Last month, “Sunza” was thoughtfully and thoroughly reviewed by the Geek Life podcast––a comics review site hosted by the folks at Panda Manga (who craft fine comics themselves). They’ve been intermingled in my comicking history for a little while. I met them at the first Stockton Con a few years ago; they were wandering around the floor with portable recording equipment and asked for a brief interview. Not being incredibly confident in my on-the-spot responses, I hesitantly agreed since my much more outgoing comicking partner was away from the table at the moment (click here for that interview). Since then, they reviewed four issues of Eben07 on the podcast––all of which were very positive. To my surprise, they followed me to Long John (as did many other Eben07 fans––thanks to all of you who made that jump from comedic espionage to quirky western!) and dug deep into Long John just as they had with Eben07 before it. For being Long John‘s first review, I was incredibly pleased with how thoughtfully and constructively these guys approached the comic.

podcast-Logo_webI mentioned early on that one of the main issues I had that––had I been more skittish––could have killed Long John before it got started was the fear that no one aside from, perhaps, a very specific demographic would care about a western comic that has no other gimmick. It’s a story-driven historical fiction. Sure, it’s an elevated reality, but there are no lasers, monsters, or robots. My favorite descriptor for the world of Long John is that it’s a possible story if everybody in the world were just a little more crazy. I tried to circumvent some of the traditional tropes of historical western comics––highly realistic art, highly technical drawing (though not for lack of trying; I’m just not the kind of artist that has that kind of patience), highly stylized dialogue, etc.––by being loyal to my eccentricities and proclivities of art and narrative rather than being beholden to the genre. I’m not trying to make a western comic; I’m trying to make a D. Bethel comic.

Despite all the ways I hyped myself up to believe that this comic was something more than just western fans could enjoy, even while we were deep into “Sunza” I still had these worries.

With that in mind, what I adored about their review was that they reviewed it in terms of being an engaging story when a lazier review would have only reviewed it in the context of being a western; a test it would surely fail. I was especially proud that one of the hosts openly declared that he didn’t like westerns, much less historical westerns; yet, “Sunza” turned him around (not on the genre, just the comic itself).

That they took the time to review it on those terms––terms of artistic and technical expression, not simply whether it was “good” or “bad,” for those are arbitrary and rather useless designations––actually caused me to want to go create more, which is what effective criticism does. At its best, criticism should challenge and bolster the creator to try and do better, and Geek Life‘s review certainly did that.

So, take a listen and see if you agree or disagree with their assessments (I’ve embedded the episode above as well as the link to their site above)! Either way, you can’t deny that their commentary was insightful (I learned a lot about my own comic!), considered, and engaging…and some dick jokes thrown in for good measure.