Sunday, January 27, 2013

Blogathon 47: Whether Comics Critics Should Turn Pro (Ryan K. Lindsay Guest Post)

[Note: Ryan was kind enough to step in and write a quick guest post to fill a half-hour gap. Thanks a lot, Ryan. I do appreciate it. I will be back in 30 minutes with a post on 2012 as the year where everything ended.]

I’m always intrigued by this as a topic for discussion because it always sounds like there’s some binary dichotomy of which we should all be respectful. I honestly don’t get that.

There is no line in the sand. At least, I don’t see it. Of course, I can see where problems might occur but I think – whether going critic to pro or vice versa – this can be circumvented with one simple rule: don’t be a dick. Shit, maybe just follow this for life and see 75% of your troubles disappear.

I’ll be very open here: I am a comic critic, and I am also a comic writer. I’ve written reviews for CBR for the past few years, I write and manage in my other hours, and then I write comics for IDW, Action Lab Entertainment. ComixTribe, and Challenger Comics. In doing this, I understand there might be some grey areas but I’m careful to tread lightly and not be a dick. I don’t think I’ve ever ended up in a spot where I feel my integrity has been compromised. At all.

I don’t review work for companies at which I’m presently employed, and I’ve never traded a positive review for the ability to pitch or be considered for the job, before you even have to ask. As it stands, I see the two writing jobs as never really crossing over. I do them both because I like to write, it honestly is that simple. I’ve been writing for years now, sometimes for free, sometimes for money, but pretty much always for love. I love comics so it seems obvious that I would like writing them as much as I like writing about them. They scratch different itches for me.

This year I’m writing a My Little Pony one-shot from IDW (it’s dropping in March, it’s about rainbow Dash, you should check it out), I’m also editing a book of essays about Daredevil called The Devil is in the Details: Examining Matt Murdock and Daredevil from Sequart publishing (in which I’ve written many words, and it should be debuting at ECCC at my table), and while doing this I’ll be writing reviews for CBR. None of these things cockblock the others because they are just writing gigs. Maybe I’m missing something, maybe I’m making a dick move, I don’t know, but I don’t think so. I just think I’m writing, and writing things I love, so why consider which side of the beast they are on if I really don’t have to?

When my Pony book drops, or any other book drops, I don’t see how that affects my CBR reviews at all. And if you think it means I cottonball my reviews so I can buddy up to creators later then I’ve only got harsh words for you. Read my reviews, they might not be scathing (see my rule, I’m not a dick – I’ll write about things I don’t like but I’m not out to needlessly be a dick with my words for sport or any other cause) but they aren’t all praise. I’ve dropped 1-5 stars across all publishers and I’m happy to continue to do so. This might cause me an interesting situation at a con, I don’t know, it would be fascinating to have editorial tee me up with an artist I had previous reviewed poorly, but I don’t think about that. I’m sure there’ll come a time where I’ll have to drop reviewing because I’m too close to too many publishers but until then I like writing reviews and I’ll do it while it’s still something I like and can do.

There is the possibility I could play both sides of the coin in a terrible manner, I admit, there is that possibility. I don’t know how I could do so for my own benefit but I get the whole idea of conflicts of interest. I get that. But I also see it not occurring in my world. Perhaps you disagree, I’d certainly love to know why, but I don’t get it. Why can’t a reviewer write a comic? Riddle me that. Is there a document that states once you’ve written about comics then you can never cross the floor and write an actual comic? If so, why would this idea even be started in the first place? Why would the two arenas be kept SO separate?

Man, this one doesn’t feel like a polished piece at all, sorry Chad, it’s really just a rant. Really not at place on this site at all J I couldn’t even boil down the central thesis but I think that’s because I don’t know what I’m arguing against.

I do know what I’m arguing for, I’m arguing for people to write that which they are passionate about. I’m arguing for people to not worry about the bitter incursions of others online, and I’m arguing for others to support and be happy for someone writing what they love. I’m arguing acceptance in the face of a tide of “Nuh-uh, you can’t, it’s not fair, and I can’t explain why, or how, but I just know I don’t like it so stop it before I complain more.”

As for future reviews, I have to agree with Chad, having written them for a while now I know exactly what they are so when they come in for my work I know I’ll be able to handle them for what they are. I’m not going to email the reviewer and bitch, I’m not going to get all passive-aggressive on Twitter about it, I’m going to accept it as someone else’s opinion and respect it as that. Always.

TANGENT: I’ve heard many people bitch that every comic ‘journalist’ wants to also break into the industry and that you don’t see movie critics trying this bullshit. To that all I can think is, who cares? I don’t plan my steps on what anyone else is doing, or what trend might be occurring, and neither should you. If you want to write about comics for free, do it, if you want to make webcomics with your mate, do it, if you want to make on online webseries about you reading comics, goddamn, go for it. I’m not worried about overall trends, I’m worried about filling my spare time doing things I love.

If you want to do something but first stop to see what other people are doing around that or thinking about it then I can’t imagine what decision making in your head must be like. Just do it, screw ‘em.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I wrote this piece during the Blogathon when I saw Chad write that some people didn’t participate and he was trying to fill the voids. I am currently waiting for my wife to finally drop our second child into the world as it is incredibly close. I am tired. But happy to help.

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