Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

June 5, 2014

Not Comics: On Criticism As A Revenue Source

imageI enjoyed reading this Sam Adams piece on this Dustin Rowles article about the clash between criticism and the traffic-generating needs of online media. I'm not sure I agree with either piece as much as I enjoy attending each one as if it were a cocktail party with a lot of interesting ideas floating around in the air, but I did read all the way through both of them.

One thing that critics rarely admit is that a major reason they're read has nothing to do with the process of criticism. They're read as an extension of the artistic experience. It's always been like this. I didn't think of Sneak Previews as a way to access the critical minds of Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert; I was a kid film fan that wanted to see trailers and movie previews. Similarly I read Pauline Kael's review of Blade Runner in The New Yorker to get more Blade Runner, not to spend time with Kael. And so it goes. If there had been a media entity in the mid-1980s designed to give me plot-point by plot-point recaps of issues of Love And Rockets and American Flagg! in the manner of the modern TV show day-after article, would I have ever read The Comics Journal? Probably, just later on and without as much initial enthusiasm. That doesn't mean I don't think criticism has value, it certainly does. At this point in my life I read Bob Levin for Bob Levin -- and Kael for Kael! But that's not the way everyone does it. I think it's worth reconsidering what we believe the specific value of criticism to be in the context of the media we have, and maybe not as we think it should be... or fool ourselves into thinking it was.
posted 8:15 am PST | Permalink

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