I was talking about comics recently at my LCS. No big surprise there. But, I hear a lot of people who do almost nothing but talk about how bad certain stories are or how poor this artwork is or how this person would not spend another dime on a book from a certain creator after some series they read that was such a disappointment. Then the conversation turned to me. I get a pretty big pull list each week, sometimes more than I probably should. Especially for a comic book journalist who doesn’t really get paid for all the work that I put into running this site and establishing the relationships with publishers and creators.
But, I was asked how I could possibly talk positively about every book that I read. The guy told me that he was just really impressed, and was not sure if this should be a compliment or not, but that every time I talk about a comic that I have read, I always talk about the good things about them. This got me thinking, what makes a good comic? What is it about the comics that I read that I really enjoy?
Of course that also got me thinking along these lines:
“Maybe I am really not cut out to be a comic book reviewer… I mean, how many times do I really give a bad review to anyone? I like comics, even amateur attempts and books that could really use some art lessons. Just seeing what the creators are able to come up with, especially if the idea is new and interesting, can make me like a book with fairly robotic artwork.”
Maybe I used the wrong word here. Maybe “reviewer” is not what I really mean. I really mean “critic”. I guess I am just not a critic.
Movies are another perfect example of things that I am just not good at watching and being critical of. I love movies and TV of all kinds. I will try about any type of movie. Early last year I watched two movies that I really enjoyed. Critics hated them, but I loved them for the cinematography, the story, the action and adventure, and for the way the stories were told. What were the movies? 47 Ronin and I, Frankenstein. Other people I talk to hate them, sometimes with a passion.
I don’t watch movies and TV shows the way other people watch movies and TV shows. I can watch almost any show, except Family Guy, and see some grain of positivity in it. There have been a lot of shows over the last few years that I was not afraid to try out, and I am glad that I did. Not all of them turn out to be amazing shows, but it is cool to see the work that goes into a lot of them and sometimes they do take off. Movies are the same way. I will watch almost any movie, except for Titanic and Brokeback Mountain, and I can enjoy it. I have no trouble stepping outside of reality, or continuity, to see how something fits in its own external universe. Things can be realistic with having to be real. They can truthful without having to be true. A show or movie that can take itself seriously while still knowing there has to be a grain of humor in everything can be the perfect movie.
With comic books, it all comes down to the fact that I love to read. I love stories and ideas. I can look past artwork that looks like a 4th grader threw up on the page if the ideas and stories are new and different. Have I ever given a comic a score or review that I did not really stand behind? Not really. Even when I have been paid to promote books, which is very few and far between, I have still taken an honest approach at critiquing them.
Are there code words? Sure. Sometimes when I say the art is interesting, what I really mean is that the art is not really my cup of tea, but it does not detract from the rest of the story. Flat characters and poor use of color or shading can definitely detract from the whole book, but you usually do not even see that sort of thing hit print.
I have received some really weird crap in the mail, though. It looks strange, but I will still give it a read. Whether it is drunk surfers, crazy aliens, crappy werewolves, or just a straight up insane serial killer, all comics at least deserve the consideration that someone put their time and effort, and invested a part of themselves into each panel. That should stand for something.