Sunday, March 04, 2007

Reviews Addenda

Another rambling, non-comics post that can be ignored.

In a comment I've decided to not publish, I was asked if I would review a movie and not mention the actors. Well, actors aren't typically creators. I might mention them because they're standing in for the characters in a way, and it helps me and perhaps the reader visualize. But mostly, I discuss the characters. When I "review" movies or tv shows, I typically don't mention the writers, the directors, the producers, or even the actors. I don't mention the set designers or sfx folks. Those are very collaborative media, as is comics, though not to that extent.

Over on Cyber Chocolate, when I comment on the latest episode of Battlestar Galactica, I might mention the latest thing Adama did, but I'm not likely to mention that Edward Olmos plays him. I don't see the point in that because the show is about the characters and I'm discussing my feelings about what I see. Or read.

Some folks might not call that a review. Whatever. I'm not writing reviews professionally. Then again, I don't consider the articles in the New York Review of Books to be reviews, either. More like excuses the pontificate on the subject of the book in question.

And if someone doesn't like how I review comics, all I can say is that there are plenty of other folks reviewing comics out there. Some mention the creative team and some don't. Plenty of choice in this democratic cyberland.

A lot comes down to why a person blogs, I guess. I started this blog because I suspected I was boring folks on Cyber Chocolate by discussing comics and sports. I didn't want to do a sports blog and I knew the folks who read my book blog were not comics fans, and I thought it would be fun to do a comics blog because I was bored and wanted to do a new template. There you have it. This blog exists because of the template! And because I love comics. And wanted a place to discuss Roy Harper's butt. And since I read more comics a month than books, it's easy to fill posts here with quick commentary about what I read, off the top of my head. My goal is to sum up an issue in one sentence if I can, but as you can see from this post alone, brevity isn't my strong suit.

In a way, I'm reviewing a finished product and while giving credit is nice, especially for the creators, it's not what I look for when I read reviews (unless it's to let me know Bruce Jones is the writer so I can avoid the thing at all cost). When I read reviews I want two things: What's it about? Did the reviewer like it? And that's how I review.

To me, as a writer, of fanfic for 15 years (including a few pieces for the Titans APA) and now an aspiring sf writer, the greatest compliment I can get is for people to gush about my characters and never mention me. Because then I'll know my characters have become real to someone other than me. And, having experienced that with an original series of spy stories I write with friends and print myself, I can honestly say there's no greater feeling. For me, anyway.

Which isn't to say any fictional character is more important than real life people. But since this blog is about fictional characters foremost, and I save most of my real world blogging for elsewhere, I see no reason to change my style. Back when I was heavily into fandom, we mostly talked about Napoleon and Illya, not Vaughn and McCallum. Still do, mostly. (Now you youngsters will scurry to Google what I'm talking about! Man from UNCLE, folks.)

And I'm not mentioning the commenter who started all this because I don't sling mud. I see no point in a public squabble. For all anyone knows, there were many snarky comments I didn't publish and no one can be sure whom I mean. Because I'm polite that way.

And for the record, before everyone rushes to comment in support of me (tho much appreciated) or to condemn me, I'm not upset. Not at all. I was puzzled by the tone of the original comment. For someone so quick to point out I hadn't mentioned the creators, she didn't feel the need to fill me in. Which makes me wonder what the point of the comment was. And since writing posts like these are easier for me, as streams of consciousness (thank you, 7th grade English teacher), than reviews, I thought I'd clarify my reviewing style to help folks decide if they want to continue to read them or not. That was the complete extent, reason, and motivation behind the previous post and this one.

The only way to rile me is to try to pigeonhole me or tell me how to do something. That'll get my snark up, but I'll be smiling as I type. ;)


  1. Shelly, I don't think we're squabbling at all. I think this is a really interesting discussion. Thanks for filling me in about how you discuss TV shows and such. Please feel free to mention my name. I hope you got the email I sent, my next column at ComicMix was inspired by this discussion. And that's A Good Thing. It's All Good!!

    Only, don't get me started on fanfic. :) :)

  2. We're not squabbling, Elayne, because I refuse to do that. Which was why I didn't mention who I was referring to and why I didn't argue this in comments, where things usually deteriorate. I've seen it happen too much over the years, on blogs and on message boards.

    I believe I gave my reason for mentioning writers when I review books, but if not, it's because the writer is pretty much the sole creator and it helps identify the book for potential readers who like the review and want to try the book. Too many books can share a title, but I doubt anyone going into a comic book store and asking for the current Manhunter comic would have a problem getting it.

    As for fanfic, I think I'm afraid to ask what you mean. I love fanfic, have been involved with it since 1980, wrote it and published it for 15 years, and even had a fan story written once about my own original characters, which a friend published. It was the greatest compliment.

    Fanfic and other fanac (fannish activities) help maintain the popularity of the original material. But I discuss that on my writing blogs, not here.

  3. For tv shows or movies the only reason I can see to mention the actor by name is because 1)you can't remember the character name or 2)you actually want to discuss the ACTING...

    When discussing the craft it seems best to mention the crafters. When discussing the story its probably better to concentrate on that...

  4. Yeah, pretty much, Lurker. Though I also mention actors if I want to say that, so-and-so looked really hot in this week's episode. heh

    I love art and I draw, but I was a failure in the few art classes I took, which turned me off of art for a while. Seems I can't do art in any way other than for fun. So discussing the craft of art for me is not helpful. Best I can say is if I like it or not. I'm more likely to comment on it if I don't like it.

    And if it occurs to me while reviewing a comic, I might say, Kudos to X, Y, and Z for a fine comic. Which I've done at times. I just didn't think to do it for that post. Forgot the cover image, too, but that was obvious once I published and saw it was missing, and I went back and added it.

  5. I don't know the history of this discussion, and I'm not even a big comics reader, but the topic caught my interest. One of the great (almost) contemporary art critics, maybe it was Bernard Berenson, once said that he imagined an ideal art book that would be all art, without ever mentioning an artist's name. If you can write coherent, illuminating, entertaining comments without mentioning actors or creators, more power to you!

    And the post calls for giving the names, more power to you as well!


    Detectives Beyond Borders
    "Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

  6. I think we may just have to agree to disagree then, Shelly (and Peter), because I think a connection is lost when comics fans don't acknowledge comics creators. I've seen it happen time and again, fans placing fictional constructs above real people, and unfortunately that often translates into how they TREAT real people (i.e., the stereotyped lack of social skills, etc.).

    No WAY would I ever let our comments to each other deteriorate, Shelly - not how I work. Not only do I think we have a lot in common (we're both middle-aged comic book readers who live in NYC -- and hey, I was even married to a librarian once!), but I'm very, very big on ATD (Agree To Disagree) and not only do I like your blog a lot, but I'm a big believer in being all friendly-like and such. Which is another reason I'd really like you to respond to the email I sent you last night so I can let you see my ComicMix column before it's posted this Wednesday. Even though I don't mention you by name, I do quote extensively from your last few comments and I want to make sure I'm not decontextualizing anything you said and ESPECIALLY that you don't take any personal offense at what I wrote! Please email me back! Thanks!

  7. That's all fine and dandy, Elayne, but I don't think this is an agree or disagree issue. I think this is my blog, and I get to post reviews or whatever I want in the way I choose, and folks can read my posts or not. That won't change and therefore, it's not really something that is IMO worthy of discussion.

    If I were interested in discussing the review process, then it would be an agree/disagree situation. But that's not what this is about.

    And one thing that really bugs me, as I said, is someone trying to pigeonhole me.

    "Not only do I think we have a lot in common (we're both middle-aged comic book readers who live in NYC -- and hey, I was even married to a librarian once!)"

    I have no idea what this means. That sounds to me like pigeonholing. One can not assume anything from my age, sex, interest in comics, or where I live as being the basis of anything in common other than those trivial facts of a life. They don't represent who I am or what I think, tho they have been influences. Hell, I don't agree with many people in my own profession, nor of my own family.

    My opinions are my opinions and I state them as relevant to whatever topic. My posting style is my posting style and it will forever remain so, except for any natural evolution. You can agree or disagree with my opinions, but I can't understand how anyone can agree or disagree with a style.

  8. Also, Elayne, I tried to answer you by email, but I can't get onto your profile to find an addy. I never got any email from you, just the comments, and I doublechecked my spam folder. There was no email from you in there, either.

  9. Peter, there isn't much history to the discussion. It started with the first comment by Elayne to my Manhunter review. I wrote the 2 posts about my reviewing process instead of trying to cover this issue in comments, but I guess things are back to the comments, anyway. ;)

    And welcome to Shelly's Comic Book Shelf. As you can see, I post a bit more frequently here than over on Shelly's Book Shelf.

  10. As someone who pours a lot of time into my little blog, I know that a sharp or snarky comment can really feel like a letdown.
    You are being very even handed here. As a librarian, I have had coursework on how to officially review works, and while that helps me, I'm not submitting my thoughts on The Walking Dead or Girls or Y to Library Journal.
    No wonder Absorbascon took a month off.

  11. Exactly, Redlib. If I were to review that way, I'd want payment, in free comics or something. ;)

  12. One of the things I enjoy about writing a blog is the freedom from having to write "reviews." If anything, I'd call what I write little essays or, less grandly, observations. I have the freedom to pick an interesting aspect or two of a book and say something about it. I can even write about a book before I finish it or without finishing it at all.

    Of course, one more closely associates an author's name with a novel than one probably does a comic's creators' names with the comic.
    Detectives Beyond Borders
    "Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

  13. Yes, Peter, exactly. That's the word I was looking for. Commentary doesn't quite fit. Nor does review. Essay is perfect. I write essays of varying scope.

    I tag the posts about actual titles "reviews" just to help organize my essays. Thanks! :)