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  1. #1
    Amazing Member
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    Default Your Approach to Reading X-Men - Critical Theory vs Art Criticism

    I spend most of my time reading comments rather than posting, and one thing I've noticed, is the vastly different criteria when judging the quality of a comic issue:

    Art Criticism
    The art: framing, composition, sequencing. Along with lettering, colouring, and of course the story itself.

    Critical Theory
    What does this issue offer? In what way does it contribute to society? Does it do so negatively or positively? Does it have proper representation within the story, and by those who created it? Does it play into stereotypes or does it challenge our preconceived notions?
    ____

    I am First Nations. And as a minority, I'm often surprised by how passionate people are with the critical theory approach. Especially from people who would not identify as a minority. I'm caught off guard by the criticism of others on my behalf when I myself don't feel that way. But also recognize the value of it, and am encouraged by the convictions of people who just want to make the world a more inclusive welcoming place, even if I don't necessarily agree with the approach.
    One example being identity politics. But that's okay. I'm not going to die on that hill. I know myself well enough to know that I'm not an expert on these issues. My opinions come from my age, my upbringing, my experiences, and my disposition. Not from research and data. So I can be swayed.

    I love X-Men for the ideas of family, for the sense of adventure, for the contrived and convoluted continuity, and of course the characters. A group of outsiders who want to belong, but belong on their own terms.
    ____

    I would love to hear from you all about how you approach art in general, and more specifically X-Men comics, how do you approach older material? Do you hold it to the same standard as current releases? Do you focus on the story and art, or do you focus on where it exists in today's society?

    I truly hope this doesn't open a can of worms. I just think if we have a better understanding of where each of us is coming from, it may help us be nicer and more patient with one another when discussing our favourite mutants.

  2. #2
    Extraordinary Member Hizashi's Avatar
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    Art criticism for me, as you've defined it. I don't mind the critical theory approach as long as it isn't detrimental to the former.
    Does it need doing?
    Yes.
    Then it will be done.

  3. #3
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    It kind of mixes and matches for me. If your art isn't good, but you're trying to say something, I'll look at what you're trying to say, what this piece means or how it effects me philosophically.

    I can see something as technically good, it has good art and framing, but it critically fails to connect with me.

    Some pieces of art may fail in both, but more often than not, something can do both.

    Older comics especially from the 60's, fit mostly into the art category. They exist to be entertainment and outside of a few aspects, they don't connect with me on a critical level.

    However, something like Morrison's New X-Men, connects with me on a critical level. I think the art is for the most part, great and the writing is excellent throughout, however what makes it stand out to me is the themes. A lot of these themes are continued in Hickman's run which is part of why I'm enjoying it so much.

    Claremont's run doesn't connect with me all that much, I like what the book is saying and I think the art and the writing is great. But it has a few problems that create a barrier with that connection.

    Art of any kind is about how you connect with it. Whether you like something is highly subjective, but how it affects you is unique.
    So for that, I tend to look at what I connect with
    Last edited by FFJamie94; 04-17-2021 at 03:34 PM.

  4. #4
    Astonishing Member Journey's Avatar
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    The art needs to be tolerable & the story needs to be decent at best .

  5. #5
    Extraordinary Member cranger's Avatar
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    Mostly Art Criticism.

    Sometimes market theory.

    I absolutely avoid the type of critical theory as defined here. Art is already subjective enough, I won't pretend to have any credentials on the redeeming aspects of entertainment or employment. I do think though that the art is easier to appreciate when society is better reflected over what seems to be the market demand.

  6. #6
    Astonishing Member 9th.'s Avatar
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    I'd love to answer this but I'm wildly inconsistent, it depends on how invested I am. Usually if the art is good and the story is decent then i'm fine with it.
    Reading List (Super behind but reading them nontheless):
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  7. #7
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    For me it is art and story and what it contributes to the universe the creator establishes. Nothing takes me out of a story more than a world breaking it's own rule. That's why i think i tend to like manga because one person sets the rule for how physics, magic whatever is suppose to exist. Usually when you break your own rules my mind goes into full on question mode. I don't care about canon but rules. Like storm powers working in space and then all of a sudden not working in limbo. Or Jean able to lift buildings but then straining with a shield. IT drives me crazy.

    But i will say as a black american i feel i come off more enittled and expect more than my international brothers if that hits the topic. i would never settle for some of things i feel they are but i try to think international and adjust my approach accordingly. this forum has told me 100% international black people don't think the same way as American black people, imo. i find that exciting and fascinating because i never really thought of American black people explaining themselves to two crowds, especially an international black crowd that imo sometimes expects less.
    Last edited by jwatson; 04-17-2021 at 03:38 PM.
    Don't let anyone else hold the candle that lights the way to your future because only you can sustain the flame.

  8. #8
    Mighty Member Kingdom X's Avatar
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    For X-Men comics I would say Critical Theory at the beginning of a run or maybe when looking a the run holistically, but that’s exhausting to do issue by issue, so it’s something I usually keep at the back of my mind. Art criticism definitely comes more naturally.

  9. #9

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    I'm both. And both are deeply interwoven.

    Within art criticism, story is the most important element to me. The way a story is written can bring a deeper connection to the characters and what they're experiencing, which in turn can be very personal and tap into parts of personhood if the story is done well enough to reach those parts. This is why fiction has become so prominent for our pop culture. It says something about you, and also plays a part in your development as a person. The composition/framing/sequencing is relevant for its role in the story, and what it says about those characters and that world and getting it across.

    But these things don't exist within a vacuum. They're informed by, and influencing, our society - going into the critical theory component. How an issue contributes to society is impacted by how a character affects people on a personal level. Misrepresenting a character in and of themselves cascades into a negative effect to readers on a personal level, in turn cascading to negative effect on the societal level. Conversely, excellent representation can be inspiring on a personal level and in turn inspire more and better within society as a whole. A single artist drawing a single image a certain way may seem like something very small to some people, but it can have a huge impact, and that impact on even just one person can ripple into everything and everyone around them and beyond.

    Regarding older material, technically it can be looked at as a product of its time. We can't fault past creators for not having the developments technically and culturally that we have now and working with what they had. But, we need to be careful about this. People like to pull history revisionism and imagine e.g. Lovecraft can't be faulted for being racist because "that's just the way things were." And when it comes to the fiction itself, we can fault a creator if they're clearly taking a backstep from their predecessors on that front. We also do have to judge past work by how present work is influenced by it. It's a problem if nostalgia for past work that's bad by today's standards is treated like it should continue the same way today, and excuses are made to justify keeping it that way.

    Anyway, that's my post, I await the slugfest!
    I can also be reached on Twitter and WordPress. Avatar by Ty Romsa (not commissioned by me).

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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by salarta View Post
    I'm both. And both are deeply interwoven.

    Within art criticism, story is the most important element to me. The way a story is written can bring a deeper connection to the characters and what they're experiencing, which in turn can be very personal and tap into parts of personhood if the story is done well enough to reach those parts. This is why fiction has become so prominent for our pop culture. It says something about you, and also plays a part in your development as a person. The composition/framing/sequencing is relevant for its role in the story, and what it says about those characters and that world and getting it across.

    But these things don't exist within a vacuum. They're informed by, and influencing, our society - going into the critical theory component. How an issue contributes to society is impacted by how a character affects people on a personal level. Misrepresenting a character in and of themselves cascades into a negative effect to readers on a personal level, in turn cascading to negative effect on the societal level. Conversely, excellent representation can be inspiring on a personal level and in turn inspire more and better within society as a whole. A single artist drawing a single image a certain way may seem like something very small to some people, but it can have a huge impact, and that impact on even just one person can ripple into everything and everyone around them and beyond.

    Regarding older material, technically it can be looked at as a product of its time. We can't fault past creators for not having the developments technically and culturally that we have now and working with what they had. But, we need to be careful about this. People like to pull history revisionism and imagine e.g. Lovecraft can't be faulted for being racist because "that's just the way things were." And when it comes to the fiction itself, we can fault a creator if they're clearly taking a backstep from their predecessors on that front. We also do have to judge past work by how present work is influenced by it. It's a problem if nostalgia for past work that's bad by today's standards is treated like it should continue the same way today, and excuses are made to justify keeping it that way.

    Anyway, that's my post, I await the slugfest!
    I don't know why. i find your post comforting because your consistent in a real person way. even if i sometimes rarely disagree.
    Don't let anyone else hold the candle that lights the way to your future because only you can sustain the flame.

  11. #11
    Astonishing Member Rang10's Avatar
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    Art Criticism
    The art: framing, composition, sequencing. Along with lettering, colouring, and of course the story itself.

    Critical Theory
    What does this issue offer? In what way does it contribute to society? Does it do so negatively or positively? Does it have proper representation within the story, and by those who created it? Does it play into stereotypes or does it challenge our preconceived notions?
    Both are valid and come together when reading stories. Sometimes a comic is fine with art and even writing but the implications can be very awful.

  12. #12
    Mighty Member Ra-El's Avatar
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    I just read it, if I like I like if I don't like, I don't. So probably art criticism? Honestly you give me to much credit.

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by jwatson View Post
    I don't know why. i find your post comforting because your consistent in a real person way. even if i sometimes rarely disagree.
    Thank you. I try to be honest with myself, and keep in mind both things I've said before and impact on others. There are a lot of pit traps in online discourse and fandom that are very easy to fall into but can be avoided with self-analysis and considering others' POV. I've made plenty of mistakes over time though, and I know I will again, it's a learning process. I've also been thinking about treatment of characters for well over a decade (not just in comics, but in other media too like video games), so that helps a lot.
    I can also be reached on Twitter and WordPress. Avatar by Ty Romsa (not commissioned by me).

    Polaris 50th anniversary minicomic written by me and drawn by Mlad!

    Gallery of Polaris commissions (without NSFW or minicomics)

  14. #14
    Mighty Member Uncanny X-Man's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mozzle View Post
    I spend most of my time reading comments rather than posting, and one thing I've noticed, is the vastly different criteria when judging the quality of a comic issue:

    Art Criticism
    The art: framing, composition, sequencing. Along with lettering, colouring, and of course the story itself.

    Critical Theory
    What does this issue offer? In what way does it contribute to society? Does it do so negatively or positively? Does it have proper representation within the story, and by those who created it? Does it play into stereotypes or does it challenge our preconceived notions?
    ____

    I am First Nations. And as a minority, I'm often surprised by how passionate people are with the critical theory approach. Especially from people who would not identify as a minority. I'm caught off guard by the criticism of others on my behalf when I myself don't feel that way. But also recognize the value of it, and am encouraged by the convictions of people who just want to make the world a more inclusive welcoming place, even if I don't necessarily agree with the approach.
    One example being identity politics. But that's okay. I'm not going to die on that hill. I know myself well enough to know that I'm not an expert on these issues. My opinions come from my age, my upbringing, my experiences, and my disposition. Not from research and data. So I can be swayed.

    I love X-Men for the ideas of family, for the sense of adventure, for the contrived and convoluted continuity, and of course the characters. A group of outsiders who want to belong, but belong on their own terms.
    ____

    I would love to hear from you all about how you approach art in general, and more specifically X-Men comics, how do you approach older material? Do you hold it to the same standard as current releases? Do you focus on the story and art, or do you focus on where it exists in today's society?

    I truly hope this doesn't open a can of worms. I just think if we have a better understanding of where each of us is coming from, it may help us be nicer and more patient with one another when discussing our favourite mutants.
    Interesting topic and very interesting answers so far! For me I think it's a good mix between Art Criticism and Critical Theory eschewing more towards the former, because ultimately I read comicbooks to be entertained. It is becoming increasingly important for creators to be aware of the context, the times, the audience they write for and how their creations will fit into all that.

    And in reference to the latter part of your post, I do feel X-Men comics are held to a somewhat higher standard than other comics for a variety of reasons: because they've been EXTREMELY popular for 40 years now, and the more fans you have, and the more diverse these fans are, the higher the scrutiny; and also because the very foundation of their stories is about societal struggle, being different, trying to get accepted, etc as opposed to punching bad guys in tight costumes.

  15. #15
    Mighty Member Uncanny X-Man's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by salarta View Post
    Regarding older material, technically it can be looked at as a product of its time. We can't fault past creators for not having the developments technically and culturally that we have now and working with what they had. But, we need to be careful about this. People like to pull history revisionism and imagine e.g. Lovecraft can't be faulted for being racist because "that's just the way things were." And when it comes to the fiction itself, we can fault a creator if they're clearly taking a backstep from their predecessors on that front. We also do have to judge past work by how present work is influenced by it. It's a problem if nostalgia for past work that's bad by today's standards is treated like it should continue the same way today, and excuses are made to justify keeping it that way.

    Anyway, that's my post, I await the slugfest!
    Very well posed Salarta and I agree with every word. I think it's also useful to compare how contemporaries are writing the same thing to understand how much was a product of its time and how much was a product of a particular writer's beliefs and upbringing. Case in point, think about how Chris Claremont wrote Scott and Jean being in a relationship, and then think about how John Byrne wrote Reed and Sue being married. So many cringe-worthy lines uttered by Sue during Byrne's run like "Reed darling, I don't make it a habit of disagreeing with you but...".

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