Call for Comments: IFTFY??? I think you mean GTFO!!!

J Scott Campbell responding to an IFTFY of his work on Twitter and Instagram

From Mav: I saw an article a few weeks ago that has been kicking around in my head ever since. The idea of “IFTFY” or “I fixed that for you”. I think might be bullshit! Maybe… The more I think about it, the more I realize I need to talk some of the concept through with people to work through how I feel about it. Luckily, we totally have this here show that is totally good for exactly that! The article was about comic artist J. Scott Campbell, firing back at a comic fan who decided to “fix” one of his most famous images. As is often the case in this situation, what fix meant was “desexualize”. Campbell, among other things, is particularly known as a modern “good girl” artist. So, apparently when Campbell came across this fan who “fixed” his art, he took a mild bit of offense and decided to critique and “fix” the the fix, and then even redraw the image AGAIN which he then posted to Twitter and Instagram.

Now It is worth noting that after Campbell did this, he was celebrated by a bunch of idiots from Comicsgate for sticking it to the libs. Then Campbell (a lifelong liberal) immediately denounced the Comicsgate idiots. Then, a couple days later, he sort of half-heartedly qualified his stance saying “However, if individual members of this ComicsGate community adamantly insist that’s not what they stand for, I feel I should give these folks the benefit of the doubt and take them at their word and not paint the entire group with the same brush.” And then after that he AGAIN clarified that he wasn’t actually apologizing to them and he hates everything Comicsgate stands for. BTW, if you don’t know who Comicsgate is… congratulations… suffice it to say, they’re about as intelligent as you would expect for a bunch of people who named themselves in idolizing tribute to Gamergate which in itself was named after Watergate. That’s who we’re dealing with here. So I don’t care about their feelings. Fuck them!

The Hawkeye Initiative (IFTFY for feminist criticism of male gaze in comics)

But, I do think that Campbell represents an incredibly interesting place in the discourse here as an artist. I personally like Campbell’s work… a lot! I also get why it might not be for everyone. I don’t believe any artist is about critique. HOWEVER, I don’t think the critic is above critique either. I actually support Nonbinaryfinnmertens’s (the tumblr fan who altered Campbell’s work… I’m calling them Finn from here on out) right to question the choices Campbell made. Part of me is a big fan of stuff like The Hawkeye Initiative. I think they added something interesting to the discourse. I also think that what they add can be simplistic and reductive… but I think that as an artistic statement it adds an important public critique to issues of the male gaze in comics… something Campbell certainly is guilty of (and it’s one of the reasons I like him!) BUT, when you publicly critique something… that is, if you’re an actual critic (you know, like us on this show) you are in effect, entering into a conversation over the work you are critiquing. And Campbell has every right to respond.

The original IFTFY critique of J Scott Campbell's work on Tumblr

The whole “I fixed that for you” thing is obviously not limited to comics. It’s just easy to see there because the male gaziness of the superhero genre especially is so obvious and the internet critics of it are so pronounced. But it happens other places too. People modify memes all the time. It happens to me even with dumb things I tweet or post on Facebook. I make lots random comments on facebook or twitter, usually related to something I care about either politically or professionally (or both) and almost always with a bit of a joke about them. At least once a day I get a complaint from someone who feels like I didn’t choose my words carefully enough. Often it’s from a person who likes my general point (because I’m obviously very liberal) but dislikes that I said something that might be considered mean to them or some group they care about. I often get a “Oh, well this would have been better if you had said this instead”… as though I don’t consider carefully everything I say…. I’m a professional writer, for fuck’s sake! I went to school to learn how academically critique culture. My literal actual job is teaching other people to do the same. But part of being a professional public persona… even one as limited as me… is putting yourself out there to have this critiques lobbied at you, even while you might be critiquing something else. I’m not infallible. I’m not above reproach. I’m as fair game as anyone else. But I’m also a person… with feelings. And one of those feelings… my gut reaction whenever anyone tries to rewrite one of my jokes, or improve upon one of my critique’s is usually “uhhh… slow your roll, junior.”

J Scott Campbell's IFTFY of the IFTFY of him

That said, I actually found Campbell’s response to be VERY professional (if snide) and well thought out… and frankly, quite helpful. Yes… he was poking fun at the “the fixer” but more importantly, he explained and justified his choices. It is actually a fairly brilliant piece of art criticism on both himself AND on Finn. And what really ties it together is that at the end he redrew the image taking Finn’s suggestions into account.

This last bit seems very important to me. It does a few things. 1) It shows that Campbell was trying to be good natured about this whole thing (something most people missed. More on this in a second). 2) It showed he recognized the validity of other artistic inclinations and sensibilities than his own. 3) It showed that he wasn’t making “mistakes.” He’s an amazing artist. He was making choices on purpose that might be outside to the sensibilities of others. But he’s a well respected professional artist for a reason. He CAN adapt if it is called for. Honestly, while it certainly comes across as a little dickies to redraw “the fix” better, I thought it was actually kind of nice (from a certain point of view) and fun. Campbell clearly put time and thought into it, AND, he did a great job. He entered into a nuanced critical discussion.

But the internet hates nuanced critical discussions! Ironically, for a communication medium that is increasingly accepting of non-binary individuals (which I assume Finn is because of the screen name, but I don’t actually know), the internet REALLY likes to force binaries on people. Finn’s entire point was “fixing” Campbell’s art because, in Finn’s words it was “so bad”. But, honestly it appears what Finn is really saying is best case, “it is bad because it caters to the male gaze” but more likely the worst case “it is bad because it is sexy.” That is a binary! Campbell is so uncomfortable with binaries that he grudgingly tried to accept that “some Comicsgaters might be good people” and even in doing that with obvious “look, I don’t see it, but I can’t say 100%” he got pushback from liberal fans for not being hard enough on them. Comicsgaters praised him for drawing sexy women but literally complained to him that he needed to “stop being woke” because he was abandoning the real fans. All things must be the best ever or the worst ever. The internet HATES nuance.

But we don’t hate nuance! This show is all about nuance. So we want to talk about this…. both Campbell’s specific case and the more general concept of who gets to critique and why. Can you really “fix something for someone” or are you just being an asshope and privileging your sensibilities above someone else’s. I mean, I’m not going to lie… I’ve certainly been guilty of this myself… but I think Campbell is certainly sort of pointing out the hypocrisy in that and I think that’s worth taking a deeper look. So yeah, what are your thoughts on the issue and the concept of IFTFY. What am I missing? What needs to be considered more? And who knows J. Scott Campbell? Everyone tweet at him and beg him to come on the show and talk to us!

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