Funny business: Because they’re free!

Ever since everyone in my elementary school class was taught how to read The Herald Tribune (go ndéanai Día trocaire air), way back in 1961 or so, I have loved the daily funnies. I remember waking up early when I was in high school, heading for a local coffee shop, and starting my day with a cup of coffee and The Waterbury Republican.

There were all kinds of funnies, and I had my favorites, which I assiduously saved for last each day.

Ferd’nand by Mik (found at

Dondi, by Irwin Hasen. Found at Mr. Blog’s Tepid Ride

And my all-time favorite:

Rick O’Shay, by Stan Lynde.

Other strips, the soap operas like Mary Worth and Apartment 3-G, did nothing for me and I just skipped over them.

Remember that, there’s going to be a test.

Finally, when the newspapers ceased to be practical because of the internet (around 2002 for me) I became a fan of webcomics.

Webcomics are great. They are directly responsible for my hooking up with my wife, whom I love with all my heart and soul (even though she scared the living daylights out of me this morning at 3 AM and we hates her, hates her, hates her forever precious), and I’ve had to be selective about which ones I read, because there are thousands of them out there, and so many of them are top-drawer.

Some strips have discussion fora attached, one of which was how I met above-mentioned beloved wife (who is still in the doghouse). Most forum participants enjoy discussing and speculating about each day’s strip and upcoming plot possibilities, as well as an entire universe of random topics that crop up; indeed, a forum can become a living community. But there’s a strange phenomenon that afflicts these virtual villages: some people take up residence for the express purpose of being critical of the subject matter. Like the poor degenerate I mentioned in this post, they plunk themselves down and blow raspberries at the strip and its creator, day after day, without end.

Now, some of these people are just trolls, but there seems to be another phenomenon operating here. Like people who leave a religion and then spend the rest of their lives complaining about it, these netizens seem incapable of finding joy in anything positive, but must needs expend their energy complaining about something they hate. For the love of Mogg and his entire holy family, with thousands of webcomics out there, where is the value in reading something that annoys you? Coming back to my newspaper days, I can equate this phenomenon with my taking the time to hand-write a letter to the editor complaining about how boring and insipid I found Mary Worth, and threatening the artist with bodily injury and death. Every day.

A particularly egregious example of this sort of inanity is found at the “Bad Webcomics Wiki” (no link provided):

Essentially it’s nothing more than one man’s cesspool of hate and piss; the author is flat-out miserable, and assuages his pain by inflicting his misery on the rest of the world.

It’s not only the forums, either – artists get direct hate mail from readers, and it appears that this was even the case before the advent of the internet. Gary Larson’s The Pre-History of the Far Side contains some absolutely choice correspondence from people who found his cartoons offensive in some way or another. His response, in addition to mocking them in a published work, was

Teresa Burritt, the authoress of the offbeat Frog Applause, regularly posts hate mail from people, and recently blogged about it; I count a number of cartoonists among my personal friends, and some of them have shared correspondence with me that would either curl your hair or amuse you no end, depending on how you looked at it. Most of these artists take this sort of impotent vitriol in stride, and either ignore it or make a point of mocking it publicly to further enrage their detractors. Others I am acquainted with have a hard time with the sound and fury, and I hope they can get to a point of tranquility where they don’t allow the noisy idiots to dampen their spirits.

This whole essay was spawned by today’s Sinfest, by Tatsuya Ishida,

and another creation by Paul Taylor, author of the inimitable Wapsi Square:

The whole point here, which I recommend warmly to everyone who ever read a webcomic that they didn’t care for, is this:

Life is far too short to waste your time on such negative energy. If you read something you don’t like, for the love of Mogg’s holy grandmother, just ignore it. Better yet, find something positive to do – anything at all – and do it. As Artemus Ward said to the orfice-seekers pestering Abraham Lincoln:

“Go home, you miserable men, go home & till the sile! Go to peddlin tinware — go to choppin wood — go to bilin’ sope — stuff sassengers — black boots — git a clerk-ship on sum respectable manure cart — go round as original Swiss Bell Ringers — becum ‘origenal and only’ Campbell Minstrels — go to lecturin at 50 dollars a nite — imbark in the peanut bizniss — write for the Ledger — saw off your legs and go round givin concerts, with techin appeals to a charitable public, printed on your handbills — anything for a honest living, but don’t come round here drivin Old Abe crazy by your outrajis cuttings up!”

A better sermon I have never heard.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Comments are closed for this topic.

7 responses to “Funny business: Because they’re free!

  1. I would add: if you really dislike a creation by someone else, either leave it alone, or do something better! We could all benefit by another good strip.

    Well, we might hate you for giving us another time sink, but that’s another essay.

  2. I don’t usually do social site comments, because I tend to rant off, like I will do now, but I’m gonna add a reply here anyway because I believe it’s warranted.

    You show a point of view – that of a person who really likes a comic and doesn’t give a rat’s bum about its quality, because after all, liking something is subjective. You seem to be the sort of person who only looks twice at something they disagree with when they think they have something to say that will shut people up. I don’t blame you. Most people are like that.

    Me? I’m different. I like to believe that not everybody who spends time ‘hating’ on something doesn’t have a life or is clinically depressed or in dire need of medical help for violent tendencies. Sure, some haters are simply haters for the sake of being haters – this includes the people who send death threats to others.
    However, there are some people who criticize out of a strange instinct to try to help others improve. I’m one such person. I have accounts on many webcomic forums, and I’m exactly the sort of person that uses the account only to point out a flaw or to say that the quality has started downgrading. I’m always assailed by mad fans like yourself telling me to get a life and to stop hating on things, and what a sad, sad person I am, and sending me the death threats I never in my life have sent to anyone. Try to point out that a panel looks wonky and could use a bit more editing? Be torn apart that ‘you’re bashing on something that’s free’. Try to be helpful and tell the artist they could work just a little more on one bodypart? Be told that ‘you’re bashing on something that’s free’. Point out there’s a missing limb, weapon, detail, the layers are overlapped or in the wrong order, there’s color missing from a zone, and the list goes on? You’re bashing on something that’s free and you are a sad, sad person.

    Well, tell you what. I, personally, am tired with the lack of professionalism in comics and especially webcomics. Sure, they are free. And somehow that entitles them to be sub par to the industry standards in illustration. Somehow, that entitles comic artists to sit behind a meatwall of crazy fans and laugh how it’s their style, or keep telling anybody who tries to point out a flaw how hostile and mean and lifeless they are and how they deserve to die. Try doing this in any other field of art. I’m waiting to see how it goes. Not that well? Shocking. In other fields of art you’re expected to deliver art that’s at the standard of what the company asks you. That art looks amazing, and those artists train for years and years to become what they are. They don’t go on internet laughing at ‘that dumb troll with no life’ who dares tell them they can’t draw x body part worth shit. They take a deep breath and take the complaint and build on it. It’s called criticism. And frankly, as somebody who aspires to enter the art business – actually, even the webcomic ‘business’, yeah, with a ~free~ webcomic – this lack of professionalism and this level of entitlement make me really frustrated to be thrown in with these immature people who learned how to photoshop.

    I haven’t yet seen a webcomic creator that would listen to critique. All they do is label it as hatemail and proceed to play the world’s smallest violin to themselves and call themselves martyrs for having to put up with somebody who doesn’t like their work. Why does this guy follow it? It’s a free work of art! I shouldn’t get anything but praise for offering my doodles for free on the internet! Especially when some companies have put up their own professional-level comics and professional-level illustrations for free on the internet too!
    I also haven’t yet seen a webcomic that has a truly professional look without it being done as a labor of love by somebody who works in a different field of illustration but simply wanted to do a webcomic as an experiment. They usually don’t last more than 50 pages, because indeed, being professional and putting all your interest into a project is hard work. And this is why I don’t really blame all these immature webcomickers for refusing to put a minute longer than the minimum necessary to finish a page. They forgot a layer, or made a mistake? Tough luck for the readers, if they don’t like it, they can just go get a life and stop complaining.

    I see you like webcomics and respect them. That’s fine. I like them too, but I can’t respect them when the artists themselves don’t respect them. And when all is said and done, all I can hope is that once I start my own webcomic project, I will get all these ‘lifeless trolls and haters that get no joy out of life’ flocking over to my page and sending me the worst of hatemail, telling me how I absolutely suck at delivering a punchline or how my figure drawing is bad or how my style is unappealing. I will not send them away. I will not tell them to stop watching if they hate it. I will thank them. I will truly, happily thank them for telling it as it is instead of sugarcoating it or wanting me to stick to sub par art simply because it’s ‘free’. And if my fans will come in between us, telling them to get out of my forums because they are lifeless haters, I will tell my fans to shut up, people have the right to say what they want as they want last I checked, and that does not mean they are intellectually or socially challenged for not lapping up something sub par and pretending they just had the best experience in their lives. And once I settle the debate about freedom of speech, I will listen to that critique and learn to be a better artist and writer, not for money, but for myself, my future career, and my own joy at knowing that there is one more person whom I have impressed. Because it’s about time somebody in the webcomic ‘industry’ takes it seriously instead of being an immature prick.

    • I have approved the above comment, despite the fact that my initial inclination was to simply delete it. But I decided to put it out there and let the world at large see an example of what webcomic artists (among so many others who put their creativity on display for the world) have to deal with.

      As a member of human society, your opinion is valid and you have the right to express it. But you’re missing the point.

      What you’re missing is that in most cases, if artists could do any better, they would. They’re bringing their best effort to the scene. They already agonize over their work all by themselves, sometimes thinking that what they just created is sheer crap, but still pick up their pens or brushes or styli the next day and try to reach that impossible vision dancing in their heads. They don’t need critiques of their work, well-meant or otherwise, because they are already their own worst critics. Yes, artistic egos can be fragile, but somehow that seems to be a part of the creative landscape. In other ways, they’re as tough as nails to be willing to put a big part of themselves in front of the not-so-gentle scrutiny of the general public, a sector of which has shown itself to be brutish and ignorant.

      “And this is why I don’t really blame all these immature webcomickers for refusing to put a minute longer than the minimum necessary to finish a page.”

      That is a hell of an arrogant statement right there. You really know what’s going on in their heads, or how much effort was required to create what they did? You expect every webcomic to be on the par of Calvin and Hobbes, or whatever your standard of excellence is, just to suit you? Here’s a little news flash, Sindy: The world does not revolve around you or your opinion. You’re free to express it, but nobody needs listen. And, in not doing so, they are in no way lessened or diminished.

      “You show a point of view – that of a person who really likes a comic and doesn’t give a rat’s bum about its quality, because after all, liking something is subjective. You seem to be the sort of person who only looks twice at something they disagree with when they think they have something to say that will shut people up. I don’t blame you. Most people are like that.”

      Sindy, you don’t know me from Adam’s off ox, and most people are nothing like your opinion of them. I support the webcomics I enjoy, and ignore the ones I don’t. The world does not need the kind of negative energy that your response above contains – couched as it is in an ostensible desire to just be helpful, and raise the universal standard of quality in the art world that so many poor, benighted hacks seem to be contravening – but in the end, it’s nothing more than a trollish rant.

      However, there are some people who criticize out of a strange instinct to try to help others improve. I’m one such person.

      More power to you. If you want to criticize to help others improve, get an art degree and become a teacher at SAIC, or somewhere people will actually pay to listen to your good and valuable advice. But leveling this kind of broadside at artists who are actually doing the work and paying the price and sweating the sweat does nothing but create hard feelings – and makes you look bad in the process.

      I’ll finish with two quotes, the first from Theodore Roosevelt, and the second from Andy Warhol.

      “It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

      Theodore Roosevelt
      “Citizenship in a Republic,”
      Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910

      “Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.”

      You want to raise the standard? Do just what you said. Create your own webcomic, and let it be a city set on a hill, the standard to which others will flock. Until then, all your helpful criticism is just sound and fury, signifying nothing.

  3. As a person who has been both an artist and a critic, I can say that an artist should see the critic as an accomplice rather than an adversary. Artists think mainly in imagination, emotion, and visuals. Critics think mainly in theory, logic, and words. As a result, the artist creates work that evokes the emotional response of the critic, who in turn articulates in words what the artist created, deconstructing how and why stylistic choices were made, as well on their opinion of if those choices succeeded in meeting their goals.

    For example, I created a webcomic and posted it on the web. After a while, I felt like I was in a rut, like I was working on a production line instead of creating something I felt passionate about when I started. I asked my readers if there was anything they’d improve about the comic, and they all told me it was perfect. But to me, it didn’t feel perfect, but I didn’t know why. But then a critic wrote a review of my work and pointed out that I would repeat certain punchlines too much, that there were technical and stylistic crutches holding me back artistically, and that certain story arcs felt unnecessary. And it was like I when alcoholics talk about how they didn’t think there was anything seriously wrong with them until they saw the disheveled mess they’ve become. Since then, I’ve started to take my comic more seriously and critically think about all my artistic choices before I do something. I’ve also dabbled in criticism in order to further understand how simple choices in color and paneling can make a huge impact in the overall composition.

    It’s simple enough to say “Don’t like, don’t read,” for readers, but to the artists who are struggling to find an audience but don’t know why they haven’t reached the audience they want, this advice hurts them more than helps. If an artist reaches out to their fans, their fans will tell them to change nothing because they already like the comic. And not everyone can afford to take art classes or meet an industry professional willing to give them the time of day to read their entire comic and give pointers. The critic can help, or in the very least demystify what makes a comic work (or not) so that other artists can learn from it.

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