Best Online Comics Criticism 2010

I was one of those asked to submit nominees to the Hooded Utilitarian Best Online Comics Criticism list this year.

The idea is something I support — I think criticism is an important and valuable craft, and we need to recognize the good examples in order to encourage others to aim high when they practice it — but the execution of this particular exercise wasn’t what I hoped it would be. Much of that is my fault, since I was always rushed when deadlines came due. It sounds like an easy thing, but there’s a lot of reading and consideration involved.

I was hoping that the participants would have more group discussions about what makes good criticism or what criteria we were using. (At the end, when I had to read everyone’s nominations from all year, I found myself vaguely formulating some rules in my head, the most prominent of which was “Even if I didn’t read or like the work they’re writing about, is the essay good enough to keep me reading?”) Instead, we didn’t interact at all, simply sending in lists to organizer Ng Suat Tong. Also, I’m not sure how much anyone sought out good examples outside their usual circles. I didn’t, instead making notes when something among my usual reading struck me.

OK, enough criticizing the critics. (I can’t help it! It’s an addiction!) As for reactions to the final list, as we’ve been asked to post (and link back to build attention): I voted for all of the six-, five-, and four-vote mentions, as well as Dirk Deppey’s excellent piece. Other authors I wanted to recognize but didn’t make the list were

As Melinda Beasi reminded me (in her piece about her participation), I got involved this year because last year I complained about the lack of both women writers being recognized and manga coverage. That’s certainly changed this year, although I’m not sure the organizer is all that happy about it. (Compare, for example, Tong’s comments regarding Katherine Dacey to those on Joe McCulloch, who both tied for second.)

Tong also commented on the runners-up yesterday, ending that post with the comment that he wanted to see more negative criticism on the list. Personally, I think negative is too easy. I wanted to see good essays that strove to write positively, because it’s much harder to praise than to tear down. And Tong is just wrong to say, “most readers and comics critics actually prefer critical writing which is positive in nature.” Not if you look at hit counts and what gets talked about.

Anyway, I strongly encourage you to read Melinda’s piece, because she gives a much better overview, and the case she makes for the Twitter-fest coverage of AX as a nominee is the first time I’ve been convinced such a crowd-sourced event qualifies.

I welcome your comments here about what you think was the best criticism (or to make it easier, the best critic) of last year, if you care to play as well. And forgive me for not being more positive — I did appreciate the opportunity to participate and I’m glad to see the effort being made.

4 Responses to “Best Online Comics Criticism 2010”

  1. Katherine Dacey Says:

    Thanks for the vote of confidence, Johanna!

    I just wanted to second your enthusiasm for Nicole Ruddick’s writing. Her essay on the Russian comics scene was one of my favorites from 2010, as it shined a spotlight on a comic scene that’s gotten very little attention here in the US. She’s also a very elegant, transparent prose stylist. Let’s hope we see more of her stuff at Comics Comics.

  2. Melinda Beasi Says:

    and the case she makes for the Twitter-fest coverage of AX as a nominee is the first time I’ve been convinced such a crowd-sourced event qualifies.

    Wow, thanks, Johanna! That makes me feel extremely happy.

  3. David Jones Says:

    Well, at least nobody nominated that Bacardi guy. He’s awful.


  4. Best Online Comics Criticism 2010 | Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources – Covering Comic Book News and Entertainment Says:

    […] to be one of the judges for this year’s round-up. the other judges consisting of Tim Hodler, Johanna Draper Carlson, Melinda Beasi, Derik Badman, Shannon Garrity and Bill Randall. I’ll go through this […]




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