The Comics Get Serious FAQ
Here are answers to some questions I'm commonly asked:
What qualifies you to be a reviewer?
The same thing that qualifies anyone else: having opinions. Of course, having read 700+ graphic novels with intent to critique, as well as a near-infinite number of comics and regular books, probably makes me more qualified than Joe-off-the-street to put down my opinions. I was also a "professional" reviewer of reference books for some years
Will you review my book?
The short answer is yes. Here are some review criteria; please take a look at them for exceptions to this "yes."
Will you review my comics?
No, I won't review single or multiple issues of comics unless they have been bound into a single book. My reasoning:
Why don't you like superheroes?
Let me clarify: I don't automatically hate superheroes. In fact, I believe the genre has more potential than anyone gives it credit for. (Check out my story to see what I mean by this. Go on, it's fun!) Stuff like Planetary justifies my optimism. However, I find standard superhero stuff (3-S) as expressed by Marvel, DC, Image, etc. to be very dull. I've seen these plots, powers, and characters a thousand times, and fight scenes are always the same. Most superhero writers are weak stylists, and for all their vaunted continuity, superhero comics blithely break their own rules when the stories can't be told any other way. Need I go on? Besides, these books have presold audiences, so my opinions don't mean diddly.
So then, why do you review any superhero books?
Because, quite frankly, they're easy and quick reviews. Unlike with more serious or plot-oriented books, I don't have to give more than a cursory plot summary, and there's usually nothing much to say about them. Good filler!
What are your favorite genres?
Within GNs, I'm not sure I have one--I'll gladly read stuff in genres I wouldn't touch in text-only books, like Westerns or crime fiction. In text-only books it would have to be SF/fantasy, with nonfiction (science, history, Broadway-related stuff, etc.) a close second, and historical fiction third.
What are your least favorite genres?
Romance, religion, "modern" and "postmodern" fiction.
How many graphic novels have you actually read?
I'm not sure. Well over a thousand, though.
What do you think are the greatest graphic novels ever?
I've never sat down and gone over everything I've read to create a "top ten" list. Someday I might.
What are the worst graphic novels you've ever read?
See above. Some titles come to mind, but I'd have to review everything to create the list.
Who are the greatest GN creators?
Once I figure out what constitutes "greatness," I'll let you know. Will Eisner would certainly appear on the list, though.
Hey, I wrote you an email criticizing your review of title X, and you never responded. Why?
Either A) it was a flame (I don't reply to flames--I send them to friends and we have a laugh at the flamer's expense) or B) I'm simply not interested in justifying my opinions in that particular review. If one of my reviews riles you up because I did a clog dance on your favorite book, well, you'll survive being riled up. If you're so mad that you just have to voice your opinions, don't waste your time writing to me--go start your own review website instead. Graphic novels need more discussion anyway!
Do you know anyone in the comics biz?
Not really. I have friendly email correspondence with a few creators and publishers, but I can't claim that I'm actually friends with them. I used to be related to a writer by marriage (which was how I got into comics in the first place), but my cousin divorced him long ago, and I never actually met him anyway. Which is probably good, since I thought his work really sucked.
How do you fit into the comics community?
I don't, really--I'm very much an outsider. I don't belong with the creators (though I'd like to someday), the fans, the reviewers (I'm dissimilar to the vast majority of reviewers in many ways), the scholars, or even the librarians, for all that I focus a lot on their needs. If I'm anything, I'm a freelance graphic novel evangelist. (Oh, that word.)
I have this great idea for a comic. Can you tell me how to present it/where to send it?
Nope, sorry--that's outside my sphere of competence. Ask on one of the comics boards or on alt.comics or something like that.
How can you give a fair review of books to which you're philosophically opposed?
By focusing on the presentation of the material rather than the content. It's not always easy, however, and I freely admit there are certain titles that I'll have a real tough time reviewing, like the graphic novel adaptations of the various Left Behind books. I will, at least, let the reader know when the material really bugs me.
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