A new site called Kubla Comics aims to be a review aggregator for comics, with a Rotten Tomatoes-like 0-5 rating system and pages for series and reviewers. Tyler James interviews site runner Ken Marden on his goals and process:

Tyler James: Why KublaComics? What made you decide to build this site?

Ken Marden: Kubla Comics grew out of my own frustration in missing good comics. There’s so many comics being published these days and they’re not 60 cents anymore, like they were when I was a kid. So, figuring out how to spread that $10 or $20 a week is getting harder and harder. I was up late one night (changing my newborn daughter’s diaper) and thinking to myself: “what service is missing for comic book fans” and it hit me. Like comics, going out to the movies has gotten more and more expensive, so making sure that our hard-earned dollars is going to quality entertainment is really important. Why not create a Rotten Tomatoes for comic books? Aggregating reviews, grabbing all of the opinions out there and putting them in one place, seems like a great way of making it easier for fans to discover high-quality comics that they might not have heard of otherwise. And in the process, hopefully they’ll discover artists, writers, publishers, and even reviewers and comic book review sites that they didn’t know about before.

It’s for from perfect but not a bad idea. I’d also like to see more non-mainstream outlets covered.

Personally, I would more like to see an AllMusic Guide for comics with “If you like Johnny Ryan you will like John K” type suggestions. Does such a thing exist?


  1. In February someone sent me a link to a site that was doing pretty much the same thing. I had to go back and search for that email but I found it. comicbookroundup.com

    After looking at both sites, they seem pretty similar. So such sites *do* exist, it’s not like there’s nothing out there –but it’s always good to have competition. Rottentomatoes isn’t the only movie aggregator out there, and the same can be said here. I’m just pointing this out, I have no horse in this race.

  2. I’m wary of other people taking my (and others) reviews and then giving them a rating when I haven’t provided one.

  3. I don’t think a rating out of five gives enough width – everything here seems to have a great score. Also, yes, we don’t do score out of five, or ten, and transferring that into a number is a fiddly move. I like the concept, though! And they’re clearly working out some kinks.

  4. Yeah, the Comicbookroundup site also gives numeric scores to reviews that don’t use numbers, either. I’m not sure how they quantify such things.

    As for Kubla, I agree with Steve, if *5* is your top score then a ton of books will be fantastic. That $20 Mr. Marden was talking about would be gone in a heartbeat and a lot of good comics would still be unread and underserved.

    But that’s how it is with SO much content being created nowadays. I sympathize with Mr. Marden and wish him luck with this project.

  5. Eep, also not a fan of somewhere converting un-number-rated reviews into ones with numbers. It’s nice to have them collected too, but leave them out of the calculations methinks.

    Also, % ratings are officially the best :P

  6. I think rating systems amount to lazy reviewing, whether it’s stars, thumbs up, bells or whistles. Critique is as old as the Greeks and can be an artform unto itself.

    But finding ratios for reviews is interesting, as the bigger cites like cbr and newsarama would never dare give a Marvel or DC book a legitimately negative review- which is incredibly dishonest. It’s as common as TCJ trashing a Fantagraphics book or BleedingCool ripping apart an Avatar title or AintItCool giving grief to BlueWater. For the few fans who really lean on reviews for any objectivity, the only way to find it is to hit as many alternate views as possible- just as with mainstream news.

    But reviewing is such a niche, I honestly believe more than half of the audience for comic reviews are the creators themselves.

  7. Oh, but I just remembered something from 2007 or 2008, a site I think that was called comicbookreviewers.com, which aimed to be the imdb of comics. They were eaten away in their first few months by a spamming hacker, but that is an idea I would love see come to pass.

  8. It is VERY hard to tell which reviewers you can trust and who are just trying to keep their favourite writers happy. The comics industry are always very close by, keeping an eye on anything that’s being written online about their books.

    I’ve noted several reviewers recently – who write for high-visibility websites – reviewing books written by their real-life friends, and giving them high scores. Hopefully The Beat doesn’t do that – I know I make a note to tell people if I’m reviewing something by somebody I’ve previously interviewed or know, so they can decide for themselves if they think I’ve remained objective.

  9. @Steve Morris which is one of the reasons this site is on my feed.

    I used to think that comics media today is the modern incarnate of the old fanzines where guys like Roy Thomas, Marv Wolfman, Steven Grant, Len Wein, Steve Gerber, etc got their starts. But at some point it hit me that there is little real fandom going on, with more and more reviewers reviewing strictly for the chance to grease some wheels to get their own foot inside the door. Which presents biased articles.

    Of course I’m not the portrait of objectivity though, in that the dozen or so years of my own tradescribing I have never reviewed a single comic from the big two. But then I have never put together a submission or pitched an editor either. I have lost friends over bad reviews before though.

  10. I think that’s definitely true. In fact, one writer comes to mind particularly in that regard!

    Sadly, most well-known writers are ones who write glowing praise for their friends, and savage criticism for people they don’t like. Because those are the main two ways to get attention and traffic. If you praise something, the writer is pleased and shares the review. If you savage something, readers delight in the meanness. Writing a middling review doesn’t get much attention, and I think that’s led a lot of reviewers down a cartoonish, OTT pathway. Hate or love! No middle ground!

  11. But all Art is so intrinsically subjective, any credible review should be as objective as possible for a proper counter-weight. I really believe that’s why so much comic media has issues with endearing themselves to non-comics readers. From the outside, it all looks like some bizarre in-joke.

    In that regard, I would love to see sites like Kubla specifically structure themselves to the comic noob. It could be a gateway if handled right, and if new readers are attracted to the styles of certain reviewers then they can follow them elsewhere.

  12. I think that’s where going for a % out of 100 would suit the site more than a mark out of five. It would really mark apart the comics which are getting good scores, rather than offer new readers the view that most comics are pretty similar.

    Perhaps it’s not wise to suggest that a comics aggregator highlight certain critics above others, but I know Rotten Tomatoes does hold somebody like Mark Kermode or Roger Ebert in higher regard than ‘moviefan69’ on the imdb boards. Maybe highlighting some of the more well-regarded and prolific reviewers would help?

  13. I used Kubla comics and comic book roundup for a while, but I ended up just writing my own, http://foolandhiscomics.com. I wanted something that would help me aggregate all the reviews by series, see how popular they were, and get me some pricing data.

    As for the reviews, I don’t particularly highlight certain reviewers over others, but I think an ideal system would weight each review based on the popularity of the reviewer. This would be using the assumption that people will selectively follow (ie visit or subscribe to them) the best reviewers. Obviously this is fraught with issues, but I think it is a safe bet.

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