Leaving Prism Comics

So this past week some drama went down with Prism Comics and as a result, a few of the editors and I have decided to cut our ties and part ways.

Last week a review of Class Comics’ gay erotic comic The Initiation #2 went live on Prism Comics. And for his efforts, reviewer Adam Hoak was on the receiving end of some vicious and personal attacks by the creator Robert Fraser and his fans. In addition, the Powers-That-Be at Prism threw Hoak under the bus. Not only didn’t they back Hoak but they’ve decided to change their review policies not to allow for any honest reviews that may be deemed negative.

Normally I wouldn’t bother speaking out on this publicly but  I cannot in good conscience be silent on this because if this happened to Hoak, this could’ve happened to myself or any other reviewer.

In an open letter Scott McGrath eloquently explains why Fraser’s bullying and Prism’s policy changes were inappropriate, to put it mildly. And I couldn’t agree more.

Re: The Fraser situation

I’ve been reviewing for Prism for over a year now and it’s been truly an honor to represent what I believe is a worthwhile cause. And because of that, I feel the need to speak out on this.

I had hoped that after the epic fustercluck on Goodreads where several authors showed their asses after receiving negative reviews, that artists would’ve learned how not to conduct themselves.

But apparently that has not been the case.

Re: Hoak review. It wasn’t a flattering review by any stretch but it was imho a legitimate one. To my knowledge there was no personal history between Hoak and Fraser so he was critiquing this book honestly. and without malice.

Hoak even prefaced with a disclaimer stating that he’s not the foremost expert on gay erotic comics (this was his first foray into the genre) but was open-minded enough to give it a shot. As a reader, I felt Hoak made it abundantly clear that while this comic or genre might not be his cup of tea, the next person’s mileage may vary for equally valid reasons and he was speaking from only his purview and that his opinion was by no means the universal standard.

Hoak made some fair and legitimate points as to why he couldn’t get into the comic. And yes, to be fair, the points made aren’t limited to The Initiation #2 but many titles in the gay comic erotic genre in general. But rather than dismissing Hoak’s points and writing him off as someone who doesn’t know what he’s talking about or criticizing him for not being familiar with the genre, this could’ve been an opportunity to look at the points he raised and ask how do we convert the “uninitiated” into fans of the comic and the genre.

Hoak mentioned genitalia being too exaggerated and too much semen. These are complaints I’ve personally heard from many comic readers (and fan of gay porn) as to why they can’t get into erotic gay comics. Some people enjoy it, some people don’t, again varying mileage. Hoak also gave props for the mix of races in the cast, and characters who may be rotund or not conventionally attractive. Perhaps this could’ve been an opportunity for publishers to maybe look at creating titles that break from the norm that maybe tone down the exaggerated genitalia, features more diverse races and body types.

And yes the issues Hoak raised are by no means limited to The Initiation #2.

At the end of the day, for better or for worse, he gave the title a shot and for him, it didn’t take. But he gave the title a shot which he didn’t have to do.

Hoak certainly doesn’t deserve the attacks and disrespect that he’s received. And to be thrown under the bus by the organization he’s volunteering for, as a fellow reviewer, I seriously have a problem with that.

I also have a problem with this rule of no longer being able to give negative reviews at Prism.

Does this mean all negative reviews are valid or good? Absolutely not. Some reviews are malicious, not-so-veiled attacks and completely bogus. But this particular review was penned by someone who was being objective and went out of their way to admit why their views are limited and why they may not be the best qualified reviewer. Personally I might enjoy the title, but that does not negate the points and the issues Hoak raised.

I’ve been a writer and an artist for many years. In fact my debut novel came out last summer. I’ve gotten a lot of praise for my writing and art over the years. I’ve also received some less than stellar reviews. And no, getting the latter is never fun. And I’ve learned over the years, if the critiques are fair, use them as an opportunity to improve your craft. If they’re bogus, dust off your shoulders and keep it moving. Because ultimately they’re opinions.

I get supporting the community, and the best way to do that is by giving honest and constructive feedback. The best way to do that is to give both praise and point out areas of opportunity for the creators to improve their craft. This is a necessity because generally speaking often the worst portrayals of LGBTQs often come from LGBTQ artist themselves.

Not all representation of LGBTQs is a positive thing and not all representation should be praised. Some of it needs to be called out. Especially if it’s a title featuring gay characters, filled with homophobia, and penned by an unapologetic bigot: oh yes Chuck Dixon, I’m looking at you.

Most of the reviews I’ve submitted to Prism have primarily been positive reviews but when I have submitted a negative review, it’s been for a good reason. I pointed out the merits and the problems with Kevin’s Smith Green Hornet and I called out why his treatment of Kato’s orientation was a huge fail. But I also made it abundantly clear that it was about the work and that generally speaking, I like Smith’s body of work and he strikes me as a cool person who I would love to hang out with. Marvel needed to be taken to task for their treatment of Freedom Ring and giving them undeserved praise helps no one, least of the LGBTQ community. You help the LGBTQ community by expecting better and demanding better. Praise those who get it right and point out the areas of opportunities.

But attacking and bullying a VOLUNTEER who was assigned this review and then no longer allowing honest reviews on the site, like Scott I can’t abide this either. I believe in what Prism is supposed to stand for and I’ve been a proud volunteer but I can’t support a group that engages in this kind of activity.


Speculative Fiction Novelist. Author of Hollowstone, West of Sunset and other cool stories. Wordsmith, activist and nerd seraph. Saving the world and/or taking it over. http://www.dennisupkins.wordpress.com

5 thoughts on “Leaving Prism Comics

  1. Agreed to all

    And I further add, as a reviewer and a reader, that if a review site isn’t willing to publish negative reviews then why should I trust it?

    if the only comment they can make about a piece is different levels of fawning then what earthly good is that except to the author (and last I checked, we’re talking REVIEWS not marketing)?

    if a site isn’t willing to call crap crap, then how can i trust them to call gold gold?

    And this is especially true of media featuring marginalised people – so many of the portrayals out there are terrible, tokenistic, trope laden, stereotyped or outright vile and if we don’t call that out we’re going to continually fed crap and expected to call it ice cream

  2. Denny, that is some straight-up bullshit! I mean, if you can’t leave an honest review, then what the hell is the point? Clearly, said authors of the comic can’t handle constructive criticism, which I don’t understand. Jeez, you can’t have it both ways. When you put yourself out there via your work, then you’re inviting criticism, be it positive or negative. You have to be able to handle it if you expect to grow and become better.

    I applaud you and the others for bailing on Prism Comics. There is such a thing called integrity.

    *sigh* And here I am thinking grown folks are grown.

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