by Jules Rivera
I like writing articles that teach. I like sharing lessons and personal experiences that hopefully can save someone else the time it took me to learn certain things the hard way. The problem is I find myself always doing it in the negative. ”Don’t do this.” “Stay away from that.” I’m sorry for that, but sometimes it’s faster and more effective for me to educate someone on what not to do instead of what to do.
So here’s my take on how not to behave like an artistic professional online.
First off, I’m going to step out of my normal MO in naming names. I rarely do because I think it’s important to focus on behaviors rather than the individuals involved. However, to understand the gravity of the situation here, I’m going to break that rule. Know that I’m only doing this so that others understand exactly how severe this is, and not to tear anyone down.
Once again, MY INTENT IS NOT TO TEAR ANYONE DOWN.
The story begins last week with an article on CBR in which comics journalist Janelle Asselin (aka @gimpnelly) wrote some unflattering things about the new Teen Titans cover. Her main complaints were the character anatomy and the perspective, many of which most sane artists could agree with. No, it does not make sense that a teenage girl looks like she has breast implants (NSFW Link). Yes, it does look like Red Robin is a giant perched atop an oddly tiny wall. Her criticisms after that are more marketing-focused than technical, but summarily, this was not a positive review.
That should be the end of the story, right? Bad reviews happen all the time. Whatever. Except DC Artist Brett Booth decided to publicly bash the article and start an argument with Asselin, touching off a series of bullying remarks from people not even involved in the original discussion, going as far as rape threats.
Once again for emphasis: a public argument about a drawing of cartoon people in tights culminated in anonymous rape threats.
In the interest of transparency, I am professionally acquainted with Janelle Asselin, as she wrote the Hire This Woman article about me in Comics Alliance. Now, this is where internet folks would say “Well, Jules obviously has a dog in this fight with Asselin. They must be fro-bros like Elsa and Anna, right?” Uh, no. Just because someone posted a nice article about me, doesn’t make us fro-bros. I don’t personally know Janelle Asselin all that well. I also don’t know Brett Booth. I’ve never heard of him or his work. I am completely indifferent to him one way or another, so please understand I’m not being biased here and this is not a take down for or against either party. If I’m rattling at my keyboard, it’s because I’m trying to teach you guys something.
As an artistic professional, I learned very early (and very harshly) that starting an argument with another professional in public is not a good idea. I’ll have a debate or a discussion over Twitter with another professional, but I am extremely careful to keep things professional and not get personal. Definitely namecalling is off the table. The reason why I do this is because I know people are watching what I do and say (Hey, NSA dudes, what’s up?). I have some small semblance of influence and I know that influence can go the wrong way if I don’t control my ranting. I am not interested in any of my readers or followers bullying others because I disagreed with a guy on Twitter or Tumblr. This doesn’t mean I don’t have disagreements with other professionals. It just means I don’t make a public spectacle of it.
I don’t think Brett Booth understood how far his influence over his fans would go. I sincerely doubt he intended for random internet weirdos to send rape threats to a journalist in the interest of defending his colleague, Kenneth Rocafort (important to point out Brett Booth didn’t even do the cover in question). But that’s what happens when you have lots of followers. One wrong move can start a witch hunt.
The important thing to learn here is to control your public behavior if you’re a creator. I understand where Brett Booth is coming from. I’ve seen personal friends get lousy reviews and publicly taken down by internet walruses, and it sucks. I want to step in and defend them, but I don’t. I’ll support my friend in private, but I’ll keep my thoughts and feelings to myself in public. When you start an internet feud, nobody really wins.
The way to handle bad reviews is to look at the critique and see what you can learn from it, not to get defensive. And if you see a friend in a similar situation, support them in private, but don’t influence people to attack anyone. Even with the best of intentions, such an attack could inadvertently damage your friend instead of help them. Real professionals do not need their bro brigade to rescue them from bad reviews.
Once more for those of you in the back: real professionals do not need to be rescued from their bad reviews.
To be a professional means you can take your medicine. To be a professional means you can learn from your mistakes. To be a professional means you don’t foster an environment of abuse on your behalf. To be a professional means you act like a professional.
And acting like a professional means you control yourself online.
Resulting from this fall out, I believe Brett Booth owes two apologies. One to Janelle Asselin for starting this mess in the first place, and another to his fellow DC artists for making his entire team look like defensive crybabies to fellow industry professionals.
Like I said everyone watches what you do.