Friday, August 15, 2008

Mike Choi Rants On The Kurtz/Criticism

Mike Choi picked up the conversation about the dismissal of all critics by Scott Kurtz.

I don't think the following really addresses the issue at hand, though:

Part 2:

After looking at the Saw V trailer, I found this on wikipedia:

Saw was a financial success. Shot on a meager budget of about US$1.2 million, it earned over $55 million at the box office in the U.S. alone and $102,917,772 worldwide.[1] Critical responses were mixed. It earned a 46% rating from Rotten Tomatoes, and a 29% rating from the most esteemed professional critics, qualifying it as "rotten."

Through 4 movies in the fanchise, the movies have an average of 32% rating on Rotten Tomatoes (with a 14.5% rating from the Cream of the Crop reviewers), but have garnered a total of over a half billion dollars ($555,063,218) worldwide.

I think sometimes, one is presented with a mutually exclusive decision of pleasing critics, or giving fans what they want.

I know what I'd do.

You see, Scott Kurtz said:

Recently, I called Mike Krahulik to compliment him on a new coloring technique he had used on a recent Penny-Arcade strip. I opened my phone conversation with the following statement: “Mike, Ignore all emails about the new coloring. It’s awesome. Pursue it.” But it was too late. He had already read all the mail and had been sufficiently discouraged enough to just drop the matter. “That’s what I get for trying to innovate.” he said to me.

He was joking, but there was some truth to his statement.

And that’s why there is no chapter in our book on when to accept that, sometimes, the critic is right.

Those e-mails and messages were from Krahulik's "consumers". So the Kurtz argument isn't against taking criticism because the critics are a good barometer for what will be popular, but, instead, argues for the art and craft being above any sort of critical input.

So, while I get that the critic can't account for the public's bad taste or it's ability to check their brains at the door, that isn't exactly the angle that Scott seems to be taking.

Now, if Scott's stance was like Mike's, I'd be able to appreciate it. But, then again, it kinda defeats the purpose: isn't popularity a bit of a critical response? Consumers demonstrate their opinions with their dollars.

His first part of the blog, though, poses a question to critics:

However, I will pose this: Why do critics do what they do? What is their impetus to sit down and write a critique on something? I've heard many answers to what critics do and what purpose criticism serves, but what is the reason that they take it upon themselves to fulfill that function, without solicitation or compensation?

I think many people do things without compensation with the hopes that they can turn it into something they are paid to do.

But that's a dodge. What leads people to want to do it to begin with? Hmm. You know, sadly, I think my answer includes a bit of ego.

Originally, I never thought about doing reviews. I only occasionally got caught up in message board discussions about stuff, which constitutes some form of criticism. But I guess it's just about being passionate about the medium.

I wouldn't have tried popping up my opinions for public view, if not for Troy Brownfield inviting me to be part of Best Shots. I felt honored by it, because I enjoyed the work of the team and was a regular reader of all things Newsarama. To be asked to be part of the widely read Best Shots column on the uber-popular Newsarama? Hell yes. Why turn it down? So I guess I was initially solicited.

When I started reviewing on Newsarama, I made a concerted effort to try to get advance copies of smaller books so I could get reviews up the Monday before release to help. I tried to get copies of smaller press books in hopes of reviewing something that could use the attention.

I think part of why I've continued (which I still consider myself as doing, despite a large break in covering comics) was to compensate for the sense of loss I felt after leaving the team. Sticking to some sort of routine of reviewing comic books helped cushion the blow. But part of it was hoping that people might still be interested in my opinion (which is the ego part).

So, I'd guess my drive for reviewing works would be a whole lot of passion for the medium mixed with a dash of ego.


  1. I actually agreed with most of what Scott Kurtz had to say. I don't think critics participate in the creative process. Comic critics serve the reader, not the creator.

    A well written review allows the reader to know if the comic is for them or not. It's not to help the comic creator create better work. They should already have people in the process that do just that. Someone such as an editor.

    Personally, I think it's kinda creepy when creators go around and read the reviews of their work. The worse ones are the few that then actually try to engage the critic. See Dan Slott.

    I think you do good reviews Kevin. You review stuff you enjoy and you don't give away any of the story. I think I've told you before but I have gone out and purchased comics that you have reviewed. Comics I would not have read if you hadn't reviewed them.

    Personally, the type of comic reviewer I can't stand is the one that goes out of their way to read something they KNOW they aren't going to like for the sole purpose of trashing it in a review. They usually also tend to give away major elements of the story so that it is spoiled for the reader. These type of reviewers are not serving their audience, the comic book reader. They are simply trying to show how smart they are by trashing something.

  2. I think you're preaching a message that's actually quite different than Scott's.

    Their book basically made critics into trolls or jealous readers. That's a step further than what you've said here.

    I think that anyone trying to put out a product that they expect people to consume in some way should be open to criticism. They should monitor both the positive and negative reactions to their work and then decide if there's anything to be taken from them.

    I've had my reviews criticized on YouTube (and I'm not talking about my 1 star stalker). I've listened to them.

    Some say I should do shorter reviews, which I toss aside. I don't want to be Hannibal Tabu.

    Some say I should show more enthusiasm, saying I tend to drone and sound monotonous. I've tried to apply that where I felt natural doing so.

    No critic is really any more part of the creative process than any other reader. A critic just stands a better chance of having their opinion noticed.

    Think about this: if the critic's job is to help the reader, which results in more or less readership for a creator's project, aren't they having some effect on the creator? Especially the creator interested in commercial success.

    And thanks, Rick. It makes me glad to know that there's at least one person out there getting something useful out of my reviews. ;)

  3. Their book basically made critics into trolls or jealous readers. That's a step further than what you've said here. I wasn't commenting on anything Scott wrote in the book. I was referring to his blog post.

  4. Scott's blog post is a defense of why critics can be written off as trolls or jealous readers as implied in the book. His arguing that they're of no particular use is all done to serve the idea that they're no different than any bitching and moaning poster.

  5. I didn't get any of that from Scott's post. I didn't read the book. You couldn't pay me to read that book. :) I don't know exactly what the book was speaking of, overzealous fans or actual critics. The blog post seemed to be speaking about actual critics. I don't think he was trying to argue that critics do not serve a purpose. If he did, that is something I would strongly disagree with. I think what he was saying was that critics don't participate in the creation of the work he or she is critiquing. That's what I was agreeing with.

  6. Which basically means he doesn't think that any criticism serves any purpose to the creator at all. Which is fine...if your work exists in a vacuum. But every creator needs feedback of some sort.

    He dismisses all negative feedback in general and negative feedback from people that take the time to give a thoughtful critique specifically. Do portfolio reviews serve no purpose for the creator, too?


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