I've been wrong in criticizing things before, and likely will be again.
I'm not one to be prudish while pretending not to be. I'm not one to add “but” in saying anything about shocking humor, especially since I'm guilty of it myself. Some things I don't like for whatever reason. I'm sure it's happened to you. I've given all sorts of things a second thought and had a different opinion from my first impression. It's like when you recommend a TV show to someone who won't give it a try, and when they finally do it's always the worst or least representative episode.
When I first saw South Park I hated it. To me it was just a show about gratuitous vulgarity and nothing else. I said that and people kept telling me that wasn't entirely the point, that the one I saw wasn't the best one. I respected their opinions of other things, so I thought I'd give it another try. While I find the show very inconsistent in quality, I get the humor more and realize it's not just the creators seeing what they can get away with.
Family Guy was something else I didn't like upon first glance. To me it seemed like a Simpsons clone and another example of shock for shock's sake. I've looked at more of it online and though I still feel they rely too much on cheap laughs most of the time, one out of five gags is pretty funny. That's still a higher ratio than most sitcoms. Using the “even a stopped clock is right twice a day” principle they're so rapidfire that every episode has at least one moment of brilliance. And Seth MacFarlane is usually funny when he does talk shows.
I still think the design looks like shit. And when Peter Griffin says something politically incorrect, I realize the joke is not the slur but that Peter is stupid for saying it, but that's probably lost on the average frat-boy who only has their prejudices reaffirmed. I don't hate the show anymore though.
I do hate when people quote catchphrases or wear them on their T-shirts, though, and you'll never change my mind on that.
That brings us to Hoofjob. A few months ago I was doing an ego-surf on Amazon. When you look at anything there, they'll always suggest a similar book you might like. I was horrified when they suggested this book.
My immediate reaction was that the author, Geoffrey Sanchez Reed, was trying to imitate me. I put up an angry post on Facebook saying so. Additionally I felt insulted because I haven't been on peoples' radar the past few years myself. The responses were all like “don't worry about it, he's not as funny as you” and trashing him. I was also annoyed because of criticism I've received in the past from people (most of whom have never actually read them) who thought this was what my comics looked like.
Within hours Mr. Reed contacted me. He said that he was glad to have received feedback from me, even if it was negative. He explained that he wasn't trying to copy me at all, but was just a big fan. He had no aspirations to be a professional cartoonist. It was just something he did to amuse himself and his friends. He preferred to do music.
I took back what I'd said when I realized it wasn't a competition to see who's the best. My ego is such that adulation can make me do a complete 180. It doesn't matter if someone is a millionaire movie producer or a 13-year-old copying my drawings in his notebook, it flatters me equally no matter who it is if I'm an influence in any way. Flattery will get you everywhere. As a friend once aptly said “cartoonists are all self-deprecating narcissists.”
A few days ago, cleaning out my browser, I saw his work again. Even though things were fine between me and Geoffrey, I still felt bad telling him he should shoot for polish when he told me didn't consider himself a cartoonist foremost. I take what I first said back. I wouldn't point him out as an up-and-coming cartoonist if someone were to ask me who I liked, but I still laugh at his work occasionally.
I still feel justified in my initial knee-jerk reaction. Years ago a few people showed me something from a runner-up of the annual SF Bay Guardian cartoon contest. This was clearly an imitation of me. The judges were friends of mine and one of them thought it was me submitting as a joke, especially since the person's name, Extra Maat, didn't seem real. A few people met him and he claimed to have never heard of me. To this day, I don't buy it. I shouldn't stay mad at him, though. For years I was able to pad my comic with a “contest” allowing readers to send in their imitations of my comics.
(I had to request the cartoon below on Twitter since I couldn't find the comic this was printed in. Thanks to Jason Dupuis for coming to the rescue. Yes, it was originally pixillated like this.)
Once in a while, someone will point out something similar to mine, sometimes it's a blatant copy, more often it's someone influenced by the same things I was. In one particular instance where the case was the latter, a girlfriend at the time urged me to threaten to sue. I'd like to use this opportunity to apologize. And it would be hypocritical if I actually followed through, since as I've said before, I feel it's a mockery of the courts to settle petty squabbles between cartoonists.
Shifting gears, if you're in the NYC area, especially if you have kids, here's info on one of the Carousel events I participate in every few months. We did one for kids last year. With everyone else, I'll be reading some of the pieces I've done for Nickelodeon which will hopefully finally be collected from Top Shelf in early 2012. I know I've been saying it'll be out soon for the past two years. It's been finished and camera-ready all that time and scheduled to be released many times, they've even promoted it, but they keep saying they don't have the funds. So whatever the case, I can't say it's my fault.
And did I mention there will be audience participation at this show?
I was a bit disappointed in the way the Carousel for Kids flyer turned out. R.Sikoryak didn't use my suggestion. Oh well, you can't win 'em all.
I suppose that in order for last paragraph to have been grammatically correct, I should have ended it with a semi-colon and close-parenthesis.