Monday, 12 September 2011

A RESPONSE TO JAMIE SMART'S OPEN INTERNET LETTER...


The Beano's Dennis giving The Dandy's Dan a thumping -
a prophetic example of life imitating art perhaps?


Recently, artist Jamie Smart posted an open letter to the internet over on his blog.  I felt obliged to respond.

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 An open letter to the internet.

"When The Dandy relaunched last year, it caught a lot of attention.  As Britain’s oldest comic institution, it had the weight of history behind it and any attempts at revitalising the form would naturally take some punches.  What it did was quite daring, it scrapped the magazine format it had been slowly creeping towards, and instead declared itself a bona fide comic once more, filled to the gills with a variety of cartoons.  Initially it also did away with the cover-mounted freebie toys, a risk in today’s market.  What it wanted to be, was a modern version of the comics we grew up with.  Unashamedly silly.

Recently the response came back - sales had dropped by a half.  What a crushing blow to such a noble attempt.

Inevitably, sensing blood, the parasites have come out.  Sensing a wounded animal they’ve pounced, picking at it from a safe cowering distance.  In this canyon of the internet, the wretched scabby vultures don’t waste a second.  Forums and blogs, suddenly filled with the barely-concealed glee of a thousand old, bitter, failed cartoonists who declare they KNEW it wouldn’t work.  I say they’re failed car-toonists because you can usually follow the trail of bun crumbs back to their own portfolios, as they’ve clearly tried to infiltrate the world of children’s comics but obviously never quite made it.  Instead of crying salty tears into their own pisspoor efforts, they bitch and whine their stupid opinions online, content that there’ll always be some other bitter tit who feels the same."

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What Mr. Smart apparently fails to realize is that absolutely nobody is happy with the current predicament The DANDY is in. If the attempt to breathe new life into the comic was noble - and bold - it was also almost certainly misguided and misjudged, at least in the way it was handled.  At a stroke, D.C. THOMSON eliminated any last remnants of the "feel-good" nostalgia factor which, for many years, was probably the primary reason for the comic's longevity.  It reminds me of when COCA COLA changed the taste of their iconic brand and, such was the resistance to it by consumers (sales apparently plummeted) that they had to reinstate the "classic" recipe.

For Mr. Smart to call anyone with an opinion different to his own a "vulture" or a "parasite" is as shocking as it is inaccurate.  Although I do not like his current version of DESPERATE DAN, I devoted a post on my blog to a positive critique of his art on his own blog.

And as for his ridiculous comments about failed cartoonists, let me remind him that, as far as failure goes, his brief (and that of others also) was to revive the comic.  In that respect, those involved have singularly and spectacularly failed!  It's probably partly because of this realization that he's on his best "whiny bitch" defence-mode.  The simple fact is that many people said that the new Dandy was a mistake and wouldn't sell.  Looks like they were right.  I think they've proved their point - or, rather, poor sales have done it for them.  Seems that some people just can't live with being wrong and feel a need to lash out and attack others, which is rich, considering what comes next.

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"Worse is the personal attacks they make on the art. The Dandy was bold in allowing new, unexpected artists to take the reigns on some of their popular characters, to try new things and shake the medium up a bit.  The range of material inside was a joy, and should be applauded.  But the criticism coming back at it was unfounded, and purely subjective.  I’ll say this now, I can take it.  I’ve been doing this long enough, and had enough whiney criticism thrown at me that it swiftly stops being hurtful and fast becomes funny.  When you realise you’re being criticised by the angry, bitter internet, with all its confused rationale and hypocritical vitriol, it becomes more of a trophy - the fact you’re invoking such a reaction means you’re doing something right.  But I’ve seen the attacks on the other artists, some of them brutal, and it’s nothing but childish jealousy.  It dismisses all the years of work someone’s put into their craft in one sentence."

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"The criticism...was unfounded, and purely subjective."  Likewise, Mr. Smart's opinion to the contrary is equally subjective - and therefore doesn't have any more validity than (according to him) those of his critics.  As for his assertion that "the fact you're invoking such a reaction means you're doing something right." - total nonsense! I rather think it proves he's doing something wrong and confirms - along with drastically decreased sales - that the criticism was very far from being "unfounded" indeed.

And to call criticism "nothing but childish jealousy" and to presume it comes from those with unachieved artistic aspirations merely demonstrates an elitist attitude.  I'm willing to bet that the majority of criticism comes from ordinary people who have never even considered a career in comics, never mind pursued one.

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"It’s pathetic.  An opinion is one thing, and an informed critical opinion can often be very helpful.  But a snide, bullshit swipe at something that was trying to do good is callous.  The Dandy was standing up for British comics, and the artists were chosen because their artwork delights children.  And it did, any naysayer can say their kids didn’t like The Dandy but they’re not taking into account the thousands that DID, and the untapped audience that would if they could just be reached.  For every grown adult who says I draw comics like an idiot monkey, there’s a score of people who love what I do.  Complaining that someone’s style is wrong is like saying custard is offensive - it means nothing.  It’s your opinion.  Instead of frothing it up with the nastiest words you can muster, try not thinking about it.  Try getting on with your own life.  Try doing something constructive instead of whining like a bitch."

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To paraphrase one of his above statements and cast it in a far more realistic light - "...any yaysayer can say their kids love The Dandy, but they're not taking into account the thousands that DON'T!"  (As testified to by the fact that half its recent readership has abandoned it.)

Face facts.  Of course there are other factors involved in the circulation decline of all magazines, but such conditions have existed for years.  The main reason that The Dandy's sales have deteriorated so drastically in such a short space of time is that readers have simply abandoned it because it failed to deliver.  For that, those responsible should accept their fair share of culpability in the situation, rather than posture as misunderstood geniuses whose efforts and talent are unappreciated.  That's like saying it's the fault of the audience.  We see such petulant, childish, arrogant behaviour on our TVs every week, whenever the X-FACTOR judges tell some social inadequate that he or she can't sing, dance, or whatever.

Simply put, just like them, Mr. Smart lays the reasons for The Dandy's shortcomings at the door of his critics.  As for his assertion that "For every grown adult who says that I draw comics like an idiot monkey, there's a score of people who love what I do." - really?  That's the verdict arrived at as a result of a stringent, scientifically-conducted survey on the matter, is it?  Talk about being subjective.  He needs to remember that for every person who still buys The Dandy, there's another who doesn't, but used to.  (not counting the fact that the few thousand who buy the comic are outnumbered thousands-to-one by those who never have and never would.) 

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"The reasons for The Dandy audience slide could be many (distribution, advertising, competition etc).  I thought they were doing something really right, you can say I’m biased because I work for them, but I would have applauded it even if I had not.  Even if they’d rejected my work, I would have promoted the relaunched Dandy.  It deserves a huge amount of respect for trying, and I really hope it can find a way to keep going.  I’ve a few suggestions but hey, I’m sure they’ve a few plans too.

Instead of hiding in your dark corners, internet critics, seeping out at the first sign of trouble, you could have been cheering on a bold move in children’s comics.  You could have stood up for the greater cause, you may even have enjoyed some of the work inside if you’d made the effort to look past your own bitter opinions.  But you’d rather criticise some- one else’s work, than do something constructive yourself.  Because it’s far easier to destroy than it is to create."

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It's also far easier to create stuff that people don't want, and then blame the audience for not wanting it.  If the comic is "destroyed" (and we all surely hope it isn't) then it was the misguided and ill-advised new direction which is responsible for its de-struction.  That's something Mr. Smart would do well to consider, as he hurls his bad-tempered, vitriolic insults at the backs of a rapidly departing audience.  The Dandy destroyed?  Then he had a hand in doing it!  Something he should remember as, with thumb in mouth, he sulks under the blankets of a bed of his own making.

He describes anyone who has been vocal in their criticism of the recent incarnation of The Dandy as "whining like a bitch".  People in glass houses perhaps?  For one who isn't shy about using his own blog to vent his frustrations, how dare he berate anyone else for doing the same thing.  The words pot and kettle spring to mind.  And as for "personal attacks" - when he's been told that "cancer is too good for you" and "you've only ever f****d your mum" (as was on his site) then he'll know just what a personal attack is.

Why not simply follow his own advice?  "Instead of frothing it up with the nastiest words you can muster, try not thinking about it.  Try getting on with your life.  Try doing something constructive instead of whining like a bitch."  Indeed.  Now why not trying drawing a strip that will increase The Dandy's sales, instead of driving them away in droves?

That'd be a good start.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

At last. The voice of reason.

Kid said...

Wish you'd put your name. Some idiot will be sure to say we're the same person. See, they just can't believe that more than one or two people could possibly hold an opinion different to theirs.

Anonymous said...

Smart's artwork that now dominates the Dandy is poor - it looks rushed and unfinished and cheapens the overall feel of the comic. The covers are also consistantly weak.

As a kid, I always gravitated towards the more detailed, lavishly drawn strips and I believe children do respond to good solid drawings and are put off by half hearted scribbles.

If the Dandy artists can't be bothered to put the effort in, why should the readers?

I guess if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys that can't draw.

Kid said...

I'd agree about the covers, but I don't think that's Nigel Parkinson's fault (if he's still doing them - I haven't seen a cover in a while) because he's only providing what he's asked for, and then only the actual art. And at least Nigel can actually draw. It's the editor who's responsible at the end of the day. I'm not a fan of the way Jamie Smart draws anything in The Dandy, but over on his own blog, his non-D.C. Thomson work has its own charm. I think he could probably use a better style than the one he does. Again, he's just giving the editor what he's asking for (or prepared to accept) so, as I said, it's really the editor to blame when all is said and done.

Mr Straightman said...

Dear God, a right old shitstorm has blown up over this one.

I've shown the new look Dandy to a lot of people - younger than me AND older than me - and they all share the same opinion. "Awful".
It's a great shame. Dandy Xtreme was an abortion that should never have been attempted, and if there's one positive thing about the revamp, it's that it killed off Dandy Xtreme. On the down side, pretty well everything else.

The new Dandy is so poor it makes me weep. The Beano is still well drawn, for the most part, so why don't the same rules apply to the Dandy?

Kid said...

Makes sense to me, especially as The Beano outsells The Dandy by a wide margin. But then again, what do I know? I only like well-drawn comics. Perhaps it's me who's out of step? Beano readers don't seem to think so 'though.

Kid said...

Over on another blog, a certain person continues to indulge in his pursuit of stirring things up in his best toadying fashion.

Describing as 'vindictive' certain responses prompted by Jamie Smart's over-the-top tirade against those who are less than thrilled by the current situation of The Dandy, he completely fails (or refuses) to see that himself and Mr. Smart are the ones who have indulged in that particular game.

He then rather pompously has the cheek to say that the responses to which he refers "completely proved (Mr. Smart's) point". I can omly wonder why he's allowed out by himself. When he looks in the mirror he probably believes he sees a strong resemblance to Brad Pitt. We're talking seriously deluded.

Apparently, anyone with anything to say about The Dandy which doesn't agree with his own warped and blinkered view is the bad guy, and anyone who agrees with him has "brought forth" a "reasoned critique". Everything under the sun is blamed for The Dandy's decline, except, it seems, that most ex-readers don't like what's been done to the comic.

Former readers have voted with their money by not buying the comic, yet still some people seem incapable of joining the dots.

It's very telling that when people over on Mr. Smart's blog say things like cancer is too good for me and make genuine personal attacks against me, there is not a word of condemnation against them, whereas I, and others, are villified for merely pointing out the fact that The Dandy experiment has been an abject failure.

I'm quite sure that even the worst criticism of his artwork that Mr. Smart has had to 'endure' is nowhere near as vicious or vitriolic as what has been said about me on his blog.

Speaks for itself I think - and completely proves MY point.

Anonymous said...

http://www.deadlinenews.co.uk/2011/09/11/desperate-dandy-comics-celebrity-relaunch-backfired/

you were quoted on some news site.

Kid said...

And they got it wrong. I've never even considered whether the celebrity strips have had an adverse effect on sales or not.

Leonard Phillips said...

"At a stroke, D.C. THOMSON eliminated the 'feel-good' nostalgia factor that has so far ensured the comics longevity"

Very far from the truth. (paricularly the phrase "at a stroke".) Before the 2010 relaunch, all that was left of the Dandy was the "Dandy Extreme"; about as far from a UK childrens comic with the "feel good nostalgia factor" as can be conceived of. There was nothing left to "eliminate".
Otheriwse, personaly I think the 2010 relaunch was bold and true to the spirit of the Dandy as a comic that appeals to (or at least at the potential to appeal to) the kids of today. It was a lot better than the weaker 2004 revival, which only seemed to get a fraction of the criticism that the 2010 one has accured. What did you make of the 2004 Dandy?

Kid said...

Despite earlier, less-fanfared new directions, the general public perception (erroneous as it was) of The Dandy was that the comic was much as it had always been. As a direct result of the much-hyped relaunch and a more 'abstract' approach art-wise, that safe, cosy, public perception (the nostalgia factor) was destroyed - at a stroke. So I stand by what I said.

The 2004 version of The Dandy was, as Mr. Straightman said, an abomination. I don't think anyone disputes that something had to be done about the comic to remedy that mistake, or doubts the good intentions behind the relaunch in 2010. What they take issue with is the result. Simply put, it was yet another mistake.

In claiming that they (DCT) were returning The Dandy to its comics roots, I think people were expecting something more like The Beano. That's far from what they got, hence the cries of disappointment from the traditionalists.

In short, the 2010 relaunch got more flak than the 2004 one because, firstly, it got more publicity and, secondly, there was a greater sense of expectation from comics lovers. Failing to fulfill those expectations led to a greater level of negative reaction - and, ultimately, lower sales.

Anonymous said...

How do you explain The Beano losing 20% of it's readers, Kid?

I know it's much less than The Dandy's recent loss, but it IS still a substantial loss - one-fifth of the readers gone, just like that. But it seems to be being swept under the carpet, as if it's nothing to really be worried about. Surely any title shedding readers has got to look at itself, not JUST The Dandy?

You keep going on about how The Dandy should be more like The Beano, but it seems to me The Beano is also suffering, just more slowly.

Neither approach is really yielding amazing results to be crowed about.

Kid said...

The reason for The Beano's loss of sales will be down to a combination of the factors that we all recognize and acknowledge. I don't need to run through the list again - as I said, we all know what they are.

However, I still don't think that these same elements can be responsible for the MAJORITY of The Dandy's unprecedented decline in circulation in so short a time.

The most obvious explanation is that, 'though these same long-term reasons which have led to shrinking sales for all publications will have had an effect, the short-term devastation which The Dandy has suffered is mainly down to one-time readers abandoning it. Why? Quite simply, they don't like the new content.

And 'though The Beano is in nowhere near as critical a condition as The Dandy, I agree with you that it shouldn't be complacent.

As to what the solution is in the long term, I'm afraid I just don't know. However, as with any publication, I'd suggest that content should be the first consideration.

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