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Eric: The Challenge of Saying Goodbye is Saying Hello.

Even if we ignore the fact that I have an article in this quarter's Webcomics Examiner (ah, vanity), it's a good issue this time out. It has a lot of what I love -- meaty reviews of webcomics I'm sometimes not familiar with, good features and articles (the collaboration debate between Alexander Danner and William G is worth the -- admittedly free -- price of admission all by itself), incredible conversations and interviews and a kickass piece of cover art. The sheer depth of talent involved in this particular issue is daunting. Joe Zabel. Alexander Danner. Shaenon Garrity. The Improvisational Wednesday White (and you have to read Wednesday's traumatized journal detailing her survival of the four disc Broken Saints DVD set. Especially if you haven't seen Broken Saints. And also especially if you have. No, that didn't make sense.), James Kochalka, Bob Stevenson, Steven Withrow, Neal Von Flue, Michael Whitney....

There's so much here, I can't begin to encapsulate it all for you. And it's a kind of voice we simply don't have anywhere else in Webcomics Criticism right now. Comixpedia isn't this kind of magazine, and I doubt it should try to be. The Webcomics Examiner, simply put, is the face of sheer legitimacy in criticism -- by far the most academic voice, without being pretentious. Joe Zabel and his merry band of wanderers have crafted a remarkable and exciting thing.

And it's going away.

The problem with getting webcomics creators to do your Critical Journal is most of them are far more interested in actually creating webcomics than Journal articles. They tried to postpone this day by moving from a grueling monthly schedule to a quarterly schedule, but it was still simply too much.

I had one person e-mail me, by the way, and say "I don't get it. You just posted a snark saying you've written six hundred of these in eight months." Which isn't quite true, since Wednesday posted a bunch too and besides, a good number of those snarks have been "hey guys -- just saying hi and good night." The implication of the e-mail was that somehow the WCE guys were slacking off.

I would have written back to that correspondent, but I was too busy laughing until I fell off my chair, and then curling up and laughing on the floor for a while until someone in the next office over had to come and make certain I didn't have the deadly laughing illness.

It is vastly harder to write a single article of record, with appropriate attribution, research, editorial control and guidance than it is for me to write ten snarks. The essays I write here, with some exceptions (exceptions like the "You Had Me, And You Lost Me" series, for example), are much less formal and have much less rigorous demands put on them. This is a blog, and it plays by blog rules. If I want to, I can write about my cat on here.

The Webcomics Examiner doesn't have any of that flexibility. They're writing for the record and the ages, and that takes work. I know -- I know the work I had to put into the Slugs! column I wrote for them, this month. And I still wondered if it'd be rejected when I sent it.

I can understand their deciding that it's taking too much time away from their own projects. And I deeply appreciate an unwillingness to halfass what has proven to be a superior journal and critical resource. I don't blame them for moving on.

But I'm going to miss them. Very, very much.

And I hope that they inspire others to follow in their footsteps. Neil Von Flue has indicated the desperate need for critics and reviewers who are not themselves webcomics creators to poke at the form with sticks, driving folks to do their best work, and therefore give the critics more grist for their own mill. And Von Flue is very right in that assessment.

(I wonder if he's upset I'm moving to the Creator side of the street too.)

In the end, the burden falls on the rest of us. It falls on me, and it falls on the Podcasters, and it falls on the writers and bloggers of Webcomics.

And it falls on you.

You may not think you're capable of writing to the Webcomics Examiner's standards. Well, you won't know until you try, and if you try, you'll get a chance to practice and build to that level. You may not think anyone will care what you have to say. (I know, because half the time I still think that myself.) Start writing and make people care what you have to say. Click on the different headings and buttons in the masthead, and read through all the articles from the all the issues. Drink it in, digest it, and begin producing.

The critical dialogue between artist and audience has only just barely begun. It's up to us to continue it. It's up to you to continue it.

C'mon. This is your big chance to be at the forefront of an art form. Seize that chance.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at March 14, 2005 3:04 PM

Comments

Comment from: Shaenon posted at March 14, 2005 4:14 PM

I'm desperately looking for someone to take up the editorial reins of the Examiner. It's a great zine and a much-needed part of the webcomics scene. It's like the Comics Journal, only not bitter!

My husband has already made me promise not to volunteer to take over. He's a little worried about me.

Comment from: Alexander Danner posted at March 14, 2005 5:09 PM

Bless you, Eric. I've seen so little appreciation for what Joe set out to do with this magazine, and it's been an ongoing frustration for me. Even just knowing that there's someone who even understands that it's possible to be academic without being pretentious is encouraging.

Oh, and Shaenon -- I understand. My wife has to extract the same sort of promise from me regularly.

Comment from: Meagen Image posted at March 14, 2005 7:57 PM

Oh yeah, FYI, Eric... you've been wanged (I believe that's the technical term.)

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at March 14, 2005 8:10 PM

The last time it happened, I used the term "Fruit fucked."

This time, 'wanged' feels about right.

Comment from: Psylence posted at March 15, 2005 2:33 AM

While personally I think 'wanged' is the better term, I believe that some time ago, it was discussed and that 'Tubed' was decided upon by the people over there.

Comment from: Shadowydreamer posted at March 15, 2005 3:05 AM

As a great Canadian once said.. Everyone's entitled to their opinion, no matter how wrong it is.

Now, whether I'm saying that about the master of the word wang or the appreciator of fine scotch.. is entirely up to you. :)

Comment from: SK posted at March 15, 2005 9:09 AM

This (the blurring of the line between author and audience) is one of the

worst things the Internet has given us. It used to be that those who could

would write (or draw, or whatever) and those who couldn't were content to

read, or criticise, if they could do that (which few can: criticism is a

talent more rare and valuable than a lot of people realise).

Now, though, the internet has given a platform to every talentless wannabe and

(worse) has enabled instant feedback so that talentles wannabes who have no

ability to judge quality (well they can't, or they would realise they were

talentless) encourage other talentless wannabes, and as a result none of them

every learn to judge quality, and the world drowns in crap.

Of course this isn't such a tragedy when it comes to the totally talentless

who would never amount to anything: they can just be ignored to continue

sticking their drivel up on Keenspace where the rest of us can avoid it. The

only problem with this is that it makes it more difficult to find any actual

quality among the dross, but that's why we have editors to spot the quality

and give it a proper forum.

No, the real tragedy is those who have a spark of talent but never get to

properly develop their craft. This might be because their talent is in one of

the less-sexy areas like criticism, and who wants to be a critic when it's

authors and artists who get all the glory? So those who could have been great

critic instead become crap authors, and the world is poorer (and chances are

they will be crap authors, because talent in one area is rare enough; for the

same person to be talented in two is something truly amazing.).

Or they fail to properly develop because they publish at too early a stage,

when they should still be refining, honing their skills, submitting to editors

and being rejected with suggestiosn for improvement; they publish instead, and

the instant-feedback mechanism pus them in touch with tens (let's not kid

ourselves about audience figures here...) of talentless wannabes who tell them

how great they are and so their artistic development stalls as they become

complacent. So not only is the world poorer because it loses a potentially

great artist to medioocrity, but the artist is robbed of the chance to

flourish.

So I can't really say I'm surprised.

Comment from: William_G posted at March 15, 2005 11:16 AM

Wha-huh?

Comment from: Joe Zabel posted at March 16, 2005 7:22 AM

Eric-- Thanks very much for the kind words (and also the solid article you contributed to the latest issue!)

I wanted to comment on this: "And it's a kind of voice we simply don't have anywhere else in Webcomics Criticism right now. Comixpedia isn't this kind of magazine, and I doubt it should try to be. The Webcomics Examiner, simply put, is the face of sheer legitimacy in criticism -- by far the most academic voice, without being pretentious."

Obviously any magazine is a unique voice. But I don't think one creates legitimacy by publishing a magazine. The comics themselves are the face of sheer legitimacy in webcomics, and I have no fear that they won't be recognized as such.

As for Comixpedia, I'm not sure I understand why you feel that way about it. For one thing, they publish a column written by a bonafide academic; and they publish lots of other intelligent stuff.

Comment from: William_G posted at March 16, 2005 10:45 AM

Joe, I think what Eric was trying to say is that 'Pedia is more of a trade journal like "Variety" than a vehicle for analysis like...um... "Newsweek".

Anyway, I'm certain that there will never be another WCE unless we resurrect it ourselves. The webcomics "Community" is too much like a highschool garage band: Everyone wants to be the lead singer, and no-one wants to be the drummer.

Basically, the subdued egos needed arent in enough supply.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at March 16, 2005 10:49 AM

William G has the right of it. Comixpedia is an exceptional magazine, but its mission is different -- it's a source of news and comment, with some analysis to be certain. However, that analysis and critical commentary isn't its core mission. It was the Examiner's core mission, with an emphasis on review and theory.

I think Comixpedia would be ill served by changing its emphases, despite the lack that WCE's absence produces. That's all.

Comment from: Joe Zabel posted at March 16, 2005 5:37 PM

Eric, I understand what you're saying; The Examiner deliberately avoids covering news, features about payment systems, and other such matters. But I'm not aware that Comixpedia sets any limit on the depth of their artistic analysis and critical commentary. If they are intentionally limiting the depth of their coverage, I'd like to know about it.

To put it another way, are there any articles or reviews that have run in The Examiner that 'Pedia simply would not run because the articles are too deep or something? [I'm not referring to articles that they might reject because they think they're not well written or otherwise violate their standards.]

Their review guidelines state various things that may or may not be interpretted as a ban on Examiner-style reviews, but one passage in particular stands out: "Don't dumb things down for your readers. They are smarter and more perceptive than you may think, and can tell when someone is being condescending."

Comment from: Joe Zabel posted at March 16, 2005 5:41 PM

Eric, I understand what you're saying; The Examiner deliberately avoids covering news, features about payment systems, and other such matters. But I'm not aware that Comixpedia sets any limit on the depth of their artistic analysis and critical commentary. If they are intentionally limiting the depth of their coverage, I'd like to know about it.

To put it another way, are there any articles or reviews that have run in The Examiner that 'Pedia simply would not run because the articles are too deep or something? [I'm not referring to articles that they might reject because they think they're not well written or otherwise violate their standards.]

Their review guidelines state various things that may or may not be interpretted as a ban on Examiner-style reviews, but one passage in particular stands out: "Don't dumb things down for your readers. They are smarter and more perceptive than you may think, and can tell when someone is being condescending."

Comment from: Joe Zabel posted at March 16, 2005 5:42 PM

Eric, I understand what you're saying, but I don't understand why your blog posted the above comment twice...

Comment from: Relja D. posted at April 6, 2005 6:31 PM

Thank you so much for this article. It was one of the things that finally convinced me to make start my own blog. It's at http://rawmusing.blogspot.com/

thank you once again

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