We spend way too much time tearing shit down

Steve Niles on the current comic climate and how to make it better.

It’s not going to be easy. We have to figure out new ways to get material out to the public, learn new ways to reach and sell directly to fans. We’re going to have to be creative, supportive and very DIY sometimes, but I think it will be worth it. Things are changing. We can adapt or fade away. I think we can not only adapt but survive and thrive.

And one more thing since I’m being all preachy and shit.

Can I say something I’ve wanted to say for a long time? If you like something, tell your friends. If you love it, tell the world. But if you hate something, just throw it away, don’t buy it again and move on. We spend way too much time tearing shit down. I just want to try the other direction for a while.

Sums up my feelings completely. Please read the whole thing.

Just as an example of what I think Steve is talking about, I’ve noticed that since I saw Skottie Young blog about his positive experience offering $2 digital downloads, I’m seeing a lot more of these offerings. I doubt Skottie was the first to offer them, but this is example of helping spread ideas to that help the community as a whole. Skottie didn’t have to disclose his experience, but I’m guessing that since he did, many other artists have begun offering their own.

26 thoughts on “We spend way too much time tearing shit down

  1. I agree! We spend so much time being negative about things, about things that we could better by helping, banding together and teaching and learning from each other to make this industry thrive and adapt to the new era.

    I like how he says if you like it tell your friend if you love it tell the world…it is what I always tell my small fan base. I also tell them that if you hate something, don’t read it, but please don’t tear it down as they are trying their best to bring their craft to the world. It’s like on TV or the radio, if you hate something or are offended by it, there are two buttons that are built into every set, off and change channel.

    Some people thrive on being negative towards others…it somehow makes them feel better.

  2. This attitude is so small-timey it embarrasses me to read. If we have the nads to publish something, we ought to be willing to accept criticism. That’s what makes an art form grow.

  3. @Ted: I think Steve’s point is that as creators we should be focusing on creating, embracing the things we like, and sharing them with our friends and followers. There is little to be gained by us creators from tearing down the work of our peers.

    There is plenty to be gained from solid critique of our work, and the best critique usually comes from our peers. There is also much to be gained from a thorough examination of business practices.

    There is little to be gained from consuming (or creating) criticism, unless one has the dubious fortune of working as a critic, in which case there’s a paycheck at the end of the day.

    The distinctions drawn between “tearing down,” “critique” and “criticism” may seem fine to the point of arbitrariness. I believe Steve knows the differences in a way that works well for him.

  4. I agree with this post 1000% It’s not healthy at all to be snarking or cynical all the time. That’s how Conan ended his last show on NBC by asking his fans to not be cynical in life.

  5. Couldnt agree more. Critism is one thing, but most people on the internet just comment with brilliant observations like “this sucks”. If you can give a fair critique, let’s hear it, but if you just dont like it say so buy not buying or giving it attention.

    And speaking of DIY and being inspired by Mr. Young: I’m offering my own mini-comic now for only $1.00 in either PDF or CBR file. http://boatwrightartwork.blogspot.com/2011/01/cemetery-blues-download.html

    Its so easy to set up. A lot of us have these comics we’re working on and just didnt have a way to get them published. Instead of just letting the files sit on your hard drive, get it out there however you can.

    If you take a chance and dont like the content, delete it. If we can keep the cost to a couple of bucks we’re a much cheaper alternative to the local comic shop. Its a model that works for the music industry and with some tweaks, it’ll work for us!

  6. Steve has every right to be tired of all the online fighting. And he’s singing a familiar song. Every time I jump into one of these internet turd slings I feel worse afterwards.

    But I think he’s addressing a symptom not the problem. Sure, we could all be less negative. But I think a lot of the negativity is coming from a sense of dissatisfaction and frustration in the industry right now.

    A lot of people want things to change. A lot of people want things to stay the same. Everything is kind of up in the air right now. Tensions are high, I think.

    It’s obvious when a discussion stops being productive, and I agree that when that happens, it’s best to jump ship and move on to more productive endeavors.

    But thinking positively and wishing good things to befall you as a result is not a solution. And being all smiles and being positive isn’t always the right answer either.

    things are dire out there in print. It’s time for people to start getting uncomfortable or the whole things going to die off.

  7. Hmmmmm, why do I get the feeling this thread is going to devolve into one of the infamous DailyCartoonist flame wars? Two protagonists(or antagonists if you prefer to call them – whichever side of the debate you fall) have stated their case. I await the third with bated breath. Irony indeed.

  8. As I’ve said many times, if anyone wants advice on webcomics, you’ve got my email.

    I think the best thing he said in this article is that, if you love something, tell people. Too often, people fail to link good work out of envy or clique. I think (hope?) in the long run, it helps us all to help get the word out about the great things in our field.

  9. Got a good critique recently (from Mary Cagle of the comic Kiwi Blitz, for the Google inclined). Had a pretty major flaw in my writing pointed out. She didn’t like my comic, but she was at least able to point out a few things that are wrong with it that I can work on, and wasn’t an asshole about it.

    I think not being an asshole is key to offering (and receiving) effective critique. Otherwise it’s just trolling :/

    @Zach: SMBC and SMBC Theater are really funny! I’ll e-mail you later when I’m not at work to siphon wisdom from you.

  10. I’ve been working in the comics industry for nearly four decades. I’ve written a lot of comics and reviewed a lot more comics. It’s only in comics that a professional writing criticism is met with such whining.

    Mystery novelists review mystery novels. Science fiction writers review science fiction works. And so on and so on.

    When something is great, I let my readers know about it. When it isn’t, I let them know that as well. Without negative reviews, my readers would have no base line from which to judge what value my reviews have for them.

    I’ve been called a comics cheerleader and I’m happy to accept that characterization. But that doesn’t mean I have to cheer bad work or even ignore it.

  11. I like critique. Critique is good. But many people who feel compelled to spend a few minutes typing something out aren’t delivering a critique. It’s just useless anger that grows like a cancer. Advice doesn’t need to be mixed with hostility that distorts everything.

    I’ve seen many people fired from “real jobs” for the same behavior, but in this case the best thing you can do is ignore them. It’s obvious who they are, after all.

  12. It’s a really simple formula that’s been tested time and time again through history…

    When you focus on the BAD or things you don’t like, you’ll see more things and get more things you don’t like.

    When you focus instead on the Good, you’ll see more good things and more creators trying to achieve good things.

    I don’t think Niles is trying to say never be negative, just celebrate the positive and better things start to happen in industries and in your own life.

  13. @Tony, I love your writing, but but I disagree with you on the whining part. Writers and actors, in particular, have gone off on reviews pretty vehemently over the years. In many cases, I think they have a very valid point because reviews are a dime a dozen and there’s no standard when it comes to sitting in judgment of a piece of art. A reviewer can no more knowledgeable than my grandpa and get a lot of exposure. It’s worth whining about.

  14. Whining about whiners and why they whine about what they know so little about…

    Judging the judgers and judging their reasons for judging what they should or shouldn’t judge…

    Watching the watchers and seeing their blah blah blah…

    Not that you don’t have a point, though. Since I am, myself, right here, whining about whining about whiners… Oh, snap! šŸ˜‰

  15. Critiquing is fine. I have no problem with a little constructive criticism. What I can’t understand is how someone informing you that “your comic sucks. You should quit cartooning and get a real job” is constructive.

    If we spent more time promoting what we like and avoiding what we don’t, then progress will come.

  16. When I vehemently dislike or disagree with someone’s creative, I bite my tongue, or stake nails through my fingers so I don’t type it up and post it online.

    I do encourage people whose work I like, and when learning artists, animators and filmmakers ask me for it, I provide them with CONSTRUCTIVE criticism in a KIND manner….privately. I like the previous comments about “turd-slinging” and criticism becoming a spreading cancer. I couldn’t agree more. I’m glad Steve Niles started this initial thread.

    Even our blogs (when we allow the posted comments to be seen publicly, which I do) have turned us all into a streaming reality show of online conflict and public debate. Meh. It’s exhausting to me.

    Dave Dorman

  17. @Dave…try voodoo dolls after a shot of Tequila laced with NyQuil. Feels so much better than the nails in the fingers. And it’s less messy.

  18. Just to followup on Zach’s comment above, I’d like to point out that Zach has been doing a fantastic retrospective about how he became a webcartoonist on his blog. There are currently 6 parts, and you can begin reading it here


    Zach has an amazing self-awareness, which helped him identify the course of action that would allow him to maximize his creativity. There are many useful insights here, both for cartoonists or anyone interested in a creative life.

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