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May 10, 2021

The Other Side of the World – our infrequent newsletter

*** Issue 1 – February 2021 ***

Hi, and welcome to the first newsletter for the WCBR.

If you’re reading this, either you stumbled across it in the same way as you might mistake the broom closet for the toilet after a couple of vodkas. Or perhaps you followed the bread crumbs on some social media site, or perhaps you received an email from me with a link. If you received an email from me, it is because you’ve either, first, had a comic reviewed on this site; or second, you’ve submitted a comic for review and you are patiently or impatiently waiting for that review to manifest; or third, because you have been a reviewer on this site.

Nice to be in touch again.

We Outlived Rats

The WCBR has been going for over five years now, the average lifespan of a rodent. I always intended the WCBR to have a long life, but I certainly did not expect it to be of assistance to independent comic book creators. We have done at least 103 reviews of indie comics in that five years (some of them have been miscategorised on the site, so the figure is probably a lot bigger). Quotations from WCBR reviews have appeared on the covers of indie comics, on websites promoting indie comics, and in Kickstarter project launch pages.

Some mainstream creators have liked the reviews. Gail Simone tweeted early on that she liked our approach in her review of her title Clean Room. Ann Nocenti recently thanked reviewer Roque Briones for his critique of The Seeds https://www.worldcomicbookreview.com/author/roque2/ KISS bass guitarist Gene Simmons liked our review of Dominatrix: Hellbent in Hells https://www.worldcomicbookreview.com/2017/10/30/dominatrix-hellbent-heels-1-3-review/ (possibly because he was its financial backer). He’s not Umberto Eco, but we take our kudos when we find them.

(We have never had a quote from a WCBR critique appear in a mainstream superhero comic, probably because we only sometimes have anything kind to say about the powdered scrambled eggs dished up by mainstream superhero comics. Having said that, what Jim Lee did to raise money during the pandemic shutdown, auctioning original art and gifting the proceeds to comic shop owners, was a gracious act of charity by a senior executive of a mainstream publisher: we should forgive them for their flaws, perhaps.)

But as to indie creators… It has been a privilege to help. I nod in respect to anyone who can take that step of publishing their own comic book. You jump out of the aircraft hoping to the Almighty that the chute opens, that the chute doesn’t get sucked into the propeller, and that you don’t shit your pants while strangers are watching your every move with binoculars. You are prepared to back yourself and your idea.

Sincerely, thanks for being awesome and I hope our assistance has been of use.

But for some people it has not. We have a pretty big backlog of indie titles to review. I think I’ve chiselled away at the backlog down to around maybe 50? I feel I have a social contract-type commitment to get through them, though, but I regret that my reviews will be far too late for some of you in respect of your efforts to promote your books through crowd-funding sites.

Zen and the Art of Comic Book Critiquing

The reasons for that ongoing slouch in productivity are typical. I’m a dad of four kids, with a busy and stressful career. Some people play piano as a form of meditation, and for me instead, writing these critiques is an odd form of thoughtful daydreaming. I fit it in when I can.

The site attracts around 2000 readers a week. But it makes no money from advertising. I do not have a Patreon account. We do not accept money from creators, and see here https://www.worldcomicbookreview.com/2017/03/16/the-curious-case-of-batman-66/ what happens when someone offers us sweet cash for SEO placement.

When you’re not on a financial leash, you can piss on any tree you like.

There is therefore no commercial driver to push out content onto the WCBR site and thereby attract visitors. I do nonetheless feel bad when I’ve let an enthusiastic comics creator down through a lack of timeliness.

Even though this is a smallish site which makes no revenue, I also offer to pay for any contribution to the site. It seems unfair to take someone’s content and not pay for it. “Raising profile” as consideration for content is a crappy parlour trick. For a while there when the site went into hiatus in the first half of 2020, I did not want third party content because I did not see the point in sinking more money into a hobby site. Now, I don’t pay much at all, but I do pay.

Highlights for Lowlives

Highlights over the past year have included:

  1. really annoying Neil Gaiman with this article https://www.worldcomicbookreview.com/2020/08/11/an-update-on-the-netflix-adaption-of-neil-gaimans-sandman/ but mostly because I think he followed the internal link to this article https://www.worldcomicbookreview.com/2015/06/09/gaimans-sandman-overture-and-the-elves-that-come-in-the-night-why-comic-books-release-dates-matter/ His tweet sounded very narky and insinuated that I was a click-baiter. I removed my tweet promoting the article since he disputed the facts in it, but I wish I hadn’t;
  2. Welcoming Roque Briones from Spain and Christian Carnouche, an expatriate Australian in Belgium, as contributors, and always welcoming back Neil Raymundo, “the most influential man in Filipino comics” (he hates it when I say that, but readers in the Philippines flock to his reviews of local comics. We receive a disproportionate number of visitors to the site from the Philippines);
  3. Starting a category of reviews called “Politics”. Initially I was hesitant about expressing a view on politics in comics, out of apprehension that it would be perceived as an erosion of objectivity. As time has progressed I have come to realise that literary critiques are necessarily political. A good critique offers an insight from a position. That may be as extreme as Marxist-Leninist (I will have to try my hand at that one day), or it can be feminist, or it can be GenX libertarian, or something else. More importantly, a good critique is intended to provoke a dialogue, in which the person can civilly disagree with a perspective. That sounds positively antiquarian in this age of social media shrieking: perhaps my bowler hat is on too tight.

Where the bloody hell are you?

I’d like to hear from you. If you have any new titles in the works, let me know – but be conscious of my backlog. (I am especially keen to hear from fellow Australians.) If you are a WordPress blogger, start a discussion in respect of the reviews on the WCBR site. If you would like to review a comic and have it published on the site, let me know and we’ll haggle a price. If you have a letter to the editor, send it to me and I’ll post it here with a response.

You made it to the end. Well done. Hope you enjoyed the newsletter.

DG Stewart

Perth, 4 February 2021.

Art credits:

  1. Frank Cho on Instagram
  2. Jim Lee on Instagram
  3. I think https://www.reddit.com/r/furry_irl/comments/jte1xx/caw_irl/. Happy to be corrected.
  4. Mike del Mundo, Elektra (Marvel Comics, 2014)
  5. Moebius, Maxwell House advertisement, 1989