Thursday, March 08, 2012

50 Things I Learned in My Three Years and Four Months as a Reviewer for Comic Book Resources

1. You are always wrong.

2. 80% of the time a comic creator e-mails you, it's to complain about a review you wrote. 15% of the time a comic creator e-mails you, it's to provide you with a PDF of some sort. The remaining 5% of the time is divided evenly between a creator pointing out a factual error in a review you wrote or a creator thanking you for a review you wrote.

3. You don't get bribes, but many people think you do.

4. 99% of the e-mails you receive from readers will be pure stupid bullshit that will make you hate comics readers.

5. You will always remember that first review where you were wrong. (Mine was Secret Invasion #8.)

6. You will learn to spell names like 'Straczynski,' 'Djurdjevic,' 'Sienkiewicz,' 'Caramagna,' and 'Eliopoulos' without having to look them up.

7. People think anything less than 3 stars is massively negative.

8. Reviewing groups of titles because of weird shipping schedules is always fun. I love theme weeks and would curse my fellow reviewers if any of them called one of the books I wanted to review as part of a theme week.

9. Calling an artist's work 'lazy' offends them. They prefer you say things like the work is 'loose' or 'not as tight as usual.'

10. Oh. Apparently saying that also offends them.

11. No matter how politely phrased, anything that basically means 'the art looks like shit' will offend artists.

12. And no matter how politely phrased, I meant your art looks like shit.

13. Most of the reviews you write will not be good. They will be average, formulaic things. But, those ones that come along where you have something to say, manage to say it how you want to, and even surprise yourself... well, those ones are magic.

14. If you get an advanced copy of a DC comic, it's only allowed to be posted ahead of its ship date if it's a 5-star review.

15. Ideally, your reviews should fall within the 3-3.5 star range on average. That's reasonable considering you're writing reviews for a site devoted mostly to mainstream superhero comics. (And no one told me this, I just figured it out on my own.)

16. Because you are buying your own comics to review, you will naturally review more comics you like than don't. You must make the effort to buy beyond your pull list sometimes.

17. People will assume you always have an agenda. They will never assume that your agenda is expressing your honest opinion of what you read.

18. Being called up by someone at a publisher because you didn't like a big comic they just released is awkward. Especially when the number they have for you is your parents' house where you don't live anymore.

19. No one is amused when you refer to yourself as a two-time Eisner winning reviewer except for your fellow two-time Eisner winning reviewers.

20. You can't like comics that sell well and you must love comics that don't sell well. Otherwise, you're killing comics.

21. People who don't read comics think it's really cool that you get paid to read and write about comics.

22. The only way you know you're doing a good job is that cheques keep coming in the mail every month. (Meaning: no one told me what to write. Ever. The only contact I had with Jonah, barring the rare occasion like asking for a couple of weeks off or something equally strange was me sending in my monthly invoice and him sending me payment.)

23. Comic reviewing is different from other types of reviewing. With music, movies, and books, you're (usually) reviewing a self-contained work whose only connection to anything beyond itself is its place within the body of work of the people who made it. With TV, you're usually reviewing every episode of a show. Here, you're reviewing random parts of serialised stories. All of them are serialised (aside from the odd one-shot or graphic novel) and rarely will you be reviewing every part of a story. More than that, most individual comic issues aren't structured to function on their own like episodes of TV shows are. Most comics are lacking in a sense of completeness, so you're usually reviewing a portion of a larger story. I'm not sure I ever quite mastered how to do that, but it's more challenging than you'd think it would be.

24. The only thing that matters is the review they're reading now. Anything you wrote in the past is irrelevant and plays no part in blind accusations of bias and payola.

25. Having something you wrote used as a pull quote is fun until you see that it's attributed solely to the site you're writing for and your name is nowhere to be found.

26. It's never personal for you and it's always personal for the people whose work you're writing about.

27. Colourists don't like being ignored. (And rightfully so.)

28. Recap pages usually contain at least three factual errors. People will assume those errors are yours if you repeat them in your review.

29. You will come to hate comics that don't offer a complete set of credits (first name, last name, what they actually did, etc.).

30. Marvel used to provide advance PDFs for every comic until the ad revealing the Secret Avengers line-up leaked online. They then pulled them despite the leak clearly being a scan of a physical copy. Now, they provide the occasional PDF, usually two at most each week.

31. You will begin to realise how many comics letterers letter. It's a lot.

32. Augie De Blieck, Jr. is a good guy. Telling him you read Pipeline in high school makes him feel old and he's obsessed with Oxford commas.

33. You will work hard to come up with new ways to say things you've said dozens of times before.

34. The only comics you'll hate more than shitty comics are mediocre comics.

35. People don't want to read reviews of collections.

36. Advance PDFs seem cool at first, but, soon, they're just more comics you don't want to read. And in a format you don't particularly like.

37. You will sometimes get physical review copies. Usually, these will be pretty great. (Hey, I still love IDW for sending me The Art of Jim Starlin. And I'm still surprised that they did.)

38. The more positive a review is, the more play it gets no matter how poorly it is written.

39. Putting hidden messages in your reviews is a fun and challenging exercise to keep things lively.

40. Talking about what happens on the first panel of an issue is considered, by some, to be a spoiler.

41. People lose their shit if you spoil something in a comic.

42. You're not allowed to write joke reviews of joke comics. Well, you can and your editor may say it's funny, but they won't put it up on the site.

43. Your fellow reviewers will embarrass you sometimes. Odds are, you'll also embarrass them.

44. When cashing American cheques, even when the Canadian dollar is worth more than the American, you'll probably get a little less Canadian money than the cheque is worth, because banks are thieving bastards.

45. You will only receive a fraction of the complaints about your reviews that are actually given. Instead, your boss will shield you from the whining and bitching of so-called professionals who will demand that you never be allowed to review another one of their comics again.

46. Brian Michael Bendis writes a lot of comics. You thought you already knew that. You didn't.

47. Even four stars is too negative for some.

48. Normally, Diamond short-shipping your shop of a comic is a minor annoyance. On a week where you need to review that comic, it's the most unprofessional thing you've ever seen in your entire life. I mean, how dare they? Don't they know that some people depend on those comics to earn money? No one cares two weeks from now! GAH!

49. It's the best job you'll probably ever have.

50. You've got to know when to walk away.