Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Dealing With Critics

One of the web comics which I frequently read has been engaged in a bit of the sort of drama which is so unique to the type of relationships the Internet allows us to develop. Some time ago, a fan created a blog which is devoted to commenting on the artist's strip. The title of the blog makes it clear that the analysis is of a decidedly negative bent, though I do believe the author is attempting to be fair in his assessments.

This critical blog probably would have toiled in anonymity for the most part except that the artist linked to it from his own site. He sent droves of his fans to a site he hated and feels personally attacks him and very likely legitimized it rather than kept it marginalized. I can't say for sure why anyone would send their supporters to read the contents of a detractor, but I'm guessing it had to do with a feeling of helplessness at being criticized. This artist has had issues in the past with any negative comments that have been voiced in his own site's forums such that he sometimes can't bear to read the forums and sometimes indulges in ad hominem attacks in response to certain comments. If I were to guess, I'd think that he hoped that he could use the power of his supporters to combat someone he views as an enemy. In other words, he feels less helpless if he directs his fanboy attack dogs after the blogger.

At the moment, this has not helped in the least. In fact, the attention to the situation has only increased the readership of the detractor's site. In response, the artist has offered a bounty (free original artwork) to anyone who can give him the real name of the blogger running the site. This is where the situation starts to sound as though it could get out of hand. Trying to track down a person's real name borders on stalker behavior, and, depending on the intent once such information is in hand, it could potentially turn to a situation where a crime is committed or the blogger's real life is interfered with in some fashion.

I can understand why the artist is so frustrated. No one likes to be criticized about their creative endeavors, though some people certainly can tolerate constructive criticism admirably and view it as a means of improving their work. It must feel doubly personal though to have someone devote an entire site to nitpicking one person's work. The worst thing you can do, however, is make your readers aware of your detractors' work. When I worked on my former blog, there were a few people who went out of their way to piggyback on my writing by posting retorts to my posts on their blogs rather than coming up with their own unique content. They attacked me and my views. These people linked back to my posts (because they had to show their readers what they were disagreeing with), but I never linked back to their posts as I knew that ignoring them was the best course of action. In fact, I only found out what they were doing through other resources or people as I didn't read their sites.

That's not to say that my situation was analogous to that of the artist I'm talking about. No one set up an entire site to refute me (at least not that I know of, thankfully), and I don't believe I can compare my body of writing to this person's career as a cartoonist. After all, he makes a living out of what he does and my work is merely an outlet. However, I think the same principle applies. You should simply ignore such people. The more attention you give them, the bigger they grow and the more power they have over you.

As to why someone would choose to publicize the enemy, I believe he's afraid that the criticism is valid on some level or to some extent. Perhaps after doing a strip for so long, he's afraid he's lost his touch or ran out of creative steam. It's a doubt that has been echoed to varying extents in various blog pieces and write-ups that he's done. Attempting to stop a critic who may be echoing unconscious (or conscious) fears may help him feel empowered to silence the ones that are brewing in his own mind.

I don't know for sure what goes on in someone else's mind. I do know that I enjoy this artist's work and would be sad to see him do something (like interfere with his critic's real life) which causes his career to be messed up. I also know that any actions we take out of fear (and that includes self-doubt) are bound to send us off in the wrong direction in life.


Melanie Gray Augustin said...

The internet is strange like that. The fact that someone set up an entire blog just to criticize someone else is really petty I think.

I agree with you though, that linking to someone who is criticizing you is not such a good idea. It's not easy, but it's best to try to ignore them.

Dateline Osaka said...

WOW is this familiar to me! I hope the artist you're referring to has never had an account on some of the nasty art websites that are out there...In a lot of these places, the name of the game is to get offended by criticism automatically, and send the fanboys and girls after whoever made the comment - EVEN if it's an honest observation, not meant to be malicious at all!

I'm curious about the artist, though...I wonder if I'd like his work, too! :)

Definitely a bad idea to send more attention than necessary to the critics, though. I knew an incredibly popular artist who did the same thing, and it backfired with effects that drove her to find another online home and change her identity, and even after all of that, it STILL follows her to this day!

...I don't know how people find out personal details online, but it's frightening to what lengths a detractor will go to try to ruin someone's reputation, sometimes even creeping into their real lives!

Another reason I don't like to give too many personal details online...You just never know when some jealous lurking psycho will want to try to sabotage any good news you may have (or come up with reasons to relentlessly criticize you based on about two sentences from a blog entry that they've willingly misinterpreted).

Man, I hate to sound so negative...I guess I've just seen it (and occasionally been the recipient of it) a few too many times. Sorry for the venting. I just wish people would grow up and get a healthier hobby sometimes, instead of obsessing over what others may casually muse over in a blog entry.

Orchid64 said...

Thanks to both of you for commenting.

Melanie: It does seem petty to set up a site to focus on one web comic, but, in a strange way, I think it means this fellow has become a bit of a big fish in a vast pond. If people ignore you, it's probably worse than if they make a big deal out of criticizing you. Obviously, it's still not the best.

Dateline: You may be heartened to know that the blogger who set up the critical site has not been discovered. Google has pretty good protection in place for people. Apparently, the fanboys have tried to crack his password and failed.

I have the feeling that the artist probably wouldn't be your cup of tea based on your interests. I could be wrong, but if you search Wikipedia's listing of artists who are supported entirely by their web comics, you could likely find him pretty easily.