What’s Wrong With You? Harsh Criticism

I get the feeling that a lot of you don’t like Chris Bachalo’s artwork.

Meanwhile, at the same time, a whole lot of artists who I know think of the guy as some sort of ur artist, he who can not be touched, and does no wrong. My own partners have come around completely on Bachalo in the past couple of years, from a standpoint of not liking him at all to liking him very much. I stand somewhere in the middle, having been turned off by his storytelling a long time ago in Steampunk.

Yet I’ve seen such descriptive terminology as “craptastic” “awful” “misshapen” “wonky” “pumpkin head style” and on and on. Some of the criticism is subjective, and that’s obviously valid, but so much of it is just dismissive, and frankly a little mean. The fact is, there’s obviously something there with some value. As a reader, you might not be able to suss it out, but does that mean everyone else is just stupid? I suppose it could, but it seems unlikely.

The thing is, I’ve been doing this whole comic book thing for a long time now, and examining it from many angles, and if nothing else, I’ve come to respect the folks to make comics immeasurably. That includes the guys whose styles I don’t especially like. I try never to utterly dismiss something, because somewhere along the line, there’s a guy who sat there in front of a blank page, drawing, for a month or more. They broke down the panels. They designed the look of the world. They took notes. They worked and worked to even get to the point where they were being paid to draw that page, probably as a freelancer, and that needs to garner some respect. It certainly means they deserve better than some dude on the internet reducing all that sweat and wrist pain down to the simple post. “Sucks.” And yet it happens.

I’m not saying you have to like everything. Lord knows I don’t. But I can never get it out of my mind that there are people who made those comic book pages, and sooner or later, I’m going to run into them at a comic book convention, and have to look them in the eye. And if I’ve criticized their work, I need to feel like it was valid and respectful. Obviously, that’s not much of an issue for most of the people writing about comics on the internet, or chatting about them in the shop, but the conversation would be a lot stronger if we thought that way.

At this point, many of you are thinking something along the lines of “Hey Josh, what about what you said about Fear Itself?” That is, that I really didn’t like Fear Itself, which I stopped reading after the third issue. More specifically, I thought the comic book was a complete failure creatively. It didn’t work. It was poorly done. The characters were oddly written, and it just didn’t feel right. The pacing was off, and I never really knew what I was reading or enjoyed it. I believe I also referred to it as “fucking garbage,” a phrase which I actually regret now. It’s kind of fun to be dismissive, which is why most people do it, as there are no consequences. I fell victim to that myself. I’m only human. But it didn’t change my opinion on the work. I thought the story was objectively bad, according to my acquired knowledge of what makes a comic book good. At the end of the day, it’s an educated opinion, but an opinion nonetheless. Yet when I saw some of the reaction to my two word description of the book, I felt like an asshole.

It’s not about saying you like everything. It’s about respecting the artform, and the artists, and the creators. There’s bad work out there, this is a certainty. Then there’s work that is just not for you. You’re a smart buyer, or you should be, because you’re on this website, and you’re listening to these podcasts, and you’re doing that for some reason. You care about comics in some way. You want better comics. You’re going to pick some up that you don’t like from time to time. Before you zing the creators with your invectives, think about what it is that you really don’t like about it. Was it really bad? Why do other people seem to like it? What is it about the comics you really like, and when you made the choice to pay money for this comic book, what were you expecting? Know these things. Think about them. Vote with your dollars, and be critical, in the sense of understanding what you think constitutes quality. After all that, see if your praise or criticisms still come out in harsh one word lumps. If nothing else, you’ll be adding a lot more to the overall conversation. I’ll keep trying to do the same.


  1. Thanks for the thoughtful column, Josh. With the Internet, it’s really easy to throw out words that you end up regretting and then have people repeat and chew over them endlessly. (I think this applies to creators as well as critics.) Anyway, it takes maturity to admit regretting some of your own words and I really respect this column for doing that. I agree with the other thoughts also — well said.

  2. I love Bachalos work. He’s so good and is still getting better.
    Some people just don’t have a clue.

    • Not the point.

    • I know. I was trying to be funny. I think I should have written “Some people suck”.
      On topic: I think critic on somebody’s WORK can be harsh. The people putting out comics, exposing their work to the world, should expect bad critics. Nothings really gained by saying “Fear Itself is fucking garbage”, and nothing else, but as a creator, it’s something you should be able to stomach.
      Saying the same about the CREATOR himself, which is often paired with assumptions (Like the infamous “He’s only in it for the money” about Dan Slott) is just unfair.
      The bottom line: Just because someone putting out a sucky comic doesn’t make him suck.
      On the other hand, there is way to much negativity in the comic community, but that is another topic.

  3. Well said.

  4. I agree with this. I have no problem with anyone saying anything sucks. I just have a problem with that being the ONLY thing they say. Tell us all WHY it sucks. I’ve read negative reviews of things that actually made me WANT to read them, because the reviewer took the time to explain their opinions, and ended up describing the story or art or whatever in terms that made me think, “Hey, this person didn’t like it, but it sounds like it’s my kind of thing.”

    (And personally, I happen to love Chris Bachalo’s art.)

  5. Yeah i’ve been guilty of this on more than one occasion with a man by the name of Jeph Loeb. I think for a couple of years his name actually sent shivers down my spine for what he did to the ultimate universe with Ultimatum. However as much as I dislike his work he actually seems like a really nice guy in person which makes me feel bad about a few of my previous rants on him. To be perfectly honest as much as I think Ultimatum was a complete abomination of an event it did indirectly set the stage for what is happening now in the Ultimate universe with the Ultimate Comics reboot which I think is the best thing that’s ever happened to it. So with all that said I formally say i’m sorry Jeph Loeb and wish you the best because obviously some a lot of people like your work and really if someone likes it then your doing your job.

    Man I feel like im Comment haters anonymous or something lol.

    • I too owe Jeph an apology. Especially for some of my comments a few years ago when I first found the site. Really full of a lot of anger. Sorry Mr. Loeb, and I really like Avengers Earth Mightiest Heroes.

      There is also a least one artist out there that I could probably apologize too, but I don’t even think I will bring up his name because…I’m just not there yet.

  6. I enjoy your sincerity and humility here. To be truthful, I’m unsure how I feel about this series of articles. They add more bite to the site than I have come to expect. But as a blogger myself, I understand that these types of articles tend to get a lot of hits so for me it’s a bit of a struggle to resist the temptation to overload on these…

    Anyway, this article I liked. There’s something cathartic about venting but being a positive force in the world is ultimately more rewarding.

    I’ve found negativity generally begets more of it. So I try my best to avoid it (on-going process).

    • i don’t see these articles as negative at all. As industry pundits these guys can do more than just review formal elements in books. Sometimes you need to look in the mirror to figure out how to make things better.

    • I don’t the articles are negative. I think they are incisive (I used the word “bite” deliberately). I can’t say I think they’re out of line or anything but it’s just, as I mentioned, I’m unsure how I feel about them.

  7. An interesting column and you bring up a number of points that bother me a lot reading around the web.
    I have to say though the reason you called Fear Itself “fucking garbage” is because the description fits. If that was the only thing you had said then you could be accused of being reductive, however you gave detailed, sensible reasons why the book was such a total failure. Using hyperbole due to exasperation after being clear with your reasons is fair enough in my opinion.
    You didn’t talk personally about the writer (I still suspect Fear Itself was a multi-person editorial disaster), and you may have been dismissive, but only after providing reason to be so.
    I can’t stand illogical arguments where the only reason for venting expletives is “I don’t like it”. I understand a hesitancy to be bombastic when communicating through a medium which seems to be full of deranged howling, but I don’t think you should ever be self-censoring beyond common sense.
    Or be afraid of using forceful imagery when the subject deserves it.
    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being dismissive, as long as you’ve already given the reason for your rejection.

  8. well, i definitely have said a comic/movie/tv show/album “sucks”, but i usually just say “I think it sucks” or “I think he/she is a terrible artist” as opposed to “it sucks”

    I honestly don’t see what’s wrong with that, sometimes i’d rather express my broad opinion rather than list the reasons why i didn’t like something, and I would def not be offended by someone’s opinion so long as they didn’t say something personal, art is totally subjective.

    • “I honestly don’t see what’s wrong with that, sometimes i’d rather express my broad opinion rather than list the reasons why i didn’t like something,”

      Agreed. There seems to be this mentality that if you can’t list 20 reasons or whatever on why you don’t like something, then obviously, you’re wrong for not liking that thing. Every opinion doesn’t need to be an essay. Sometimes, you feel shit sucks because, well, shit sucks.

    • Pairing it with “I think…” sure sounds more polite to some people, but I honestly don’t get it. If I state something sucks, it’s pretty clear it’s just my opinion, because I am the one who stated it. It’s a given.

    • In my personal life I have no problem in being immediate in calling out something with brevity. My response was intended for the context of Josh and being a professional reviewer.
      If my wife asked me what I thought of Fear Itself I would tell her it was a load of bollocks, but if I’m writing a review I’d feel obliged to write about characterization, narrative structure and so on.
      Then call it a load of bollocks.

    • @Bendrix, there’s certainly some truth to that, I do feel like i do it more cuz I want to be polite than anything else.

    • Totally agree on not writing an essay on why you don’t like something, but adding an “i think” is important because you are publicly acknowledging that what you say is your opinion.

      There really are people who think that what they think is objective reality. For many fans, reading an off hand “sucks” comment is going to be like a red rag to a bull, because that is clearly not the case, as far as they are concerned.

      Ultimately its about respecting the art form and the people who do it/ buy it. If you would want that respect for yourself and comics in general, then the easiest way to go about it is to make that tiny 2 word concession to politeness.

    • I understand the point, but I would imagine when talking in broad strokes it is more apt to say “I don’t like this” or “I thought it wasn’t good” and just take out the “sucks” altogether.

  9. “Fucking garbage” = Not OK.
    “Not his/her best work” = OK. Also does not adequately express the emotion of how deeply flawed the work is and how it affects me on a cellular level.

    I think it is OK to let it slip every once and a while, Josh. It does make you human. And, oh, how we would have missed one of the best podcasts ever if you had talked in reverential tones about Sentry: Fallen Sun!

  10. While the Internet has given us many great gifts such as endless cute cat videos and iFanboy, it has unfortunately created a culture in which sarcastic invective is the default setting for commentary on just about anything. It’s not about offering criticism for most people, it’s about scoring a zinger. I do my best not to say anything negative in general, because there’s plenty of positive to say on other subjects. Rather than joining in a bloodletting, I just head over to the area where people are talking about stuff I did enjoy.

    Thanks for writing this piece, and I hope it has some impact.

    When people read your comments and wonder, Wow, and this guy calls himself a fan?, you’re doing it wrong.

  11. You thought you were bad for calling it “fucking garbage” listen to Ron last episode! The ENTIRE Marvel U has been ruined by Fear Itself apparently, even though he just went on about how great the X-men have been 10 minutes before and then listed half a dozen great Marvel books like 15 min later. Cause we all know that shoddy events like Shadowland have completely destroyed characters like Daredevil for generations fo readers…oh wait… Basically, until further notice, Ron can suck it, I’m only listening to podcasts for Josh and Connor.

    • Ron specifically mentioned the non X-books in his comment and was talking about an overall editorial change in status quo. He wasn’t talking about one specific book or creative team, or even the quality of the work put in by individuals. I believe he was pointing out that the general state of the fictional universe is in a worse place, fictionally speaking, than they were pre-Fear Itself. This is different than saying that the Marvel Universe is ruined because the current creators across the board are not skilled and their output is poor on a non-fictional level.

  12. Yeah, this is true, and also not limited to comics. I think we all just need to take an extra moment to explain our perspectives when we post. Otherwise it’s just venom being spewed, and that benefits nobody.

  13. I really enjoyed this article. I’m always disappointed when I view the comments on this site and see the scathing comments on a book or creator. I agree with leaving comments to warn other readers about books your disappointed with but sometimes I feel like I’m reading comments from a gossip site about Kim Kardashian or how Obama is the anit-christ. Like the column said, just show some respect when writing reviews or comments.

  14. Lets not forget to be constructive. By learning to talk about art and verbalize what we like and don’t like, our tastes will grow and become more refined.

    As fans we could all really expand our horizons and learn to look at and appreciate more diverse types of art and storytelling. We are locked into this one niche world, and we just want “more of the same”, but i think it hurts the whole medium. If you only eat at the same restaurant, you have no idea what food really is. As an art director/designer, the breath of work i see professionally from illustrators is vast, but the work in comics really follows a very narrow line. We often split hairs over the same basic stuff.

    How many of you guys look at whats going on in contemporary fine art, illustration, design worlds or studied any of that stuff formally? I think it can help expand your perspectives and make you a more visually sophisticated person. Every time without fail, when a creator tries something a bit more experimental, slightly stylized or even a bit art-y it gets violently trashed on. I don’t want to see the same work over and over again, but we kind of are demanding that. Its frustrating because we tell the creators and publishers that we won’t support truly fresh and innovative work, which is healthy for any creative medium.

    Lastly, please stop using the term “disgusting” to talk about art you don’t like…its just really unfair. Josh is right. there are people busting their asses to make this stuff. Just because you don’t like it or understand it doesn’t mean its garbage. Have a bit of respect, and try to expand your horizons a bit more.

  15. “sux” is always a poor comment to make….that said, there’s something wonderful about a beautifully written scathing review of something, Rodger Ebert’s most brutal 1star reviews are amazingly well thought out and interesting. honesty is the best policy here, the 80 minute review of the Phantom Menace on Youtube is laced with curse words but changed my mind on ep 1 because it was right! don’t suger coat things, you’re not doing PR, be honest, be smart, be fair…be funny:)

  16. You guys have never read any Sandu Florea-drawn Captain America comics from the 1990s, have you? #jk

  17. I would add that it also falls on the creators to be able to take criticism and filter out non-constructive comments. I can imagine it always stings a little when someone calls your work “disgusting garbage” but they can’t let that stuff get to then. They have to listen to the people who give thoughtful and reasoned criticism.

    Maybe that’s not fair but many of us are paying for these things and many of them are working dream jobs. Now, I’m not condoning being a jerk (unless its funny) but this is just the way it is.

  18. We are all secret hypocrites sometimes. I am so guilty of being dismissive of things I don’t like, from comics, to music to movies or whatever, but then when someone dismisses something I like, I get upset. But I’m trying, Ringo, I’m trying real hard. . .

  19. While I don’t know that I’ve ever trashed something in this way on iFanboy, I also haven’t ever really thought about it either. This was just a very appropriate and interesting piece. Good job.

  20. Yet another entire article based on telling the ifanbase not to be mean. Who cares? I love this website except when we’re talked down to for voicing our opinions. If it sucks it sucks. Not all of us are trained in providing an endless amount of adjectives to describe a specific artist. Some of us just like to say that it sucks. And Bachalo’s art DOES suck by the way.

    • I care.

    • Seconded.

    • Also, I don’t think its so much ‘being nice’ as being respectful or having common courtesy for people who put forth a lot more effort and work into an industry we all enjoy so much than we ourselves do.

    • its not about meanness. Like Josh said if you’re here you must have a critical approach to the art and construction of comics and its more about approaching that from the most educated and effective standpoints, which include awareness of the people behind the creative process and what they’ve done.

    • There’s nothing wrong with encouraging some decency and common courtesy among people. Say whatever you like. But if you’re not going to say why you think it sucks then say in your opinion it sucks. I think part of the annoyance is the statement of opinion as fact. You don’t like it but as Josh pointed out lots of other people do so obviously it doesn’t suck.
      Personally I don’t think you have to really explain your reasons for everything. It’s ok to not like something and just say you don’t like it.

    • I care too. The Internet comics community is full of places where blasting of thoughtless gut reactions to the books — good and bad — is perfectly acceptable. I’m a paying member of the iFanbase because the level of discourse in the comments here is generally much higher and the community is generally more reasonable than any other comics-related site I’ve found.

      The most important thing I think I learned in college was that for criticism to be valid it MUST have two elements: perspective and evidence. If the perspective of your criticism is your own personal opinion, that’s totally cool. But if you can’t back it up with ANY examples, you’re — at best — just shooting your mouth off.

    • the thing about “it sucks” is that its a disposable, generic reaction, not really an opinion. If you want people to think that all you can contribute to a conversation is white noise (which gets ignored) then by all means feel free to waste your time.

    • I care. If everyone around here were negative jerks, I would have quit visiting the site years ago. One of my other hobbies is Magic: the Gathering. I quit going to MTGSalvation because the majority of the populace was mouthbreathing borderline retarded lobster claw handed endless founts of negative vitriol. I go elsewhere now, and my M:tG experience is much, much better.

    • Also, Chris Bachalo’s art is awesome.

    • I agree with this to a certain extent, sometimes stuff is just bad and it’s okay to say that. Does that mean we can’t give a comic a 1/5 in the ratings section without explaining why it’s awful? Plus, you know what, some of the people, who make comics actually don’t care about the art form. Some of them are actually just in it for the money hacks. And they aren’t very good at what they do. Why should I spend more time and effort criticising something than the artist put into their work? Sometimes I just want to metaphorically throw a comic across the room. There is an objective level of badness. It’s not always a subjective thing.
      And (off topic) Bachalo is a genius. You may not like his current style, but there was a period when he drew Shade when he was (objectively) brilliant. The best artist in the business and that was widely acknowledged. It was admittedly 15-20 years ago though.

    • The truth IS the truth from that person’s point of view. If it is great it is great & by the same token if it sucks ass well it does suck no matter how much Uncanny “last” issue,(another) new Wolverine series or Wonder Woman lovefest that grabs the trio it isn’t going to reach the community in the same manner. Give me Synder’s Batman, Morrison’s Action, Perez’s Superman or Waid’s Daredevil for quality reads. The community has a variety of opinions on what a great comic is to them.


  21. You can indeed say that it’s misshapen and. Does that automatically mean that’s it should be universally considered bad? Hell no.

  22. I don’t mind a bit of biting witty sarcasm. If the argument is well constructed I would prefer this over ‘sucks’. Its a shame rhetoric isn’t taught much these days as a clever and sarcastic analysis often makes a point more than a broad but undefined statement. Not to say you can’t have an opinion but I’m reticent to believe someone has thought through an opinion if they can’t explain themselves and if they haven’t thought threw it I’m even more reticent to take it on board. The point in that is that if you can be witty and sarcastic or at least clear and rhetorical about a piece of work then you hopefully have enough linguistic creativity to not merely tear down a creator with unfounded insults as you hopefully can find better ways to make an argument.

    On one hand if you really feel strongly then present it in a way to get people to understand and you may win over some supporters. On top of which I agree we can’t just put down creators or neglect any inherent skill or effort in a piece of work we don’t like. Like Josh said someone worked on that and you kinda have to at least consider what they were trying to do or say.

    Also if someone does say something it is an opinion. There are rarely any singular truths to be said. There is a difference between someone saying ‘this was not good’ and it being a clear opinion and them saying ‘try to be more open minded’. I think one is clearly to be taken with a grain of salt and the other is advice that is not ever invalid.

    • Im willing to agree that using “it sucks” as a way to form an opinion is sloppy, however I was trying to make the point that if you don’t like something then who cares if it’s done in a mean way? Why does everything have to be do touchy feely? From what I understand from the article we can’t even be mean in a mature and articulate way. We just can’t be mean.

    • MadMartigan, just because you can hide under the disguise of a pseudonym it shall be ok to say “it sucks” whenever you feel like that? I mean, in your “real” life you probably don’t tell your friend, colleague or whatever “That sucked!” when something he has done didn’t please you. Right? Why don’t you do that? Because you don’t want to hurt his feelings, you want to be respectful. I think, the fact that one uses a pseudonym, that one discusses on the internet instead of adressing a person directly, shouldn’t mean, that one can lose all his respect and politeness. To me such a behaviour is not honorable.

  23. A diversity of opinion helps. I feel that many, if not most, sites like this one speak as a faceless, monolithic entity with an editorial stance. Here, Josh can call something “fucking garbage,” and the next day I can write 1,000 words patiently explaining to the benighted young man how incorrect he is without fear of reprisal or being disappeared like a Soviet dissident. I respect that, and I think readers do too.

    Also: Bachalo is a brilliant artist who has lost some needed restraint, particularly where “camera” angles are concerned; Fear Itself will read well in trade but is like a master class in Anticlimax; and I feel there’s nothing wrong and everything right with beginning opinion pieces with “I feel.”

    • My ass it will read well in trade.

    • I re-read Fear Itself last weekend. It reads “better” as a whole, but I don’t think I can say it reads “well”. I likened to a Michael Bay movie — cool things happen, those cool things look great, but I remain emotionally disconnected throughout the whole experience.

    • Secret Invasion #8 is the real master class in anticlimax . . .

      Not that I’m defending Fear Itself.

      Just saying.

      (Still love Bendis!)

    • I LOVE Bendis. I do. Not all his comics…

    • I concur with the others that trade treatment will not aid fear itself greatly. I have read far too many events over my life as a comic reader and this one did not work for me. I did not pick up any of the tie- in books, but I did read the whole series. Overall the pacing is poorly handled and there is little to no emotional connection that often accompanies these events. To be fair, I felt the same way about many of marvel’s recent events (see Shadowland or World war hulks). I am a huge marvel fan, but maybe I have just been worn down by the sheer number of events, each claiming to redefine the status quo. It makes me miss the days when you could actually read twelve issues of a book that were totally independent of major events or crossovers. It has made me redirect a good bit of my reading time and money toward DC and many independent series.

    • I think that Josh’s ass *will* read well in trade. Too often, it has left readers hanging from month to month. When we get to see the whole breadth of it at once, the great scope, the wide view, I think that it will really come together. I, for one, look forward to getting to sit down and take it all in.

      Not that I’m saying Josh’s ass is bad month-to-month, I just think that it will be better in trade. Certainly better than Fear Itself…

  24. Sometimes things are objectively bad. It’s ok to call them fucking garbage. I laughed at that in the podcast because hey, it’s funny because it’s true. I cracked open an issue of Zenescopes Neverland the other day for some momentary lapse of sanity reason. I don’t care if Brian Azzarello, Scott Snyder, and Jason Aaron sprung forth from the bloated corpse of Cthulhu on giant flying cyborg nightmare unicorns that shot lasers to high five the script into existence, that art so was god damned awful I couldn’t have read it. It looked like that scene from Basquiat where he dumped condiments all over the table and fingerpainted with them.

    I like it when you guys are blunt. It’s honest. You three don’t kiss ass on the podcasts. I see reviews on other sites that butter everything up and make every comic out to be the best shit since Infinity Gauntlet. Josh, you’ve been harsh about books a few times that I can remember. I respect you for it. You don’t have to sit there and try to find some redeeming quality or tiptoe around the lack of quality of that issue of Total Recall you bought, because you’re being honest with us. You guys for the most part, are better suited at being more eloquent about saying something is fucking garbage than most of the rest of us. I can’t write a review for shit. There are other members that can. TheNextChampion writes some great reviews. I write tits and ass over and over for Catwoman. Some people write one or two sentences. You guys create detailed arguments most of the time regarding these books. These massive, massive piles of books every week. It’s fine to let loose sometimes and call a turd a turd.

    With that said, there are indeed people that are just overwhelmingly negative, and often dismiss things right off hand. I can be an opinionated jerk sometimes, but I really try to avoid this. One of my friends told me her boyfriends roommate went down his shelf of movies and did the “Thiiiiiiiiiiiiis all sucks” number. That’s ridiculous, if only because that shelf includes Reservoir Dogs. She then admitted to never having seen any of the movies on his shelf. Reservoir Dogs is one of my favorite movies. I couldn’t write a review telling you why, it just is. It’s not for everyone though, fuck no, but to not give it a fair shot is silly. You and I share similar opinions on Fear Itself. We both gave it a fair shake. When people don’t give something a fair shake and dismiss it outright is kind of foolish. Travel Foreman’s art just ain’t for me, but I’m giving it a try. I would like Animal Man WAY more with a different artist that can do creepy. Let’s just say Jae Lee for sake of argument. I have not seen you guys dismiss something outright without giving it a shot first. I respect you guys on that count, along with your sometimes brutal honesty.

  25. This article sucks and everyone posting comments sucks.

    • I found this comment to be less than half as funny and clever as it thinks it is. I appreciate the attempt, but it’s just not working for me. 4/10


    • I wasn’t trying to be funny OR clever, so joke’s on you! HA!

      Hey wait….

    • it turns out it’s your job to entertain KenOchalek, Blargo. You should have known that

    • C’mon Blargo! Get with the damn program!

      Jeez, what’s wrong with you?!

    • 🙁

    • this really highlights some of the issues i think were talking about.

      If I were to say KenOchalek’s comment made him sound like a dick, because it did, would i still have to provide examples and reasons as to why he sounded like a dick? On the otherhand, does the inherent dickishness of his comment mean that I can say he sounded like a dick without providing said examples and reasons? Questions, questions

    • Yeeesh. My intention was to play along with Blargo’s (obvious?) sarcasm while also addressing the point of the article, hence the use of the winky face to alert readers that I wasn’t to be taken entirely seriously.

      On the other hand, maybe we’ve gone so meta-sarcastic here that I can’t tell if we’re still being sarcastic anymore?

      Is Edward is trying to confuse us with overlapping layers of sarcasm and genuine opinion?

      Have I just wrecked it all?

      Questions indeed.

      (Being a part of this site gets more fun by the day! No sarcasm intended, honestly.)

    • @Blargo I hope I did not induce your unhappy face with my sarcastic comment. Sarcasm fail?

      @edward Nah, I think all the evidence is pretty apparent. I don’t think you’d have to further explain yourself at all. Sometimes Ken is dick. I think he knows this too.

    • @Ken Wow. I had to be high as a kite to read into the genius of your false-inflammatory comment that has us all calling you a dick. It was so meta that the winky guy even seemed mean.

      I see it now. It’s smart and I like it. The best things always have to be mined a couple times to get the good out of em, at least for us stupid folk. Like everyone else, I just read it as you being dickish again. Not to say I don’t like the dickish stuff though. I find it entertaining, and entertainment is why I’m here.

    • Yikes, I feel bad that I come off like a dick. Good thing comments are archived to aid in soul-searching.

      I’m (almost) never trying to be a dick.

      I think, if anything, I’ve grown very tired of Knee-Jerk Nerd Rage on the internet, as well as the cynical, defeatist attitudes many fans have toward comics. As a whole, the iFanbase seems more reasonable than most, so I probably respond too harshly when those attitudes actually do pop up around here.

      In other news: Sarcasm on the Internet, still more bug than feature.

    • No, there’s no over lapping layers of sarcasm and genuine opinion – i genuinely think you sounded like a dick.

      And i can say this dismissive and insulting comment by placing a winky face at the end of my post 😉

    • I disappear for the weekend, and you guys end up having a pseudo meta-philosophical debate. Awesome 😛

      Is this typical for the site?

  26. Great article. I find it infuriating when people use harsh words to describe something but fail to justify the use of harsh words. I understand that it is difficult for many to explain why something is bad, but explanation is essential to adding a level of credibility to one’s criticism and to create a dialogue about the quality of a specific piece of art.

  27. To quote J&SBSB: “The Internet’s given everyone in America a voice, and everyone in American has chosen to use that voice to bitch about movies.” Or comics. Or music. Or TV. Or whatever.

    The consumer of media has a self-serving interest at heart: they are looking for their media to entertain or enlighten them. When it fails to do so, they can be as succinct or as verbose in their criticism as they choose to be. The creator of media, somebody like Josh who has actively been creating a pop-culture website and his own work as a writer in comics and beyond, understands and has lived the process, the hard work, the length of time devoted to craft… this person sees the trees in the forest. They are not just judging the final product, they have sympathy for the journey.

    I’m a playwright, theatrical director, and aspiring (i.e. unpublished) novelist. I’ve also just recently started writing a column on StashMyComics.com. I won’t write traditional reviews of comics there, because I’ve been the subject of harsh reviews (and good reviews, and good reviews!) in widely read publications, and I really am super cognizant of the hard work that goes into a piece of art, years of work sometimes. And then to see that work, in some quarters, derisively and sarcastically dismissed in a paragraph or maybe just a few words by somebody who is more interested in being funny than actually thinking of constructive criticism… that bothers me.

    So I won’t write reviews of comics. Because I’m always thinking of the person whose work I’m dumping on. And I feel so bad about it that I can’t be objective.

    Even when something sucks.

  28. I think you might have missed the point of the article. Did you read the second half?

  29. I’m sorry, but when Ron said “Fuck this book” in regards to Fear Itself, I actually lol’d.
    Sometimes raw emotion is just what’s called for since I listen to the podcast because of your guys’ personalities, not for some dry, objective synopsis.

    Don’t apologize for being who you are, but at the same time, don’t be an asshole either. 😉

  30. Good article, Josh.

    I can appreciate negative criticism, but it’s not to have something backing it up. If you just say “Sucks” or “This was horrible” without saying WHY, then the criticism is useless.

    On the other hand, not to say that there’s a double standard, but positive criticism that isn’t backed up with WHY is okay by me.

    I actually think that, in the long run, it’s well-reasoned negative criticism that pushes the art-form forward. Because once people know WHY something doesn’t work, the mistakes are easier to avoid. But negative criticism has to be done very carefully. Hopefully in some of my negative reviews I’ve put enough reasoning behind WHY.

  31. Good article just a ? When you say fear itself is fn garbage do you regret that you said it right away or is it,after you have thought about what you said. Because every one is aloud there opion I mean I love jold on im gonna say his name greg lands art wtf yes I do and every one hates it but its your opion and I respect it.

    • A little of both. I knew that I’d get comments about how it was too much. But I also know that I respect comic book creators, and that’s just harsh. Again, I still think it’s true, but not constructive. The vigor of those words (as we learned in last week’s column) will drown out anything else you have to say, and and invalidate the value of my opinions.

  32. Opinions on entertainment are so subjective and I agree it’s easy to talk shit about something from the safety of your computer. I usually just post on stuff I like but every now and then I like to give my two cents on a comic that I didn’t like To be honest I really don’t care if someone say this suck or it’s fucken garbage because it all comes down to whether or not I like it. If I listened to every comic genuis on these website about what you should read and what you should avoid I would be reading some really shitty comics and missing out on some great books that I personal enjoy. I don’t need a 100 word essay on why you didn’t like something or a ass kiss fest on something you like for me to enjoy what I like. So if you hate a book say it suck if you like a book say it rocks, The cool thing about comics for me is it’s a hobby not a job so Josh you gotta watch what you say because you have to go to the conventions and interview writers and artist and take the heat so for that I thank you sir.

  33. Did you guys hear the story where Chris Neesman from 11 O’Clock Comics podcast didn’t have glowing praise for Wonder Woman #1 and told Brian Azzarello at a con that he loved the book and Azzerello said “Don’t fucking lie to me”.

    Moral of the story, don’t fucking lie to Brian Azzerello.

  34. “What’s Wrong With You” has turned into my second favorite iFanboy offerings – after “POTW Podcast”. Great piece.

    “But I can never get it out of my mind that there are people who made those comic book pages, and sooner or later, I’m going to run into them at a comic book convention, and have to look them in the eye.”

    This should statement should be kept in mind before writing a critique.

  35. The problem with most people who are internet “critics” is that they don’t know what the word actually means. A critic isn’t somebody who says if they liked something or not, they also have to say WHY with legitimate analysis. If somebody looks at an artist and says “that guy sucks,” or “that guy is great” they are NOT a critic. If somebody says “the artist has a poor grasp of anatomy, his composition is boring, and his action sequences feel flat and confusing,” that is actual criticism. You have to put real thought into it, and not just say “meh” if you want to be considered an actual critic. Can you imagine picking up a newspaper and seeing a movie review that just said “this blows, zero stars.” and that’s all there was? That’s what far too much of the internet is. its one of the reasons I love this site, if you love or hate something, you tell us why.

  36. I can understand where you’re coming from, but I just can’t help myself sometimes, mostly with respect to the work of JT Krul on Green Arrow… I’ll admit I always feel awkward when I’ve said something bad about a creator’s book and I see him comment somewhere on the site. I’m sure even the guy who wrote Rise and Fall has feelings…. somewhere…

  37. Nice article.
    I think that anyone that writes a review should definately take note of the article. I am a very occasional poster and sometimes I feel like writting a brief one word review. If I every write “sucks” you can bet that it was definately something i really didn’t like, and I had neither the time or inclination to explain why.
    On another note. I LOVE BACHALO! Sometimes his art is a little to exagerated for me (but usually it is just a few panels) in general I find he is exciting and actually has a unique style that is immediately recognizable. I respect that.

  38. I gave Fear Itself #7 a 1/5

    I did not enjoy the story much and see a lot of the problems it had that others have mentioned.

    But the real point is this:

    I usually enjoy Fraction’s writing a lot and I don’t read books by writers I don’t like/respect no matter what title or event it is.

    It helps to cut down on the harsh criticism.

  39. Really great article josh.

    I guess I was in this category at one point on the site…Heck I still make some of those comments today. lol

    But when I try my hardest to criticize something I really do think it out before I type. When I review a book, I don’t just throw in a sentence or two; I write a good 4-5 paragraphs at a time to dig real deep into the issue. Same goes for comments like this, because most of the time I want to make a good impression and therefore a good argument as well. Although I will say that sometimes, even when I do my best in not being so ‘hateful’ in comments, people still seem to flag me for being a hater or troll. So even with all this hard work you can’t control what others think about you. Which is good, cause you shouldn’t control anyone on what they think.

    • “So even with all this hard work you can’t control what others think about you. Which is good, cause you shouldn’t control anyone on what they think.”

      hahahaha, love it.

      Yeah, the article is awesome.

  40. Wolverine and the X-Men was a great read, but the art really irked me. Irked me to the point where I am not sure I want to continue reading it. Bachalo’s style reminds me heavily of Ramos’ style – super deformed facial expressions and a lot of wonky angles. It does absolutely nothing positive for me, and since I no longer buy books Ramos works on out of principle, I am now confronted with an artist that hits all of the same artistic beats as him – beats I find in no way enjoyable.

    Now I have to decide if a very promising script and premise is worth the eye pain of the art.

    I don’t dismiss things for the same of being mean on the internet. I dismiss them when they actually lower the amount of enjoyment I get out of a book.

  41. this is why i make this site my #1 comic site. I was really disappointed when you made that comment about Fear itself, I respect your opinions, but felt that those were harsh word to use, But to come out and make amends for using those words, i respect even more. At the end of the day it really doesn’t matter what people say about what a comic book is, its what i enjoy to read what makes me happy.

  42. I calls ’em like I sees ’em. How you felt about Sentry’s art… I feel about most Bachalo art. It is, to me, eye vomit. Which is to say a mishmash of randomness that only occasionally makes sense. Now, his art specifically is not the point. He ia just a recent example. Using extreme, reactionary language should not used on every book you read. Garbage, shit, eye vomit, trash should be used just as rarely as terms like awesome, exquisite, wonderful. Sadly, modern language and socialization is rarely capable of subdued or intermediate steps. We live in an XTREEEEEEM world.

  43. Great post Mr. Flanagan. I criticize stuff, sure, but I try not to be just a hater by adding constructive criticism. Respect!

  44. the whole harsh criticism has more to do with the medium people are commenting in, right? A forum like iFanboy really has an informal, conversational tone. I think that leads to people more frequently speaking what’s on their mind and reacting on an emotional level. This isn’t an academic journal. For better or worst.

  45. Im sorry but Chris Bachalo’s art is just not for me.

  46. When reviewing something, saying it’s “great,” “fun,” “awful,” or “craptastic” just doesn’t cut it. You should explain why it’s those things. To be fair when you called said work garbage, you fully explained why you believed it to be garbage. Was it harsh? Extremely, but I felt you backed up your opinion just fine. Yes it’s objective, but at least you gave the listener reasons behind your opinion. I still get your point in this article, but there’s a big difference between what you did and when people just call something crap.

  47. I think that being over critical and harsh is an issue that many of us struggle with. I know that I do on a daily basis. I’ve begun to find that the less harsh i try to be the more i ENJOY myself. This applies not only to the comics i read but to my everyday life as well. Thankfully thoughtful articles such as this can shine a light onto all of our behavior and hopefully give us pause before we mercilessly blast a ‘piece of garbage’ like fear itself. Even if it sucked.

  48. Think back to the first comics you ever read and the first comic artists you ever liked.
    Think of how little you knew about the art form back then and how your appreciation of other artists grew as your knowledge of the artform grew.
    Do you now know everything about everything all of a sudden? Or are you actually still learning, still growing? Some of you seem to choose to stop growing and learning.
    Some of you seem to draw a line in the sand declare yourselves as experts and cease to change.
    Cease to be open to new experiences.
    I think back to artists whose work I disliked in my teens and even my twenties and shudder now at my naivety and arrogance.

    Also let’s not kid ourselves that there is any academic criticism happening thoughout the comics internet…or should i be fair and say an amount so tiny as to prove negligent. Criticism places the work in its historical and contemporary cultural context in addition to describing the works intent and its success or failure in achieving it. That’s hard to do in 108 characters or 1 paragraph…all I see around the internet is Avatars sharing their feelings. (like what im doing here)

    and in 1991 Twin Peaks was on TV and Shade the Changing Man was in LCS and I was the happiest punk kid there ever was. Bachalo’s work has evolved over the years and those of you who dislike its current iteration may wish to check out those first few Shade trades…I speak from an incredible bias but the man is such a nice guy. At SDCC when he left Shade to go draw Generation X he actually put up with my not so subtle teen accusations of selling out and explained honestly why he was moving on. I own a few pages of his Shade work and the xerox manipulation of images in the pre-computer days is still impressive. Also on the back of the pages are sketch after sketch of him trying to perfect 1 panel. The man works hard at his craft.

    Bachalo’s now much more stylized than dead center mainstream work so it’s definitely outside a narrow slit of seeing things. There’s nothing worse than posing and pretending you like something when you don’t. However, Bachalo’s work definitely falls in an evolution of comic art. If you trace his artistic evolution and his influences you may come to appreciate the current work more…but that would take work and admiting that you may not be an expert of all comics.

    crap this is long…i should have just written “not fucking garbage”

    • This comment is treading the same path as mine was going to take approximately so I will hop on board. I am a one-time and for most part still a big fan of Bachalo.

      Liked his early Vertigo stuff on Sandman and Shade. Luurved the first Death mini-series when his style shifted somewhat, proceeded into Ghostrider2099 for a few issue. His first run on Generation X (including Generation Next in the Age of Apocalypse) is astounding; the perfect balance of real and surreal, pop and noir, bubblegum (literally) and macabre.

      But then things started going wrong, when he came back onborad after a haitus (Doing the second Death mini-series if I remember correctly). Figures, hands and heads to be precise started going ridiculously out of proportion, and Bachalo’s style was incredibly stylized to begin with. It was the time when all of American comic artists seemingly decided to “manga-cize”.

      But I feel that Bachalo went further and beyond any artist and he still hasn’t stopped. As you mentioned, Steampunk was barely comprehensible because stylization of figures and backgrounds were complemented with utterly bizzare compositions. While in its current state Bachalo’s layouts and compositions have become more grounded I still can’t enjoy his art, not because of what it is, but because I can still remember how good it used to be.

      Sad to say it but I feel in Bachalo the trajectory has not been evolution but infact devolution. I am aware of the fact that a lot of artists minimize and stylize their figurework to facilitate story-telling (Adam Kubert off the top of my head). But that has not been the case with Bachalo. Granted that there is a bit more fludity and movement in his work (after the whole Steampunk debacle) compared to the early Generation X material, but still every new book I see by him continues to disappoint.

    • @ sig…

      Yeah I agree with all of your points i just take away different meaning on his current work…i’ld rather see artists try new styles and push the artform…expand what is acceptable in the mainstream. i don’t mind having to spend time on work and really look to see what is going on…i realize it doesn’t make for a breezy read.

      being a fan you may have already read this, but Bachalo explains his style changes over the years in the october 2011 post here:


      short but good (and except for not talking about the need for health insurance, almost exactly what he told me at SDCC a decade plus ago)

    • thanks for the link, That was an illuminating read…especially about SteamPunk being a (wild) expression of creator owned freedom…hadn’t thought about it in those terms before.

  49. “So shines a good deed in a naughty world.”
    Humility is a rarity on the internet – which made this article (in a column that’s always thought-provoking) even more enjoyable to read. Good work, Josh. There were parts where I almost heard Andy Rooney’s voice reading your words, and I mean that in the most honorable way.

  50. Great article. These kinds of writing are why I go to iFanboy to read opinions on comics. We are all guilty of trashing and it’s important to analyze your own criticisms in a way to properly articulate why you don’t think something is great. I find it is much more rewarding to communicate your opinions than to simply just say “fucking garbage”, and it is refreshing to see Josh be able to take responsibility for such over-simplifications.

    Many of us can trash and be met with no accountability as a community of names on the internet. It is an easy thing to get away with. There is no consequence to loving or hating anything, but communicating that criticism in a more responsible way hurts nothing and can only help to make you a more well rounded and articulate comics fan. It’s something i’m always working on.

  51. I don’t believe it is intellectually solid ground for a critic to temper the point of their criticism based on the fact they might want a to interview Bendis or Kirkman at some point.

    Somewhat strange to read that as a consideration in the article.

    Harshness, or perceived harshness, is only a concern if one looks to reviews as a kind of “passive recommendation”. A review which doesn’t delve into the specifics of why a thing is good or bad, is just poor criticism. The harshness (or lack of, things are sometimes fluffed) is totally not a concern in a poorly articulated review. Naturally.

    Harsh or pointed criticism is a different issue than poor criticism.

    • I never said I was a critic. Other people may have. I’m a guy who talks about comics on the internet as honestly as I can, while trying to be entertaining. If it’s helpful to people, than that’s a bonus. I’m not gonna lie to you, but I am not a journalist.

  52. Alright; this is one of the best articles I have seen in awhile. Let me start out by saying; yes we need to be very selective and careful on what we buy when it comes to comic books as well as anything else now a days. I still can not beleive how expensive comics have become and well if I don’t like it don’t buy it; I get that. The fact remains I love reading and looking at comics and I have for over 30 years and this will probably continue till I can no longer read or comprehend anything. I know the artists, writers, editors, inkers, and everyone one else involved in these books work hard. It still does not change the fact that as readers we are the ones that pay them and we deserve to get what we pay for and if we don’t just like anything else it is our right to a voice and opinion! The increase the price of the books and sometimes the upgrade of the paper is really all we are paying for. Marvel for instense has the quantity of books released and it seems quality has been laking. DC has done the reboot so right now they are trying to give us quality however; not everything can be the best and we all have different tastes it our comics. What we write here or in any other format is out voice and should be heard by all whether they like it or not. This site especially has given us that abiltiy to voice our opinions and thoughts as we see fit. This can also be bad considering some of us do not have an inner editor or are just so upset we say things that we may regret or may not. Others are a little more articulate and can express our selves in a more elaquent manner. I have found myself making some pretty intense comments and then having to back them up. I am not guilty or gulity of anything!! This is my voice and I spent the money on the book and took the time to read it and look at it. The publishers should be reponsible for what they publish not me. We are the customers and we are the ones that pay the money that pay there wages so; if we have something to say we have something to say! Look at professional sports the players and owners make boat load and we the fans keep paying more and more for some teams that are never good or have never been good but; we love the sport so we keep going and going. Ticket prices are thru the roof and there seems to be no end; do you see what I am getting at??
    Just remember fellow readers we have a voice and never feel bad. Although we probably should get an inside editor sometimes and maybe not attack one another personally.

    Just sayin’,


  53. Overall, nevermind the hippie, let’s be nice sentiment we all agree to here.

    Let’s just be REAL for a moment:

    Money talks, bullsh*t walks.

    1,000,000 fanboys can say something sucks in the harshest terms possible… but that’s 1,000,0000 products sold.

    The greatest story ever written meanwhile, can sell 2 copies and those creators will never be heard from again.

    Next time you read something that you’ve deemed garbage, stop buying it. Stop buying anything from the same creator or writer or artist you have complaints about.

    I love David Finch art, but I think his stories are…. um… I don’t think he should be writing. So I quit The Dark Knight series. That’s all. That’s the worst thing I could possibly say: I won’t buy ______ ________’s comics.

    Although, in all fairness… Rob Liefeld.

  54. Ideally, a critique addresses the art and not the artist. Also, just saying something “sucks” isn’t a criticism (although I’d argue that “wonky” and “pumpkin headed” are at the very least descriptive).

    Is it just me or is there a movement towards decorum on message boards like this and away from AICN style trolling?

    • “Is it just me or is there a movement towards decorum on message boards like this and away from AICN style trolling?”

      Guessing it has something to do with the increased accessibility of the internet these days. Its no longer just bored teens and lazy 20-somethings spending all day online anymore. Hell, even 80 year old grandmas can post videos to their facebooks and update twitter and all that. And coupled with the increasing lack of anonymity as well, people tend to watch what they say on the various corners of the net a bit more carefully.

  55. Dear everyone,

    Why so serious?

    We are comic book fans talking about comic books.

    Of course vacuous, inane comments added nothing substantial to a meaningful conversation (nor does righteous indignation about those comments).

    Let’s all lighten up and move along. Nothing to see here.

  56. 600 respect points.