Saturday, January 26, 2013

Blogathon 05: Keeping Up With the Critics (Part 1)

The topics that I received from my guest posters for this were fantastic. So fantastic that I don't have any favourites. If I did, this one would definitely be in contention for the top spot. The idea of having to 'keep up' with other critics is something that's always there, but not many people seem to talk about. Instead, we get a mix of support, hatred, jealousy, backstabbing, and pressure. I know I've felt or experienced all of those things at some time or another, and tried my best to focus more on the 'support' side of things than anything else.

A big part of that is because of Tim Callahan. Tim is the only comic critic who I can say I've only been jealous of once. By my nature, I'm a jealous sort of person. Not outwardly; I keep it to myself. My first reaction is often a jealous, awful one. I'm aware of that and do my best to press it down, not let it come out, and remind myself that there's no reason for it. But, yeah, Tim writing his piece for that second Gødland hardcover? That's going to make me jealous. And I've felt bad about that ever since.

Otherwise, Tim has been one of the most positive influences in my comics criticism world. He... didn't mentor me. But, grabbed me and stuck me by his side and said "This guy, he's all right." He'd written a book on Grant Morrison that everyone knew about and I was the guy he wanted to talk comics with. He got me the gig with Comic Book Resources (or, got me the opportunity to get the gig). He put me on Sequart's radar and I've written three essays for them along with edited a book that will see publication in 2013. Some of the stuff I am best known for is stuff I have done with Tim.

Tim Callahan is the example of how we should act towards our fellow writers. And it's an example I have tried to follow when I could. Write well, do your thing, and, when possible, use your name to shine a light on others. Very rarely have I seen Tim exert ego and I admire that a lot.

But, that's not all to this idea. It's not just about 'keeping up' with other critics directly. One of the hardest things to escape is the influence of others. That moment where you feel like you have to like something because everyone else seems to. That fear of not sticking to your guns and being your own person. I've had conversations with people about this and it can be hard to escape. If you look at my writing, you can sometimes see where I'm doing what I want and sometimes where I'm trying to fit in. Sometimes the two are the same thing, but not always. And what's even worse is trying so hard to escape the unsaid 'peer pressure' that you become a simple contrarian.  Where you begin taking stances you don't believe in just to be different.

All of this sounds a bit silly, but it's so easy to get lost in this bullshit. How do you draw that line between reading others and listening to them while still being separate? It's very easy to just 'fall in line' with someone who you respect and, honestly, agree with a lot of the time. I mean, if you agree with them 90% of the time, you're inclined to make an effort to see things their way that remaining 10%.

In 2012, I made an effort to really do what I want. I wrote about Avengers vs. X-Men and Before Watchmen. Not because it was the opposite of what everyone was doing. Just because I was reading them both and didn't really foresee anyone else writing about them too much.

What makes it especially hard is that no one talks about it really. You get the odd e-mail conversation, but not much in the open like this.

In 30 minutes, we'll see what David Brothers has to say.

In the last Blogathon, we raised $535 total. As of right now, we're up to $590.95 raised for the Hero Initiative this year. That is so wonderful.

[Don't forget to donate what you can to the Hero Initiative (Details in this post)! After you do, let me know via comment or e-mail (found at the righthand side) so I can keep track of donations -- and who to thank.]