Thursday, July 2, 2009

The bad, the ugly and the good

How NOT to take a negative review: A Chrispy Story.

I woke up today to find out WebcomicZ had posted a scathing guest review of my strip. It attacked pretty much everything, from the writing to the characters to the whole concept, and often did so in rather impolite ways. Now, I can take some negative - as a person who is generally unfiltered, I'd be a hypocrite if I had thin skin - but some of that review really threw me off. Dude said my naming sucked because I didn't give my fox character a fox-ish last name! A pingo is a mound of dirt and ice in the polar regions. Autumn was formerly a genius in public school who rose above the others and took a cold view towards the flatness around her. So, yeah, totally not apt at all. I think I like that name a bit more than Foxett McFoxfox. He also said giving my main character the last name of Oven was stupid because he wasn't even a chef. One of Bud Oven's characteristics is that, yes, he's an excellent chef. There was an entire intro arc written around how he got his name!

So, bleary-eyed, I went and did something stupid. I knew WebcomicZ had been looking to run a negative review - and that this was the first review to go up since then - and I expressed that I was shocked to be the one targeted. (I know, I know. Not thinking.) I followed it up by saying I reacted in shock and that the dude was entitled to his opinion - but I did this all publicly on Twitter. In stepped some defenders - whose points were all entirely valid, by the way - and suddenly I've caused an incident by complaining. It was a terrible way to react, and the regret level rose when WebcomicZ CHANGED THE REVIEW to something much shorter. The short review cut out all the pettiness and was more direct in why he didn't like it. I'm perfectly fine with it, since the points are fairly justifiable, but the way that review came about left a bad taste in my mouth. WebcomicZ claims he changed it because the author requested it, not knowing of the twitter debacle. Either way, the original is still up there if you check out Precocious' page on WebcomicZ, so I don't feel AS BAD that it was bumped. So now I've been slammed AND I feel horribly guilty about it. Way to go, me!

Some of the things leftover in the review are apt criticisms of Precocious. Having so many characters does break the rules, and I have to be careful in balancing them. Basing my humor on story and character requires the reader to play along and catch up. (This reviewer explicitly said he had no interest in doing that, which would explain the derision. He wasn't playing by my rules and I wasn't writing to his preconceptions.) My love of complexity can be isolating, and I still haven't learn the lessons of keeping it short term. This, however, is something I can control. It's my bad for no doing so.

Other quibbles are standard rookie fare. Precocious is only 6 months old, and sometimes that shows. I was too verbose in the beginning (and certainly still can be) and my writing isn't always crisp. Unfortunately, this is something I've learned only comes with time. You have to train yourself to *think* in comic form, and it's a slow process. He did hit upon a contradiction between my style and format. Story telling is normally reserved for eternal-punchline Mary Worth and not for humor strips, but I go against the grain. Depending on who you are, it's good or bad. I do it because in the webcomic format I can point readers to the start of a story - and the full archive is right there for you. In a newspaper format, storytelling like that would not be wise. I can understand the conflict of people getting to this strip with wrong expectations.

The same goes with the visual style. My characters do share the same general form. This is no different than the first six months of any other strip of this type. As time goes by, the characters will slowly become more distinguished. It's an organic process and I won't lose any sleep over it. Besides, I think it takes some willful ignorance to not be able to tell the characters apart. They may have similar forms, but each has their distinguishing features. I understand new readers getting a bit confused, but to claim the cast page doesn't help distinguish my kids seems to be more a reviewer problem than mine. (I do need to be better about having the kids call each other by name.)

What I don't regret at all is having the kids fail at evil. The reviewer was upset that the kids bogged themselves down with semantics during the water balloon fight, which it exactly what SHOULD HAPPEN with them. The first arc was about these brats playing evil, but not being able to cut it. I think failed evil offers far more storytelling opportunities than having every punchline be "these kids, oh, they're so bad!" What would be the dream, having every panel four just be an explosion? Granted, that *would* be funny - for about a week. After that, it gets stale. Dragging the characters back to earth gives me far more to work with and allows for a far richer strip.

The same rant goes for the "why is this not a comic about geniuses dealing with a normal world?" Because that's not the point! Ozy and Millie did it well enough, and I wish not to tred any more in DC Simpson's footsteps than I already am. The strip is about the foolishness of elitism, be it monetary or intellectual. These kids have twisted the definition of "interesting" to fit only themelves (and those convinient to them), rendering the rest of the world inconsequential. Also, to say the parents have no commentary on the kids' actions is baffling. There was, again, an entire INTRODUCTION arc written that shows the parents are just as cracked as the children.

I'm going to cut the ranting short now before I get out of hand. Also, it's because there's silver lining GOOD NEWS, EVERYONE! My application for SpiderForest was accepted! This means I have a LOT of work ahead of me to clean up my website's code, but when I do - behold the power of a fully armed and operational webcomic! (If they don't kill me for being a techie moron first.) I'm really excited to be a part of Spider Forest and I think it's the next big step in making my comic a little more awesome.


Danny said...

Hey, good job, getting into SpiderForest (or being accepted into it). That review was quite silly.

Anyways, in transcribing would you rather have me write centre (we British are very proud of that spelling, but not I, I only use it cause I'm used to it, and I was taught that way) or would you rather have me spell it center?

Christopher J Paulsen said...


I say go American with spelling, if only because the spellcheckers all do. (I still prefer theatre, dammit!)

Christopher J Paulsen said...

Oh, and if I haven't been approving transcripts lately, it's because I haven't gotten the "new transcript" email in a few days, and I don't have the mental wherewithal to remember on my own. I'll have to check into that.