I must admit when I started writing reviews three years ago, I didn’t really have any idea where I was going with this. I started Tangents as an alternative to Websnark… which I felt was ignoring comics that deserved reviews (primarily story comics). But those early reviews sucked, and it took a while for me to find my voice. Since then, I’ve tried several times to branch out and make Tangents into something more than just another review site. Each time I’ve failed.
At its core, Tangents is about comic reviews. It is here where the main success of Tangents has been, and it’s where I’m going to focus my attention. This means that projects such as my guest-review contest and the world-building project of Tangential Worlds are coming to an end. Perhaps if I’d worked things differently or had more time to focus on these projects, these ideas wouldn’t have faltered and died. But there’s no point looking back at “could have beens” and failed prospects.
One area where I’m thinking of making some changes in the reviews lies with the current review format. While on the surface the concept of short “Secant” reviews seems a viable means of saving time and condensing the content of the reviews, it has become increasingly difficult to find inspiration for the reviews. While this has led to my reading dozens of new comics to find new ground to cover (and I must take a moment to sneer at the people who criticize me for having read and reviewed so many comics… it is the duty of reviewers and critics to review a wide variety of books, movies, and the like, and failing to do so is a sign of laziness and a lack of professional pride), I’ve found difficulties in writing reviews even for new works.
The Secants were originally intended to be a brief glimpse into a moment of a comic. They were meant for scenes and for momentary glimpses of characters. They were not meant to be reviews in its entirety. That is what the Tangential reviews were meant to offer… and in an odd twist their positions were reversed. Recent Tangential reviews have been character pieces and webcomic commentary, instead of reviews. I intend on changing that (though I will endeavor to keep the reviews fairly short, if only for my own sanity’s sake).
Another thing that readers may have noticed is that the tone of the reviews has shifted to be a bit more critical. I will admit that my associates Steve Anderson and Brett Hainley are more than partly responsible for this; they do not pull their punches when reviews are concerned. If they see something that doesn’t work, they talk about it. And while I might not speak negatively of the cartoonists themselves… I know how much cartoonists put themselves into their work. They take every negative comment to heart. If I’ve said something about their work that they can’t stand… it’s not an attack on their soul. It’s just that I feel the work can be improved… and indeed, needs that improvement, both for the readers’ sake, and the cartoonist’s.
It’s the duty of critics to warn the readers about what they feel is bad, and also to tell the cartoonists where they’re weak… and how to improve their craft. I’m not always right. What I dislike, others may enjoy. But there are some basic aspects to storytelling, art, and site design that are keys to a decent comic. Plot failures can wreck the best drawn of stories. Artistic flaws can pull attention away from the most imaginative of stories. And a badly-designed website with poor navigation and problems even finding the comic itself can keep people from even reading the comic in the first place.
Tangents needs to return to that venue. And I need to find what I’m writing to be interesting… else I’ll just put out half-fast reviews that don’t really tell you what’s going on or give you an idea of just what it is about the comic that led me to review it. Hopefully the shift in review style will help me do that.