Friday, August 8, 2008

I would like to state out loud...

... that I do not expect, want or hope to influence Scott Kurtz or his work in any way.

(Ugh, more meta discussion. Hopefully this will be the end of it.)

I do not suggest, imply or infer that because I comment on a work, I am creating a two-way a conversation with the creator of that work, and anyone who thinks otherwise full of shit. (how rude!)

No relationship exists between PVP and PVPMMS other than the one between content provider and content consumer, and just because I may express an opinion or sentiment that there are ways I would wish for things to be done, or ways and means that I think would provide better results in the future, I do not presume to think that I can in any way insert myself into the process.

I am entitled to one thing: to speak and/or write my thoughts freely. I expect nothing more, save perhaps a certain level of civility.

Because that is so, I can say this:

It is obvious that Scott Kurtz is one of those people who cannot help but take any negative comment as a personal attack.

I may write anonymously, but I will go so far as to tell you that I am a professional. I am not a writer (as if that isn't obvious), and I do not work in comics (perhaps that will ease some minds), however I do work in a creative field, and I could be considered to be as successful in my profession as Kurtz is in his, if not more so.

With his sweeping statement that all critics are to be dismissed out of hand, Scott shows himself to be both thin-skinned and unprofessional. I say this not to attack Scott; it is simply an observation.

From his blog:

It’s not that we don’t realize we’re making mistakes. It’s not that we’re oblivious to the fact that our work is imperfect. But if we play it safe and never risk those imperfections, then we’ll never grow as artists.

You may realize when you are making mistakes, you may even make them on purpose to expand and explore your boundaries. This is to be admired. But it is literally impossible to know every mistake you make, to always know when you have gone in a direction that does not suit your product, and some of those mistakes will kill you down the line.

If Scott were to listen to me once, I would wish him to hear this:

If you are going to be an artist and place your work in the marketplace, then you are no longer just an artist, and you have a responsibility to your business to listen to wider reactions to your work.

You can not control what people write about you and your work (and I hope you have noticed how infrequently I write about you, rather than your work -- this may be the first time, certainly the first of any significance), and you should absolutely feel free to stop listening to those critics whose comments you find worthless.

But to dismiss all critics out of hand is to live in danger of isolating yourself from your customers, and your potential customers, and that's no way to run a business.

Oh, and get someone to proof your work, the typos are killing you.


Anonymous said...

"If you are going to be an artist and place your work in the marketplace, then you are no longer just an artist, and you have a responsibility to your business to listen to wider reactions to your work."

Interesting point, except PVP is already succeeding as a business (as you state in your margin). Why would he need to listen to artistic and writing criticisms when his product has been sufficiently profitable to date?

Just as it's your choice to read PVP, it's also his choice to read your site. Who cares if he doesn't read you or his other critics?

Or was your "Reasons and Purposes" really bs? (

Fake Scott McCloud said...

If you find any conflict between this post and the Reasons and Purposes post, I'd love to know what it is.

The rest of your comment displays a profound lack of comprehension of anything I've written, so perhaps you should just stop.


Anonymous said...

The problem isn't so much whether or not Kurtz should listen to his critics, the problem is that his rebuttal to all criticism is FUCK YOU

The blog post is an excellent example of this. The book gets a generally favorable review, but the author has a few quibbles. Instead of letting it be Kurtz decides to post about how he's not mentally capable of accepting criticism or something. (or at least that's what I gathered from that clumsy Star Trek metaphor).

There's lots of other examples out there if you're willing to look (e.g. the ending to the paintball arc). A good example that impacted Scott's business: When PVP: The Series was announced Scott chose to ignore the critics who said it was too expensive. Unsurprisingly the series ended up being a financial disaster, given that Kurtz has said that IF they decide to do a second series, it will be direct to DVD.

John said...

So is SK saying on his blog that EVERY ENGLISH TEACHER AND PROFESSOR IS USELESS? Teachers, peer review, etc. is nothing if not a "review" of a person's work, so the review-er is a "critic," but if critics are always wrong - and criticism useless! - than why have instructors at all?

I agree with him that often people have to "learn by doing," or making lots of mistakes on their journey in their profession, but that is doesn't mean that mentors, critics, aides, etc. can't help you.

If your work has typos, logical fallacies, pacing issues, art inconsistancies or anything else that someone says "hey, you can do better on this and here are a few suggestions on how" than how can that be anything BUT useful to a creator? I just don't understand where SK is coming from.

He talks a lot about "growing as an artist." But doing that, or growing as a person in general, I think, means accepting criticism and learning from it. Obviously there are people who's criticism isn't healthy or useful, but why paint every critic with that brush? Why intentionally create a a groupthink-insulated-from-the-world mentality?

There's room to be yourself and learn from critics.

Sunny said...

I'd like to know if other webcartoonists agree with what Scott Kurtz has said in his blog post. So if you're reading this Paul Southworth, Kris Straub, Brad Guigar or Dave Kellett, whats your thought on this?

rossiter said...

Well said, FSM! On the evidence, PVPMMS is at the very least forcing Scott to introspect a little about his own aesthetic choices and his (sometimes conflicting) obligations as an artist and businessman. His forumites may have their hands stuck in their ears, chanting loudly so no upsetting insights get through, but I have hope that Scott is, on some level of his being, trying to hear what you, this blog, and its readers are saying.

Fake Scott McCloud said...

Don't kid yourself, rossiter, SK has no interest in gaining anything from this blog because it is this blog. That's fine.

My point is that he shouldn't shut himself off to all criticism. It will only hurt him in the long run. No man (or business) is an island.

ButtPlugg669988 said...

I'd like to know why SK acting like the same whiny, wussy, crybaby bitch over and over again is still such a surprise to you?

Hey, how about that competition between Kurtz and Buckley? Kurtz kills a kid, and Buckley kills a baby! Wow, ain't webcomics fun!?

Jim Cowling said...

"It is obvious that Scott Kurtz is one of those people who cannot help but take any negative comment as a personal attack."

It took you this long to figure that out?

J said...

I think I understand the "Prime Directive" comparison; what Scott wants is for you, the reader, to just observe and do nothing. You are the Enterprise, simply watching and restraining yourself from interacting. Scott himself is the planet under watch, and is left to succeed or fail under his own power.

He doesn't understand how he ends up in defensive battles with the web masses? He engages them. He could ignore it; he doesn't feel like changing (nor should he) so why acknowledge it. He links to the source he doesn't like. Why help it along? That's like a man dying of starvation letting everyone cut in front of him at a free buffet.

Does Scott show his work to anyone else at the Half Pixel office? He shouldn't; they're critiquing his work. Would he ever hire an editor? God no, they have the power to say "no" to an entire strip, to have him change whole parts.

He ends with the his statement that all he said is why there is no chapter on why a critic is, maybe, right. I can't say I got that from the review at all. I think the review asks why there is no chapter, or just a segment, on how to deal with critics. Right or wrong, many creators do need to take a class or something on dealing, publicly, with anyone who has anything to say about their work.

Not, "how to accept it when other people know your work better then you."

Not, "ignore those f***ers, they have no idea about art/writing/public opinion."

Just, "Hey, if somebody says something, good or bad, don't overreact. Say thank you or I dissagree with that , move on and don't let it get to you."

To bring it all to everyone's attention is how you, Scott, keep ending up in those situations.

Anonymous said...

Scott's implication that the only mistakes he makes are the ones he's aware of (and if he isn't aware, he doesn't want to know), isn't the road to progression. It's simply a circular track of repeating the same mistakes over and over again.

Choosing not to take advice from critics on board is one thing. Sticking your fingers in your ears and going "La-la-la-la-la, not listening!" is something else completely.

R.W.McGee said...

I agree with most of the comments above, and certainly with FSM's comments, but I am starting to truly fear that we are in danger of becoming 'Scott Kurtz Makes Me Sad' and quite frankly, I don't think he's worth our time.

Let's get back to the comic strip!

Anonymous said...

Interesting point, except PVP is already succeeding as a business (as you state in your margin). Why would he need to listen to artistic and writing criticisms when his product has been sufficiently profitable to date?

That's how a business works. It pays attention to its customer so that the product continues to be salable. A creative endeavour shouldn't be strictly guided by the audience, but the creator needs to at least remain aware of what people want (or claim to want.) Remaining alert to all forms of feedback is part of that.

That only applies if the creator wants to continue turning a profit. If he's more interested in wearing the latest in fashion berets as he smokes cigarettes in cafes, that's another matter.

Anonymous said...

It is remarkably easy to get sucked into a SK drama vortex.

J said...

Agreed. I've had my say, so unless it's to do with a strip, I'm out.

Anonymous said...

Last panel looks strange to me today. Maybe it would look better if Brent had a hand on Cole's opposite shoulder? I can't imagine standing that close to someone and it not being awkward unless I had an arm around their shoulder.

rossiter said...

The homoerotics of 2D space.

Jim Cowling said...

Jaysus. I just read Kurtz' rant and saw that he's basically pooh-poohing criticism from Johanna Draper-Carlson. Johanna's been a comics critic both online and off for more than fifteen years; she's been writing criticism longer than Kurtz has been producing work.

Plus, he implies that she's a liar. "I’m asked to believe that the chapter on criticism was, by chance of fate, the first chapter this particular reviewer happened onto. I’m having a hard time swallowing that pill." And she's no mere 'reviewer', of course.

This is the sound of me shaking my head sadly. What a tool you are, Kurtz.

Anonymous said...

Now Johanna is being attacked by PvP fanbois on her own blog.

I think the lesson here is to not mess with Kurtz, he's becoming the new Tim Buckley. He even censors and bans users on his forum now.

That guy on twitter is still trying to find out where FSM lives, with Kurtz encouraging him.

Oh and I found Kurtz replying on this blog.

Scott Kurtz
In finding reactions to my blog post, 100% of the creator comments are in agreement and 100% of the critic comments are in disagreement.

I’ve only gotten one email from a critic who agrees that his job is not about improving my work, but about reviewing my work for others.

R.W.McGee said...

The guy who wrote that blog post said it best...Kurtz writes a generally good comic, but he just has to SHUT UP. So people can enjoy it in their own way.

The only times that he speaks and it does not fill me with rage, recently, is when he is doing something with the PA crew. Jerry and Mike seem to have the key to getting him to behave normally. Maybe because he is awestruck when around them or something.

Anonymous said...

I really don't know why Gabe and Tycho have never called Scott out on his shit.

They're friends right? That's what friends do.

Jai said...

"I think I understand the "Prime Directive" comparison; what Scott wants is for you, the reader, to just observe and do nothing. You are the Enterprise, simply watching and restraining yourself from interacting. Scott himself is the planet under watch, and is left to succeed or fail under his own power." - J

That was my interpretation, as well. Unfortunately, the crew of the Enterprise violated the Prime Directive again and again, and never to the detriment of the universe. The whole point of the Prime Directive was for it to sound like an awesome rule and for it to have to be broken for "the greater good" at the Enterprise's own risk.

Anonymous said...

as someone who also works in the professional artistic field, I'd personally love if one of my viewers were to make a blog entirely designed around helping me get better at what I was doing.

I bet if you told him you were jim davis though SK with suck your cock.

Anonymous said...

Kurtz did love it when he first found it, and that's why he linked to it and even followed a lot of the advice (often a little too strictly.) Then he decided that the blog didn't give him enough compliments and had one of his trademark hissy fits.

budda said...

I think it was more that the blog reviewed each strip day by day. Had it just been a single review, over his entire given work, he may have liked it, or just picked out the parts he disliked and acted like those are the only parts people are going to pay attention to (ie, the Johanna review).

Because, instead, each strip was reviewed by itself, each days mistakes - there or not - were posted and commented on. I think that's what got to him, trying to fathom how anyone could, or would, call him on small oversights that appear. On every new strip.

For Scott, a solitary review from a single source isn't that big a deal, for the most part. He will disagree with the bad parts, but it is still just one in a house of many. What drives him mad is how PvPMMS reviews EVERY strip on it's own, or within the current storyline with the immediate past as a jumping point for arcs, every day (within FakeScott limit's or attention span).

Scott liked this site when he considered it a gimmick, for (his) shortterm amusement. That it's still going, and has grown in audience, drives him bonkers.

Anonymous said...

Budda you must be new here. FSM was reviewing each strip since the beginning. Scott then linked the place hoping his fanboys would do his dirty work.

Then gradually a community developed and Kurtz got some useful feedback. Unfortunately he couldn't take the bad with the good.

If you visit any webcomic forum, you might notice entire threads dedicated to each strip where people can leave feedback.

The difference with this blog is we actually critique each strip rather than post comments like "HAHAH that strip was hilarious.... Tim Buckley sucks".

I'm looking forward to Monday when we can get back to talking about the strip. It's the reason why I come to this blog.

Anonymous said...

I don't think SK was wanting people to tear this place apart when he first linked to it. The newspost that accompanied that link was about improving as an artist and ended with something along the lines of "then, hopefully, PVP will develop into something that won't make you sad." I don't know if the actual post is available in his archives, but that's how I remember it.

Kind of funny when you consider how different his philosophy is in his most recent newspost.

Anonymous said...

I found the original blog post. So what do you think?

Scott Kurtz
It is rare that Webcomic artists receive what we could truly call constructive criticism. In our upcoming book, the four of us take turns critiquing each other’s work as a case study in the exercise. We called those chapters:”In the Hot Seat”.

And now it seems that PvP is back in the hot seat thanks to a blogger who calls himself “The Fake Scott McCloud.”

I think it would be easy to dismiss his site as hateful, but the amount of time The Fake Scott McCloud (hereto refered to as TFSM) spends thinking about PvP is staggering to say the least. I would suggest he thinks about it more than I do, and perhaps that’s his greatest criticism of me. I don’t think I could label anyone who spends THIS much time thinking about PvP as anything other than a fan. I hope that doesn’t insult him.

“PvP Makes me Sad” is now a regular stop on my daily surfing. If for no other reason that to continue our “hot seat” exercises. There are posts where TFCM loses his balance and begins to flail a bit, then catches himself before falling off the line that separates true constructive criticism with good old-fashioned “why does HE get to be popular?” bullshit. I would encourage him to take a healthy step away from that line before continuing in his critiques.

Perhaps by doing so, he could aid me in making a less depressing destination for him.

And here is how the fans responded

Jai said...

Ah, a blast from the past!

Anonymous said...

Even in that old post, you can see Scott trying to 'insulate' himself by painting FSM's commentary as petty jealousy.

I really believe SK was trying to be magnanimous in the beginning but his base attitude towards anything but praise still showed through.

Eventually he's decided it's easier to dismiss the entire thing as a conspiracy to bring him down than face any of it.

Anonymous said...

Here's another one for you anonymous. This was posted in the thread about Fridays stip.

Scott Kurtz
Do you guys know that every day there are hundreds of thousands of people who visit PvP, read the strip, chuckle and move on to the rest of their day. AND THEY NEVER THINK ABOUT PVP AGAIN FOR 24 HOURS. Sometimes they buy stuff.

I fucking LOVE those people.

By hundreds of thousands he actually meant tens of thousands, according to his site stats.

Ti Chan said...

12:10 Anon:

I was reading why he said that and it made me chuckle. Someone started to actualyl critique and talk about his comic, much in the way we do there. I realized in the last few discussions I have read that Half Pixel has a lot of people that remind me of users here.

There ARE yes man or people who will completely argue to argue (Rolling Samus, and JCm for one.), but there are more level headed people then we credit.

One of my favorite responses was "In another thread about the site that will not be named, I mentioned that one reason that site existed was that any negative opinions expressed in this forum, no matter how nicely (or at least neutrally) they are proffered, are greeted with mocking, anger, etc. and that is why that unpleasant site likely exists and thrives.

This thread did a really quick job of verifying that is true.

People inspire the level and tone of discourse they get by their example"

It's been true before, and it's true here.

matt said...

Honestly, Scott's response aside, I'm not all that surprised there isn't more about dealing with critics in the HTMWCs book. It's something that is very much tied to one's personality, and it's hard to give advice on something that can potentially elicit such an emotional reaction.

Individuals are going to react differently to critics based on a lot of, oftentimes, irrational factors. Us Americans it seems have become increasing incapable of separating the concepts of "I don't like your work" and "I don't like you".

Anyone who's been to art school knows how heavily the critic process plays in art education. That has the dual benefit of improving one's work and getting them used to handling criticism.

Anyway, I don't think the HTMWC's chapter was really taking into account professional critics, I think it was more trying to help one deal with dissatisfied fans.

Kethry said...

Well, now, wait a minute. SK was not the only author involved in the book, so despite his obvious inability to deal with critiques, the other authors obviously felt the same.
But these authors live in a very narrow world-- they have no editors, no checks on their work. Even the book, they self published, it had to live up to no one's standards but their own. Would it really have been published otherwise? In the same form? At least one of those questions surely has an answer of "no."
To continue the Star Trek reference, perhaps critics are the Enterprise, watching a growing civilization, and better off staying out of it.... but this civilization has no government, no internal checks and balances, and this is where the fundamental problem lies.

TheOriginalJes said...

I adimently agree with SK on this one. Some critics just don't know when to back off.

I think the one critic who should really back off is SK's dad. Sk has even shown us in strip form how much influence his father has over the final product. (Anyone of greater ambition may feel free to surf the 2006-2007 archives to find the examples) He's shown us that his father will call him at night and berate him for questionable morality or the odd "adult" language.

Maybe Dear Old Mr. Kurtz should just piss-off and leave his son to create (and sware, and talk sex) at his pleasure. After all, even if SK won't admit it, we do think he's creative and funny much of the time. And, despite the bad press, we do offer accolades and encouragement when we see something that stands out positively.

Really. Isn't SK under enough pressure to create a product everyone can enjoy without an overbearing parent telling him his own creation is wrong or in-appropriate or should (or shouldn't) take a specific view-point?

You Go, Scott!!!

Stephen Geigen-Miller said...

The ironic part of this whole mess is that Kris Straub demonstrated exactly how to deal with a critic in his response to the very same review.

He left the very first comment to Johanna's review of the book on her website,

He thanked her for the review, acknowledged that the typos she had pointed out were a problem, and let her know they would be fixed in the upcoming second printing.

Johanna's response was to congratulate him on the success of the book.

Then Scott had to wade in, call Johanna (who, full disclosure, I've known for eight or nine years, has reviewed my own work positively, and who I respect and consider a friend) a liar, and suggest that everything everyone has ever said about his work, whether they're wrong or right, stems from a toxic fannish sense of entitlement.

Anyone who agrees with Johanna that they'd like to have seen some more information on dealing with critics included in HTMWC, here's a simple suggestion:

Emulate Straub, not Kurtz.

ButtPlugg669988 said...

"swaring" "in-appropriate"

Fantastic. I couldn't come up with a better way to represent the Kurtz faithful. Beautiful.

The biggest problem with Kurtz's Star Dreck analogy is that we're not off-planet. We're right here with him. The web is also interactive, and collaborative by nature. Sitting in a floating tin can above a planet full of savages isn't really the best comparison, really.

But, Scott's an idiot. I really don't expect much better from him.

Jai said...

"Anyone who agrees with Johanna that they'd like to have seen some more information on dealing with critics included in HTMWC, here's a simple suggestion:

Emulate Straub, not Kurtz."
- Stephen Geigen-Miller

Words of wisdom.

pbsox said...

Sorry if I'm beating a dead horse and/or if my post comes a day too late, but I want to chime in. I agree with FSM's point, "If you are going to be an artist and place your work in the marketplace, then you are no longer just an artist, and you have a responsibility to your business to listen to wider reactions to your work."

I think SK is doing himself a disservice by calling to ignore all critics, and he is inadvertently being a hypocrite.

I wish I could reply directly to SK since I think he would find my example very relevant, but I'm thinking George Lucas and the Star Wars movies. There was an uproar when he re-released the original movie and editted the Cantina scence so that the bounty hunter fired at Han Solo first. Most fans felt it was an unnecessary and unwanted change, but Lucas ignored the critics and claimed it was up to his artistic vision. SK didn't like the change, he even sells a T-shirt "Han shot first" (

SK and Lucas both have been quite successful and produced some amazing work. However, it's ridiculous to completely ignore criticism, and additionally, I think both these writers would benefit from having someone help with editting their dialogue.

Shen said...

It would seem to me that a lot of the benefits of a critique comes from the trust between the two parties involved.

* does the creator think the reviewer is being honest
* does the creator respect the reviewers opinion
* does the creator think the reviewer is trying to guide them rather than tell them what to do

With critiques that are anonymous, unsolicited or not face to face, I think it would be difficult for the creator to get a feeling for the first two points.

I would argue that there would be a strong case for ignoring all unsolicited critiques from the internet simply because it would be a massive time sink trying to weed out the critiques that meet those 3 points from the ones that don’t.

It seems like a much better system would be for the creator to seek critiques from a peer or coach. This would allow the creator to insure the first two points are met straight off the bat.

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