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The Eightball backlash arrives!

Marc Singer has this to say about the common overuse of the term “backlash” in the comics blogosphere:

“Criticism” does not equal “backlash,” or “snobbery” for that matter (as you should damn well know, Abhay). […] Do we really need to hear those disclaimers now? Or is the problem that this time the object of scorn is a fan darling, not one of those eminently safe targets like Liefeld?

Marc is replying to a commenter who pinned the word “backlash” on Marc’s critique of Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev’s work on Daredevil, but the above quote applies equally well to Sean Collins’s use of the word in his round up of recent discussion on, among other topics, Eightball #23. Now, I’m sure Sean means well, but he has a habit of crying “backlash” every time somebody expresses a less than entirely positive opinion concerning something Sean likes a lot (e.g., Blankets). The problem is, “backlash” usually carries a connotation (whether it’s intended or not) that the backlashers are antagonizing or attempting to punish the targets of backlash for pushing too far in a direction the backlashers don’t care for. Merely offering negative critique of some popular and well-liked work isn’t really backlash, but attacking those who like some popular and well-liked work—whether directly, or indirectly through a critique of the work—certainly is. It’s true that Steve Pheley begins his review of Eightball by writing, “Really, I don’t understand what the fuss is about,” but questioning the outright absurd mania with which, e.g., Alan David Doane reviews Eightball should hardly be lumped in with “‘Dan Clowes has no clothes’ backlash,” particularly considering Steve goes on to suggest he rather enjoyed the book. (And after all, Alan’s review contains entire sentences typed in all-caps and bizarre ranting about Dan Clowes’s “arctic shit-knife.” He’s sort of asking for people to giggle at him, really.)

What I’m getting at here is, if I never see another comics blogger use the word “backlash” again in my life, I will be so happy.

(By the way, I was actually expecting Sean to pull out his trusty “backlash” stamp for my own review of Eightball. I didn’t ask what all the fuss is about in my review, but it’s what I was thinking as I wrote. I mean, as I implied at the end of my review, I’ve read or am aware of so many stories [usually but not always written by white American males] about “I’m a horrible monster because of my repressed homoerotic urges that I can’t get over” [although the homoeroticism is usually annoyingly coy and subtextual, as in “The Death-Ray”], and come on Dan Clowes, we had to read this same story a million times in high-school English [not that our teachers were ever willing to admit they were forcing us to read practically nothing but stories about subtextual homosexuality], it’s time to write something new. I mean, I’m sure Clowes really felt like he had to write this story, but why do there have to be so many American male writers who have to write this same story? If there’s a “‘Dan Clowes has no clothes’ backlash,” I’m probably part of it. Although I think he probably does have clothes, it’s just that maybe he should try on some different clothes, to strain the metaphor.)

(By the way again, see Ken Lowery for hilarious “backlash” [1, 2].)


  1. J.W. Hastings says:

    I wrote about backlash, here. Not sure if thathelps any.

    — 19 July 2004 at 11:35 am (Permalink)

  2. Steven says:

    Thanks for the link. I remember reading your post back in March, but I’d forgotten about it. You’ve got a clearer definition of backlash there than I came up with.

    — 19 July 2004 at 11:59 am (Permalink)

  3. Rose says:

    I remember enjoying your breakdown of backlash, too, but it still seems that what you’re talking about there is still very different from Sean’s idea that it’s backlash if you take into account critical responses rather than discussing The Work, Period. I don’t really understand his position, particularly when he’s making it in a post in which he gathers running commentary on others’ impressions of the work in question, but I’m very troubled by the idea that holding other people accountable for their blog shenanigans or critical opinions is a bad thing. I imagine I could do a perfectly good reading of ADD’s original post and that this would be every bit as meaningful a blog post as one about Eightball #23, but just different. It’s a question of what constitutes the work. But now I’m just ranting, I think.

    — 19 July 2004 at 12:35 pm (Permalink)

  4. Marc says:

    I’m not sure I buy Sean’s subsequent explanation that his use of “backlash” referred only to posts critical of the hype and not the comic, given that he did start off Round 2 with the line “We’re beginning to see a ‘Dan Clowes has no clothes’ backlash” rather than something like “We’re beginning to see an ‘Alan David Doane needs a Valium’ backlash.”

    This comment really belongs on Sean’s blog, but as he doesn’t have comments I’ll just place it here and add my vocal agreement to Steven’s exhaustion re: the use of “backlash” any time a fan darling takes a well-deserved hit.

    — 19 July 2004 at 6:12 pm (Permalink)

  5. J.W. Hastings says:

    This doesn’t have anything specifically to do with what Sean was talking about, but I have noticed that almost every time Dan Clowes releases something new, someone, somewhere, takes a shot at it. I did this when the first “David Boring” issue came out, and had to eat my words once I had read the entire story. And, like my initial critique of DB, most of these pieces feel like they’d been written beforehand, with just enough details tossed in to keep it up to date. (Steven’s analysis of EB23 certainly didn’t feel at all like this, but I can’t say the same for other negative responses I’ve read.)

    However, this has gotten me thinking about some of the dangers of the 24-hour reviewing cycle. I know that my own first impressions of certain works have changed (sometimes radically) as I’ve had a chance to think more about them. Dueling first impressions can be fun, but it seems to early for Sean to draw a line in the sand over the issue.


    — 19 July 2004 at 8:35 pm (Permalink)

  6. Marc says:

    Btw, I think J.W.’s piece on backlash is quite apt - the section on “Must See TV” alone could be a summary of the Eightball reaction with the serial numbers filed off.

    — 19 July 2004 at 11:00 pm (Permalink)