Illogical Volume: Ales, from your response to my Wild Children review and the way I’ve seen you handle criticism both on twitter and in the comments section of the Mindless Ones site, it seems like you’ve got a fairly robust attitude to peoples’ responses to your work. Do you think you’ll be able to keep yourself open to negative or complicated responses to your work or do you think it’ll wear you down into a hyper-sensitive husk as you go on?
Ales Kot: Thanks! I’m actually quite sensitive, I just choose to deal with critique — whether well-phrased or not — as calmly and politely as possible. As Orwell says in his essay on Charles Dickens, “If men would behave decently the world would be decent” is not such a platitude as it sounds.”
Morgan Jeske: Jumping in here with my own approach to the subject: I don’t do it. By that I mean don’t engage with criticism in comment sections of reviews. Read them, sure, but I think directly engaging with the reviewer feels like you’re trying to change their mind about the work. If they read it “wrong”, then so be it, but I don’t think it’s your job as the person who made the thing to police response. I only focus on the negative here because I believe that if you’re going to read the good reviews you’ve got to read the bad. Just put the thing out there and live with the reception. I’m going to try damn hard to avoid reading responses to the book when it drops, because I’m still working on finishing #4 and I don’t want to mess with my flow before I’m finished. After it’s done, then I’ll go back and check in on the response having the distance from the project to read them ice cold and figure out how to do better next time. Because criticism is very important to getting better at closing the gap between your intent and reception I think.
AK: I agree with Morgan – it’s not my place to try and change someone’s mind about the work. What I like to do is this: I can offer an explanation if it’s asked for, or clarify something if an assumption is made. What the person chooses to do with the information I give is entirely up to them. I definitely intend to stay open to negative and complicated responses to my work. I love thinking about my comics and improving myself. If other people want to help me, all I can say is that I’m delighted.
IV: I was talking to Plok about a piece I’ve written for his internet opera a couple of weeks back, and when he said that part of it was “underwritten” my first reaction was pretty much “Yeah? Well maybe your mother is underwritten too!” Turns out he was right, but it made me wonder – is there any criticism, fair or otherwise, that’s likely to drive you up the wall?
AK: Not today. Unfairness annoys me in general because I don’t like people being unfair to other people, especially when they do it on purpose. But I’m in bed right now and it’s warm. Today I think of nice things. It’s beautiful outside right now…oh, look! Is it bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a government surveillance drone!
IV: In this work as in Wild Children, it feels like you’re trying to take on some fairly big ideas in a fairly direct way. As a young writer in pretty much every sense of the word, are you worried about falling flat on your face with any of this stuff?
AK: All the time. Doesn’t mean it will stop me.
IV: Related to the last question, do you find it difficult to balance the big thematic stuff with the demands of comic book storytelling? Like I said back at the start of this interview, Change feels like more of a fully synthesised work than Wild Children, but it’s also – for the span of its first issue, at least – less overtly ABOUT what it’s about.
AK: Comic books are in my blood. It’s not difficult to think in those terms – the difficulty comes from the desire to create something new and honest. I counted the themes in #1 and it’s something between 22-25 different ones. They spill over, they stay around. Wild Children was in your face on purpose. Change is your face.
IV: What’s your biggest fear about your own writing?
AK: What a great question! That I’m being fake, or at least not honest enough. It’s the same thing I’m afraid in my life – the same sort of a constant exploration I put myself under. Are my motives real? Are they real enough? Where do they come from? Why am I doing this? No, really, why am I doing this? That sort of a thing. It gets a bit annoying, but it’s also tremendously useful.
—->If you’re the sort of pervert who enjoys this sort of thing, click here to read Morgan fielding a similar question.
—->If you’re all warmed up for some SERIOUS INTERROGATIVE JOURNALISM now, click here instead.