Bored Columnist Responds to Wiley’s “Flames” (UPDATED)

Last Friday, I pointed you to a column written by Michael Roberts who took it upon himself to read all the comics in his city’s papers for two weeks to gauge the state of today’s cartooning. That post has generated over 35 comments so far on The Daily Cartoonist and he’s has been reading them. On Tuesday he blogs to his reader that Wiley Miller has flamed him.

He writes regarding our comments:

Some expressed mild agreement with my take, but the majority essentially took me to one of Saddam Hussein’s old torture rooms — with some of the most vituperative comments coming courtesy of artist Wiley Miller, whose “Non Sequitur” strip I praised.

A few posts later, he weighs in again in response to a writer who suggests that the Westword column was “amateurish and unprofessional”:

Fighting words aside, Michael also posts some of his reader’s responses to his column.

The letters section of Westword’s September 13 issue is absolutely jam-packed with missives from readers responding to the previous week’s Message column about the weakness of far too many current comics. Still, we couldn’t fit every worthy take in the print edition — so here are three more pieces of correspondence, which touch on everything from the value of “Get Fuzzy” to an unexpected defense of “Garfield.”

Here’s a link to the Letters to the Editor pages.

UPDATE: The podcast Coast To Coast Comics has released their latest podcast and discuss the “flame war” between Wiley and Roberts. Discussion begins at about 7:40 and ends about 20:30.

16 thoughts on “Bored Columnist Responds to Wiley’s “Flames” (UPDATED)

  1. I wrote him but he didn’t post my comment. I could care less that he thinks my strip and most newspaper strips are not up to par. What bothers me is that he is saying that my readers don’t know any better. I emailed to ask him if I could pass his email along to my readers so they could ask him what they should read.

    Look, I don’t watch CSI. It’s not my kind of show, but I don’t presume that it sucks and all the people that watch it don’t know any better. It’s just not my thing.

    Usually I ignore hack writers like this guy, but when you insult my readers the retired fighter in me just wants to have some fun. But Michael decided not to throwdown.

  2. I wasn’t sure what Roberts thought he would accomplish with his article, but until his blog post I was inclined to assume that this was just an article designed to meet a deadline and fill his pockets. But then why care enough to attack Wiley?

    If the goal of the article is to affect the state of comics for the better then his article missed the mark. Critiquing the newspapers for the lack of change in the comics page would have been a better tactic than shouting at the comics page to be more funny.

    If he cares so much then he should ask why a huge percentage of the comics pages in America’s newspapers are drawn by dead guys. Animal Crackers, Apartment 3-G, Barney Google, B.C., The Better Half, The Born Loser, Brenda Starr, The Buckets, Dennis the Menace, Alley Oop, Shoe, Hagar the Horrible, Andy Capp, Dick Tracy, Grin and Bear It, Gasoline Alley, Hi and Lois, Annie, Blondie, Peanuts, and The Katzenjammer Kids are still running in papers across the country after the death of their creators. Its hard for new great comics to be born in a world where you have a better chance of being struck by lightning and winning the lotto in the same day than you do of being syndicated.

  3. While I agree with the sentiment in your post Tasch, it’s not fair to include [i]The Buckets[/i] as it’s still a “young” feature drawn by an artist that has been working on it with the still-alive creator, Scott Stantis, for at least half of it’s syndicated life. I’m not 100% sure if Stantis still contributes to [i]The Buckets[/i] or just focuses on [i]Prickly City[/i] but it’s hard to lump it in with the other legacy strips…

  4. Eric,

    Scott left “The Buckets” to work on “Prickly City” (and his editorial cartoons) full time. Greg Cravens does the whole strip now.

    Stantis told me once that he still checks the strip and approve it, though. I don’t know if he still does that.

  5. The best possible outcome of this whole exchange would be that newspaper editors wake up and realize comics are important to readers; important enough to get people writing to columnists and to each other. The editors add more space dedicated to new and upcoming comics.

    The most likely outcome will be that newspaper editors will stick with the conclusion they’ve been espousing all along. Don’t mess with the comics, because if you do, one person will get angry and threaten to cancel his subscription.

    What I don’t get is why newspapers are so terrified of comic strips. People obviously read them, you could even say they are popular. Why not give the readers more of what they want? I’m no businessman, so maybe I’m missing something here.

  6. I think it’s cool that he read through the blog and had a chance to see other aspects of the issue! Kudo’s Alan for this blog that is taken seriously in the industry. Wiley’s comments weren’t flames … I view a flame as an angry, emotional rant rather than what his comments were … a well reasoned argument. I gather from the way Robert’s responded to it, that he got it. I’ll agree with Robert’s that it’s not his place to influence the comics editor. I’d still suggest they should carry more rather than less comics in the paper. Most comics being carried, gather a following, so pulling them serves less purpose than simply adding more.

  7. Wow, can dish it out but can’t take it, eh?

    Nothing like padding your schedule even more by copying and pasting someone else’s 3-4 paragraphs of writing and adding your own 2 paragraphs of filler. While, ironically, defending yourself from being called amateurish and unprofessional.

    I must say, while I didn’t exactly agree with all of Wiley’s take on things (i.e. the whole “Thousands?” thing was needlessly snarky, I feel. Correct? Yes. But snarky nonetheless.) But calling him, and only him, to task in a follow-up article is rather petty. And it reads more as an attack on Wiley than a simple disagreement with his opinion.

    Why didn’t he cite the thousands, I mean, dozens of others who picked his article apart? No, he latches onto the commentary of the “famous one” and tries to leverage that into a viable defense of his previous commentary. Like I said in the other thread, I mostly get where he’s coming from, but he’s got to remember that as a journalist, he’s not exactly in some separate, impenetrable corner of the media world that the cartoonists have no right to breach.

  8. I want to give Michael credit for responding to my post this morning and Tasch’s post prior to mine. I can understand to a degree his stance on the unethical aspect of trying to influence an editor’s taste in comics…although I would try! It could only make the paper better if their comics pages were stronger, although I don’t know the demographic of those papers. Maybe it really is an older demographic than normal?

    He also said that he will be reading more comics, which I hope will lead to a more positive follow up article.

  9. To Michael Roberts: I largely agreed with your first article. Many newspaper comics are uninspired, but as I said, that’s not their fault, but the fault of newspapers and syndicates who won’t allow cartoonists to have creative freedom, but instead restrict them to a tiny space and 1950s sensibilities, while demanding a 365 day a week spirit-busting schedule.

    The article was gimmicky in its approach, but I had no problem with it. But this new article of yours is a problem. It’s a blatant attempt to puff yourself up to your readers by acting like the victim of a well known cartoonist. Politicians use this strategy all the time. I wouldn’t expect such a cheap ploy from someone in your role.

    Wiley’s first comments that you quote had nothing to do with you. And his second comments, if you were so offended by them, could have been responded to in this space, where they were created in front of this audience.

    If you are in a bar, chatting it up with friends or co-workers, you wouldn’t want your words to be recorded and played back in front of a completely different audience that doesn’t understand the history and context and culture of those you were talking to. If somebody did that, he or she would be considered despicable.

    Running to your readers to tattletale on “the big bad cartoonist who flamed me for having the guts to the truth about the comics page” is pathetic and just gives Wiley’s contention credence that your writing has an immature and unprofessional streak.

    The Daily Cartoonist is “the source of industry news for the professional cartoonist.” Of course, we’re not all cartoonists, professional or otherwise, but participants here do have respect for those who are. If your intent in coming here was solely to gain fodder and hyperbolize our discussions for self-aggrandizement, I for one, hope you don’t come back.

    If you want to engage in respectful discussion, I’m sure that everyone here, including Wiley, would welcome your continued participation.

  10. Geez Wiley, way to stir the pot with a boat oar LOL! Seriously though, the reason for Roberts’ original article is still unclear to me, other than maybe a personal axe to grind. I agree with Josh’s comments. Perhaps this article will serve to demonstrate to editors how important the comics CAN BE if handled correctly.

  11. How can a professional writer post an article under a headline best described as a derogatory blanket statement (a technique more commonly employed by bored youths trolling forums) and then be surprised when those draped by the aforementioned blanket are annoyed?

    Seriously, how?

    I can’t believe anyone even bothers to call journalists “professionals” anymore.

    (yes that’s meant to be an ironically applied derogatory blanket statement)

    ((and yes, I’m making a joke and then spelling out the punchline, just in case anyone didn’t get it, thus ruining the joke.))

    (((and also, yes, I really like parenthesis!)))

  12. I guess I should chime in here since my comment was used in that blog and it seems started this whole mess.

    I really didn’t expect Wiley to blow a gasket as he did over my comments. For crying out loud, all I was doing was expressing an opinion. Is it a sin to ask more from the art form (yes, I do consider it an art form). Is it a sin to demand, as a reader to want the papers and the syndicates to push cartoonist to produce the very best they can? Is their best a glorified daily for a Sunday?

    My opinions are based on the Sundays, when since I was a kid, you knew you were going to get the best from the cartoonist. It was their chance break free of the daily restrictions and produce strips you could read over and over all Sunday long. Strips that had to hold you over until next Sunday.

    With the shrinking format, cartoonist aren’t producing their best (at least I hope not).

    Wiley’s Non Sequitor has been one of my favorite strips for quite awhile and I really admire Mr. Miller, so I was really caught off guard and a bit disappointed he reacted as he did. It was like meeting your favorite baseball hero and making a comment on how you think the game isn’t played like it used to be and having the guy flip out on you and tell you to go out and play yourself if you think you can do better.

    Oh well.

  13. Jim said: “(((and also, yes, I really like parenthesis!)))”

    All I can say to that is: LOL!!!

    JeffM said: “I really admire Mr. Miller, so I was really caught off guard and a bit disappointed he reacted as he did…
    …With the shrinking format, cartoonist arenâ??t producing their best (at least I hope not).”

    I mean no offense to Wiley, I admire him too, but based on a previous, um, “encounter” I’ve had with him, it is a little jarring to find out that some of how he thinks, as C3PO would put it, “is rather odd.” Despite my thinking the journalist ripping apart his comments was unfair, I do feel the whole “then there’s no good sports players/playwrights/sculptors/etc.” rant, was a bit out of line.

    Perhaps he just meant it as a sarcastic exaggeration to make a point, but it came across like asking a professional electrician to rewire your house because things don’t operate like they used to, and him telling you to, “Do it your dang self.” Hmm, and who’s the established, professional cartoonist that’s in a better position than any of us to make a difference?

    Sure, it would be nice if I could personally stand up and inspire change, but it’s the very nature of the industry itself that prevents that (well, that, and my crappy drawing.) I “literally” have a better chance of winning the lottery jackpot than I do getting syndicated. So, I certainly don’t have a prayer of making a difference operating as Joe Nobody.

    It just seems that a number of people in the biz, Wiley included, seem to be of the opinion that “If it a’int broke, don’t fix it.” And that lack of acknowledgment whenever the subject is broached, is rather frustrating. Yet, I’d like those people to do an experiment, go to a comic book store (if you can find one) and buy two comics. One from between 1985 and 1995 and one new one fresh off the rack.

    Notice a difference? The new one is drawn better, colored better and (if you happened to buy a non-X-Men book) written better. It’s because the comic companies were going down the toilet in the mid/late-90’s (Marvel even declared bankruptcy!) and they knew it, acknowledged it, and regrouped.

    That’s what needs to happen with comic strips! I do think there’s the potential for another Renaissance in the comic strip world, but frankly, if things stay as-is, no one outside the industry is going to notice.

    Also, on a side note, I try to rebut opinions, not people, when I disagree with something someone’s said, but if I’ve failed at that in the above commentary, I apologize in advance.

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