Being a creator can be hard. Your work feels like a piece of you and it stings when critics find you wanting. But it’s generally not a good idea to respond to critique like a petulant two-year-old.
There are times when creators can’t quite grasp that concept and throw tantrums that would make the screaming baby at your local grocery store blush. The people listed below show the variety of creative ways our beloved authors and artists can flip out at critics- from libel, to attempted litigation, to straight up threats of violence. Take this list as an example of what not to do.
This particular spectacle is special to me because it’s one I witnessed firsthand. It requires a bit of context.
Detective Comics #809 (2005)
Back in 2004, a character called Stephanie Brown became Batman’s first female Robin. She was killed off in an extremely graphic, sexualized way soon after. Unlike the dead male Robin, she didn’t get a memorial case in the Batcave. This prompted a lot of discussion about gratuitous violence against women in comics by feminist fans and they gathered to protest her poor treatment. DC Comics caved under the pressure and bought the character back four years later.
Stephanie’s death was editorially mandated, but Bill Willingham was the one who had to write it. I attended a 2010 Heroes Con panel he co-hosted. At the panel, Willingham used the opportunity to state that he found the “girls” who campaigned for better treatment of Stephanie “annoying” and that he had fantasized about shooting them in the face.
It was a shocking moment. The irony of this man wanting to shoot women because they were protesting violence against women in media was incredible. I later reported it online a few times, but since the panel had been small, it didn’t receive much attention.
Bill Willingham. Dynamite Entertainment
Which might be why nobody realized it was a bad idea to have Bill moderate a “Writing Women-Friendly Comics” panel this year. He opened it by bashing a feminist news site that had criticized the panel, and then proceeded to interrupt every woman and minority who tried to speak. Some audience members called Bill out on this and so after the panel, he went to twitter and compared them to screaming little girls.
Oh, Bill. It’s pretty clear who’s really mastered throwing tantrums here.
The Tumblr Escher Girls, run by Ami Angelwings, catalogs the many mind-bending (and spine-bending) ways women are drawn in comics. The blog will post a comic panel or cover where a woman is drawn in an anatomically improbable way and give critical commentary. Sometimes artists will contribute by redrawing the picture in a more plausible way.
Randy Queen, the artist behind the Image Comics title Darkchylde was deeply unhappy to discover Escher Girls essentially pointing out the leggy blonde protagonist had misplaced most of her organs and replaced her bones with silly putty.
Darkchylde Remastered #1 (1997)
He quickly got Tumblr to issue a takedown notice and emailed the blog creator, threatening to sue her from defamation.
It wasn’t a smart move. As any lawyer will probably tell you, saying someone’s art looks a little weird is a far cry from falsely accusing someone of cheating or murder.
Darkchylde #1 (1996)
Fortunately for all involved, Queen eventually came to his senses and apologized to the blog creator.
The popular webcomic Penny Arcade received some ire for making a joke about game characters being "raped by dickwolves". This was met by criticism from rape survivors and other activists who were hurt and offended.
The team behind Penny Arcade, Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins, did what any mature creators would do and escalated the situation by releasing a comic that made further light of rape.
Mike and Jerry were so attached to defending their beautifully crafted joke that they started producing "I support Dickwolves" t-shirts for Penny Arcade's store.
Having to deal with an overblown crusade to defend the sanctity of sexually predatory phallus creatures sort of took the fun out of the Penny Arcade Expo and a lot of professionals began cutting ties with the convention. As a result, the store stopped the merchandise.
But Mike Krahulik was not going to let the issue drop that easily. He wore his “Dickwolves” T-shirt to the Penny Arcade Expo the following year and complained about the merchandise being pulled. Unsurprisingly, this caused even more professionals to cut ties with him.
The whole incident is a striking example of a sort of double-standard creators can have towards their critics. Mike’s whole argument was that people were being too sensitive and overreacting his joke. Yet rather than ignoring the perceived silliness, he was the one still crusading about the incident three years later. Who’s overreacting?
This one is an oldie but goody. Way back in 1963, Fantastic Four #11 was published. It featured the truly hilarious spectacle of Stan Lee using his own characters to berate the little kids who dared critique him.
Stan was never exactly revolutionary in how he handled female characters. Sue Storm’s role in his Fantastic Four to stand around, cry a lot and be told things like "wives should be kissed and not heard”. Readers had a negative reaction. Stan Lee’s truly amazing response was to try to make the children feel guilty for hurting a fictional character’s feelings.
Stan Lee isn’t the only one who used his own characters to berate his critics. In fact, using her own characters as a mouthpiece was only a punctuation mark on the Interview with a Vampire’s author’s one-woman war against negative reviews.
Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
In Rice’s book Blood of the Canticle, she had her main character go off on a tirade against her ungrateful readers for complaining about earlier novels.
This move didn’t exactly make her readers beg forgiveness. In fact, the book got quite a few negative reviews on Amazon. Rice’s response? A 1200 words rant that called Amazon "a public urinal to publish falsehood and lies".
She also went to war directly with one reviewer in particular, siccing her entire fanbase on the unsuspecting soul. Blogger Kayleigh Harrison had a blog following of only 100, but Rice made her famous by posting her review and inviting her fanbase to fight with her. Naturally, the first comment was someone wishing Kayleigh would get an STD.
Despite the fact she had just gone out of her way to bully a blogger, Rice also ended up signing a petition that aimed to force Amazon reviewers to post under their real names to “prevent bullying”.