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The Orange Won’t Peel | 30-second bleed / stitches


I’m juicing fruits and vegetables these days, which is something I never expected to do, what with eating destructive amounts of candy for years on end. I’m also seriously considering no longer writing about or reviewing comic books after 6 years of doing so. I don’t know … the whole thing seems unnecessary, even though the Internet really wants its critics. We don’t really serve a purpose, though, do we? Artists can peer review themselves, and the populace at large can find its own entertainment, just like the journalists can. We can’t point things out, anymore, nor can we really signify something. Too many voices in the room, now. It’s not like there’s a Pauline Kael to stop and tune to, or a platform that’s higher than the others. It’s all the same lunch table, food trays resting on the backbone of something like Twitter, where we all hawk and point. The real cannon lying not with few, but with the sound of overall consensus.

Sure, there’s that concern of context. Critics probably are the best contextulists (making that a word), and there’s a certain need to keep everything straight when narratives are so malleable, and all eras exist now. So maybe that’s the new mission, but it seems so boring – keeping history straight, like some old, grey-beard academic smoking his oak pipe, eyes glazed. I dropped out of college for a reason.

Because I always wanted to have fun with this, if not make it seem a little crazy and spontaneous. I love the ego of it and the notion of setting forth to state a definitive opinion, so others know how to describe a particular piece of art. Criticism allows for a limited amount of creativity, but in those regards, there’s opportunity to go out on the limb and fuck with words, and that’s what I like to do.

When it’s your opinion, the formula shouldn’t matter. As long as the thought translates (and, no, my thoughts haven’t always translated. I know. I’ve read these columns, too). And through that – matched with the thought of a critic’s persona – I thought, maybe, this was a way to create something through other stuff. Almost like rap, sampling the established to get at something new, or at the very fucking least, to flaunt a little “fuck you” for the camera. I took this thing seriously, in that way – too seriously. And now I’m not sure what for.

I’ve certainly learned a lot about a medium, and I’ve certainly learned a lot more about writing. That’s valuable. To me. But ultimately … I’ve become the thing I hate, I think. That is, the guy online who yells, who requires attention and who forces his thoughts on others. I haven’t created shit. Just noise, like every other headline, and now knowing that, it makes reviewing seem so stupid … a waste of time. And I’m of the age now that wasting time feels immature.

But there’s still the itch. “All good junkies go to heaven,” they say. I guess any sense of faith will put you there, even when it’s some dangerous habit, and while reviewing comics isn’t necessarily bloody, it’s still something I do more so for habit than want. Which is a sign. “Pack up the blow.”

One could argue that the point in reviewing – to keep at it – is that it’s still writing, and it’s easily done in the midst of doing other things. That it may, in fact, be useful to keep a toe in the discussion. Mish Way, singer of the band White Lung, makes a good case by being an example of someone who can create, perform and than sit down to still write about other peoples’ music. And she’s good at it, and I admire her work, as well as the life she’s created for herself.  It’s a model I wouldn’t mind inhabiting. One where living isn’t consumed in an all-out fashion by one activity, but is dimensional.

The Internet’s tense, though. Even though it’s supposedly wide open, it’s cut into small, social cell blocks, each inhabited by a human being, flawed and fit. And those cells fall so close together, so it’s difficult to tap in and remain at peace. Because it’s like a packed apartment building, and you can always hear the dude next door cumming; or the politico arguing to himself; or the cheerleader chanting. Noise. And if one particular person makes more than the other, the balance is upset, and that’s when the whip cracks. But here we are screaming. Why? I don’t know. But we are, and there’s a number of us – wannabee critics, dreaming of the glory days – constantly placing thought and effort into our online presences and a conversation that’s apparently happening, but rather than conclude on anything we keep going, all for ego. All for the sake of saying “hey, world, don’t forget me.”  And what else do we do with ourselves? Personally, I’m not sure. I’m probably after the next manifesto.

Story continues below

Have you ever logged off and just read a comic book? Like you were 13 again? I have. It’s nice. You remember why you initially cared, and why they’re beautiful. You remember the rush. And that’s when you realize you don’t need this.  That no matter what you type on a blog, the world and what’s in it still exists, and it will likely go unaltered by what you say. That there is no point in stomping on the soapbox. That Matt Fraction will write another book, with or without your approval, and the sun will come up tomorrow, still yellow and orange.

And that’s the point I’m making. We don’t … I don’t need this, but I’ve pretended the opposite for 6 years, acting as if being a critic were it. That criticism would define me, and that somehow I may define something beyond my lanky frame. Which is why I’ve written the way I have for so long because every piece has felt like a false monument to myself versus something to do.

When I began this piece, it was about quitting, but I’ve realized quitting is weak. You can’t disengage. Not in our world. Instead, you have to approach it with caution, and somehow find a way within it to express yourself without polluting. I think a few of you actually like my reviews, and even though I sometimes despise the Internet and the idea of editorial, I do still enjoy this. It’s why I sat down to write today. If I were done, I wouldn’t bother saying a thing. But I have something to say. Not as a critic, but as a guy who has a little free time, and when he’s done, he’s goes outside and sees. Because the professional critic is dead. None of us are pros. We’re just people with Wi-Fi and the English language, and we’re born to make noise.  May as well go with it, see what you can do.

– – –

On Monday, I will post two, short thoughts on two, different comic books, and I’ll just keep doing that each and every Monday because it’s a thing to do, and I can do other things.  


I hope none of the critics/reviewers ever quit here as long as they have something to say. I learn stuff from all of you and your insights. I’m not an artist but with reviewers like Kelly and others I’ve learned some of the intricate aspects of art. Also there are so many reviewers that have such a good amount of knowledge to share on comics that I lack. Just being walked through obscure Easter Eggs is nice :)

Wow, so here I am over the past month trying to take my own writing more seriously and up its game, specifically in the realm you’re talking about, criticism, and commentary. Reading this today was a tad disheartening, I know you ended the way you did, saying, hey if you have stuff to say, then go and say it and see how it turns out, but man that really cut deeper than I should have let it. I know on the one hand you are correct though, none of this talking and writing about funny books “matters”. Barely even to those in the know, let alone anyone outside of the comics bubble, but I continue to yearn for it. To be one of those voices. I’m glad you aren’t packing it in, I respect your particular voice and hope to see more of it in the future.

I have always dug your reviews, but I actually prefer it when you talk about criticism like this. I feel like we all need to see/hear these thoughts, if for no other reason than to keep ourselves in check as we continue to review comic after comic without questioning why. You should just become a critic of critics.

“Selling out is down to opportunity
Reviewing the reviewers in her sleep”

Yes. Keep doing stuff.

Travis Pelkie

July 9, 2014 at 3:01 am

I’ve gone through waves where I started overthinking comics too much (overthinking is too a word, spellcheck!!!), particularly college time, and then again in recent years, but in the last few weeks or so I’ve tried to just read a bunch of comics, because I buy so many comics and don’t keep up with reading them. It’s fun again. I’ll get back to overthinking again soon, but for now, I’m just trying to keep up with the stuff that I keep spending too damn much on.

Why is Jeff Goldblum’s picture here?

@Travis- I’m glad I wasn’t the only one that thought that.

Why not?

Quitting something you no longer enjoy doing isn’t weak. It’s smart. You mention you don’t have as much time to waste anymore and doing something you don’t enjoy doing is wasting time.

While I appreciate the underlying message of the post I think you’re being too cynical. You, as an individual, will not be making a mark in an area of writing you thought you come impact. That describes most people. I can’t help but also read quite a bit of insecurity in your post. You’re comparing your work to others and comparing it to a very difficult to reach ideal you have of comics criticism and you’re falling short. You’re getting lost in the noise. Again, that’s something most people experience regardless of the field they express themselves in.

A few years ago I realized that I don’t care about keeping up with new comics, new movies, new everything. It felt like I was reading and watching new comics and movies because of an unspoken social agreement that I have to keep up. I don’t. Since then i’ve found a purpose in my own writing on comics and it’s been far more enjoyable. Simply put, I write about what interests me and i’m honest about it. Sometimes I’ll explore something I wanted to check out and I ended up hating it and that intense dislike of something was far more satisfying to me a person and a reviewer than reading an average comic and pretending to like it.

In other words, I realized long ago that i’m not Julian Darius, Tim Callahan, David Brothers or Chad Nevett. Instead of trying to measure up to them or imitate them, i’m trying to carve out of my style and reviewing and it’s mostly based on enjoying myself while being honest with what i’m reviewing.

Alec, i’ve read your blog and when you have something great and interesting to say you say it rather well. I hope your new style of Monday columns won’t be an example of you phoning it in due to a realization that you can’t disconnect so you might as well continue participating with minimum effort.

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