The Temptation of Slanting Comic Coverage

Kevin Huxford demonstrates what happens when a comic “journalism” site puts the desire of its reviews editor to break into writing comics over presenting honest opinions on a big superhero publisher’s flagship event book.

I had my review [of the last issue of Blackest Night] in hours before the article would run… yet my review was nowhere to be found in the article. Come to find out later that a fellow contributor had their review dropped, too. We happened to be the only two voices in the crowd that had written negative reviews about the finale. At the time, [the article compiler] was actively pitching comic book work. I know for a fact that one of the publishers he was pitching to was DC.

Too many writers about comics are doing it just to get noticed and attempt to transition into writing for the publishers they’re covering. That’s an inherent conflict of interest that many rationalize as not a problem, when it’s clear to readers that it colors their coverage choices. (To be fair, Huxford mentions others later in the article who would run negative reviews.) Huxford sounds quite jaded about the whole thing, a mindset it’s difficult not to fall into.

I swear I’d wish I never wound up on the “professional” coverage side of the divide. Once you’ve seen behind the curtain, it all starts to lose its magic. And once you see how the sausage is made, it starts to turn your stomach.

I’m struggling with that myself. I need to recapture the light-heartedness of writing about whatever I want instead of being tempted to run articles for hits. Once you’re running a business, it’s difficult to keep the fun in it.

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4 Responses to “The Temptation of Slanting Comic Coverage”

  1. Kevin Huxford Says:

    Thanks for the link and sharing your feelings on the topic, Johanna. Minor point, though: it was a site-level editor that dropped the review, filling in for the actual review editor.

    And I hope to recapture that joy, too. Sometimes it feels like fully disconnecting myself from the comics internet (as even a reader) would be required to do it, though.

  2. Thad Says:

    Reminds me of a story from a few years back about a reviewer getting fired from Gamespot for giving a negative review to a game that the site was advertising heavily (there’s a Penny Arcade about it at http://penny-arcade.com/comic/2007/11/30 — standard Penny Arcade language warning).

    While getting a review pulled by someone who wants to interview for a job is less insidious than firing people under advertiser pressure, I think both are probably symptomatic of media that are taken less seriously than film or TV — it’s not that there aren’t plenty of examples of ridiculous, fawning reviews in those media, but most papers I can think of wouldn’t dream of refusing to print a bad review.

    Course, maybe that’ll change as their circulation declines and they become increasingly desperate.

  3. David Oakes Says:

    Aren’t you just creating the comics shop, I mean site, that you want by your choices?

  4. Johanna Says:

    Thad, I think today’s younger writers don’t understand the benefit of clearly defined rules and walls — I’ve run into an amount of “well, *I* and my readers know I’m ethical” that seems to boil it all down to individual choice. Without editors, too, those expectations can be hard to enforce and promote.

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