Answering the Critics
You can't please everyone, which is perfectly fine. However, some have taken the whole idea of their opinions to another level at times. Mostly this is done in E-mails but occasionally you do get a bad comment on a message board. Still at this point I felt it important (just to me) to address some of my most negative critics on my terms. Not only in this semi-public way to expose some of the less than savory comments behind the scenes but also to address some thing that have been said by those who one way or another try to hide their identities by creating internet personas that are never heard from again. I mean it is pretty obvious that someone does this, but still there are some comments these guys have made that deserves something to be said back.
Thanks for such constructive and honest critiquing of my work. Really if you go through all the trouble to create a new E-Mail to hide your true identity in order to say something like that, well who is really lame in this situation.
And just to answer your questions, yes I do get E-Mails like this every now and again. No I am not joking.
Lack of originality
This is one that does come up from those who chose to go further than the first comment. The primary motive some people have ad behind this statement is that I don't use original characters, and really I can't argue I do use original characters. Still, as I say in the legalize part of the website (at the bottom of the archives BTW) all characters are used in a paradic manner. By that I mean they are not 100% the characters of their respective companies but also that everything done in my webcomics is intended as parody.
Parody is borrowing ideas and putting a comedic spin on them. Cracked and MAD magazines have done this for years and never been accused of lack of originality, Saturday Night Live, Robot Chicken, Family Guy, Simpson's and loads of other shows and movies have done the same again without the accusations of lack of originality. Does that mean I am as good as those things I mentioned, eh well I think so but I have a very biased opinion. I will say it all fits into the same category though regardless of "levels of comedy."
Another level of this type of criticism comes simply from the fact I do not draw these comics (by hand or computer). Truth is I have what is often referred to as dysgraphia, a problem with hand and eye co-ordination. The most common manifestation of this is in handwriting and drawing which is the type I have. I cannot draw to save my life. As bad as some people think they are, I am 100 times worse. I have drawn one decent picture in my life and it took me a week of trial and error and to be honest it really wasn't that good anyway. My handwriting is atrocious and really most people are hard pressed to read something I wrote by hand.
I do have a few ideas for some drawn comics, but no artist. I also can visualize quite clearly what I want the pictures to look like, but getting them to page is impossible. So there I am and I really wanted to do something fun so I started using photography to do it. I also love action figures so there is where the cast came from. I am not the greatest photographer either, but I am better at that than drawing at least.
Another criticism of originality, figures themselves. One or two people have said because I don't use customs that I am not trying to be original. Now I will point out that I have read photo comics that use customs almost exclusively and there is one main factor that lead me to not try it myself. A few I have read it is rather hard to discern who is exactly who in the comic. This is not a slight to those individuals but my thoughts are that in order for someone to get a joke ASAP they need to know who the joke is about (at least sometimes). That is much easier if the figure is who it is intended to be right from the start. On the other side I gave up customizing some time ago. I just don't have time for it and I really never enjoyed making characters that have been made but rather original characters. Granted I could have just filled Scale Wars and Toxies universe with custom characters too, but it was so much simpler to have established characters so that I didn't have to explain things like Luke and Leia being Vader's kids. Plus, again, parody.
This one I always scratch my head about since I get very little feedback on what works and what doesn't. The only thing I have gotten is that black background and white lettering doesn't work for them, and that was one person. Personally I like websites with that kind of design so I kept going with it. The only other concrete criticism I had was when I did the characters background it was hard to discern some of the pictures from the background, hence now I have the star field with logo background. Breaks up the background while keeping it dark. The rest I have the different color strips really just to break up the background without breaking up the text. Also trying to keep it all simple, relatively.
The worst one of these came from a guy who apparently had a blog that not only had a post from this loser telling Scarlet Johansson that he was "there for her to be a shoulder to cry on." Yeah, its great to see fanboys pining over unobtainable women, right. Anyway the blog had the wonderful design of literally brown wallpaper on each side and pink down the middle, while clearly a template, this is obviously the guy I should be taking design advice from. Just had to share that experience with you all.
OK the comic used to be Toxie's 1:18th Universe, them became just Toxie's Universe and finally Scale Wars and this confuses many people. When I started this little comic it was intended as a side project. I called it Toxie's 1:18th Universe because everything was in 1:18th scale (which I honestly believed was a term "1:18th" more widely understood than it is, even within the action figure collecting community). When I realized about a year later that 1:18th confused people who were not familiar with the term I dropped it. It also became kind of unnecessary anyway.
From there I just called the comic Toxie's Universe. Guess what, Toxie is a term used often with The Toxic Avenger. I honestly never heard that and got some confused E-Mails from some Toxic Avenger fans. I like Toxic Avenger but he doesn't appear in this comic, so I knew I needed to do a radical name change. I went back to the old storyline: Scale Wars and realized that the name was kind of cool, described most of my goals with the comic and was easy for people to repeat. So I went back to it and kept it until now. Sorry for the confusion but nothing springs forth fully formed. If I had realized what Scale Wars would have become I probably would have put more thought into the name.
I am totally not sure to say to this because no one ever gets specific. The most I can say is that no one ever hits the mark all the time no matter how good they are.
This one blows me out of the water, but it does get said to me often enough to say something. Apparently some people expect a webcomic starring characters from Star Wars, GI Joe, Marvel and DC, ect, ect should have a much more serious tone. I am not joking here.
Some people like keeping things serious and I have no problem with that. But once I was told I have "bad writing" not because the jokes were lame but because I was attempting to be comedic at all and everything should have a more serious tone. Sorry, I just cannot see this comic functioning without the paradic elements and at least the attempt to be funny. I am not going to claim to be the finniest guy in the world here but at the very least someone reading the comic could see that this isn't intended to be taken seriously without any explanation.
Now I realize everyone has different tastes but I don't think those tastes (or lack of) are the issue. At it's heart this comic is intended to be fun, and I hope people have fun with it like I do. I'm sorry if you feel I should be serious, but I do believe in the adage "Never take life too seriously, you'll never get out of it alive."
Coping someone else
This has to be one of the toughest criticisms to address. Sometimes we think the first thing we see is the "original" even if it isn't. But in this case any kind of defense sounds like sour grapes on my part and also finger pointing at the one who some fan said "you're coping them" by saying "no they copy me." Which I don't think is the case either way, there are a few of us who use action figures in comedic ways that have daily or semi-daily updates. So what do you say to that?
Well I will say this much: My first comedic story was "April Showers" in 2003 (BTW it is long lost at this point). The first story I did that mixed action figure lines was "Ash meets GI Joe" around 2005. In addition there was the JCA award shows done from 2002-2006 which also mixed comedy and toylines. In other words I have been doing this for quite some time, just not as a regular feature. Again there is no claim that anyone copied something I did or vice versa, just that I set out to have fun and found ways to do so. For other people I would imagine they had similar thoughts about having fun, but I cannot say for certain since I am not in their heads. But the point is that this is one of those criticisms that pisses me off because giving any answer to it, regardless of the truth, opens up a can of worms I don't want to open.
Lack of customs
Customizing is a phenomenon that has caught on with many adult collectors. I have customized a bit over the years but it was never my first priority. While others do it and love it, I just like it. As I said above with "Lack of originality" I haven't customized in a long, long time for various reasons. But some insist that my comic should be loaded to the gills with customs and while I can see merits in that I can also see problems.
Character Recognition is a major issue because one thing you have to be able to do to get a joke is know who is involved with it. If I need to stop and explain who is who the joke loses some impact right off the bat. If I am also "lame" as stated above, well, the whole thing sucks worse than ever, the rhythm is lost, the whole comic suffers, ect.
Another factor is time, I am not rich with time. I have a family, I have responsibilities, I also have to carve out time to shoot photographs as well as edit and try to keep a daily update schedule. In simpler words, I am very busy. If I took time to customize every character that appears in Toxie/Scale Wars-well I would never update cause I would be too busy. How quick can anyone do THAT many customs.
Also, and perhaps most important, with that many customs you can slip into a "customs for customs sake" kind of mentality which is just not healthy. Doing anything just cause you can is never healthy to begin with (while it might not be in a drastic sense, that doesn't mean it is a good thing to do). I don't feel the need to add customs to the comic. I don't mean I will exclude them either. I have one worked out in a specific sense (but still figuring out how to intro him, I would explain but then the whole thing is kind of blown and then I probably won't do it, understand?). But the point being I will not be making a custom of Snake Eyes just to make him.
Add to that I HATE retreading ground that has been covered. Most of the characters I want to use have been made with perfectly acceptable figures so why should I remake that character? There is a strong argument I have considered in relation to some characters I want to use (i.e. Lord of the Rings) that have never received the 1:18th scale treatment, but at this point I haven't gone there.
Not including certain figures
This one is a bit vague but also covers a lot of ground. At the core of all of this is I use what I have in my collection. I mean what else would I use here. Still some people feel I should use a specific figure or sometimes I have whole lines left out.
With specific figures, sometimes it is a matter of tastes. Sometimes I don't like certain figures and choose to not purchase them. Other times it is an availability issue (i.e. figures not receiving as wide a release and going for uber bucks on evilbay) or even an issue of yes I want the figure but I haven't the money.
Sometimes there are comments about certain lines, like why I don't use as many modern GI Joes as I do the older ones. Again this is a matter of tastes. The older Joe function perfectly fine and are easy to recognize representations of the characters. Also I have almost all the ones I want. I like some of the modern Joes but just as often there are issues with proportions and molds. Sorry but that is my assessment.
This one caught me off guard when It started happening. At essence a few people got very upset when I added ads to the site. A couple went so far as to say I "sold out" and became part of some corporate machine. Yeah sure but meanwhile I knock every toy company coming and going, right? Anyway, I guess this was precipitated by adding Project Wonderful ads to my site. Yeah that has me rolling in the dough.
Anyway, as I have said in the legalize section the money's from ads go right into promotion and maintenance of the site, more to the former since the moneys are not that grand. Besides, look around at other sites who are loaded with ads that have no other purpose besides MONEY, generally these are easy to spot due to the fact they are static ads to the same places. I have no idea what these ads pay but from what I hear much more than Project Wonderful ads generally (and much more consistent).
"...weird introverted, nonstop self-referencing dio story..."
As I was wrapping this up, this statement came up on a message board. Now I have taken only the parts that relate to Scale Wars because the rest has nothing to do with it and is part of an attempted flame war on me, all of which has nothing to do with the above critism. I just wanted to be up front as to why this quote appears out of context.
I assume the intention was to say "weird and introverted" and the comma was left out cause weird doesn't seem to be able to describe introverted in 99% of the cases I have tried to look at.
Weird, well yeah that is kind of intentional, so I don't see a real critism here.
Introverted, ummm, huh? This really confused me so I looked up the dictionary version of Introverted HERE on Webster's online.
For those that don't want to click the link here is the run down:
Introvert: to turn inward or in upon itself: as a: to concentrate or direct upon oneself b: to produce psychological introversion in.
My college professors would have a field day with that last part, you never define a word with the word.
OK so looking at Scale Wars, I am sorry but I am having a hard time seeing how it is introverted. If introverted is meaning my ideas on the page, well duh, I am the creator, it would be really bad of me to use someone else's. If it is because it concentrates on itself, well duh, I mean is a comic supposed to concentrate on what happened on House last week to avoid introversion. I don't see the comic turning inward cause stuff is coming at it from all over the place.
I actually think the word "introverted" was just dropped in to reference and endorse the next part of the statement. I don't know that but I do know we all do that from time to time to try to hammer home an idea, but if we really analyze what we say we quickly see that the word is really out of place and we are attempting to use it as a modifier.
But the "nonstop Self referencing" part is I think the big stink this guy was trying to make, but also is a misnomer. First, I won't deny a certain level of self-referencing within my comic, but also the thing has run over 700 pages, hard to not do that after a while. There is also the idea of the fact that occasionally I will poke fun at myself, mistakes, goofs, or even "homage." Also I think the person in question is getting what is called a "callback" confused with a reference. Callbacks are a comedic term often used to repeat a joke that has gone over well. If the callbacks begin to catch on, they are then referred to as "catch phrases" At essence it is the repetition of a joke, sometimes it references the previous joke but sometimes it is just a repeat, and lord knows I am guilty of that.
Of course this same individual was pretty kind to me up until this point when he claims he got pissed for no good reason, so in other words he was a fair weather friend anyway, thus nullifying his entire statements. Still I just wanted to address it.
So to wrap this whole thing up, I won't try to claim I am above criticism, in fact probably one of my failings in this is not pointing out some of the positives that have come about from some constructive criticism. For example, I have had a bad tendency to start a plot line and leave it, intending to come back to it and forgetting about it. A few times someone has reminded me of this plot I just dropped and then I am able to re-use it later. So yeah, keep the critiques coming, they are helpful, but if you get vague sentences that say nothing but a bunch of insulting or just plain lame comments I will probably throw them up here in another article answering the critics once again, just because I think it deserves the public humiliation ;-).