can’t estimate how many in all, but repeatedly, admired cartoonists, journalist and even readers have told me experiences with HalfPixel behavior and then dismissed them as a blight on the landscape. One party summed them up as two kooks and two enablers.” It might not have been kooks, it may have been nuts, or crazies, or lunatics, but it was something of that weight.

    The most frequent HalfPixel mistake, surpassing even lost tempers, is assuming that critics are jealous wannabees out to tear them down. Both Kellett and Kurtz have warned me: “Not everyone gets to be a webcomics artist.” The message: Take your failed bitterness elsewhere. This amazes me every time they pitch it, not just because it clashes with the cheerleading tone of “their” (I can’t see how it didn’t rely heavily on an editor), but because it so misjudges what I do. What I do, besides doing a comic with higher artistic standards than they practice or recommend, is share my experience to help others make comics too. I don’t pretend to be helpful, I truly am. Sometimes I am wrong and have to correct something. Had they had the same realistic attitude toward criticism, they wouldn’t have humiliated themselves and behaved vindictively toward me at every opportunity. (The latest was Scott Kurtz banning me from their web site, then telling another comicker publicly that he had gotten rid of the garbage.) The “garbage” referred to her inability to back up her written claims regarding her webcomic, and remain fair game.

    The funny part about Kurtz and Kellet is that, while I don’t know their exact ages, I suspect I’ve been doing comics longer than they’ve been alive. That’s me pulling age rank. Take it as you will.

    Thank you for the opportunity to revise my estimation of these guys. Be wary of people who gladly don a clown face for friendly people. If you want to see what they’re really like, ask them a critical question backed with facts.

    Of all the collectives I track on my site, only three seem to be infected with something rotten: HalfPixel, Bomb Shelter and Dumbrella. That’s actually not a bad ratio, considering how many collectives there are.

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