Comics Will Break Your Heart: Criticism

Published on October 30th, 2012

After I wrote the first CWBYH, a smart, savvy guy — somebody I have a lot of respect for — told me: “The line between optimism and Team Comics is a dangerously thin one, try to stay sane!” I’ve had that running around in my head since.

If you’re unfamiliar with the vernacular, Team Comics doesn’t mean the X-Men or the Justice League, in this case. It’s the term for the sort of people who gloss over the shady business practices and history of comics for a ‘rah-rah-go-us’ attitude.

His sentiment’s actually a lot kinder than it seems. Comics critics are an embattled bunch. They’re smart guys. They know what’s right and what’s wrong with comics. They know that a lot of truly amazing books get overlooked for schlock and it bugs them.

Criticism has an importance that can’t be overstated. If it’s done right, it can make us better, smarter people — in any endeavor. It can strip a piece of media down and show you what makes it amazing — even if you already thought it was amazing — or turn that sideways and show you flaws that you might not have seen in something.

I’ll probably get accused of being on Team Comics more than I’ll get accused of being a critic. That’s fine with me. I don’t think I’m smart enough to be one in the first place. David Brothers is smart. Joe McCulloch is smart. Read them if you want criticism. You won’t find better.

This is not comics criticism.

I’m not smart enough to strip down a text and cogently explain what makes it purr. I can maybe talk about why I like said text, but I’m not the guy to make a definitive statement on things. I don’t feel like that’s my place until I learn a whole lot more about a lot of things.

I won’t talk about the implications of the DC reboot, Marvel NOW!, Before Watchmen, the esteemed crank Alan Moore, creator rights, or fanboy entitlement, because quite frankly, I don’t have anything new to say. Another voice is another voice, sure, but I’d rather be another voice for the positive.

Negativity and indifference have bigger, louder dogs in the fight than positivity and interest do. It’s always more assertive and attention-grabbing to say that something sucks. It’s easy to do and it’s boring to read. There are very smart critics in the game that spend all their time snarking things half to death and spend no time at all talking about why they actually enjoy comics. I’d like to see that change. I’ve gotten into a lot of stories I never would’ve given the time of day if not for a recommendation. The whole point of this column is to pay that back a bit.

If you don’t like something I recommend or something I write, my email address is at the bottom of every post. Tell me why. Give me something more than “you suck.” I’d love to hear about it. If you dig something, do the same. I want to get better at this. I promise not to throw anything at your head.

At the end of the day, whether we’re talking smack or showing love, we all care about comics.

Adam Witt