No One Is Above The Law

There's been a recent breed of domestic terrorism on the rise in this country. A group of extremists known as “Sovereign Citizens,” believe that their rights derive from themselves rather than the government, arguing that they exempt from any to all state and federal law. Their activities range from flooding government offices with pages of pseudolegal gibberish to fraud to outright violence. These sovereign citizens have even infiltrated the webcomic community. When these particular extremists are exposed to reviews that disagree with their own opinions of a webcomic, they will flood comment sections and forums with poorly reasoned arguments out of the belief that their work should be exempt from criticism. The following are some of the excuses used by these domestic terrorists and why they aren't legally valid. However, keep in mind that these people are prone to aggression, so report any offenders to the Webcomic Police for further monitoring and detainment.

That's just like, your opinion man.
It's true that reviews are subjective in nature and by no means definitive, when people bring attention to subjective opinions it's not just to point this out. It's to say that everything in the review is to be disregarded because the reviewer wasn't being “objective,” as if a review could even be such a thing (also, notice how this particular canard is never used when someone praises the comic). While reviews are based on opinion, those opinions are usually grounded in widely accepted literary and artistic theory. If a reviewer points out that a comic has multiple errors in anatomy and concludes that the art is bad, saying “It's just your opinion,” won't change that. Instead, countering that the cited examples don't break the rules, or that it was intentional would at least be dealing with the matter at hand. Speaking of which...

It's my style!
This one is fairly common whenever art errors show up. Yelling “I meant to do that,” right after making a mistake. That's not to say that exaggerations can't be considered an art style. But for this defense to work, the exaggeration needs to be clearly and consistently done, not a fluke that happens once or twice. Further, there usually is some sort of intention or conscious choice to exaggerate certain features or break certain artistic theories. And no, “Because I'm lazy,” or “Because I'm bad at it,” aren't actual reasons. We're looking at you, Tom Preston.

Don't like, don't read
Like the other two excuses, this has a very (narrow) justified use. If a webcomic is clearly intended to be drawn in a certain artstyle (e.g. manga, furry, etc.) or is marketed in a certain genre (e.g. romance, horror, etc.) and someone complains about it for being a manga comic or being a romance comic, then that's their fault for not reading the banner. In any other scenario, the argument falls apart because it assumes that the reader went in knowing what to expect or they hate it just because they don't love it. Maybe they love the comic, but don't like how certain tropes or plots were handled. Maybe their a fan of the art or genre, but found that they didn't like this particular comic. Not everyone will love everything, but berating them will only further turn that reader off, as well as chase away anyone on the fence, leading to a community echo chamber.

Those who can't, criticize
This argument is a spinoff from the George Bernard Shaw play Man and Superman: “Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach.” It makes for a good quip, though considering that teachers not only have to understand math, reading, and writing, but understand them so well that they can teach young children who have no grasp of the concepts, the statement isn't that clever. The common response is the equally snide “You don't have to be a chef to know when food is burned,” though trading quips isn't exactly constructive. When this argument comes up, the person making this point will either demand evidence that the reviewer has a comic (if they don't, their argument is considered invalid) or expect that the comic be better than theirs (because if it isn't, then their argument is considered invalid). Not only is this an ad hominem attack that doesn't actually address any of the reviewer's points, but on closer inspection, has a tone of elitism. Anyone who has anything to say about the comic isn't allowed to say anything about it because they don't have any actual experience or training making a comic, and only a well-respected professional is allowed to tell anyone if anything is good or not. That's what it's saying in theory. In practice, this argument is never lobbed at anyone who has nothing negative to say about it, and if some high esteemed professional actually did come down from the heavens to criticize another person's work, the fans will just lash out at them with poorly thought-out arguments, like when Stephen King said that Stephanie Meyer “couldn't write worth a damn.”

But it's free content!
This one is actually a little more salient than the other excuses. In fact, Nostalgia Critic was tempted to use the excuse in response to the negative feedback on his Let's Play of Bart's Nightmare and Linkara swore that he would never review a webcomic on his show because majority of webcomics are intended as hobbies and he is “not going to make fun of someone who does something out of their own enjoyment” (also, he has a webcomic, but that's another column). And honestly, it was a nagging doubt I was having on doing unsolicited reviews. Webcomics don't cost money to read, so unlike consumer reviews, there's no need to inform anyone whether or not to read it. And complaining about bad webcomics usually ends up driving up the author's web traffic. However, even if they don't have advertising on the page or a store selling books and merchandise, webcomics do have a cost. They cost time.

They cost time for the author to write, draw, and color. They cost readers time to read through the archive if they think they might be interested. They cost time to integrate into a reader's schedule of comics that they check when they aren't at school or work. And anyone who has any respect for the medium or the fans of the medium should respect the time that's exchanged in return for the production and consumption of the finished product. Providing points of improvement for webcomic authors, even other authors who want to learn from the successes or failures of others. Exposing readers to new webcomics worth their time so they don't have to waste it sifting through the millions of webcomics floating around the internet. Making readers and authors think more critically about their choices instead of spinning their wheels on something they just do out of force of habit.

That's why we're here. We have control. We keep you safe. We are your hope.


  1. I am curious to know the difference between bad anatomy and 'style.' I love George Kamitani's outrageous drawing style, but some people don't like it because it can be kind of disproportional. Amazon's head is smaller than her thighs and Gwendolyn's head is bigger than her waist, but I love it because it's meant to be ridiculous, I think.

    Can we cry "this anatomy sucks!" if it's supposed to look like that? Personally I took my style after him and started drawing girls with toothpick waists and huge hips just because I adore the style. Does it mean it's bad anatomy? I really don't know.

    1. It's kind of a judgement call. For me, it comes down to three things: 1. Is the change consistent? 2. Is the change covering up some sort of mistake or to cut corners (and looks worse)? and 3. Is the artist capable of doing it differently? Like, there's a difference between George Kamitani's work and the guy who drew Darren and Jason.

      Kamitani's characters appear to be consistently drawn the same way, the change doesn't look like it's covering up a mistake, and the other characters in Dragon's Crown have slightly different body types, so you probably could say that you don't like the choice of anatomical changes or the style, but it's definitely a style.

      Ben Pitman's comic consistently draws his furry characters the same way, but the head size changes out of proportion with the body if it's anything but a side profile. The characters stand ramrod straight at a waist-up medium shots because it's easier to do than composing shots and drawing a scene. Finally, all his characters have the same body type and face shapes despite being different animals. I haven't seen Pitman justify his choices as a style, but if he did, I would call him on it.

    2. And to add a pedantic additional inclusion, I'd say #2 includes covering up ignorance. (Unless that's what you meant by mistake in the first place). It's when you get the feeling someone draws something a certain way only because that's the only way they can draw it (or avoid drawing it).