Manifesto: Fiercely Independent

A column article, Manifesto by: Jason Sacks



I think a lot about Comics Bulletin and what makes us unique.

One of the main things that makes Comics Bulletin unique, and the reason for today's column, is the fact that we are, as I love to say, "fiercely independent." We're not just an independent minded website or a site that doesn't listen to trends or fashions or a site that goes its own direction.

No, we really are fiercely independent. We make up our own damn minds about things.

We cover the topics that we think are important to cover. That may overlap with the coverage you can find on other comics and pop culture websites, but often it will not. And when we do cover material that is also covered on other websites, you'll usually see CB take a different viewpoint on the topic, cover it in a different way than other sites. We have a strong sense of what we feel is important and right, and our coverage will reflect that approach.

We also look at material in our own independent way. I'm proud that CB's reviews often take a completely different viewpoint than reviews on other sites, that we tend to zig when other sites zag. I love it when we go against the consensus and rate comics or movies or games or TV shows highly or lowly compared with the ratings given on other sites. We trust our writers to be able to articulate their specific views of why they feel the ways they do about work, and promise to keep up that independence as we try to help you decide the best ways to spend your hard earned money.

I think that independence is an important virtue in a world where every small site that engages in media criticism can also be accused of some sort of bias in favor of certain publishers or filmmakers or TV shows or whatever.

But that's not us. We're fiercely independent. Which means that we're not beholden to anyone. 

We're not beholden to the publishers whose work we really like. Ideologically, we're supporters of Image's efforts to allow creators to make money from their extremely creative intellectual properties. We're supporters of Fantagraphics's endless efforts to expand the depth and quality of material available in the comics industry. We love indie comics, indie games, indie movies, indie fiction.  Ideologically that independent spirit fits our site ethos. But we're not all about them. 

We're about mainstream stuff. We're about the pop stuff – Doc Ock in Peter Parker's body and the endless exposition of The Hobbit and the brilliance of Assassin's Creed and anything else that's part of the zeitgeist.

But the thing that we promise you, and the thing that's so part of Comics Bulletin's DNA that I can't ever imagine our moving away from it, is that we're fiercely independent about these works. We make up our own damn minds about them. 

But we will always be ethical about the material we cover and the way that we cover it.

We will always have our own unique take on the item – or a series of takes, from more than one writer or a few people on our podcast or a funny conversation on our twitter feed. But it doesn’t matter if we're best friends with the publisher or if the movie studio is advertising on CB, or if one of us is having hot steamy sex with the creator of the work in question. 

Free review copies imply no obligation for positive reviews – sorry, publisher of a terrible small press comic, I'm talking about you. We'll be honest, sometimes brutally so, but we will always be honest with our commentsif we review the work. And to be honest – again, I'm talking about you, small press friend - often we will choose not to review something because we really didn't like it, or because it's not timely, or because it's offensive in some way, or sometimes if we just can't find someone who cares about the work in question. And yeah, sometimes we won't review a work if we either don't like – or really like - a creator and don't feel like we can give it an honest review.

We also reserve the right to not review material that we find morally objectionable. That's why you'll never see a review of a Before Watchmen comic on our site. Some things are just wrong and we refuse to perpetuate that wrongness in any way by writing about that work on our site.

We never discuss review scores with anyone before the review is published. We can't be bribed or nagged to improve or lower a review score.

No staffer will review material in which they can make some sort of material gain, such as a book that they, their spouse of a loved one worked on. 

We are delighted to take advertisements, but those advertisements will not influence our coverage of the material that is advertised or the company that advertises on CB. The same is true of review copies, party invitations, hotel accommodations, anything. We go to conventions and we have lots of friends in the industry. Some of us even room with creators at cons and get to see them as they really are. Those experiences give us plenty of chances to get cool stuff and go to cool parties. I literally have rubbed elbows with all kinds of geek celebrities, and that is always a thrill. But that thrill doesn't influence how we discuss or treat the celebrities' work. We keep a strong ethical wall between our financial, emotional and intellectual interests.

And finally, while we're all friends with people in our beloved industries, we take great pains to not let any friendships (or disagreements) affect our opinions of the works that we review. We take real pains to separate the creator from the work. As you can imagine, that can be extraordinarily difficult at times, but we strive to do that. And if we have real problems separating emotion from the review, we simply won't write a review – no matter how important the work or how interesting the material. We just won't play that game. I know in my case, personally, I work very hard at separating out my emotions for the creators from the work despite the fact that running this website means I do a huge amount of networking with industry professionals. I'll talk about this conundrum in a future Manifesto.

In the end all we have to offer you is our sincerity, our honesty and our deep, deep enthusiasm for the works that we review. Few things get me more excited than getting free promo copies of books or free movie passes or interviews with interesting creators whose work I adore. But those perks have nothing to do with my approach to the work that I review, and the same rule applies to each and every one of the amazing writers who we publish here on CB. We approach every work from the viewpoint of whether something is worth the cover price, the time to read it and the emotional impact the work can have on ourselves and possibly others.

 We're fiercely independent. We owe it to you to stay fiercely independent. And frankly, we owe that to ourselves, too.



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