How to deal with critics

A scene from the movie "Chasing Amy": two comic book artists and lifelong friends have to deal with an annoying visitor.

A scene from the movie “Chasing Amy”: two comic book artists and lifelong friends have to deal with an annoying visitor.

Negative judgement is the bogieman for every comic author. Sooner or later, you can expect it to come and make you scratch your head trying to give sense to it. This article will help you in the process of estracting useful suggestions from negative and nonsense feedbacks.

Finding the truth

Even the worst or naive opinion hides a truth you can learn from. Don’t throw bad critics away. Try to analyze them and find something useful for you to improve. Your audience will notice it in the long run and reward your listening attitude with fidelity and passion.

You’re no good enough

Hell, no. You’re never “good enough”: you must improve all along your carreer. The sooner you learn to live with this fact, the better. You can’t become a great writer-penciler-inker-colorist-editor without practicing for years in each aspect. If you receive a lot of negative feedback or no feedback at all, you probably dived in too early: again, improving is the answer.
If you usually get positive feedbacks, a few negative ones shouldn’t pull you down, no matter how bad they are. When somebody points out a lack in your work, just admit you’re aware of your limits and determined to overcome them. Being humble, admitting your limits and working hard to get rid of them is the best way to answer this kind of critic.

bad-artist-criticCritics that try to pull you all down and stop making comics are usually exaggerate. If you’re a decently experienced artist with some resume on your side, it’s pretty impossible that you’re doing everything that bad. Usually, persons claiming you’re doing all wrong (story, characters, pencils, colors, website, etc) appear when you’ve been publishing for a while. You’ll probably find out they’re very joung and ignorant about how the comic industry works, or wannabes refused by publishers, with reasons to hold anger and spit all their envy and frustration out against whoever “did it”.
As a one-man-publisher you’ll have areas of expertise amongst areas you still have to improve a lot. So you should be able to distinguish which aspects are rather ok -despite burning critics- and those you didn’t improve to that same level yet.

Why don’t you…

You’ll receive a lot of suggestions… and you’ll be expected to follow them! Some will be great and useful hints. But for the most part you’ll hear a lot of unapplicable, unfitting ideas or masterplans you’re already trying to realize.

Naive or unapplicable hints

They usually come from fans and readers full of entusiasm. Unfortunately, they don’t know the industry from behind the scenes and don’t face your everyday obstacles as an indie comic book author. They just think that, since you’re publishing your own comic book, you’re a Steve Jobs’ padawan who can do everything.
Explain with simple words how you’d like to implement their suggestion and why you can’t do it without getting rid of some obstacles first. They’ll love the insight and forgive you in their hearts for being less jedi than they thought.

Hints and critics from experts

Not all critics from the masters are good...

Not all critics from the masters are good…

Now, these are dangerous!
Long time experts may critic your work with the best intentions and actually give useful hints. But you shouldn’t follow their advice only because it comes from the masters. They sure know their area of expertise, but they don’t know your business details at all. Applying their hints without deep analysis may definitely turn out in a big damage for your comic book.

Example: I once met an experienced comic teacher who criticized my page layout. I agreed she was right, so I used a lot of inclined panels in the next comic book. Guess what? When I later had to “cut” all those inclined panels and fit them into rectangular frames for the digital edition, it was a real pain, big waste of time and a tricky fight against undesired results!
That teacher gave me a valid hint, but she didn’t consider the issues when processing digital comics: she was totally paper-oriented and wasn’t aware of them in the first place, neighter knew my plans about going digital.

Such troubles may happen, because even experts have limits. While being the most useful source of hints ever, they can’t possibly know everything of each aspect of making your comic.

No matter the source or nature of an hint or critic: it’s up to you to analyze, verify and test each of them carefully according to your own business and situation.

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Francesca Urbinati Artist

Francesca Urbinati

Sono illustratrice e fumettista freelance. Ho lavorato su effetti speciali 3D, graphic design e multimedia per RAI, Mediaset, Adobe, ArtOrder LLC, Studio Hamburg, MoveTheGame e molti altri. Pubblico la serie a fumetti Niki Batsprite e aiuto altri artisti e autori a emergere.
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