Time Out New York Gets an Angry Letter

Joshua Rothkopf of Time Out New York reviewed The Losers movie, and he didn't like it.  No one who regularly reads TONY is suprised by this, because they very rarely like anything that isn't at least 50 years old or Polish.  Seeing a movie even get to 4 out of 5 stars in these pages is a rare event indeed.  You think I don't like fun?  These people hate fun.  They loathe it, and fight against it to the last keystroke.  I'd stop paying for it, but I never started paying for it, and it's been coming for about 3 years.  There's all sorts of things about stuff we don't go do in New York that would be great if we did, and restaurants we can't afford, and it works well in its natural location in the bathroom.

That their reviewer didn't like The Losers suprised no one.  I'm not going to tell you it's an amazing, important film.  It was fun, but largely run of the mill.  I'm fine with that.  Then I got to the following line:

Blithely destructive of foreign lands and as smooth as a Ken doll’s crotch, The Losers is the ultimate example, scraped from the bottom of the comic-book barrel, where writer Andy Diggle’s figurine-like characters first had their exploits in an exciting War on Terror.

Oh no he did not.

The dude wants to review movies, and apply his years of experience to his original analysis to the quality of a given film, that's fine with me.  Yet I suspect he's dismissing the source material out of hand.  Who writes comic book with a hyphen?  It's not going to win a Pulitzer, but referring to The Losers as the "bottom of the comic-book barrel" is to show an ignorant dismissal of an entire art form; one that I make my living from and have devoted an enormous amount of energy learning about and understanding.  Unless I misread this entirely, what we're seeing here is someone with no frame of reference, or understanding of the actual craft of comic books, and I suspect, no actual experience with the work of Andy Diggle, Jock and the other talents involved.  Well, that cannot stand.

Comics are too important.  A comic book property isn't necessarily a base ingredient devoid of value, as this reviewer, and others have suggested in the past.  Comics are a form of storytelling, and that holds no intrinsic value. We've all seen poor adaptations of good source material, and the suggestion to an audience who are perhaps unfamilar with comics, I take great offense at this notion.  Read the book, justify that your opinion is relevant, or don't comment. That's not fair to Diggle or Jock, or anyone who knows that the pages of this particular comic book are something special.

So I sent a letter (email really). I haven't sent a letter to a publication since 8 year old Josh wrote to Cracked to tell them how great Sylvester P. Smythe was that last issue.  But then, I'm a big fan of The Losers from Vertigo.

I'm absolutely fine with Rothkopf's opinion on film, but I take issue with this label of the comic book (no hyphen) property as he states it. Has the reviewer read the original comics? Does he know very much about the craft of comics? The Losers by Andy Diggle and artist Jock, whose phenomenal art was featured in the film, was a stunning piece of comic book skill, and to offhandedly dismiss it because you didn't like the movie discredits your opinion entirely.  Lots of bad and subpar movies had been made from excellent source material, but comics are a medium, not a genre, and I feel the reviewer is laying judgement on completely unique art form of comics without the credibility to do that.

Josh Flanagan

I learned that it's impossible to write a letter like this without feeling like a fake letter to the BBC being read by John Cleese in 1969, or the Comic Book Guy at the very least.  Still, you shouldn't be able to say stuff like that and act like you have any credibility on the subject when you clearly don't.  If we don't speak up for the great art of comic books, who will?

If you were so inclined, you could let them know it bugged you too: letters@timeoutny.com.


  1. I like how simple and "to-the-point" that letter was. Not saying anyone from the site would be this way, but seeing four page fanboy rants wouldn’t be the way to catch the attention of people like this. Smart and a short read, is a good "suck it," haha.

  2. Amen Josh! Please let those of us who aren’t lucky enough to live in the NYC area know whether Time Out! actually publishes your letter or not

  3. I forgot to mention that my biggest fanboy pet peeve is when people dismiss comics as a “genre” without realizing that it’s just a form of storytelling like any other medium

  4. NIce job Josh.

  5. It’s absolutely hysterical to me how non-comic readers and critics can be so down on our medium.  If they only knew how enriching comics can be to any reader.

  6. Good for you, Josh.  Imagine if he had dismissed The Watchmen graphic novel after watching the move version?

  7. I give this letter 2 out of 5. I much prefer the source material.


  8. What’s hilarious is that everything he says is terrible about the movie makes me go, "That sounds awesome!"  And I *like* movies that are old or in Polish.

    Nice job standing up for the medium, Josh!

  9. Right on, Josh! To quote Hit-Girl: "Wotta fuckin’ douche".

  10. Its nice to see (read) a piece that takes an educated and a frankly level-headed approach to such a controversial topic such as the generalization or even downright dismissal of any media form, in this case comics and comic book adaptations. While it may not have been the main focuse its encouraging to see the basis for a reasonable understanding is there, and that there are still those who entertain the idea that an argument should be justified by more then just credentials or consensus.

  11. I guess he must be right…comic Books are completely worthless as a medium. Thats why fine art institutions like the MOMA and other blue chip museums stage comic book exhibitions with greater frequency.Thats why more art book publishers are giving comic related subjects the same treatment they would painters or architects. Thats why celebrated design critics like Stephen Heller and EYE Magazine commonly write about comics as important pieces of visual storytelling and design.  






  12. I understand and agree that it’s frustrating when a reviewer dismisses source material with which he or she is unfamiliar out of hand. That said, I don’t get the impression he’s saying that all comic books deserve the scorn he’s heaping on The Losers, merely that this source material is from the bottom of that particular barrel. I’m not agreeing wih him or defending his estimation of the book, merely pointing out that this isn’t a wholesale dismissal of comic books nor comic book adaptations.

    As for the hyphen, I can only assume that he included it (and copy editors approved it) because it would be grammatically correct to hyphenate a compound construction that is being used as a modifier (as in "nineteenth-century novel"). That said, usage has traditionally dropped the hyphen, which reinforces your assumption that this reviewer doesn’t know much about comic book culture.

  13. Good job. You definitely aren’t Comic Book Guy for writing it.

  14. If you look at this guy’s history he’s pretty genre movie friendly. And even though I don’t like the comment either, I thought The Losers was a load of rubbish too.

    Kick-Ass 4/5

    Zombieland 3/5

    District 9 4/5 


  15. Well played, sir.

  16. Fuckin A Right!

  17. Time Out gave Where the Wild Things Are a scathingly horrible review. I think (but I’m not certain) they received so much angry mail from people that they printed a retraction by the way of a review from another publication that sang the movies praises.

  18. Tuesday Showdown: iFanboy vs. TONY


  19. I remember that Wild Things review. It was rough.

  20. Bravo, Josh. Bravo.

  21. Josh, keep us posted if he responds.  I’m interested to know how he’s going to treat you, as in, is he going to treat you as someone with a valid opinion, or is he going to treat you as "comic book guy".

  22. Good one Josh.

    The rub for comics fans is that most of us have wanted comics to be more in the public eye because of the movies. Well, they are, and unfortunatly that means they are more open to uninformed entertainment "experts" commenting on them.

    Whatever. I loved The Losers comic and that’s all I need. Some faceless hipster douchebag isn’t gonna change that.

  23. This one was upsetting.
    A nasty, vicious film alight in the casual sadism and blatant misogyny fantasies that are seemingly explicit in contemporary comic books and video games. – Emanuel Levy
  24. I’ve never read the magazine, but it seems like it would be safe to assume that comics are too "low brow" for thoes journalists, which is a shame because we all know that comics are not low brow affair.

  25. Doh!  I actually meant "low brow fair."

  26. I have yet to see the Losers, but I’ve read the first bid trade and I really liked it. This reviwer is just another example of somebody tearing something down without a second thought or real reason(the comic part I mean, If he wants to bash the film thats his perogitive)

  27. @Neb Or ever Low Brow Fare 😉

  28. @gobo I think you mean "even" not "ever"


  29. @Josh: Seriously, after the years of nonsensical POW reviews based on "what we like best, not what is best" you’re now going to complain about someone else’s nonsensical review?

    haha. that is gold, my friend, gold


  30. @WeRideToFlight

    I think Emmanuel Levy is known by all as a dumb shit already. 

  31. As a TONY subscriber, here is my big gripe with their reviews: they love writing bad ones. I mean, how many albums are released each week? Hundreds? But they love to tell me which ones NOT to buy. Hmmm, what little show should I go to tonight? Well, they will smugly tell me which ones to avoid. The one section of the mag that does reviews right, as far as I am concerned, is the club section. Notice how all of the CDs they review get good reviews. Basically, they are telling me about good, new stuff, not about bad stuff I should avoid but would NEVER have heard of anyway. Unfortunatley, I don’t like dance music, so it is not much help. Oh well.

  32. Josh, I think you’ve let your emotions get the best of you and are letting your own preconceived notions get in the way of evaluating the situation. You like Andy Diggle and Jock so you overreacted to this.

    Also, I’m not a fan of TONY–just so you know.

    "referring to The Losers as the ‘bottom of the comic-book barrel’ is to show an ignorant dismissal of an entire art form"

    No it’s not. You’re just being too thin-skinned. He’s not saying all comic books are bad, he’s saying this is the bottom of the barrel. It’s the same way as if I was going to say "Around Comics was the bottom of the podcast barrel"–that wouldn’t mean I was insulting all podcasts, just Around Comics.

    Also, not seeing many reviewers that are 4s or 5s? That’s not called "Hating fun", that’s called being realistic. Few works of art are above average–period, by definition. IFanboy is the only comic site where 4s and 5s are handed out like candy. Frankly, though I like the positivism here, you actually lose a bit of credibility by doing this. I can remember a few times recently where you guys have given issues of a comics 4s or 5s…but then when the actual podcast discussions roll around, you guys spend at least as much time criticizing aspects of those issue as you do praising them. So by most counts, this would mean that you simply rate the books too high. I’m not complaining, because this is just how you guys roll, but on most other comic review sites–even the ones where the reviewers have similar tastes as you guys–the actual star ratings are 1-1.5 stars lower, even if the content of the reviews are similar. IFanboy skews high. That’s just how it seems to work. If you look at the average ratings of comics on here, the average rating is a 4. That’s unheard of in any other reviewing pool. So maybe you interpret fewer 4s and 5s in a magazine as a sign of snobbishness…but I can assure you that most places are simply much stingier with their stars than iFanboy is. Add that to the fact that most reviewers don’t much of a choice about what they review. The guy who reviewed The Losers was probably assigned it; or else he HAD to review SOMETHING this week. But on iFanboy…the users (and you) only buy and review the books we want to, so there’s a preconditioning of high reviews if the reviewer is buying something s/he expects to like in the first place.

    "Who writes comic book with a hyphen?"

    Compound words are hyphenated when used as adjectives. The writer wrote "comic-book barrel", so "comic-book" needs to be hyphenated. It’s the same reason you would hyphenate "twentieth-century" if you’re going to write about "twentieth-century art". On the other hand, if you’re going to write a sentence about how "In the twentieth century…" then you don’t need a hyphen. This is pretty basic English. This hyphenation is done to avoid confusion. You might not have confusion because you’re so used to the set term "comic book", but grammatically speaking if you wrote "comic book property" then you could be referring to a "book property" that happens to be comic. As in: "Stephen Fry’s new novel is quote a comic (i.e., comedic) book property."

    And, no, just because the internet doesn’t know much about grammar doesn’t mean that everybody in print has to drop the hyphen and thereby lose a shade of meaning. I have no prob w/internet grammar myself. I’m just sayin that article writers dont need to write as some people do online. Because the people who write online generally don’t even know certain grammar rules, or the reasons for them, in the first place.

  33. And yes, I’m pretty sure that I made some spelling/grammatical mistakes in what I just typed. We all make mistakes; this is the internet and I’m not being paid to write this. 😉

  34. Nice how you handled this with class Josh.

    Although this could open the flood gates…..which will be entertaining for us that’s for sure. 🙂 

  35. I don’t know anything about TONY. Never looked inside an issue or anything. In spite of this, I work in a Barnes & Noble that sells magazines. My only knowledge of the magazine is the situation discussed here and the following experience:

    I was at work, standing at the Nook kiosk that we now have in our store to sell our e-reader (which is way awesome-er than the Kindle; touch screen, bitches!) when I see this hurried looking woman pacing about. Now, I’m not really even supposed to leave the kiosk, but I feel the urge to help her. She says she’s looking for the latest Time Out New York issue. She says this without once looking at me directly. I look around where I suspect it ought to be (I don’t know the magazine section too well because I genuinely hate magazines as a medium). No luck, I try to explain that our main magazine guy got stuck while vacationing in London due to the volcanic ash, so the section is not as well organized as usual. She cuts me off every time I attempt to state this saying, "I don’t care, I just need this issue!" No… you need food, oxygen, water, and a swift kick in the ass. I silently walk to the info counter, search for the mag, oh look at that: ship quantity this month: ZERO! This news will not go over well, but my manager intercepts it so I can return to my position sellin’ da Nooks. He looks all over for her just to keep her happy; obviously no avail. I end up helping her find some thing she can use (don’t know/care for what) in the NY section of our travel books. 

    Sorry for the overly long anecdote, but this combined with what the reviewer wrote is now my stereotype for everyone who reads Time Out New York. Stick it to ’em, Josh!

  36. Awesome article Josh! As comic (no hyphen) book fans we see the beloved source material for these movies attacked all the time. Comics get called trash or material for kids and any fan knows this couldn’t be farther from the truth. It’s nice to see you stick up for the medium we all love.  I think there was a similar incident that occured when Wanted was reviewed but I don’t remember.

  37. My expository writing teacher in college tried to get me to hyphenate comic book, too. I say good day, sir!

  38. Well done. 

  39. Yeah comics have it hard and can are unfortunately looked at as kids stuff, but in many areas they are still looked upon as an art form.

    They don’t have Roger Ebert sitting down to a table no one invited him to and saying they can never be art, like he does with video games.


  40. How does the reviewer know how smooth a Ken doll’s crotch is?

  41. @flapjaxx:

    How pretentious are you, sir? You do know that the ratings system is totally arbitrary? if I think some thing mediocre deserves 4 stars and something not deserves 5, there’s no rule-book by which anybody can reprimand me. It is thoroughly idiotic to assume your rating standards on to others. Also "few works of art are above average…", what the hell? How much media do you consume in a given time to make such a bold statemen? Better yet, what are your qualifications to make the statement so definitely? What definition art definitely states "most of this crap is mediocre"?

  42. In the great words of Hit-Girl "What a douche"

  43. First thing, ohcaroline, EXACTLY!

    Second thing, what pisses me off even more than the comic book diss was implying that the comic book was treating the war on terror as a rollicking good time for us beer-drinkin’ ‘Mericans!  The plot OF the damn comic is based on the Losers REFUSING to keep doing horrible things in foreign lands.  The story paints a picture of standing up for themselves against a government that is run by people whose motivations do not involve those of the people.

    And even the most unimpressed hipster with ironic glasses and some sort of specialized liberal arts degree who deens to put pixel to print in the name of being a critic should have enough reasoning skills to figure that out before launching a half-hearted, flippantly judgemental attack, NEVER MIND stopping for five seconds to think "Should I defame material I clearly have not every actually read?"

    That’s assuming the person in question has ever bothered reading anything he himself didn’t write.

     Also, TONY gave How to Train Your Dragon three stars?  I’m all for free speech and allowing people to have wrong opinions, but it’s another matter entirely to splatter your ignorance on the web.  The phrase "New Yorker wannabe" is coming to mind.

  44. I think the hyphen in "comic-book barrel" might be justified.  Isn’t it a compound modifier of "barrel"?

  45. I’ve recently been reading Grant Morrison’s "The Invisibles" in tpb lately and I feel very inclined to swear. ALOT. Good shit Josh! I would have said alot of angry things in that letter but once again you’ve proven to be a very composed and a straight forward ambassador of the comics community. I get all belligerant in my angry emails and so I’m not even sure the original message is there at the end of the day.

  46. Good for you, Josh!

  47. Thumbs-up Josh. Good job buddy. Happy to see it when people stand up for what they believe in, justly and appropriately. 

    Freaking great!!!