Sunday, March 28, 2010

Five Years Blogging: A Life Well Wasted 10

[David Brothers and I continue to talk comics and blogging. Read part nine on 4thletter.]

David Brothers: I've never really had a problem with the reading part of it, whether for fun or pleasure. I've been rereading One Piece with the advent of the new omnibuses, but not really to review them. I just read them because they're good adventure comics. Reading is by far the best part of writing about comics, I could do that basically all day long, stopping only for naps or food, and be okay. True confession: I have done this before.

The list of things I want to do, or have started and let lapse, is as long as my arm. I had the Lone Wolf & Cub thing last year, which was interesting, but draining. The stories were pretty same-y, which made having to come up with something new to talk about each week a sucker's game. I keep thinking about retooling it and restarting, but man. The drive is simply not there.

I've got a stack of books at home that need to be written about. I keep a mental tally in my head of what needs to be done. Like, right now- I want to talk about Bokurano: Ours for 4l!, do a bit on Tsutomu Nihei for Comics Alliance, write about a specific thing Eiichiro Oda does in One Piece that I love but don't have a name for yet, read GoGo Monster (and probably write about it), write about some war comics Titan Books sent me, figure out how to explain why Vagabond is incredible... I'm very much in a manga mode it seems right now. Manga and old comics.

While each post is a time investment, maybe a couple hours or so depending on what it's about, I spend way more time thinking about what's fresh in my mind. I read Tsutomu Nihei's Biomega 1 last night and that unlocked some doors in my head. I've been mulling it over all morning, but I'm gonna read Shirow Miwa's Dogs 2 at lunch, so that'll probably go away soon. I'll have to write about it tonight to make sure I don't let it slide. I'm constantly buying books, and sometimes a book slips through the cracks and I don't read it until weeks later. If I've read it, I'm more likely to write about it, so GoGo Monster and Red Snow are pretty far down the list right now. What's fresh is what gets covered, and then I double back and grab what I left behind.

Here's a craft question for you. How mean is too mean? Where do you draw the line between "mean, but accurate" and "bridge-burningly mean?" Off the top of my head, I've called DC editorial and/or management "pathetic" when discussing their various practices or storylines. It may have been a bit too far, but I meant (and believe) it. How do you know whether or not you've gone too far when critiquing a work or event? Is there some rule you keep in mind when handing out 1 and zero star reviews?

Chad Nevett: Well, that line differs depending on where I'm writing. I've had some of my harsher criticism in CBR reviews toned down by my editor, which is fine. So I'm usually a little nicer there than I would be otherwise. On my blog, my only standard is to try and not make it too personal. I've found that you can be pretty damn harsh about the work so long as you don't make things personal. That's not always possible depending on what you're discussing, but, as a general rule of thumb, it works. And, as you know, my style of criticism tends to lend itself to trashing stuff. I don't know why, that's just where my mind goes. Even with books I like, I generally want to go "This was great, except for..." and then go off on a twenty minute rant about the one panel that fucked up the entire thing.

When it comes to star ratings... I gave a book zero stars once to a little bit of controversy, because how can a comic lack any redeeming qualities? And it was the fourth issue of mini-series where I hadn't read the previous three issues. People didn't like that I was trashing the book that hard, which I found funny since anyone reading it would go "Yeah, it's not good, but..." Fuck off, assholes. If that's how you're going to begin defending the book and saying I'm too harsh, just shut the fuck up, the book is obviously not worth it. I've been reading comics since before I could actually read and I couldn't follow that book at all. I don't care if it's the fourth issue of a six-issue mini, I really don't. I have never been that lost when reading a comic. That's one of the biggest crocks of shit in comics, you know, that storyarcs make it difficult to jump on board books. It makes it difficult to read an issue and understand every detail and nuance, yes, but rarely are comics so impentrable that you can't actually follow the main thrust of the story. That was the case with the zero-star comic, so it got zero stars. When a life-long comics reader with a Master's can't follow your supposedly straight-forward narrative, you've got problems. I've only done it once because I've only encountered one comic that warranted it, that failed so completely.

I also really resented the idea that we shouldn't do random issue reviews. If we didn't do those, most comics wouldn't get reviewed as we all wait for the beginning of a new storyarc and, instead, just forget about the book. Sometimes, the readers can be real pains in the ass. And yet we love them and hope for tons of comments and feedback.

At the same time, one thing I've avoided sticking on my blog is a hit counter. I don't want to know how many people are going there. I have no idea what the size of my readership is and that's the way I like it. I find that not knowing who's reading helps me not worry about the audience as much and just do what I want. If people read it, that's a bonus. How do you approach the audience? Do you have a specific reader in mind when you write?

Part 11 is up on 4thletter!