Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Some very detailed feedback for my latest book.

In my pursuit of reviews for Censor Monkeys Have No Class, I recently got a rather in-depth response to it.  here's the email sent to me:

I must admit, Censormonkeys was one of the hardest comics to review . There are moments that made me laugh and ideas expressed that I can agree with. It's greatest strength is that you've spread a wide net over the political/social spectrum in your skewering. Granted it could be even wider, atheist monkey (note: I'm an atheist) is one that comes to my mind, etc.. The art is decent and fitting of the form, but it could use some polish. I think a little shadowing would go a long way.
There are some things I found to be problematic. The opening with Fanny did not work so well in my opinion. It was at odds with the Censormonkeys portion as here a na├»ve child is derided because she's childish; whereas, the main comic is absurd because the Censormonkeys are over scrutinizing children's drawings. The ending of the Fanny portion came as too suddenly and violent. I'm not against shock value, but I didn't feel it worked in this case because she's a child. As for the main comic, I didn't get the sense that it had much to do with censorship as much it was about overzealous groups forcing their extreme ideas onto children. I believe that is a good thing to satirize and one of the strengths, but that's not quite censorship. Along these lines I felt that both the Black Panther and Feminist Censormonkeys don't quite work as well as the others. I know both groups can have extreme reactions to media on occasion, but really neither of th groups hold enough power (certainly not in the comics world) to censor anything. However, I think you could combine the two concepts into a parody of the ultra-liberal PC types it would have the same effect. Speaking of ultra-liberals, I couldn't help but to think that the design of the Censormonkeys was, well... a bit too close to old racial caricatures. Before you get upset, no, I'm not calling you racist. However, the term “monkey” does have negative racial connotations when combined with the vague resemblance to ethnic stereotypes it can turn away readers. In context the comic is most certainly not racist, but at a glance it's iffy. I know this relates to the point of the Fanny section, but in comics readers do judge a book by it's cover. I don't think that is a bad thing, it is a visual medium after all. I don't know if you are committed to the “Censormonkey” title, but something as simple as changing it to “Censorchimps” could go a long way into not being misunderstood. I hope this helps you in some manner, and sorry if this seemed a bit harsh.

Pretty heavy stuff.  Here was my response:

Thanks for your candour.  Any feedback is appreciated.  Although, you're not really telling me anything I haven't heard before.  Also there's some things I need to clear up too.

1. Fanny doesn't die because she's childish, she dies because she's ignorant.  I only made her a little girl so that people would not expect her sudden death so much.  And really her death was just a Monty Python style punch line if you will (although the Pythons claimed they would end their sketches before the punch-line), not meant to be taken serious at all.  She was essentially set up to die so that the lesson of that tale could have more impact on the reader, just like the tragic tale of MacBeth.

2. I am aware that the term 'monkey' has been used as a racial slur on occasion.  But, as I've said elsewhere, these monkeys represents personality-types not races. For instance, the Black Panther Monkey would only represent black people of that overzealous personality type, not to all black people in general.  Jane Fonda was a black panther at one point so this monkey may or may not represent her. Plus, I have Tom Cruise drawn as a monkey among them and we all know he's absolutely Caucasian. 

3. You're right in that the monkeys more-so represent the overzealous groups that force extreme ideas onto people rather than the ones doing the actual censoring.  But one leads to the other.  When a small fringe group of feminists/angry soccer moms/defamation league jump and cry about some element they see or even just think they see, some suit behind the curtain cowardly takes it down.  With these monkeys I satirize the source of the outcry as a message to the cowardly suits to stand up to these lunatics, don't give in so easily.

4. This leads me to the final point where you give me suggestions on how to change things. If I make any changes to accommodate the sensitivity of others, well then I'm just giving in to the real life Censor Monkeys which pretty much violates the very reason I created this comic in the first place. I didn't come up with all of this scathing satire against them just to let them win. So for that reason I pretty much have to leave things as they are and keep fighting the good fight.  (Although I was toying with the idea of adding an athiest monkey at one point, but there's already 10 monkeys to keep track of as it is).

As for the shading, I am reminded of something that the great animator Chuck Jones once said. "The art of cartooning is to create a solid fully fleshed out figure without the use of shading or subterfuge of any kind."  Although I did put a drop shadow underneath all the characters in this one.  But, I think any more of that would be distracting.

Once again, thanks for your feedback.  Every bit helps.

Do you agree or disagree with any of the points raised here? Do you have any points of your own to add? If so, post them in the comment section below. I need to know the best way to proceed with my next Censor Monkeys book.

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