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Rich Powell


Sherwood Harrington

You know that if you ever do that thing in the penultimate paragraph again I'll heckle you for it, right?

But I sure liked it this time around.

Brian Fies

Criticism is a topic near to my heart. Good analysis and criticism is interesting and worthwhile, even if it comes from obscure bloggers who read 120+ strips per day (ahem). The all-purpose wounded response to critics, "You couldn't do any better," carries no weight with me. If a critic had to paint better than Rembrandt to have an opinion on Rembrandt (or be in the military to opine on military policy or be a woman to opine on women's issues, but those are peeves for another day), hardly anyone could criticize anything.

I'm not disagreeing with you--in fact I agree 97%--just looking at different facets. Martin's comeback to the heckler is funny, but sometimes someone telling you you suck is accurate and valuable feedback that does you a service.

I read the same blog post you did, thought it was a fair if inelegant analysis (especially damning to me were the examples of the cartoonist reusing the same gags within a few months), and never would have written anything like it myself. First, I've been on the receiving end, which, like a hanging in a fortnight, concentrates the mind wonderfully.

Second, I once lipped off on Usenet about a comic strip I thought was laughably lame and promptly got a note from the cartoonist himself warmly thanking me for my interest. That taught me a few things simultaneously: you never know who's reading; my opinion of the strip wasn't particularly strong or well thought out; when I really studied the strip, it was actually quite a good example of the type of feature it was intended to be; I was embarrassed; and the cartoonist was a very classy guy for pretending I hadn't insulted him. We've had a nice relationship since.

I also know my judgment is suspect, or at least not always a good barometer. There are critical darlings in the comics field whose work I don't grok or actively dislike. There are comics in the paper that, were I King of the Syndicates, would've never seen print, including some of the most successful. One story I don't mind telling because it's entirely on me is that I was at the New York ComicCon the day Jeff Kinney handed my editor his proposal for "Diary of a Wimpy Kid." I was the second person to read it, and I didn't get it. My editor did. And he was right and I was wrong and that's why Jeff's sold 70 million books and I haven't.

In the end, my policy is one of the most ancient and reliable: If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. It's easy to sit on the sidelines picking and sniping; in my Book O' Life anyone who takes the risk of creating anything, even badly, is worth a hundred of them (ref. Teddy Roosevelt's "Man in the Arena").

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