Friday, September 20, 2013

Going Critical: Introduction

With 4 years behind me, I think it's time we talked about what I actually do here.  See, I'm technically a critic.  Oh, it says "reviewer" at the top, but that's not actually what I've been doing all these years, mostly.  No, I'm being a critic, not just of each comic, but the entire industry.

Considering myself a critic means I have to think differently when I read a comic, but exactly what that is might be a bit hard to describe.

But the word also carries a lot of baggage.  People don't like critics, for lots of justifiable reasons.  Often the idea is that those who can, do, those who can't, teach and those who can't teach, criticize.  This often makes critics as lesser people in this chain of creation, lumping them in with lawyers and corporate executives, groups that most people wouldn't mind seeing just simply vanish from the face of the Earth, preferably via cannon.

And yet criticism is, in and of itself, not a bad thing.  In fact, I would argue that it is a good thing, a great thing even, and vital to the evolution of art, politics, and everything else.  Criticism isn't about putting something down, or saying it's not good enough, it's about championing good work, and encouraging weaker pieces to be greater.

It is about pointing out mistakes, as necessary, but it's also meant to show how to correct those mistakes.  The issue is that it is often confused with trolling, entertainment and simple positive reinforcement.  These cloud real criticism, burying it underneath insincere comments, jokes, and well intentioned but meaningless comments.  It's so bad that finding actual, honest criticism, especially online, is difficult.

And worse yet, even the best critics often fall prey to their own biases or focus on the wrong things.  Instead they savage the topic because they don't like it and nitpick things that, in the long run, don't matter whatsoever.

It all adds up to critics being viewed as horrible people when really we just want to help.  It's getting past those issues, both on ends, that is a task worthy of effort.  With that said, this begins yet another series of articles which I can write in a week and post for a month or so.  Here I will try to explain what criticism really is, how to give it and receive it, and how to identify and avoid false criticism.  I'm not an expert in this, of course, but I'll do my best and use my own reviews to help define the point where applicable.

Next week, constructive and destructive criticism.  See you then.

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