Criticism and the Internet, or How I Stopped Worrying and Hate the Hugbox

Recently, a cartoonist named Donna Barstow decided to go after Something Awful, a website known for mocking and criticizing just about everything, for supposedly stealing her artwork for their own mockery. Since the topic of accepting criticism has been on my mind for a long time now, plus since I’m also a cartoonist, I have to offer my own take on this whole situation.

I do not condone the death, rape, and violence threats made against Barstow after she went after SA. In fact, I think those are pretty terrible, and no matter how much you hate someone’s stuff or their guts, you should NEVER make those kinds of threats, especially online. However, I do not agree with Barstow’s political content, and her drawing is so awful, it looks like scribbles that my first grade self would have done. So, it’s no secret that I think that she is a terrible cartoonist. Her work deserves as much criticism as anyone else’s simply because she gets paid for what she does, and on top of that, was published in many national publications such as Slate and the New Yorker.

However, I would have a smidgen of respect for her if she took the criticism with a grain of salt and continued to improve, maybe even taking some of that criticism to heart. Alas, she decided to claim that sites like SA were stealing her artwork, and only listens to people who agree with everything she has to say, as can be shown in the comments of the Daily Cartoonist article I linked above. I’ve seen this sort of attitude on the internet before, and it drives me up the wall. There’s a big difference between defending your work and blindly calling anyone who may not like your stuff a troll and outright dismissing everything the critics have to say.

Putting things in a more personal perspective, as a cartoonist myself, I’ve gotten a lot of critiques on my own work. Some of them have been less than flattering, but I am willing to admit that not everything I do is going to be perfect. I am not the best cartoonist in the world, not by a long shot, but I try my best to improve as years go on, and although I’ve never posted nor even been mentioned on a site like Something Awful, I’m glad sites like that exist to help put us creative types in perspective, and to help us improve by getting an idea on what the audience thinks of our work.

Not only that, but Something Awful users put up their own works on there for critique from their fellow goons. The impression I’ve gotten from the site is that they are critical, but they are fair, and if you take the criticism without taking it as an attack on you personally, they will usually leave you alone. However, if you are a belligerent jerk and actively push their buttons, they will ruthlessly mock you, and that’s what has happened here.

I can understand the need to defend your work to the point of wanting to sue somebody, though. I used to be the same way myself, often writing lengthy replies to emails sent to me about my old college comic “Psych Ward”. However, I would like to think that I grew up a little bit and realized that not everybody is going to like what I do. In fact, if it wasn’t for the criticism that my old comic “Negligence” got, I wouldn’t have bothered taking the characters in a new direction and trying something different with “Drannik & Lizzep”. Instead, I would still be stuck doing a webcomic that I lost almost all interest in, and I would never improve.

I think I’ve posted on this subject long enough, and I’ve said what has needed to be said. I could go on all day, delving into other media as well, but I think this sums up everything pretty well.