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Eric: On History, Spin and Advertising: or drama.

My e-mail program has developed an aversion to webcomics drama, apparently.

Seriously. Wednesday just mentioned the current ongoing Webcomics Fracas, and was surprised to find I hadn't heard anything about it. In part, that's my own fault. It's been busy around these parts, so I'm behind on blog reading and rant-scoping. That apparently includes seeing the rant on PvP's front page. Perhaps I was distracted by Francis's new hair style. (And I like the new hairstyle, for the record. Though now I'm wondering if he still uses troll snot as 'product.' But I digress.)

Anyhow, as happens when there is Drama, I got several e-mails about it. As has not happened, just yet... every last one of those e-mails ended up in my spam filter. Every last one. I got other e-mails about other things, but anything to do with T Campbell, Scott Kurtz, Rodney Caston, The History of Webcomics, Antarctic Press or Previews magazine found its way into my spam filter, and there it sat, lurking.

Clearly, my e-mail spam filter took one look at the drama and said "oh, no fucking way. If I give this to Eric, he'll just write a post. And no matter what he says in that post, it'll angry up the blood of countless people. And when their blood is angried up they'll write hundreds of e-mails, and I'll have to sort through them. Fuck that. Fuck that in the ear. I declare this argument spam."

Sadly, for my e-mail program, it doesn't get to make those decisions. That's falling on my shoulders.

So. Here we are. Hi there.

You might have heard that T Campbell has a book coming out.

A caveat. I have not actually read The History of Webcomics. This is not due to lack of opportunity. Campbell solicited opinions and the like from a number of people, and I was one of them. If I remember correctly, I did have some input on a section from several months back, and I'm vain enough to be pleased that Websnark is covered in the book and Campbell asked permission to reproduce a Gossamer Commons strip for the book. However, with everything else that's been going on, I simply didn't have time to actually read the book itself. As such, I can't weigh in on the core of the arguments about it. I do know that Scott Kurtz actively dislikes a number of points about the book, and he elaborates on them well in a rant on PvP's front page. Rodney Caston also had some harsh words when he saw Campbell's depiction of the end of Caston's involvement with Megatokyo. And T Campbell responded, most notably in two posts on his blog (entitled Why You Weren't Interviewed and Wow, I'm Famous, respectively).

Those will give you a precis of what Kurtz, Caston and Campbell have to say about the content of the book. I encourage folks who have any interest at all to read and judge for yourselves.

However, I can comment on a couple of the core areas of contention, one of which I can comment on because I can see it for myself, and the other of which I can comment on as an issue of methodology, without speaking directly to execution.

Don't worry. I'll explain myself better than that when I get to it.

History-CoverHowever, I'm going to start with the area that Campbell has, to his credit, acknowledged is problematic. An area that I can see for myself and, to be blunt, I think Scott Kurtz is completely right about. And that's the solicitation that Antarctic Press did in Previews for the book proper. You can click on the thumbnail over to the left if you wish, and it will do this javascript thing that will pop up and be, like, full sized. Or you can just click here and see it without the rigamarole.

"Rigamarole" is a fun word to type.

Now, have a look at the ad. You see a cover for the book, featuring characters from Argon Zark, Penny Arcade, Suck.com, Megatokyo and the avatar Scott McCloud used in his books Understanding Comics and Reinventing Comics. You see a splash bullet at the top announcing that "millions upon millions of readers can't be wrong!" And you see 48 point text announcing "PvP! Megatokyo! Penny Arcade!" And then they go on to talk about "world renowned historian web comic historian T. Campbell."

Well, setting aside the fact that Campbell doesn't put a period after the letter T (apparently it's his first name, now -- or at least the first name he uses -- which puts him in the same category as "5" from 60's Peanuts comics. But I again digress), there's something disingenuous about calling him "world renowned." I mean, I suppose if someone in England and/or Canada said something nice about him, it could be called accurate, but that's splitting hairs. There isn't anyone -- not Jerry Holkins, Scott Kurtz himself, Fred Gallagher, or Scott McCloud -- in webcomics who constitutes "world-renowned." To then go to the far more removed niche of "webcomics historians" and give Campbell that title is to border on the ridiculous. (Which Campbell agrees with -- remember, he didn't write the ad copy.)

More than that, however, we have those three examples in big text. PvP, Penny Arcade and Megatokyo. Those are indeed three of the very biggest webcomics out there, and no doubt are heavily referenced in the book. However, any casual reader would take their placement in the ad as both endorsement of and heavy participation in the book -- that the book was by Campbell, Kurtz, Holkins, Krahulik and Gallagher. As this isn't the case -- and as Kurtz at the very least emphatically does not endorse the book -- it doesn't just deceive. It creates potential rancor. Why wouldn't the webcartoonists in question look at that ad, furrow their brows, say "wait a second -- why is my comic in this ad?" and write annoyed stuff on their comic's front page.

The adage "there's no such thing as bad publicity" is a lie. If you manage to piss off the fanbases of three of the largest webcomics for your book about webcomics? You're not going to sell more books than you were before. Just putting it out there.

To me, that's just made worse with the bullet splash above it. "Millions upon millions of readers can't be wrong!" Well, first off -- of course they can. Millions upon millions of people read The Bridges of Madison County, and I'm here to say they were to a man, woman and child wrong. I mean, seriously -- that book was turgid. I never saw the movie, but since Clint Eastwood was in it, I figure they threw in a few gunfights just to raise the level a bit.

However, the other side is, it's a lie. Millions upon millions of people haven't rendered any kind of judgement on The History of Webcomics. You could almost get away with making a claim like this if this were The Webcomics Experience or The T Campbell Field Guide To The North American Webcomic or something -- then, you're describing a cultural phenomenon, and it's something close to fair to invoke the fans of that phenomenon.

This isn't a book about a phenomenon, however. It's a history book. And so the only possible reading of that splash point is that seven figures of readers agree with this history's interpretation and have signed off on it. And that, to use the industry term, is horse shit.

None of which is T Campbell's fault. He didn't write or lay out this advertisement. However, it's creating the initial conditions for what "buzz" the book is going to get, and that buzz right now is pretty harsh.

The cover? The cover's in Campbell's court, and that brings up the next aspect of this little adventure.

You see, we have folks like Piro and Scott McCloud hanging out, looking for all the world like the Breakfast Club, with Argon Zark taking the place of Judd Nelson in the ceiling tiles. Makes sense, right? A group picture of some of the seminal figures in webcomics identified in the book proper.

Well, there are two problems with this particular interpretation. One is composition-based, and the other is... well, etiquette based. The etiquette based problem has gotten some play -- Campbell didn't think to ask permission to use the characters on the cover.

PvP

Scott Kurtz covered his in a PvP strip, yesterday. (Click on the thumbnail to see it, as always.) It's not that Campbell needed permission to use these characters -- there are fair use issues involved, of course. It's that not getting permission was... well, dickish. It takes liberties with the webcartoonists and their property. In Kurtz's words, it's asking forgiveness instead of permission.

Campbell has acknowledged it was a mistake, and sought permission of the involved parties -- and indicated a willingness to replace the cover if they said no. The parties agreed. So hey -- that makes it better. Life is good, right?

Well... I dunno.

See, looking at that cover, I don't see a montage of webcomics characters crossing the spectra of the webcomics experience. I see a group picture of webcomics characters who are apparently about to go off on an exciting adventure, during which Argon Zark is going to nail Molly Ringwald in a supply closet. Once again, the feeling of the cover art -- to me -- is less one of subject matter and more one of endorsement. "Join Gabe, Piro, and some chick from Suck.com as they go on an action packed adventure through the history of webcomics." I'd rather see a montage of actual strips by the actual artists, laid out in some way that conveys the sense that we're talking about a history book here.

(And for that matter, all apologies to Terry Colon, but why Suck.com and not, say, User Friendly. Or AfterY2K -- a strip that was astoundingly popular in 1998-1999. Or GPF or Superosity. Or Fans for that matter? But that's a matter of taste, on my part.)

This creates a condition where people feel pissed off. Pissed off because they have expectations raised that then aren't followed through. ("Hey -- wait! There's not really any Piro in this book! It's all just words!") Pissed off because their characters or brand are being used to imply an endorsement they may not actually feel. Pissed off because they perceive a violation on the behalf of the webcomics they love. Pissed off because... well, because that's what happens in Webcomics when things come out.

And we haven't even gotten into the book itself yet. We're just talking about an advertisement and the cover.

Fasten your seatbelts, kids. This really is going to be a bumpy flight.

The other thing I can speak to, that I alluded to all the way back up in the paragraph laying out what I was going to talk about? Is methodology. Specifically, the method that Campbell has said he used to gather information for his webcomical historical.

You see, the core of Caston's complaint is that apparently Campbell discussed the breakup of Caston and Gallagher ("Piro" and "Largo") in Megatokyo. In so doing, he quoted statements of Gallagher's. Statements Caston disputes. He feels that Campbell should have solicited responses or interviewed him, and by failing to do so he has permitted a skewed interpretation of the events to be entered into what, after all, purports to be the historical record.

(Much like 'rigamarole,' I have to admit I like using the word 'purports' in a sentence. It's so... woody. But I digress.)

Campbell responded that he restricted the total number of interviews he did for the book to around 50 -- which is actually a pretty small number when you consider the breadth of webcomics. Hell, I personally read several hundred webcomics a day, each with their own set of webcartoonists and the like. Instead, he researched what was actually said online at the time of the events he laid forth. In his own words:

I had reasons. I started distrusting the interview process after a while. When somebody's asking you to sum up five to ten years in comics for posterity the temptation to "spin" your answer has to be overwhelming.

Some of my interview subjects seemed to resist the pull, but I still found myself preferring to consult the typed word, because:

a) there was no shortage of written words on ALMOST every topic that related to webcomics,
b) typed words were often composed in the past, not in the present about the past,
c) words in cyberspace could be contradicted by other interested parties or the general public and
d) if the words had been typed instead of spoken, there was a greater chance they were words the author stood by.

There is validity to this method. I'd be lying if I said there wasn't. However, it is less valid than Campbell might believe, in part because it believes it's drawing off primary sources, when it isn't.

Let me go into the theory of research, for just a moment.

When you're doing research on an academic subject -- be that history, English, or what have you -- there are several kinds of sources you can draw off of. Primary sources are just what they sound like -- the specific materials in being interpreted. If you're writing about a book, quoting from that actual book is using a primary source. Using a piece of videotape of an event is using a primary source. A well researched piece of journalism, reporting the facts of an event with a strong effort towards objectivity, can be seen as primary, though it's a fine line sometimes.

Eyewitness accounts, interviews and the like, on the other hand, are secondary sources. You're getting your facts put through the filter of another mind -- through "spin," as Campbell said on his blog. You're getting an interpretation of events, not actual events.

This can be tremendously valuable, especially when doing historical research. In many cases, secondary sources are all we have. However, to get anything approximating an accurate picture, you need to gather as many points of view as you humanly can, picking and sifting through conflicting stories and interpretations until you can find a set of facts that can be verified... or simply highlighting the controversy and presenting a summation of the different viewpoints when a single course of events can't be demonstrated indisputably.

Campbell made the conscious choice to work from primary sources -- or as close as he could get -- in researching this book. This was the reason, along with sheer considerations of time, why he didn't interview eight or nine times as many people as he ended up interviewing. Rather than interview, say, Gallagher and Caston over their professional breakup, he found what was on the record from the time and drew off of that.

The problem is? Those quotes, and posts, and writings from the time? Weren't primary sources either.

We have almost no solid primary sources for news and information about webcomics right now. Comixpedia does all it can in that regard, but a tremendous number of its news items come, essentially, from press releases put out by the webcartoonists themselves. Newsarama, Comicon.com, the Comics Reporter and the like all do some webcomics coverage, but it's hardly comprehensive.

And websites like The Webcomics Examiner, I'm Just Saying, Fleen, Tangents, and, yes indeed, Websnark are one step removed from standard secondary sources. Websnark isn't news -- it's analysis. There isn't a thing that appears on this site that hasn't been filtered and altered by my or Weds's opinions and interpretation.

Now, the breakup of the professional relationship between Rodney Caston and Fred Gallagher is a watershed moment in the history of webcomics. Let's not pretend otherwise. There is a standard by which we can say Megatokyo is the single most successful webcomic to date. Simply put, it's the one that's in every major bookstore in America. It charts among the top selling manga titles in America (and the top selling Manga collections significantly outsell the top selling "pamphlet" style comic books, these days). Before Caston left, Megatokyo was a very specific kind of comedy. After he left, it was far more centered on Gallagher's storytelling and shounen romantic plot points. And while many people -- myself included -- preferred the Caston era Megatokyo, the simple fact is the post-Caston Megatokyo exploded into the mainstream, and had tremendous impact both on the Webcomics form and on sequential art in general. This breakup had impact. It was, in fact, a historical event, in a field that hasn't had many of them.

And in the end, the only two people who were in the room for it were Rodney Caston and Fred Gallagher. And the two of them currently dispute how it took place.

So, when Campbell quotes Gallagher from the time, he's not getting an objective accounting. He's getting Gallagher's interpretation. Because Caston elected to not go on the public record in the wake of his leaving Megatokyo, his interpretation of the event is being left out of the historical record. That reduces the accuracy of the work, and ultimately codifies disputed events into accepted ones.

And that is a significant problem of methodology. Because if I read the section on Megatokyo in this book, not knowing the above, I'm sure I'd accept it as given. That's the nature of writing down history. It becomes History, capital-H, and errors get written in ink. If that's indicative -- if Campbell sifted through reams and reams of forum postings, rants, blog posts and the like in putting together his history, in the end we're only getting his interpretation of others interpretations. By not getting fresh 'takes' on these things by as many of the involved parties as he possibly could, he is ultimately getting spun far more thoroughly than if he'd conducted the interviews in the first place.

Of course, if he had done the interviews in the first place, I doubt he'd be a quarter of the way through the book. But that might not be a bad thing.

I haven't read this book. One day, of course, I will. And I expect it will be a standard reference for some time to come. But the book says "Version One" on the cover, and that's good -- because I suspect Version Two will be significantly different.

When it comes out, I hope the advertising doesn't make peoples' blood boil before they ever see the book. Because if there's real issues to discuss with Campbell's methodology, having PR that makes people mad before they ever consider it just adds gasoline to a grease fire.

On second thought, maybe my spam filter had the right idea.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at March 2, 2006 3:19 PM

Comments

Comment from: Mr Myth [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 3:30 PM

Oh yeah.

This is what I look forward to in Websnark - rational discussion put forward in nice, happy language.

I by and large agree with your words. I look forward to seeing History in print - I'm sure that, regardless of what methodology was used, and whether some areas are more accurate than others, there will be a lot of good in it.

The frustrating part of witnessing this debate has been seeing all of the valid points and concerns buried under the usual wave of redundant flames and instinctive defenses.

Cutting all that aside, and pinning down the heart of the matter... well, you did it a lot better than I, and I am really glad to see that.

Comment from: Mr Myth [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 3:43 PM

As for whether your spam filter had the right idea?

There is drama about this now, and there will be drama about this one way or the other.

Having someone draw the attention away from the flames, and on to the genuine concerns the debate raises, is a good thing.

Comment from: Eric Burns [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 3:46 PM

One caveat:

We of course do have a wealth of primary sources for the interpretation of webcomics themselves: namely, the webcomics in question. However, that's literary and artistic interpretation, not history. We don't have a large number of primary sources for the historical events that shaped the course of webcomics's evolution. Just a lot of different interpretations of what shaped that course.

Comment from: quiller [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 3:47 PM

There is certainly some interesting substance in this debate, some reasonable discourse, and of course, the requisite hyperbole from Scott Kurtz. (And I was trying to figure out Francis' hairstyle as well, and didn't see Kurtz rant until I was linked to it from Piro's rant where he agrees that Rodney should get equal or more credit for Megatokyo, particularly as a webcomic, since he treats it more as a Manga where people can see the work-in-progress.) And really the only part of Scott's hyperbole that I really disagree with is

This book is nothing more than another self-masturbatory project of the new webcomics cognoscenti crowd. Rather than try to make a name for himself by actually CREATING something, Mr. T. has to piggy-back himself on the webcomics creators out there giving it their all.

Since T Campbell certainly is doing his part in creating stuff, with Penny and Aggie coming in at a respectable 4 times a week and additional projects besides.

Certainly considering his previous articles on the history of Webcomics in the Webcomics Examiner, I think T Campbell actually would be my first choice if I was looking for someone to write a book on the subject, so it certainly doesn't displease me to hear of this happening. Hopefully, the bad moves won't color it completely, Rodney will get him information on his side of the breakup story in time for his revisions, and this will be a book the "Webcomics community" can be proud of.

Comment from: Steve Troop [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 4:00 PM

I say everybody sit back, relax, buy the book and then start suing Antarctic Press and T Campbell for libel... because if he's not covering all the bases and things are factually wrong) and as a consequence, people are cast in a bad light, I'd say some people have some valid cases.

I mean, I won't, because I'm sure that my stuff doesn't even warrant a footnote in webcomics history.

Comment from: Eric Burns [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 4:02 PM

Aw, come on, Steve. You have puppets.

Puppets.

(More seriously -- don't be so sure about your place in history.)

Comment from: Steve Troop [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 4:04 PM

Well, I should have said in T Campbell's version of history. ;)

Comment from: Robotech_Master [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 4:16 PM

I'm kind of amused by the irony of Scott Kurtz complaining about other people using the names and likenesses of webcomic characters without permission when he himself did an infamous "guest week" a few years back, where he used (without permission) the names of other webcomic artists for strips he actually drew himself.

Comment from: Robotech_Master [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 4:17 PM

I'm kind of amused by the irony of Scott Kurtz complaining about other people using the names and likenesses of webcomic characters without permission when he himself did an infamous "guest week" a few years back, where he used (without permission) the names of other webcomic artists for strips he actually drew himself. Easier to ask forgiveness than permission, eh, Scott?

Comment from: Wednesday White [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 4:20 PM

Parody isn't quite the same thing.

Comment from: Steve Troop [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 4:20 PM

That's parody. Not even the same thing. Scott didn't have to ask permission. If he did, then there'd be no MAD magazine.

What T and Antarctic did was advertising using implied endorsements. It's not even in the same category. NEXT!

Comment from: Jonthan Ellis [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 4:21 PM

My first reaction to this post was, "Holy crap, what a lot of navel gazing."

Then I looked a bit harder and realized it isn't, really, but it IS two or three subjects mashed into one post that's begging to be split up for clarity's sake.

Comment from: Eric Burns [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 4:22 PM

Not quite the same situation, R_M. Those strips were satirical. The controversy came up because Kurtz claimed the other artists had drawn the strips, which (if I remember correctly) Ishida took exception to.

The question of satirical fair use is significantly different from the question of implied endorsement.

On the other hand... Tatsuya Ishida did nail Molly Ringwald in a supply closet, once....

Comment from: Robotech_Master [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 4:24 PM

(Remove the first double post if possible? Stupid browser error.)

Except it wasn't claiming to be parody. It wasn't using a munged name of the authors, or "as if it were drawn by..." or anything like that. He went back and added "the fake" to the names after lots of people complained, but (from what I remember from the time) he originally started out claiming that it was a genuine guest week, with strips that were by the actual personalities in question. There was no sign whatsoever that it was supposed to be parody until people complained. I know the presumption of it annoyed me enough at the time that I didn't read PVP for a couple of years after that.

Comment from: Eric Burns [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 4:25 PM

Then I looked a bit harder and realized it isn't, really, but it IS two or three subjects mashed into one post that's begging to be split up for clarity's sake.

I'm thinking I might use that statement as my epitath. It sums me up so well.

Comment from: Steve Troop [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 4:30 PM

I think that's a drama that was completely overblown and stupid. I mean, was anyone ever fooled when I claimed that Charles Schulz or jim Davis was drawing Melonpool? I never had to say that they were the "fake" artist. Everybody knew I was just doing it as a joke.

The only reason that anyone might have been fooled was that the artists in question were "part of the community" of webcartoonists, so it might be implied that they actually did the work. The worst thing in the world would have been that several non-Sinfest-reading PVP readers would check out Sinfest. Big whoop.

It's not like he had Skull boning Monica or something, either. They were all well-executed parodies of the strips in question.

Comment from: Kris@WLP [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 4:30 PM

Two comments.

First, I'm embarrassed that my one-time employer Antarctic Press picked this up for publication.

Second... it seems the posting thing, which once was fixed, is so no longer. Back to the locks-up-window-unless-you-know-the-trick system.

Comment from: Eric Burns [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 4:31 PM

Okay, two things:

Except it wasn't claiming to be parody.

It didn't have to. It was parody. We can debate whether or not he should have made it clearer he was the artist in question, but it certainly was parody.

However, on thinking, this whole side-bar is a classic logical fallacy: Ad hominem tu quoque. As with all ad hominem fallacies, it attacks the messanger instead of the argument -- in this case, by casting Kurtz as a hypocrite. "Because he did X, he doesn't get to complain about Y."

This is a logical fallacy because the merits of the argument have nothing to do with whether or not Kurtz follows them himself.

That said, I dispute that Kurtz is being hypocritical. As I said -- the style aping/name aping is both clearly parody and working in an accepted style (certainly there are plenty of comic strips that satirically 'claimed new artists' in just that way. Liberty Meadows did a long series of them, in fact.)

Comment from: enchiridion [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 4:34 PM

Once again, I find my eyes glazing over just a bit at the mass of words; two points, however:

Eric, I appreciate the way your occasional dips into humor, combined with a conversational writing style, help leaven an otherwise dry discussion. If I had an equivalent 'biscuit' system then you would get a tasty, tasty biscuit.

and while I appreciate (and can even follow) the discussion, I have to ask: do folks dissect regular comics this way, or (Understanding Comics aside) is this massive amount of analysis & commentary endemic to just the web comics community?

Comment from: Wednesday White [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 4:35 PM

Didn't User Friendly have significant US bookstore presence back in the day, bundled in with O'Reilly displays?

Also, it's somewhat frustrating to have that passage about success = American bookstores. (And North American, surely?) I think it's more remarkable that I can walk into a British bookstore and find the Dark Horse editions with little effort -- for that matter, I will lay money on being able to do that in France.

Comment from: Eric Burns [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 4:37 PM

and while I appreciate (and can even follow) the discussion, I have to ask: do folks dissect regular comics this way, or (Understanding Comics aside) is this massive amount of analysis & commentary endemic to just the web comics community?

We do not begin to scratch the dissection print comics receive.

Comment from: Kristofer Straub [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 4:38 PM

There was no sign whatsoever that it was supposed to be parody until people complained. I know the presumption of it annoyed me enough at the time that I didn't read PVP for a couple of years after that.

I think it was clearly parody. Don't get me wrong, that PVP arc actually did rub me the wrong way at the time, because I thought it was kind of mean-spirited. But whether or not you approve of the tone, it's still parody.

You can't, however, open a restaurant, have Mickey Mouse enjoying one of your hamburgers and saying "Oh boy, this is the place for me!" and call it parody. You will be sued into oblivion.

I'm not sure why T believed that the right to reprint existing art on the inside extended to commissioning new art with existing trademarks for the cover.

I read T's book, and I found it very thorough and comprehensive, but I'm not sure who it is being written for. If it's a case of "this stuff should be enumerated upon because it exists," then that's fine.

I don't think webcomics needs to be held distinct from independent comics at this point. It only serves to segregate and disguise webcartoonists' work as something it isn't.

Comment from: MagnoliaPearl [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 4:39 PM

"Fasten your seatbelts, kids. This really is going to be a bumpy flight."

I am going to be extremely obnoxious now and point out that the line is "bumpy night."

...

Well, its important to ME.

Comment from: Mr Myth [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 4:40 PM

Enchiridion,

I don't suspect there is too much critical analysis of Marmaduke.

There are likely more reviews on comic books such as Batman, though likely as many focus on character development as on obscure continuity trivia and action sequences.

Finally, especially competent graphic works - from Sandman to Maus - do recieve significant discussion.

I don't think the webcomic world is necessarily alone in its analysis community, but I do think the specific environment makes such discussion much more possible.

Comment from: Steve Troop [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 4:43 PM

Back to the real point of the discussion, if T Campbell had a column in the New York Times that made the claims of the ad in PREVIEWS, he'd be expected to make a retraction the following day.

Likewise, if he wrote a book that only told half the story, using inaccurate quotes that caused personal and professional backlash to an artist (as seems to be the case in the MEGATOKYO example), then you can be sure that both T and Antarctic Press would be facing libel suits.

I think one of the problems with the web and blogs is that there is no "hard" proof of anything. All you really have to do is delete this or add that and any evidence of misinformation goes away. Now that some of these previously unpublished writers are making their way to print, it will be interesting to see what happens when there are now copies of their work coming back to bite them in the butt later.

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 4:43 PM

I'm looking forward to reading the book. T Campbell's "History of Webcomics" in Comixpedia was interesting but flawed (there was a whole era of webcomics he pretty much skipped over in favor of the 4-17 horsemen of the webpocalypse) and I suspect I'll have similar issues with this one. But you know, people write about the things they're interested in... I suspect this will be a very comprehensive book about the history of a piece of webcomics.

Comment from: Archon Divinus [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 4:44 PM

It's been far too long since the last time we've had any real drama.

I am looking forward to this book, because I expect it will make for an interesting read, but more as an oppinion then as an actuall history.

Also, Megatokyo is shoujo, not shonen.

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 4:47 PM

Oh... I did want to say: the thing about refusing to interview people on the grounds that it would be "more accurate" -- that excuse really only works if you the internet doesn't lie. In other words, that really only works if... well it really doesn't work.

Comment from: Eric Burns [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 4:48 PM

Enchiridion,

I don't suspect there is too much critical analysis of Marmaduke.

I have a Smithsonian collection that says you're wrong. ;)

Comment from: Eric Burns [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 4:49 PM

Also, Megatokyo is shoujo, not shonen.

I actually consulted people whose opinion I trust on this point before making it. They assured me that even though Piro claimed that everything he needed to know he learned from Shoujo webcomics, modern Megatokyo is indeed a shonen romance.

Comment from: Mr Myth [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 4:51 PM

And one thing to note - most of the discussion on this topic is without actually seeing the work itself.

We don't actually know how it portrays the Megatokyo incident, aside from the chapter summary and reviews of Scott Kurtz. It may be it nails the situation perfectly, despite the flaw in methodology.

But right now we have the appearance of imbalance, an appearance spoken against by both Rodney and Fred themselves. That combined with the methods used is really the double blow currently stirring up the heat.

Comment from: Mr Myth [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 4:55 PM

I have a Smithsonian collection that says you're wrong. ;)

For pity's sake, allow a man his foolish delusions! O Cruel Truth, to be made known to me so~

Seriously, I can't begrudge them their choice of interests, but Marmaduke? Egads!

Comment from: Robotech_Master [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 4:57 PM

Eric:

Except he wasn't just aping. He was saying "This strip really was drawn by Tatsuya Ishida"—or at least, that's how the attribution originally appeared on his page. (Or at least what my possibly-faulty memory seems to think happened back then.) He claimed it was going to be a guest week, and comic artists have guest weeks where other comic artists fill in all the time—heck, PVP even does it to this day. How were people supposed to know that, no, this time it's not really other people, it's just a parody?

Anyway, it's not so much meant as an attack as an ironic observation. I don't mean to harp on it, it's just that I'm trying to explain where I'm coming from when I say I find the thing amusing.

Comment from: Eric Burns [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 4:58 PM

We don't actually know how it portrays the Megatokyo incident, aside from the chapter summary and reviews of Scott Kurtz. It may be it nails the situation perfectly, despite the flaw in methodology.

Very true. Which is why I discussed the methodology rather than the execution, above. We don't know yet how well it came out. All we know is the potential for trouble.

I just think this methodology is problematic.

Comment from: Steve Troop [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 4:59 PM

At some point, things that are old and span decades automatically become respected, even if they're barely noticed while they're current.

It's the shabby foundation upon which my work is based.

Comment from: Montykins [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 5:04 PM

(And for that matter, all apologies to Terry Colon, but why Suck.com and not, say, User Friendly. Or AfterY2K -- a strip that was astoundingly popular in 1998-1999. Or GPF or Superosity. Or Fans for that matter? But that's a matter of taste, on my part.)

That's the part that seems weirdest to me. I loved Suck.com but it wasn't a webcomic. Even Filler (the Wednesday feature written by Heather Havrilesky and drawn by Terry Colon -- sample here) seems so removed from the webcomics we see these days that I don't really see why it gets to be on the cover.

I mean, I'm always glad to see Terry Colon's work, but it seems out of place here.

Comment from: ANT Link [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 5:10 PM

Just for the record: I found that advertisement's line saying "millions and millions of readers can't be wrong!" not as an endorsement of the book, but just as a way of saying that lots and lots of people read webcomics. I didn't even realize the possibly deceitful interpretation of it until I read this post, although now that I have I recognize that it's certainly ambiguous and not in a good way.

Comment from: Steve Troop [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 5:27 PM

One thing that's just occurred to me is how this one book could potentially hurt the rest of us...

I know the webcomics readership. The vast majority of people reading our strips do not buy merchandise. Of that 10% that do buy, most are extremely loyal to their specific artist.

I also know from doing countless comic conventions, that being "on the web" is not really a selling feature. They're more interested -- and rightly so -- in what the comic is about and if it appeals to their particular interests or humor.

So, who IS going to buy this book? Fans of T Campbell? Fans of webcomics? Fans of the comics on the cover? Maybe... regardless, I can't see it being a blockbuster seller.

Now, let's say you're Antarctic Press and you see a potential for opening up a new branch of comic-related books from the web? Say you're ANY publisher, for that matter and see that this didn't do stellar sales -- or worse -- it's sued for libel. No one wants to deal with that.

I'd say that this could potentially damage webcomics as a whole -- at least as far as making the jump from web to print.

Comment from: Wednesday White [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 5:34 PM

Also, Megatokyo is shoujo, not shonen.

About as shoujo as Love Hina, Video Girl Ai, Ah! My Goddess, and mountains upon mountains of clean/expurgated moe dating sims.

Comment from: Sam Logan [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 5:43 PM

I just find the whole foundation of this "History of Webcomics" book kind of ridiculous.

We're talking about a book that, by the author's own admission, uses slmost no sources other than what the artists and their followers have said about themselves and each other on the internet. If I had used the same source base for my BA history thesis, my prof wouldn't have just failed me... he would have spit on me.

It's not Campbell's fault that there are so few sources to work with. But does that mean we shouldn't hold up Campbell's book to the same historical standard, just because that inferior source base is the ONLY source base available on the subject? Or should we just admit that it is, at this stage, IMPOSSIBLE to write a real definitive "history" of webcomics?

Comment from: Wistful Dreamer [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 5:43 PM

1. Scott Kurtz needs no ones help making him look bad. The "guest week" is at worst a tempest in a teakettle.

2. T Campbell used some pretty flawed methodology. I've never gotten into Megatokyo (yes, I know, I may be the only one here), but I recognize the breakup there as both significant and that the "known" explanation has not satisfied the community. For Campbell to take it at face value, rather than investigate and find a more balanced, closer to factual seriously damages the credability of that section of his book. At very least, he should have let the controversy out of his book (or only metioned as an aside, "there is some controversy pertaining to...) if he didn't want to do that legwork.

3) I'm fairly surely convinced that there were no laws broken and that no one is going to be sued for libel.

4) This is why I hate controversial explosions in the WC community. We all love to talk, even when we know next to nothing (anyone here got a copy of the book yet?).

Comment from: Montykins [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 5:55 PM

We all love to talk, even when we know next to nothing
That's why they invented the Internet!

Comment from: Moony [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 5:57 PM

Funny, but I guess it was just me that thought that chick on the cover was simply a hideously bad rendition of Jade...;)
Unfortunately, even with its flawed methodology as noted by others above, I'd bet that this book will become the 'definitive webcomics reference' for those in the mainstream media, like reporters and such...aka those who like the 'Pow!' references in any articles about comics in general.

Comment from: Steve Troop [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 5:58 PM

Let's consult the Associate Press Stylebook and Libel Manual, shall we?

Libel is injury to reputation.

Words, pictures or cartoons that expose a person to public hatred, shame, disgrace or ridicule, or induce an ill opinion of a person are libelous.

Now, up until now, T as well as other bloggers haven't had to deal with libel or slander because for the most part, the law doesn't recognize the Internet with the same potential as a print publication. That's dangerous. It's opened the door for sloppy journalism across the board. When I've made mention of this before, people have said it didn't matter because no one expects bloggers to have journalistic integrity.

Well, this ain't a blog, T. And specifically, it's not a fiction book, either. Suddenly, you'd better dot your "i"s and cross your "t"s because now you're in a whole new arena. Judging from what he posted about the rather sketchy source material, he's opened up a can a worms that could really get messy. I hope nothing happens, but if it's warranted, I hope he's called to task.

Comment from: larksilver [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 6:18 PM

Eric, your "Hi there" struck me as probably funnier than it deserved, but I laughed aloud anyway. With those two words you informed me, as a reader, to take a breath, sit down, and watch a bearded man dive into the sitch... and then you did. 'twas cool.

The methodology did have some problems. The ad is just a bad ad, even before you consider the fallacies in it.

But.. are we really in a place where a History of Webcomics is appropriate? I just look at it and wonder. Shouldn't we have more than just a few years' worth of history to look at? We don't .. can't.. have a complete picture yet.

People who write biographies of living individuals, for instance, always seem a little pre-emptive to me. If I had written a biography of, say, Paul Rubens a while back(no, I don't know why this is the example in my brain), and I spoke of how he was dedicated to his work for kids, blah blah blah, I would have had some serious egg on my face when he got caught with his pants down, now wouldn't I?

We can know, of course, who the pioneers in webcomics were. We can know, of course, some of what shaped the webcomic scene of today. What we can't really know are the long-term effects of these people, these comics. It just seems.. premature.. to me. Not bad, not stupid, just early.

Comment from: schmike [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 6:40 PM

I've read this site for more than a year and never felt compelled to comment before. Heck, I don't even know if it will post.... But, I see too many people throwing the word "libel" around without being precise in their terms.

Libel is not just saying mean things about someone. Those things must a) be false and b) demonstrably damage the reputation of the individual. Even if the book is dead wrong about what happened at MT, that alone isn't enough to be libellous. In addition, if the author took sufficient steps to try to get it right, it can't be libel however wrong it turned out. "Sufficient steps" depends upon who you're writing about. Are the people involved in Webcomics public figures? Hard to say, but for the audience of this book they well might be. If so, then anyone suing in the U.S. would have to show actual malice -- that the author knew or reasonably should have known what they were printing was false.

At the same time, people writing on the Internet are not somehow immune from libel suits. If you are the owner of a site and post a false, defamatory message read by the community in which the individual circulates, you can be sued. (The courts have protected people who own sites from being sued over the messages other people post.)

Comment from: Robotech_Master [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 6:41 PM

Is it just me, or are posts showing up out of order or something? More than once on this thread, as I've been posting responses and rereading the thread up to that point, I'm seeing new posts from people appearing in between two posts I know I'd already read. In some cases, they were posts making the same point as ones I made later on, which could probably have averted some of my own responses. :)

Comment from: Pseudowolf [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 6:50 PM

larksilver: My thoughts exactly (except for the Paul Reuben part ^_^) When I saw the title of the book was The History of Webcomics, even before I knew what the furor was or indeed that there even was a furor, it made me laugh. I thought it had to be a joke, because there simply isn't enough history, in my opinion, to start writing "authoratative" books about it. Currently, when I see something like that, it reminds me of a 10-year-old saying he's waited "his *whole* *life*" to do something.

Comment from: Wednesday White [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 6:51 PM

If I had written a biography of, say, Paul Rubens a while back(no, I don't know why this is the example in my brain), and I spoke of how he was dedicated to his work for kids, blah blah blah, I would have had some serious egg on my face when he got caught with his pants down, now wouldn't I?

Since Paul Reubens had that aspect of his career fall down because he got caught in an adults-only theatre, watching pornography about and involving adults, surrounded by adults, and responding to the content in a fashion generally considered acceptable in the milieu, without any children around, no, I don't think you would have egg on your face. His work in children's entertainment had nothing to do with how he chose to spend his leisure time, and the disgrace of that situation was not his.

I'm trying really hard not to say anything about the situation at hand until I've finished reading the book.

Comment from: Tangent [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 7:09 PM

Tsk. I swear, first it's my views on cap (cut/copy-and-paste) in comics, and now it's T's little history book. *chuckle* I swear, this meta-community just loves drama.

I must admit to being amused that Tangents gets a nod in this snark. Because while I know I'm a critic, I laugh at the thought of anyone taking my stuff so seriously that they'd use one of my reviews in research or the like.

Anyway... Scott Kurtz? If you so dislike this book, then why didn't you answer T's initial e-mail and review it, and add your input on how it should have been put together?

The thing is... if there are problems with the book... any of us can decide to put out our own copy of it. It'll take some time and effort... but I could easily see Eric Burns or Scott Kurtz putting out another "History of Webcomics" that is truer to that person's vision of what it should be like.

Of course, once it was out, dozens of people would complain it wasn't good enough or that it was inaccurate... but that's the way these things go.

Robert A. Howard, Tangents Webcomic Reviews

Comment from: Kail Panille [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 7:12 PM

Heh. I've got to admit, upon seeing Kurtz's rant this morning, my first thought was...

Wait, my first thought was something I can't put here, because it insults someone who is not Eric Burns. But after I wrote six hundred angry (but not, apparently, libelous) words expounding on my first thought, my second thought was: Well, looks like we'll get a post from Eric today.

(Not that I wasn't enjoying the chocolate, mind, but it's nice to have the peanut butter too.)

Comment from: elvedril [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 7:17 PM

Wednesday said:
Also, it's somewhat frustrating to have that passage about success = American bookstores. (And North American, surely?) I think it's more remarkable that I can walk into a British bookstore and find the Dark Horse editions with little effort -- for that matter, I will lay money on being able to do that in France.

I don't know about France but I can tell you that I have the Polish editions of Megatokyo 1 and 2 sitting on my shelf right now (by Mandgragora Press, basically identical to the Dark Horse edition except of course in Polish). Though for the record, it's not like the book is in every bookstore in Poland. Still I did manage to find these two by just browsing the comics and manga sections of several stores.

Comment from: 32_footsteps [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 7:20 PM

First off... Eric, your spam filter discussion is leaving me in stitches. Does this mean you might not aggro drama anymore?

Now, it seems like the actual controversy is about methodology - because about the ad... when ever the author of the book agrees that the ad was fouled up, it's basically everyone against the ad group.

But for methodology... maybe it would have taken forever and a day to get all that information. But unless there are some constraints I'm not aware of, T had the time. I don't think there's a huge rush to get this book on the floor RealSoonNow. Sure, it's important to get your history book published while the big things are going on. They're quite lkely going to be going on just as much in the next decade or so.

Now, for libel itself... given that most of us haven't seen how this material is presented, we can't exactly fly that flag yet. Libel has a three-prong test. One, the item in question has to be wrong. Two, the author had to know it was wrong. Three, the author had to run the piece in question with the explicit intent to injure the libelled party. Up until a couple days ago, I imagine T would have gotten away for not knowing it was wrong.

However, even assuming that, T still could have gotten away with it. If he presents the passage in question appropriately, he could get away with it. For example, he could say, "According to Fred Gallagher, he split with Rodney Caston after Rodney called Fred corpulent, ate Fred's nephew, and burned Fred's signed Miyazaki print in a ritual to summon Satan," and get away with it so long as Fred actually said those things. (Note: before you get at me, that was all an example and not a presentation of truth. Fred has never said those things, at least in any forum I've ever seen.)

Now, as Eric points out, this would be evidence of extremely sloppy methodology and good reason to not buy the book. However, it would not be libel.

"So, who IS going to buy this book?"

See, this question has me convinced that T is personally buying into his idea of being a historian. It seems like he's doing what many academics have been doing of late - publishing a book expressly for a very small audience, one that gets what he's going on about. I know I'm sure not interested in getting this - though compared to his apparent target audience, I'm the monkey throwing poop at the temple.

I'm really wondering if this is going to be worth it, both in the short term and in the long run in chronicling the birth and growth of the subculture we're discussing here.

Comment from: Scott Kurtz [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 7:24 PM

Dear Robert Howard,

I did object to T directly about the book. In fact, once I made a suggestion and he dismissed it, I withdrew my decision to illustrate the chapter in question.

I read his book, I just think it's shit. And no, I didn't bother to write him back because this book isn't about bringing people into webcomics or recording an accurate history.

This book is about touting T. Campbell into the higher echellon of web comics illuminati. It's about him and HIS perspective. It's about legitimizing HIM and not about legitimizing webcomics.

I love how I'm the asshole.

It's not my book, Robert. It's not MY responsibility. It's Tee's and Antarctics.

Comment from: Tangent [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 7:45 PM

Did I call you an asshole, Mr. Kurtz? If I gave that impression, I sincerely apologize (and trust me, it's a sincere apology because while I have philosophical differences with you, I rather enjoy the discussions we have. You might annoy me and I might get twitchy at times when arguing with you... but it's also fun. That's probably why we argue so often :D).

I'm curious as to what suggestions you made for the book. Just because one suggestion is denied does not mean others will be. He may have had valid reasons to not listen to that idea. But other points may have caught his attention and led him to change aspects of the book.

Still, in the end it's his work. I honestly don't expect that if you created a "The History of PvP" work and said a few things I disagreed with that you'd accept my input on it, because I'd be speaking from a different perspective than yours. You wouldn't be being an "asshole" or anything for *not* listening to my point of view because let's be honest: this is YOUR work, this is your time and effort, and you're closer to it than I would be. Likewise, T may not agree with all aspects of your points of view, partly because it was written with his perspective on things (and yes, histories are written from the perspective of the person writing it - try looking at an English history book about the American Revolutionary War and comparing it to the American history books about it - bias exists in history, and it's something people accept).

Anyway... I applaud the effort. Maybe T's history isn't perfect. Maybe there are flaws. But there will be future books. Each one will take a slightly different look at these events. What's important is that this road is being paved now, for future works.

Robert A. Howard, Tangents

Comment from: Ray Radlein [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 7:50 PM

This creates a condition where people feel pissed off. Pissed off because they have expectations raised that then aren't followed through. ("Hey -- wait! There's not really any Piro in this book! It's all just words!") Pissed off because their characters or brand are being used to imply an endorsement they may not actually feel.

You're kidding, right? You don't really think that readers of MegaTokyo are that stupid, do you? To pick up a copy of a book entitled The History of Webcomics and be unpleasantly surprised, upon reading it, to discover that it is, in fact... a history of webcomics?

I suppose that Antarctic could add a giant "THIS IS NOT ACTUALLY ONE OF THOSE KEENSPOT CROSSOVER EVENTS" disclaimer on the cover.

Comment from: Steve Troop [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 7:56 PM

If I've learned one thing over and oner again, it's that readers (and not just MT readers) can be THAT stupid.

Comment from: 32_footsteps [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 7:57 PM

Never underestimate a group's capacity for having an incredibly stupid portion. Or any single person, no matter how brilliant they are otherwise, doing something incredibly dumb.

Also, since I must have missed it the first time... I'd say that in Megatokyo, the Piro plot arc is very heavily Shojo, but the Largo arc tends towards shonen. But that's a tangent I probably shouldn't expound upon for fears of a thread-jack.

Comment from: Kristofer Straub [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 8:02 PM

Tsk. I swear, first it's my views on cap (cut/copy-and-paste) in comics, and now it's T's little history book. *chuckle* I swear, this meta-community just loves drama.

By all means, Robert, install yourself in that echelon as well. My goodness, how important everything and everyone in webcomics is! Everyone gets a trophy!

Also, this is a fascinating analogy you've made -- T is as welcome to write The History of Webcomics as Kurtz is to write The History of PVP. I hadn't realized T's body of work was webcomics. Of course everyone can complain about it, whether or not it is his work. The banner of webcomics discourse is increasingly "everything we say is valid and important and unassailable."

I wrote the following elsewhere on this topic. Here it is reproduced:

The longer I go along in webcomics, the more I come to respect the idea of independent comics, and the more I come to see "webcomics" as some safehouse that me-toos and wannabes are creating so that they can be cartoonists too. If you're a good cartoonist, regardless of where you start, there's an existing arena for you. Magazines, illustration, newspapers, books, comics, periodicals, billboards, design services, whatever. The internet enfolds these things, and more, and it'll continue to grow up.

But the "more" that has been creeping in, the "more" that people are trying to define webcomics with, is this unreadable, amateur-hour arthouse nonsense, and the reams of paper that are wasted writing about it. That's what defines a webcomic, and makes it different from print -- that sliver of material that isn't reproduceable in print because it's too big or too hyperlinked. The experimental stuff.

And if your material doesn't get noticed, you can always start a blog and write about other people who have been noticed. But that's not a very important area, is it? That's why you need to beat a drum and explain how desperately important it is. It's all self-legitimizing and incestuous. It's not what we need as a community. Legitimacy must come from outside.

There will always be opportunities for people with ability, even if the ability isn't traditional. You can write reviews, you can write about Mega Man. Whatever it is. Even if it's not mainstream. But I think "webcomics" has come to mean "I want to do whatever I want with no editing, and have it be lauded." The same goes for webcomics criticism. These guys aren't authors! They're people like you and me. A lot of them don't even know how to write a goddamn essay or support theses.

R Stevens, Milholland, any of these guys with talent, they don't need webcomics. But webcomics needs them for validation. That somehow, the rising tide of Wapsi Square will lift the boat for the Final Fantasy sprite author, or that it'll give the disgruntled writer something to be an Expert about, so that he too can make a name and a living off it.

I guess this kind of nonsense is bound to happen in these first tiny steps. I look forward to those future books. I look forward to the day that all us little guys jockeying for position will be forgotten, and the real important figures will be remembered in ten, twenty, thirty years. It is way, way too early to start chiseling tributes into the rockface.

This, and the drama, makes me not want to be called a "webcartoonist." The word carries a lot of baggage.

Comment from: Ray Radlein [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 8:04 PM

There is certainly some interesting substance in this debate, some reasonable discourse, and of course, the requisite hyperbole from Scott Kurtz. (And I was trying to figure out Francis' hairstyle as well, and didn't see Kurtz rant until I was linked to it from Piro's rant where he agrees that Rodney should get equal or more credit for Megatokyo, particularly as a webcomic, since he treats it more as a Manga where people can see the work-in-progress.) And really the only part of Scott's hyperbole that I really disagree with is
This book is nothing more than another self-masturbatory project of the new webcomics cognoscenti crowd. Rather than try to make a name for himself by actually CREATING something, Mr. T. has to piggy-back himself on the webcomics creators out there giving it their all.

If you read a lot of current events and politcal blogs, you come across rants where the author makes several points, and puts forth several arguments, but includes among them one argument which is so outre, so ill-conceived, as to exert a kind of gravitational distortion on the arguments around it. You find yourself unable to engage the author's views on trade policy when he throws in a comment that blames the Bavarian Illuminati for the creation of the EU, for instance.

That's what that comment was: a choice nugget so mind-bogglingly ill-informed as to, well, boggle the mind. It's hard, of course, for a boggled mind to properly engage with a critical thesis.

Or maybe not; sometimes, the bogglement can be a sign that maybe there's not that much there to engage with.


Comment from: Robert Hutchinson [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 8:10 PM

I am so very pleased about not giving half a crap about any of this.

Comment from: ItsWalky [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 8:16 PM

I just want you all to know that I am way too cool for all this drama. Of course, I'll be blogging about it for months, but I'm still way, way too cool for this.

*runs off to gossip*

Comment from: Tangent [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 8:21 PM

*sigh* You know, you'd think I'd have learned by now when I post something I need to so completely descriptive and encompassing that there is absolutely no way for a person to misinterpret it.

These posts will be 10,000 words each, no doubt, and then people will quote one tiny piece to misintepret it anyway. *rolls eyes*

Kris, what I was stating was this: Scott has not done the research for a "History of Webcomics" book AT THIS TIME. Thus his input, while important and valid, is only so valuable. If Scott were doing a "History of PvP" book and I put in my own input, seeing that I don't know the information of PvP to the extent Scott does, my input would likewise be only so valuable.

If Scott had done the same level of research that T has, then this would be different. Besides, everything that T Campbell has stated is that he's still welcoming input. Oddly, the response he's gotten is "it's not my job to do your work for you" and the like.

Let's see... it sounds remarkably like people are griping about T writing a History of Webcomics book, but when offered to examine it and put forth their opinions, beliefs, and knowledge, refusing "because it's not our job to do this".

Isn't that griping for the sake of griping? If you have a valid complaint, then volunteer your services to fix the problems. Otherwise your complaints are as valuable as the complaints of a person complaining about the results of the last Presidential Election when they didn't vote.

Rob H.

Comment from: Tangent [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 8:22 PM

And if you offer suggestions and those suggestions aren't used... well, you STILL contributed to the process. Just because a suggestion is not used does not mean it was not listened to.

Comment from: Steve Troop [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 8:26 PM

If Scott had done the same level of research that T has, then this would be different. Besides, everything that T Campbell has stated is that he's still welcoming input. Oddly, the response he's gotten is "it's not my job to do your work for you" and the like.

According to T's own site, the methodology he used to write this book was spotty at best. if I wrote a book on John Kerry's life by using googled blogs as my main source, he'd be a draft dodging, flag-burning hippy that tried to smash George Bush with his botoxed forehead,

Comment from: Tangent [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 8:27 PM

You mean he's not? *innocence*

Comment from: Tangent [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 8:28 PM

Oh wait, sorry. You said Kerry. No, Kerry didn't draft dodge, that was whatshisname.

Comment from: YourArbiter [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 8:30 PM

All this white-knuckled drama is well and good, but does anyone happen to remember when that PvP faux-guest-week was? I thought I'd read the entire archives (I'm fairly new to the strip), but I must have missed that stretch.

Comment from: Plaid Phantom [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 8:32 PM

Does this mean you might not aggro drama anymore?

Oh, he still definitely aggro's drama. Whether it has ranged attacks or not is the question.

Comment from: Kristofer Straub [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 8:45 PM

Let's see... it sounds remarkably like people are griping about T writing a History of Webcomics book, but when offered to examine it and put forth their opinions, beliefs, and knowledge, refusing "because it's not our job to do this".

Well, okay. Robert, that's totally understandable, and I know that any "history" that comes out, regardless of who writes it, is going to upset some people. There's no way to do a complete, all-pleasing write-up of webcomics as a whole. I get that.

Also, as far as everyone having to pitch in and make sure this history is as good as possible, I am reminded of the CxN debacle at Wikipedia. All it takes is one person -- regardless of what they know -- to say "I'm going to delete this," and suddenly the entire community has to be mobilized to make sure the right thing happens.

I'm not saying T doesn't know anything. I'm saying that if he's writing it, the onus is on him to try and make it as correct as possible. Why does everyone have to jump up and volunteer because he's trying to pull together some project? And what if they're not even aware of the project, to extend the Wikipedia parallel?

You know?

Comment from: abb3w [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 8:58 PM

Libel has a three-prong test. One, the item in question has to be wrong. Two, the author had to know it was wrong. Three, the author had to run the piece in question with the explicit intent to injure the libelled party.
Explict intent of injury is required for public figures (NYT v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254), but might or might not be required for private parties, depending on state jurisdiction. IANAL; HTH; HAND.

That aside, even a piece of mediocre scholarship has the advantage of being a starting point for everyone else to attack for not getting it right. I look forward to the followup/rebuttal volumes from Scott and Erik. I suspect I will continue to look forward to Scott's indefinitely, since I think he takes his work in comics more seriously than he takes his scholarship in comics. Erik... well, I think his work speaks for him nicely.

Comment from: Tangent [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 9:02 PM

Perhaps Robert Hutchinson has the right idea here.

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 9:09 PM

I'm trying really hard not to say anything about the situation at hand until I've finished reading the book.

Dude.

Comment from: Eric Burns [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 9:30 PM

You're kidding, right? You don't really think that readers of MegaTokyo are that stupid, do you? To pick up a copy of a book entitled The History of Webcomics and be unpleasantly surprised, upon reading it, to discover that it is, in fact... a history of webcomics?

That they are or aren't Megatokyo fans doesn't enter into it. There are some people who are indeed that stupid -- who would see a character they like on the cover, and assume the book is about that character, even if it's a nonfiction history book.

Before you assume that's implausible, I'd remind you the guy over on the far left hand corner is famous for being the cartoon lead in two nonfiction books, both of which had historical elements.

Comment from: Wednesday White [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 9:35 PM

Dude.

I'm in line with just about everything Eric said, I'm in line with most of what Kris Straub said, I have no speculation to throw onto the fire, and all this "I think T said BLA in chapter X" is getting me pissy. Better just to read this draft, even if there's no time to say anything useful about it, and to react to the side threads in the hopes that uninvolved parties will calm down.

Comment from: Montykins [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 9:43 PM

I've decided my favorite thing about the cover is Piro's expression. All the other characters seem pretty cheerful, and Piro is the only one not smiling.

Maybe they had trouble finding a picture of Piro when he wasn't moping.

Comment from: Shaenon [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 9:46 PM

You know, a lot of this trouble could have been avoided by simply not including lots of dipshit webcomics drama in the book. I mean, what does a history of webcomics really need to say about the Megatokyo breakup beyond, "In such-and-such year, Rodney Caston left the strip, and Fred Gallagher continued it on his own"? Does this incident actually require documentation and interviews on both sides? That's space that could be used for, you know, talking about webcomics. Good webcomics.

The rest of the trouble could have been avoided by making a decent cover.

Kurtz, people are treating you like an asshole because you're acting like an asshole. You have legitimate grievances, but your angry, paranoid accusations are making it really, really hard for people to support you.

Also? People who are smarter than you are not all part of the same secret club, and they are not all plotting against you. It's mostly just me and William G.

Comment from: The Gneech [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 9:48 PM

I want to rant about somebody to get free press! Lucky bastards all being talked about when I'm not.

I've got it!

ERIC, YOU SCHMUCK! GIVE ME MORE BISCUITS!

Now, to watch the hits come in...

-The Gneech

Comment from: Montykins [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 9:51 PM

Also, I would totally read a History of Webcomics Drama. Although as soon as it was written, it would need to include a chapter on the drama it generated, and then a chapter on the drama from that chapter. Properly maintained, it could run for years.

Comment from: The Matt Who Is [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 9:52 PM

Given the sheer size of this discussion, it's not surprising that there are way too things I want to talk about.

First, as a BA in history, I agree that there are some problems with T's research method. In particular, he probably should have interviewed the other Megatokyo creator. Their breakup is contentious, and even if the rendition of events in the History is pristine-- like seeing HDTV footage of all that happened-- it looks bad. It undermined T's credibility.

The advertisement is less egregious for me. Yes, permission was necessary. It was received, after the fact, so I don't think any harm was done. And while the particularly odd-of-mind-- not necessarily stupid, but certainly different-- may think that this is some sort of mystical fantasy journey with Scott McCloud's avatar jello wrestling Tycho and Gabe, T's not responsible for that. It says "History of Webcomics" on the cover. If people can't be bothered to read the cover, then that's not T's fault.

Also, the whole "world-reknowned" (it's world-reknowned, Scott. I like you, but the third time you sarcastically said that T Campbell is "world reknown," it stopped being a typo and became something profound) thing. It's set amongst a metric buttload of hyperbole, that doesn't pretend to be anything else. Exclamation marks abound. Pretending that "millions of readers can't be wrong" is supposed to be literally true is just silly.

I think this part balances. The claim is kinda dumb, but so is the response to it.

Finally-- and I'd place this comment over at PVP, but there's not a "comments" section in the rants-- the whole cognoscenti thing is kinda hollow. First, T has created things-- how many web comics has he written/does he write? Second, if web comics are ever going to become signficant to a wider audience, books like this are needed. Web comics will not become more influential by becoming more inbred and insular. It's part of the reason there's a print version of PVP-- which I subscribe to.

I don't know if I'll read the book. I hope it's good, and I sincerely hope there are other histories to follow. I don't think it's too early. We're kind of a gossipy group, but this is still generating a lot of discussion, and for my money, that's good for web comics.

Comment from: YourArbiter [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 10:06 PM

Actually, Matt, I might as well be a dick and point out that it's "world-renowned". You know, now that we're trying to go on the record about it.

Comment from: Egarwaen [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 10:13 PM

You do realize, Eric, that you're now going to go down in history as "Man whose spam filter is wiser than he is" ? ;)

Comment from: Wednesday White [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 10:47 PM

Also, I would totally read a History of Webcomics Drama.

I wish I could hand everyone who says this copies of about a half-dozen lesbian BDSM essay anthologies. There is nothing like reading twenty-year-old rants about feminist conferences (for example) to make one realize that, no matter how urgent something may either be or seem to be at the time, chances are that the associated drama's not going to make very useful historical documentation.

Very few flamewars desperately need to be preserved for the ages.

Comment from: Montykins [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 10:57 PM

Very few flamewars desperately need to be preserved for the ages.
See, you say that, but new people don't know what, for example, "The Ctrl+Alt+Del WoW Guild Collapse" or "the Penny Arcade Strawberry Shortcake comic" mean.

Besides, I actually do enjoy reading decades-old sf zines, partly because it's fun to read the letters-column arguments.

Comment from: Abby L. [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 11:05 PM

Ah. I was getting a bit antsy there with no drama. Thank God we had this to give us something to think about.

Comment from: The Matt Who Is [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 11:05 PM

YourArbiter said:

Actually, Matt, I might as well be a dick and point out that it's "world-renowned". You know, now that we're trying to go on the record about it.

To which I can only reply: Oops. That's not so much being a dick as pointing out that I'm fallible. I'm not really surprised by the news, but the proof was a little ill-timed. ;-P

Comment from: Ray Radlein [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 11:14 PM

You're kidding, right? You don't really think that readers of MegaTokyo are that stupid, do you? To pick up a copy of a book entitled The History of Webcomics and be unpleasantly surprised, upon reading it, to discover that it is, in fact... a history of webcomics?

That they are or aren't Megatokyo fans doesn't enter into it. There are some people who are indeed that stupid -- who would see a character they like on the cover, and assume the book is about that character, even if it's a nonfiction history book.

Well, then, this entire field of publishing is in big damn trouble then, because (to a first approximation) every book about the history of comics suffers from the same problem. I mean, I can't wait to see what madcap adventures Dez Skinn has in mind for Wonder Warthog, Fritz the Cat, and the Freak Brothers in this comic book! Looks like some two-fisted fightin' action to me! Maybe Li'l Abner and Sandy and Annie and Krazy Kat can read all about it. And Ron Goulart — he sure writes some rip-snortin' adventure comics; I can't wait to read his all-new adventures of Terry and the Pirates!

Frankly, the only even tangentially similar book I could find which wouldn't run afoul of this standard is Comic Books As History: The Narrative Art of Jack Jackson, Art Spiegelman, and Harvey Pekar by Joseph Witek; and that book is part of a series of books which all share a common cover format (I've got books from that publisher about other subjects which have similar covers).


On the other hand, if I hadn't just spent entirely too much time browsing Amazon, I would never have found The Comics Go to Hell: A Visual History of the Devil in Comics, which might or might not be interesting, but which Amazon amusingly suggests that I might want to bundle with The Complete Peanuts 1955-1958 Boxed Set.

Yeah, I can see the synergy there.


Comment from: Ray Radlein [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 11:18 PM

[This may be a duplicate post; typekey did a funny on me when I clicked "Post" — I've refreshed a few times to make sure it isn't showing up, but you never know]

You're kidding, right? You don't really think that readers of MegaTokyo are that stupid, do you? To pick up a copy of a book entitled The History of Webcomics and be unpleasantly surprised, upon reading it, to discover that it is, in fact... a history of webcomics?

That they are or aren't Megatokyo fans doesn't enter into it. There are some people who are indeed that stupid -- who would see a character they like on the cover, and assume the book is about that character, even if it's a nonfiction history book.

Well, then, this entire field of publishing is in big damn trouble then, because (to a first approximation) every book about the history of comics suffers from the same problem. I mean, I can't wait to see what madcap adventures Dez Skinn has in mind for Wonder Warthog, Fritz the Cat, and the Freak Brothers in this comic book! Looks like some two-fisted fightin' action to me! Maybe Li'l Abner and Sandy and Annie and Krazy Kat can read all about it. And Ron Goulart — he sure writes some rip-snortin' adventure comics; I can't wait to read his all-new adventures of Terry and the Pirates!

Frankly, the only even tangentially similar book I could find which wouldn't run afoul of this standard is Comic Books As History: The Narrative Art of Jack Jackson, Art Spiegelman, and Harvey Pekar by Joseph Witek; and that book is part of a series of books which all share a common cover format (I've got books from that publisher about other subjects which have similar covers).


On the other hand, if I hadn't just spent entirely too much time browsing Amazon, I would never have found The Comics Go to Hell: A Visual History of the Devil in Comics, which might or might not be interesting, but which Amazon amusingly suggests that I might want to bundle with The Complete Peanuts 1955-1958 Boxed Set.

Yeah, I can see the synergy there.


Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 11:18 PM

Dude.
[...] Better just to read this draft, even if there's no time to say anything useful about it, and to react to the side threads in the hopes that uninvolved parties will calm down.

I can't tell whether you took me to mean That's what I've been trying to articulate or How can you deny yourself all this fun? or I don't understand your position, please elucidate. It was (a).

I guess "dude" isn't for me. I'll stop.

Comment from: Eric Burns [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 11:23 PM

Ray--

You are mistaking a failure of composition as being equal to a failure of subject. It is not that Piro, McCloud, Argon, Suck.com Female and Gabe are all on the cover. It's that compositionally, they look indicative on the cover.

All three of the examples you showed in your own post have compositions that reflect the nature of their work. No one would assume The Comics Before 1945 is anything but an archival and history book, because the art looks archival and the composition suggests a book about these figures, not starring these figures.

Comment from: 32_footsteps [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 11:26 PM

Actually, Eric should go down in history as the man whose spam filter is wiser than most people. ;)

You know, the idea of a history of webcomics drama would be absolutely priceless. It would have reams of material. Much of it is preserved for the ages thanks to archive.org and the meticulous blogging many do. You could avoid libel by simply presenting it as an opinion piece, with the only facts being that a given person actually said, X, Y, and Z. It would be really gripping, in that soap opera sort of way. You're basically all-set to create sequels practically at will.

Also, you'd probably have a ton of fact (or at least a good balance of views to derive fact from) without really trying for it. Heck, I'm all ready to buy a copy of this.

Comment from: Ray Radlein [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 11:30 PM

I wish I could hand everyone who says this copies of about a half-dozen lesbian BDSM essay anthologies. There is nothing like reading twenty-year-old rants about feminist conferences (for example) to make one realize that, no matter how urgent something may either be or seem to be at the time, chances are that the associated drama's not going to make very useful historical documentation.

Very few flamewars desperately need to be preserved for the ages.

Dude: The Immortal Storm ("The only history of the 1930s where World War II comes as an anti-climax").

Comment from: 32_footsteps [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 11:32 PM

"Very few flamewars desperately need to be preserved for the ages."

But many of them do make entertaining reads after the fact. Heck, I sometimes read over my old flamewars, from misbegotten self-righteous indignation on Usetnet in my early 'net days, for amusement and bemusement.

It keeps one humble, if nothing else.

Comment from: Ray Radlein [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 11:44 PM

All three of the examples you showed in your own post have compositions that reflect the nature of their work. No one would assume The Comics Before 1945 is anything but an archival and history book, because the art looks archival and the composition suggests a book about these figures, not starring these figures.

I'll give you The Comics Before 1945, but the Dez Skinn book is, if anything, even more "guilty" of that sin than T's book. Hell, look at the title: Comix: The Underground Revolution sure sounds like the title for some sort of hard-hitting guerilla action story, especially with the machine guns firing and the classic Justice League "pyramid of heroes running straight at the camera" composition.

Besides, if someone is going to buy the book in a store, the briefest of flips through the pages will demonstrate that it isn't a graphic novel; and if they're buying it online, there's going to be a description right next it saying what it's about. Saying that this cover could legitimately cause confusion in anyone smart enough to blink their own eyes without help really is a non-starter.

Comment from: Ray Radlein [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 2, 2006 11:53 PM

Dude: The Immortal Storm ("The only history of the 1930s where World War II comes as an anti-climax").

As one of those fun little coincidences, it occurs to me that one of the pivotal moments of T Campbell's Fans occurs during the "climax" of The Immortal Storm. Heh.

Comment from: RoboYuji [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 3, 2006 12:36 AM

Ha ha, it's times like this during which I'm kind of GLAD that the "community" doesn't give a shit about MY webcomic. Which I should be drawing, instead of reading all this stuff.

Comment from: MarvinAndroid [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 3, 2006 12:46 AM

What I love most about Websnark is that, unlike other review sites (particularly video games), no one has degenerated to "f@g!" and "u r t3h sux!" yet.

It seems like a better way to go about writing a history of webcomics is to publish a collection of artist interviews. Let the artists give you a history of their webcomic (because they should know), and if there is controversy, get statements from every side. It would take longer (meaning you couldn't cover as many webcomics), but it would provide a more complete and thorough history.

Now, it's entirely possible that I'm mistaken as to the mehtod Mr. Campbell used to write his history, and maybe he did do this.

After I read everyone's passionate posts about history and critical review, I feel like an idiot trying to be neutral. Maybe I should get an opinion, rather than stating the blindingly obvious and claiming it as insight.

Comment from: wingie [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 3, 2006 1:54 AM

Eric: you compared T Campbell's book's cover to the montage from The Breakfast Club. I take that as an insult to my Breakfast Club poster. The classic BC poster shot was arranged with a purpose. It conveys a strong sense of what the movie was about. It said "look at us, we are rabblerousers who stand united, and our specific positions and gestures tell you who we are and what we want". (I am extra sensitive on this, I must admit, because I spent months working with a theatrical analysis of the movie.)

The History of Webcomic's cover doesn't do that. It's a bunch of disconnected characters minding their own stuff. None of them says "look at me, respect me" with the exception of the McCloud avatar. In fact, the cover looks haphazard. It's as if someone took their favorite webcomic characters and cut and pasted them onto some background created via two Photoship filters. It doesn't look unified. In fact, the first thing that came to my mind was "this doesn't look legitimate". It doesn't look professional. Search Amazon.com for "comic history" and look at the first few results. Those covers command respect. This one screams amateur. And this is a scholarly representation of webcomics.

Also, don't get me started on the smilie...

Comment from: Merus [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 3, 2006 3:50 AM

Hey, has anyone seen Straub yet? He needs to make fun of the very idea that anyone might think it important to write a history of webcomics book! And clearly the Penny Arcade guys have to make a throwaway post on the front page with about four lines and then go back to their donuts because this involves them. Maybe Tangent has asked someone else to come up with his opinion for him. I'm sure one of the usual suspects has come out in defense of the book and how it can do no wrong because the book needs to come out. I'm sure Joey Manley will make some sort of comment, but it will be mostly ignored and possibly irrelevant.

I fucking hate the webcomics community. I wish I didn't like their stuff so much.

Comment from: The Gneech [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 3, 2006 6:26 AM

"The History of Webcomic's cover doesn't do that. It's a bunch of disconnected characters minding their own stuff."

I dunno, I'd say that's a pretty concise history of webcomics right there!

-The Gneech

Comment from: Kaychsea [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 3, 2006 8:50 AM

Hmmmm. The History of Webcomics makes about as much sense as Charlotte Church's "auto"biography.

Comment from: Dragonmuncher [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 3, 2006 11:02 AM

It's times like these that I really miss Webcartoonist vs. Webcartoonist.

Comment from: miyaa [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 3, 2006 11:47 AM

1. I'd be surprised if Antarctic Press gets over 200 paid requested copies. And if this is really about webcomics, should it be a downloadable pdf?

2. I think in general, no one should have their own autobiography until they've been married ten years and have at least a child or they've turned forty, which ever comes first. Which reminds me, how long have there been "webcomics" anyway? A history of something less than 30 years old can't be much of a history.

3. And really, I care less about the webcomic's past than it's future (which is nothing more than mere musings anyway). I wonder about this trend for webcomics to start to devel into animation (sometimes for a monthly fee), and whether that will make any differences in our enjoyment of webcomics. Putting an actual voice to a familiar comic figure always seems to change how you view a character, artist or critiquer.

Then there's always webcomic fanfiction. But that's another drama for another day.

Comment from: Darrin_Bright [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 3, 2006 12:35 PM

Oh gawd... I wasn't going to comment about any of this, but then you said "webcomic fanfiction", and for some depraved reason what hit my mind was "webcartoonist slashfic."

I need to scrub out my brain with a chainsaw now.

Comment from: Eric Burns [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 3, 2006 12:47 PM

Oh gawd... I wasn't going to comment about any of this, but then you said "webcomic fanfiction", and for some depraved reason what hit my mind was "webcartoonist slashfic."

I need to scrub out my brain with a chainsaw now.

William looked across the room. There, silouetted in the doorway, stood Scott.

"I can't believe you wrote that," Scott said. "It was mean. It was hurtful."

"I can't believe you reacted like that," William answered, intensely, stepping towards him. "You always react like that!"

"You're just looking for a fight," Scott snapped. "That's all you ever do."

They got within arm's reach, their angry eyes on one another.

"Oh god," one said huskily, and--


No.

No, I refuse to continue this.

I'll just have to write about Eyreth, the violet eyed, chipper cartoonist whose webcomics bring all sides together in agreement as they marvel at her art and tight dialogue.

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 3, 2006 12:57 PM

I think in general, no one should have their own autobiography until they've been married ten years and have at least a child or they've turned forty, which ever comes first. Which reminds me, how long have there been "webcomics" anyway? A history of something less than 30 years old can't be much of a history.

In the late 80s and early 90s there were already books out describing the history of the Punk Rock movement. That's no more than a decade after the fact.

There are already books that contain a history of the Linux operating system, which was first released in 1991. At this point, that's 15 years.

Webcomics have been going on for more than 10 years... that's plenty long for something on the web. Hell, 1337 web trends have been born and died in less time (anyone remember "push technology?" Didn't think so.)

And it's a genuine shame that people didn't chronicle the history of music swapping on the internet, from midi files to mp3s to m4ps to oggs, because it's a fucking shame how the RIAA and the MPAA has managed to misrepresent an entire community that started out as mostly musicians in order to drag copyright law down a shithole that it may never climb out of.

Comment from: Montykins [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 3, 2006 1:02 PM

In the late 80s and early 90s there were already books out describing the history of the Punk Rock movement. That's no more than a decade after the fact.

Now that you mention it, Legs McNeil's Please Kill Me is exactly the kind of oral history that Scott Kurtz appears to be suggesting in his rant. Pretty much all the people themselves describing the events, with lots of different points of view and disagreements allowed.

Comment from: Violet [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 3, 2006 1:04 PM

the violet eyed

<shudder>

Comment from: YourArbiter [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 3, 2006 1:06 PM

Eric, I've got to say I have my money on Kris Straub/Dave Kellett for webcartoonist slashfic world domination. God knows their podcast has been going in that direction.

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 3, 2006 1:38 PM

It's only slash if it's uncanonical.

Comment from: Snowspinner [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 3, 2006 1:42 PM

On the other hand, the idea that a book on a subject might have a picture of that subject matter on the cover is not unreasonable. It's not parody. It's also not advertising. It's a matter of "This is the sort of stuff that's in the book." Rather like having a Mickey Mouse doll outside of the "We Sell Mickey Mouse Shit" store.

Comment from: 32_footsteps [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 3, 2006 2:10 PM

Eric, you'll continue that or I'll write the slash that will detail the *real* reason you stopped reading Megatokyo.

Comment from: Eric Burns [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 3, 2006 2:21 PM

Eric, you'll continue that or I'll write the slash that will detail the *real* reason you stopped reading Megatokyo.

Man. Puts "You had me, and you lost me" into whole new realms of meaning, doesn't it?

Comment from: 32_footsteps [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 3, 2006 2:24 PM

"Man. Puts "You had me, and you lost me" into whole new realms of meaning, doesn't it?"

Hey! No spoilers!

Comment from: siwangmu [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 3, 2006 4:39 PM

Sad Eric in snow.

Comment from: miyaa [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 3, 2006 5:35 PM

Paul: Uncanonical? Since when did webcomics use cannons? (And now, we'll blast away Checkerboard Nightmare with cannon while a full orchestra plays Tychosky's 1812 Ovature.)

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 3, 2006 5:38 PM

You know, I could deal with the notion of fanfiction about AKOTAS characters, but about me? You're sterner stuff than I am, Burns.

Comment from: clint Hollingsworth [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 3, 2006 10:15 PM

Garg.

Comment from: Joshua Macy [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 3, 2006 10:38 PM

The longer I go along in webcomics, the more I come to respect the idea of independent comics, and the more I come to see "webcomics" as some safehouse that me-toos and wannabes are creating so that they can be cartoonists too. - Kristopher Straub

That's the good part of webcomics. I know, I know, if the people get the idea that they're free to commit art, then there goes the neighborhood for "real" artists. How can you maintain the romantic mystique of the cartoonist if Uncle Ernie has gone from telling funny stories at the family get-togethers to drawing primitively-illustrated funny stories to share with the family (and the whole world if they happen by) on the Web? The barriers to putting something in print, even if you did an end-run around editors by self-publishing, were formidable enough to keep the rabble in their place. Now anyone can call themselves a cartoonist, just because they create cartoons. The nerve of those me-toos and wannabes!

But me, I think folk-art is a good thing. I'm proud of people who create it, even if they suck at it. I cheer when I see another lame-ass Megaman sprite comic (it's a very small cheer, but it's a cheer), because here's someone who is doing something for themselves. Instead of just playing Megaman, or watching TV, they're sitting there trying to put words to pictures, and even if they end up not amusing anybody but themselves, so what? How many garage bands are worth listening to? How many amateur landscape watercolorists paint something you could actually stand to hang in your home? I think art is too important to leave to artists; it's a basic part of human experience, and the more humans who experience it from the creator's side, the better. And if "webcomics" is a safehouse for them to do so, then webcomics is a wonderful thing.

Comment from: joeymanley [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 3, 2006 11:03 PM

"I'm sure Joey Manley will make some sort of comment, but it will be mostly ignored and possibly irrelevant."

Hee hee! I got no dogs in this fight!

Joey
www.webcomicsnation.com

Comment from: gwalla [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 3, 2006 11:52 PM

Shaenon wrote:

It's mostly just me and William G.
Didn't Janis Joplin sing that?

Otherwise staying out of this, since I have some beer in me and am likely to get a mite sweary towards certain parties.

Comment from: kirabug [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 4, 2006 12:19 AM

Wow. And here I thought the most exciting thing this week was that my friends adopted a kid.

The only thing I wonder is whether any of this would be a big deal if a) it wasn't T Campbell, and b) it didn't say "history" in it.

Then I look at Webcomics and realize that no, if it was labeled a "tool" book and it wasn't someone firmly entrenched in the community (or at least, this branch of the community) nobody'd probably say anything one way or the other.

Or, put another way, I'm trying to figure out how Webcomics got written without generating drama.

Comment from: Ray Radlein [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 4, 2006 1:02 AM

The thing I've been trying to figure out is how T Campbell, of all people, wound up in this mess.

I mean, geez, I've been following The Drama for years now, and, in all that time, I don't think I've ever heard anyone say anything bad about him. He's never called anyone out or flamed them, and I don't remember anyone being nasty to him either. People who have worked with him mostly seem eager to do so again; I haven't read any dark grumblings or veiled imputations. There have been people who haven't liked various projects of his, of course, but I've never seen anyone accuse him of any kind of bad faith or gross incompetence.

Maybe, unlike every other web cartoonist in the world, all of his incoming flames are in e-mail, rather than public forums; but barring that unlikely possibility, he had to have been caught completely off-guard by the shitstorm that hit him this week.

Comment from: Kristofer Straub [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 4, 2006 2:26 AM

Instead of just playing Megaman, or watching TV, they're sitting there trying to put words to pictures, and even if they end up not amusing anybody but themselves, so what?

Joshua Macy, you misunderstand me. I didn't mean that there is no value in sprite comics, in amateur efforts, in hobbyism, in telling a story for yourself. That is fine. That's the great thing about the internet. You can make your story visible.

Whether or not your poorly-rendered furry-yaoi-on-lined-paper story on Geocities has value beyond "it's great that you got to draw something you wanted to" is seriously debatable. That's the me-too-ism I'm referring to; the type of person who explains that it's not an inability, it's not a lack of experience or practice, it's just an affectation or a style. And that every comic is just dripping with analyses and symbolisms waiting to be unearthed by experts, chock-full of innate value because someone spent time making it.

Art is important across the board. Individual pieces in a movement, however, may not be as important as the groundbreakers.

What I'd like to see arise in webcomics discourse is the discussion of self-indictment of discourse itself; how webcomics should or shouldn't be considered separate from independent comics; the underlying impetus for analysis, whether the methods are sound or flawed. What I think we have too much of is figuring out influence and nuance in a given storyarc of Sluggy Freelance.

Anyone can dissect symbolism. Let's discuss why this discourse has arisen, and whether or not it's valid or assistive to whatever the function of webcomics is.

Comment from: miyaa [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 4, 2006 3:06 AM

Kristofer: Websnark is mainly about crtiquing of webcomics, which is a very Englishy-academic kind of thing to do. Asking us to not to overthink a particular aspect of a storyline from Narbonic is like buying wines and bottles because of the beautiful bottles they come in. (Sadly, I'm guilty of this.)

There's a show run on the Kansas City Public Television Station (locally produced there) about three guys going around the country looking at all of the weird and kitschy folk-art you can find. I've even taken a class about folklore and folk-art, and the series was a main part of the circuriulum. A lot of the folk art on there just looks bad and I found it repulsive to me. And yet, because some guy was able to take recycled cans and turn it into an homage to the buckfullminster dome home, it's folk-art.

I guess I'm saying that a lot of the webcomics I've seen would be qualified as folk-art because the quality isn't as good as some that I've seen professional illustrators and artists make. And in a lot of cases, many of the webcomics are developmental grounds for those wanting to be professional graphic designers. So they're good, but not quite at the level of "art."

I'm not saying folk-art aren't worthy of discussion, merit, or critical analysis, as we did this all of the time in the folklore class I took. But the manner of discussion is different and folk-art and traditional art are two different classes. I don't think webcomics are to be defined as "art" yet. Where that line is, I'm not sure.

Comment from: Eric Burns [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 4, 2006 11:02 AM

What I'd like to see arise in webcomics discourse is the discussion of self-indictment of discourse itself; how webcomics should or shouldn't be considered separate from independent comics; the underlying impetus for analysis, whether the methods are sound or flawed.

That's an utterly worthy discussion to have. Count me in.

What I think we have too much of is figuring out influence and nuance in a given storyarc of Sluggy Freelance.

This, on the other hand, I disagree with. You see, there's a range of critical discussion -- there's the big picture, which could be seen as discussing webcomics, or independent comics, or comics in general, or sequential art in general, or illustration in general, right up the line... but there is also value in the individual interpretation of work.

Websnark has a lot more microcosm than macrocosm, because among other things that interests us more. Holy crap, look at what got done here draws me in a lot more than... well, criticial theory, which is what we're discussing in the macrocosm.

That doesn't mean the discussion isn't worthy, mind.

Comment from: Kristofer Straub [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 4, 2006 6:45 PM

"That doesn't mean the discussion isn't worthy, mind."

Sure, but I kind of see it as the Little Leagues of discourse. Let's discuss Goats' Diablo as relates to Count Ugolino from Dante's Inferno. I'm sure I could trot out some parallels and even defend a hypothesis that the archbishop-brain-eating Count was an influence on Rosenberg's character.

I've said it before -- this is the kind of crap that was in Modern Humor Authority. And if the layperson can't tell the difference between that garbage and something intended seriously, then those essays aren't helping webcomics. That is a discourse in crisis. That is a discourse without a point. It uses approximations of tools of legit analysis, has a lot of big words and metaphors, and doesn't say anything of value.

And it certainly is not making webcomics more visible/accessible to the public, despite whatever self-legitimizing propaganda the lesser critics have tarted up for themselves.

Comment from: Kristofer Straub [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 4, 2006 6:49 PM

Let me clarify one more thing -- there IS a value in the microcosm. And you go right on ahead doing it. I have just sensed this movement that somehow the reviews are as important, if not moreso, than the works themselves. If this Examiner-style stuff is to remain, then it needs to sit down and stop bleating that, in the end, it'll be a history of webcomics or a critical essay that makes the mainstream pay attention to webcomics.

See, it'll be the webcomics.

Comment from: Wednesday White [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 4, 2006 7:29 PM

I have just sensed this movement that somehow the reviews are as important, if not moreso, than the works themselves.

If there are people who think that, well, to some extent they've already earned their reward. And you're right that it'll be the webcomics themselves which get the mainstream's attention, at least initially (although I don't think we should discount the value of blog-as-pointer; the best of these essays supplements the whole viral thing.)

The notion that the push towards microcosmic discourse puts itself ahead of the subject matter is alien to me, though; I genuinely can't conceive of anyone thinking that way. (On the other hand, I can certainly conceive of individuals seeing themselves as the salvation of webcomics. On the other other hand, that motive gets misattributed to an awful lot of people. If anything, I think a lot of writers just want their stuff to be valued and recognized in and of itself, and that's not unreasonable, no matter what they're doing. The issue then becomes one of tactics.)

I'm glad you see the value in the microcosm, and that you say so -- there's a decided lack of that concession in some of these arguments, and that's frustrating.

I'd really just rather shut up and go back to the writing instead of talking or reading about it so very much, because the meta-meta is draining and counterproductive. (The frustrating thing about the need to process information is the sin of talking about it.) If there's no place for any given piece of ongoing work, it'll go away as and when it needs to go away, and, in the meantime, it will serve the audience that it can serve as best it can. I just wish it wasn't so goddamned hard to get out of the little molasses trap here and go mind our own houses.

(I don't think that's what you're doing, Kris; there's just... pit of frustration here.)

Comment from: Kristofer Straub [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 4, 2006 8:21 PM

Leaving the molasses trap and minding one's own house is part of my being down on webcomics, and up on independent comics. I got very frustrated thinking "man, Clickwheel could be so much more, and these guys are all braying and shouting in the name of webcomics. How can I fix webcomics?" I can't; no one person can. All they can do is make the best work possible for them.

In the end, the good work will be remembered and rise to the top, and all the half-assed grandstanding will fade away. Maybe I am in the former, maybe the latter. But I am finally ready to enter into that frame of mind, and not worry about what everyone else is doing anymore.

You guys is respectable. I just worry that if not framed or aimed properly, the microcosm stuff is easily confused for mindless pattern-match blathering.

Comment from: Snowspinner [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 4, 2006 10:22 PM

I'll go with totally blunt here.

The purpose of the Examiner is to make initial stabs and development before the academy comes in with a real focus on webcomics.

And rest assured, we will come in with a real focus on webcomics. And when we do, we are going to shit all over the field if there aren't well-written and halfway decent guideposts. We are going to fuck it up beyond your wildest dreams.

Except that the Examiner will, just like Eisner and McCloud did for print comics, keep us from fucking up quite so badly. And, I mean, we're going to disagree with and disregard the Examiner. We will spend years going to conferences and muttering in the back row "Oh God, another Examiner citation, can nobody come up with a good text to use?" And we'll continually bitch about how nobody has written the Very Important replacement for the Examiner that we know needs to be written. But the Examiner is going to keep us a lot more on track than we would be if it didn't exist.

Comment from: Eric Burns [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 4, 2006 10:28 PM

Snow -- are you at the University of Florida? That program was recently pointed out to me, after my somewhat embarrassing drunken... thingy.

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 4, 2006 10:38 PM

The University of Florida, Gracie?

Comment from: Ray Radlein [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 5, 2006 2:37 AM

The University of Florida, Gracie?

I hear they're endeavoring to have the type of University a football team can be proud of down there in Gainesville.

Comment from: miyaa [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 5, 2006 3:01 AM

English Nitpick: "You guys are respectable." Not is. Unless this is some kind of websnark mafia. In that case, when do I kiss Wednesday's ring?

Maybe it's just me, but in my opinion what makes more medium respectable is an awards show that suppose to highlight the very best in a medium. For movies it's the Oscars (well, it's kind of hard to tell this year), for literary books, it's a Pulitizer. (Higher than even Nobel Prize for Lit, which sounds like a Jeopardy! catagory.), and the rest of the Nobel Prizes for true serious sciences and philanthropy (with a pony of politics). Other lesser sciences have their award shows, but there's not one set of awards that stands out that everyone would want to have.

I know there are webcomic awards. But, as of yet, there isn't one that stands out that artists strive to get. What webcomics need is a sort of a Newberry Award medal-ish kind of award. That I think will start to get people thinking into making more serious reviews and dashing more of this drama to the wayside.

Comment from: Kristofer Straub [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 5, 2006 3:47 AM

"English Nitpick: 'You guys are respectable.' Not is."

Yeah, I was being cute. I will refrain in the future.

Comment from: Eric the .5b [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 5, 2006 4:15 AM

I wish I could hand everyone who says this copies of about a half-dozen lesbian BDSM essay anthologies. There is nothing like reading twenty-year-old rants about feminist conferences (for example)

<Puerile_Joke> Damn, feminist writers can ruin anything! </Puerile_Joke>

Comment from: Doublemint [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 5, 2006 7:33 PM

I know there are webcomic awards. But, as of yet, there isn't one that stands out that artists strive to get. What webcomics need is a sort of a Newberry Award medal-ish kind of award. That I think will start to get people thinking into making more serious reviews and dashing more of this drama to the wayside.

It's an interesting idea, but there are two problems with it.

The first is simply who gets to award the award. You need to strike a balance between populism and professionalism. The WCAs have always had the strike against them that the most popular comics win consecutively over the years (PA, MegaTokyo, ect.). A valid argument can be made that all the winners really are the best in their field, but ultimately the conversation will boil down to flame war between unsigned commentators spouting l33t. Having an arbitrary group of people decide the winners runs into the common complaints one finds with the Examiner.

One solution could be to form a voting guild, consisting of previous winners. As the years go by, more and more cartoonists would become part of it. Who better to judge their own field? Naturally, a voter would have to be forbidden from voting for himself. Starting the initial guild would be difficult. Members might be chosen by popular vote, by drawing from the something like the WCAs, or by a mix of the two.

A second problem would be one of time. Webcartoonists are people with lives of their own and can't be expected to keep up with every comic, so as a way to make things easier for them and more involving for the general public the nominees could be selected democratically. The voting guild would then go over the list of nominees and pick the final winner.

But that's just one idea.

Comment from: Darrin_Bright [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 6, 2006 9:37 AM

> One solution could be to form a voting guild, consisting of previous winners.

Ugh. Then you have the mess that is the Origins Awards every year. They've been struggling with the whole popular vote/member vote thing for decades, and every year it's a spoogefest of aggro drama. Given how "prickly" some members of the webcomics community are already... I'd say you could pretty much pencil this in as an F-5 poo-flinger on the annual calendar.

Comment from: gwalla [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 7, 2006 2:52 AM

Kris: Not to pile on here, but I really haven't seen this putting-criticism-before-the-topic thing you see.

Also, I can't think of any medium where academic criticism* makes things more visible to the public. This sort of stuff is for the enthusiasts, insiders, and academics. The general public couldn't give less of a shit about analysis.

*As opposed to reviews, but unless I totally misread you that's not what you're complaining about.

Comment from: KingAndy [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 9, 2006 5:10 AM

Where is Kurtz' character on the cover? I don't ...

... that's supposed to be Jade? Crimony.

Comment from: T Campbell [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 24, 2006 8:50 PM

It's supposed to be Polly Esther, actually. You can look her up. :-)

It's okay, Scott Kurtz made the same mistake.

I made it a point to stay out of this one and listen and watch. (The fact that my computers are allergic to Typekey helped there.) That was probably for the best. The only thing I really feel like answering is Kurtz's charge that the book's about making my name and therefore not about being a good history. And I can do that in one:

I don't see how doing a bad job would make me a good name.

It seems like enlightened self-interest, if nothing else, would force me to do the best I can.

But when a man calls me a liar in public, I give up on trying to make him understand.

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